In the late fifties an awkward little man with a crooked smile shocked the small town of Plainfield, Wisconsin. A real life house of horrors was found in his dilapidated farmhouse following the disappearance of several local citizens. Part of the house was a twisted maze of human depravity constructed by murder and grave robbing. The rest of the house was boarded off and kept in the exact same condition it was in when his mother passed away. Because his mother liked things perfect and his mother was very important to him.
Soon his mother would drive him to unspeakable acts of violence long after she was dead and buried. In 1960, with this real life crime still fresh in the minds of the nation, Alfred Hitchcock made "Psycho" based on the true crimes of Ed Gein. Cinema would never be the same...There are actually two major horror films based on Ed Gein. Years after "Psycho" Director Tobe Hooper would make another film that redefined cinema in its own way. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Hooper's film focused more on the cannibalistic aspects of Gein and showed elements of Gein's house of horrors in graphic detail (to say the least).
Hitchcock's approach was to focus on the mannerisms of Gein. His name had become Norman Bates.
Anthony Perkin's brilliant performance captures the crooked smirk and docile manner of the real "psycho" while subtly showing glimpses of the madness that Norman barely holds in check.
Hitchcock also decided to combine the mother fixation and grave robbing elements in a very ingenious way. A way that still sends chills down the spine. In a way I would not dream of divulging just in case you haven't seen the movie.
After seeing this film it is nearly impossible to take a shower without subconsciously imagining what could be behind the shower curtain or perhaps even quickly glancing just to make certain that you are indeed alone. If it can still evoke those reactions today then just imagine what it did to audiences back in 1960 when there was a real name and face to attach to these fears.
The human trophies from the real story (shown in shocking detail in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre") would become Norman's bizarre obsession with taxidermy. Norman felt more at home with things that were dead. After all, no body could ever appreciate the ends Norman went through to please his mother. He would do anything his mother wanted him to do... even kill.
Hitchcock doesn't let the audience off easily. He keeps building tension with a suspenseful musical score and just enough black comedy to divert you so the scenes of violence will catch you by surprise. Hell, I have seen the movie countless times and the brilliant timing still catches me off guard.
The reason I mentioned the story of Ed Gein is because Hitchcock has always used real life horror in his movies. For example, "Rope" based on the Loepold-Loeb thrill killing or "Frenzy" arguably based on The Boston Strangler. Even one of his earliest, "The Lodger", was about Jack the Ripper. How about "Shadow of A Doubt"? Although fictional it is another one with the serial killer theme.
The reality that these things all existed makes these movies all the more chilling.
Many modern serial killer movies, and horror films of all types, owe a debt of gratitude to Hitchcock for the groundwork he laid.
Anyone who bitches that it was filmed in black and white, or says that the remake was better, deserves a healthy "Hollywood Bitchslap". But hey, that’s just my opinion...Enjoy the master at work... and ummm take a shower BEFORE you see it.