Psycho

Psycho ★★★★★

“Psycho” is a dagger of a film; so simple, so swiftly slashed - it almost seems like a weapon of another era and medium entirely. 

Watching the movie in the order of Hitchcock’s filmography, the difference between it, and immediately surrounding works, becomes even starker. 

The bombastic satire of “North by Northwest” and the ambitious action sequences of “The Birds” bookend “Psycho.” The monochrome stepchild of the director’s high budget era has a script and intent so simple, it could pass for an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” 

“Psycho,” dagger that it is, slices its narrative into fragments of itself. Characters and subplots are pared down from false trails of consequences to serve only the most essential plot. 

That Hitchcock described the editing of the ‘shower scene’ as “impressionistic,” comprised of “little pieces of film,” could also fit the movie as a larger whole. “Psycho” has no patience for the extraneous. Every cut in the celluloid causes the blood of another second of screen time to fall, until the film drains out into a dry skeleton of itself. 

The merciless rhythm of “Psycho,” also, plays at total odds with its near-age siblings of “Birds” and “Vertigo.” In these works, Hitchcock uses the patient gaze of the camera to build suspense over prolonged periods. In “Psycho,” there is an unrelenting constancy of how the stakes could be upended not just in any scene, but in any moment. 

Once the first death of the movie occurs, Hitchcock rides the shock of this for the rest of the runtime by adding as few extra elements as possible. The arterial cut has already been made; the rest of the suspense merely needs to bleed out.

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