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'How does Hitchcock create atmosphere, tension and shock in Psycho?'

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Introduction

'How does Hitchcock create atmosphere, tension and shock in Psycho?' BY ABIGAIL KAYE When Psycho was first released in cinemas in 1960, audiences all over the world were shocked. They were shocked that something as sexually explicit, for that era, was being screened in hundreds of cinemas. Although audiences of the modern day are used to violence and sex scenes, the audiences of the 60's reacted in different ways. Some people viewed Psycho as a cinematic brilliance but other critics gave the film many bad initial reviews. This is because Hitchcock was extremely secretive in the making and publicity. He did not allow critics' to see the film at special screenings. Instead they had to see the film with the ordinary filmgoers after the release. Mise-en-scene plays a major part in creating atmosphere, tension and shock in Psycho. The most dramatic events in Pyscho take place in the house and at the Bates motel, so Hitchcock needed to create tension by make the sets look in such a way that the audience were on edge from the very start of the film. In the opening, the titles are slashed, spliced, split and cut which represents knife or dagger cuts and immediately alerts the audience to the nature of the film. Even though people hadn't seen the film till its release date, the titles would have been extremely disturbing to the subconscious mind of an average cinemagoer. ...read more.

Middle

At the beginning of the Arboghast murder sequence, ominous music is played, predicting future bad. This is a tension builder as the music affects our subconscious telling us something bad will happen. When Arboghast enters the house, the silence indicates that nobody is home. But when the door makes a clicking sound when it closes behind him, disturbing the dead silence we still react nervously due to the fact that we just know something is about to happen. The house is dimly lit, not enough light to welcome him. Arbogast looks around hesitantly almost nervously, this makes us feel for him consequently adding tension. Hitchcock has then chosen subjective shots, so we can be put in Arbogast's position and emphasize with him. The foreboding music starts to imply that something is about to happen. He looks away and we see a cupid holding a bow. The shadow creates an un-known figure holding a knife. This is a perfect part of the mise-en-scene along with the gothic interior. We have already witnessed the murder of Marian so now the tension is unbearable and we are just hanging onto our seats with anticipation waiting for the next deadly event to occur. Arbogast looks up towards the stairs and he then slowly progresses upstairs where ahead of him is a crack in the door, leaving a thin band of light beaming through the door. ...read more.

Conclusion

Perhaps it is his mother? His eyes flicker and we hear his thoughts, now his mother's, being directed to the audience. The final shock comes as Norman raises his head to look straight at the audience. His penetrating glare is menacing and extremely unnerving but it gets worse as a skulls teeth (His mother's teeth) are superimposed over his own maniac grin. The shot cuts to a car being dragged out of the swamp where he dumped the bodies. The shot dissolves into the credits with the same stabbing music as at the beginning. Psycho was a thrilling film from start to finish. I wouldn't have personally chosen it, as thriller/horrors aren't my preferred genre. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was kept on edge all the way through. I am scared very easily so Hitchcock's techniques worked well on me. The music was electrifying and my favourite sequence was the shower sequence because it scared me to bits. The way Marian died was intuitive and original. Studying Pyscho has made me look at film differently because now I always analyse films as I watch them. Unfortunately it hasn't changed my favourite genre. My favourite genre is fantasy/adventure and my favourite film is Pirates of the Caribbean because it's witty, thrilling and a brilliant adventure. It also has one of my favourite actors, Johnny Depp who is an excellent character actor who isn't given enough chance to show his talent. ...read more.

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