Psycho, the greatest film of all time? I believe that it is. This essay will attempt to show you the brilliance that is Psycho and how Alfred Hitchcock managed to create a film which even today grabs and retains the interest of any audience.
The music in the film Psycho was a brand new idea at its time in the 1960s and acted like magic on audiences, making them sit in horror at the edge of their seats. The music in Psycho is ‘non-diagetic’ and is performed by an all-strings orchestra. At the time when Psycho was released, using music that was played by an all-strings orchestra in horror movies was a brand new idea and startled film critics and the audience alike. This method of using high-pitched, sharp music was such an effective idea that many other horror films and television series adopted the thought and this style of music is still used to this day (for example, in Nightmare on Elm Street.
Using an all-strings orchestra in Psycho was a fantastic way of building tension and it worked very effectively. The reason it worked so well was because the sound was so recognisable. This is because, as the music was played on and on-and-off basis, the audience gradually noticed that when the music played, something bad was probably about to happen. No other music could have been used in Psycho which would have created the same amount of tension in the movie and sounded so shrill and discordant.
To a pre-1970s audience, the all-strings music was remarkably effective and the music by itself built tension. Nowadays, when a modern audience watches Psycho, they react in the same way as audiences over thirty years ago, even though they are used to music like this. The eerie sound of string instruments playing sharp scratchy notes, e.g. in the shower scene, still makes modern audiences sit on the edge of their seats and watch in suspense as the plot unfolds.
The music in Alfred Hitchcock’s horror films was so important and effective that without it the films would not have succeeded. It is possible to see that when his films are watched on mute, the suspense disappears and the film becomes boring and not at all exciting. Even the brilliant use of lighting and shadows is not enough to keep the interest of any audience watching Psycho without the music.