Marion is pulled over by a mysterious policeman; the appearance of him with his sunglasses made him look inhuman. He follows her many miles to a car dealer, where Marion cleverly trades her current car in for a used junkie to camouflage herself from peering enemy. Marion then continues to drive along the busy highway until a shielding rainstorm persuades her to stop to rest at The Bates Motel.
When Marion arrives at the motel, it immediately tells the viewer that it’s unusual. The appearance of the motel makes you feel isolated because no one was around. The lights were off it was very disturbing. The gothic image of the house on hill is positioned above the motel, which is very effective and also menacing. The camera angle shows both the motel and the house in one shot. The fact that when she arrives it’s dark and there’s silence the connotations with these factors make you feel unsure. The viewers feel petrified, as something is to happen out of the blue.
She meets a shy-but-kind manager, Norman Bates, who offers her a room, a meal, and a sympathetic ear. During her conversation with Norman, when he speaks about the traps that life places everyone in, Marion resolves to return on the following morning and give back the money. Events of the night, which involve violence and the jealous rage of Norman's twisted mother, put an end to Marion's plans.
Norman is dressed plainly and appears normal. The camera zooms into his face making the audience question whether Norman is all that he seems. This close up invites the audience take a closer look at him. Norman hesitates when choosing which cabin to put Marion in. He puts his hand by the key to cabin three; he stops and gives Marion a sneaky look out of the corner of his eye. He then decides to give Marion the key to cabin one. The way in which he hesitates about the key suggests that he has a hidden motive, which the audience later find out is the spy hole in the wall of cabin one. When showing Marion around her room, Norman hesitates when talking about the bathroom. He will not even say the word “bathroom” and when he has to turn the bathroom light on he quickly puts his hand in and then pulls it back out. This makes the audience think that something may have happened in the bathroom before or Marion may die in the bathroom.
Norman seems quite forceful when asking Marion to have dinner with him; this creates tension. When he brings her tray of food, which he suggests she eat in his office because it is more comfortable, he comments, "Mother--what is the phrase? Isn’t quite herself today." While she’s eating he watches her eat extremely closely which is not typical behaviour this unnerves the viewer. Norman bates has a fascination with death you can see this by the images of the dead birds its like his hobby of taxidermy and also there are birds of prey on the walls which give an idea of killing. After seeing this, the audience becomes all tense and frightened thinking of murder. Their conversation includes references to death and entrapment. He says to Marion ‘you eat like a bird’ (when there are dead birds on the wall) and he also says that ‘we’re all in our private traps’. This makes the audience know that something is to happen. He also mentions his mum well not directly but he refers to ‘we’ which implies there is someone else at the house but the viewers don’t no who so it leave it as an answered question which is very effective. His conversation show his conflicts with his mother the feeling of hate for her ‘illness’ this implies hidden secrets. This brings a lot of tension to the audience.
The shower scene is one of the most famous sequences ever captured on film for two reasons. As violent as it is you never see the knife go into Marion’s body and it was the first time the film in history that a major movie star was brutally killed of in the first thirty minutes of the movie. The famous shower sequence, which runs only a minute, took a week to film. Seventy cameras were set up for this scene and more than ten different scenes were used. The scene starts of very calm and peacefully. She opens up a bar of soap, and turns on the overhead shower water - from a high up showerhead nozzle that sends arched needles of spray over her like rainwater. There in the exposed privacy of her bathroom, she begins to bath, visibly enjoying the luxurious and healing feel of the cleansing water on her skin. Marion is relieved as the water washes away her guilt and brings energising, reborn life back into her. Large close-ups of the showerhead, that look like a large eye, are shot from her point of view they reveal that the water bursts from its head and pours down on her - and the audience. She soaps her neck and arms while smiling in her own private world unaware for the moment to the problems surrounding her life.
With her back to the shower curtain, the bathroom door opens and a shadowy, grey tall figure enters the bathroom. Just as the shower curtain completely fills the screen - with the camera positioned just inside the tub, the outline figure whips aside the barrier. The outline of the figure's dark face, the whites of its eyes, and tight hair bun are all that is visible - 'she' uses a scary butcher knife high in the air - at first, it appears to be a stab, a stab, stabbing us - the victimised viewer! The piercing, shrieking, and screaming of the violin strings play a large part in creating sheer terror during the horrific scene - they start 'screaming' before Marion's own shrieks. Marion turns, and screams (her wide-open mouth in gigantic close-up), and stands firm as she shields her breasts, while the knife repeatedly rises and falls. The music tenses up the audience and the audience are now very shocked.
The murderer appears to stab and pierce into her, shattering her sense of security and escape. The savage killing is kinetically viewed from many angles and views. She is standing in water mixed with spurts of blood dripping down her legs from various gashes - symbolic of a deadly and violent rape. She turns and falls against the bathtub tiles, her hand 'clawing and grasping' the back shower wall for the last shred of her own life as the murderer (resembling a grey-haired woman wearing an old-fashioned dress) quickly turns and leaves. With an unblooded face and neck/shoulder area, she leans into the wall and slides, slides, and slides down the wet wall while looking outward with a fixed stare - the camera follows her slow descent. The audience is left terrified; the main character has died.
As Marion collapses on the floor the cameras slowly tracks the blood and water that flows and swirls together counter-clockwise down into the deep blackness of the bathtub drain - Marion's life has literally gone down the drain. The drain dissolves into a memorable close up of Marion's right eye with one tear drop (or drop of water). The camera pulls back up from the lifeless, staring eye, which was the last shot of the scene.
Through out the film music was used to reflect the viewers feeling and, where needed, to heighten them. This was the first time this technique was used. The pace of music changed quite a bit through out the movie. The pace builds up from a slow pace to a faster pace in both scenes when Marion plans to escape with the money and the stabbing in the shower scene. When Marion arrives at the motel there is minimal background noise other then the rain this is very effective because it makes you that she’s alone in an isolated place where no one is around. The silence makes the natural/unnatural hesitations in the speech more disturbing and therefore builds tension.
The camera angles in psycho were somewhat experimental. It used a wide range of camera shots varying from straightforward long shots to iris shots. Hitchcock was the first person to experiment with this wide range of camera angles. Seeing as this was the first film to use these new techniques, they were used relatively effectively. The use of long shots of the house and then the medium shots of Norman Bates kind of connect the viewers association with the gothic house to Norman making him just as intimidating as the building. One of the most effective shots in the film was the extreme close up of Bates eye when he was looking through the peep hole at Marion getting changed. The only thing in the shot was his eyes and the wall. A beam of light shone through the hole onto Bates eye and this was very effective. This was effective because the scene stood out as his eye appeared through the hole.
Psycho was a terrifying film in it’s day, and still makes the viewers tense with anticipation of what’s to come. Many different and subtle innovative techniques were adopted to manipulate its audience and these techniques are very effective. I think this film was very good even though it’s quite old and it’s in black and white.