As we get to the final weekend before Halloween, I feel like there are still a few big things I need to cover in this month long odyssey of horror movie watching & writing. I hit some big ones this week: John Carpenter, Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick & The Shining, Ridley Scott & Alien. I’ve mentioned a few times that The Exorcist is still to come.
I have four days left. One of those days will be about The Exorcist. So what will I be covering the other three? Well, I’m not really going to tell you now am I? Don’t worry though, it’ll be good. I also still have a couple of guest posts coming up this weekend. Good things are still to come.
Today I’m going to write about another of the great directors. Possibly the greatest of the great directors. Who am I talking about? Alfred Hitchcock of course.
Alfred Hitchcock and his films have inspired countless others, he’s inspired everyone from the Americans to the Italians. He’s been listed as the most influential filmmaker of all time. Not only did he define the genres of suspense and psychological drama, he pioneered film techniques that are genre-less, expanding the grammar of filmmaking and teaching us new ways to view cinema.
From the perfection (I do not use that word lightly) of Rear Window to the suspense of The Birds, how do I pick just one Hitchcock film to watch? Honestly, if you have an opportunity to view any of his films, take advantage of it. I don’t know of a one not worth watching.
Not that I’ve seen them all but I have seen a fair number. I thought about watching one that was new for me, or maybe just one I haven’t seen in a while.
Psycho – US, 1960. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins.
In the end, I decided to go with a classic that has been an influence for many of the films I’ve written about this month. From the plot twists to the use of psychoanalytical theory, from the cinematography to the opening credits and the score, this movie has seen its influence stretch across decades and genres. You can see it in everything from Poltergeist to Black Sabbath, The Exorcist to Halloween to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Suspiria. Its music is as iconic as Hitchcock himself, the twist ending is notorious, and quotes from the dialogue have ingrained themselves so far into popular culture that sometimes we forget what it is we’re even quoting.
This is the point where I could write on for hours about so many details that we would all lose our minds. The thing is, I have found this movie to be so personally influential that I don’t want to take that moment away from you. Psycho is something special, something unique. As is all of Hitchcock. I remember watching, even before I had discovered Star Trek, Alfred Hitchcock presents. I can remember the episode where the man lost his fingers, or the lover dove off of the cruise ship, I can remember all of the psychologically important moments that actually meant something, that I could actually relate to. Albeit in a very disturbing fashion. I may not have been a normal child.
I don’t think I really want to talk about Psycho at all because I honestly just want you to experience it AT THIS MOMENT for yourself. We can come back around and talk about it together, with each other, later. Just watch this movie. And pay attention to the use of sound, the score composed entirely and disturbingly with strings, the use of shadow and light, the focus on details such as a hand turning a door knob. All of these little things. Then keep in mind this is a movie made in the 1960’s. A point in time when a toilet flushing was a scandal.
I would love to give you a detailed lecture on why Psycho is a masterpiece, but I also don’t want to do the work for you.
Mostly, I just want you to watch this movie and I want it to mean as much to you as it has meant to so many others. I want you to have fun with it.
After all, isn’t this what this ridiculous genre is all about?