Psycho – Alfred Hitchcock

In the Sixth Sense, it turned out that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time and we all collectively lost our shit. This is because the movie came out in 1998. The internet was still in its early days and the parts of it that weren’t naked women exploded with how people had been blown away with the ending. And because not every 15 year old sitting in a basement had access to the internet, the myth of that movie had space to grow without its plot being revealed a few seconds after the first screening. (Twitter was still an ornithological term… It was the good old days)

Plus, that kid was creepy.

Every film after the Sixth Sense had a twist ending, because Hollywood will try to milk a cow even after it had been served as a happy meal at McDonald’s. (There have been 7 Saw films… even though the killer died in the 3rd film)

Unfortunately, for every Fight Club we have these days, we have a dozen Secret Windows or Hide and Seeks. Or Signs. Remember the big reveal in Signs? The aliens die of water? And God has a lot of free time on his hands? And baseball?

But I want to talk about the mother of all twist-laden films.

1960’s Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock who, in an incredible career, managed to be smarter, wittier, creepier and batshit crazier than most of Hollywood.

Psycho has you follow the female lead as she steals from work and goes on the run. Then, after about 40 minutes of really getting invested in her because she’s Janet freaking Leigh, she gets stabbed to death…rather spectacularly. We then follow the stabber for the rest of the film. That would be like Rob Schneider getting munched on in the first act of Jaws and you being perched on a shark-cam for the rest of the film. That would actually be awesome! These guys’ll need a bigger boat

But this is just the first in a series of twists in Hitchcock’s most Hitchockian film. The true mind-fuck comes in the end when you realise that the stab-happy Mrs Bates is actually her meek son in drag, who also speaks to himself in her voice. This is nicely punctuated by a swivelling chair that reveals her desiccated corpse which Norman Bates has been looking after since he killed her. Sigmund Freud would have had the longest sustained orgasm in history had he seen Psycho.

These plot twists, and the ways that Psycho subverted the audience’s expectations were unheard of when the film came out. Not only did it make for an incredible experience, but the novelty of it was preserved throughout its initial run. Its secrets were firmly kept, making sure that the film had the same impact at every screening.

And this was managed because Alfred Hitchcock went totally insane to ensure that his plot twists would not be ruined by overzealous movie-goers.

Psycho was based on a Robert Bloch novel of the same name published in 1959. Hitchcock was blown away by its twists and wanted his audience to experience them the same way that he did: without any expectations or any inkling of what the story was about. He first sent an employee to track down and buy as many copies of the book as she could find to make sure no one else read it.

The film itself was shot in a closed set with Hitchcock forcing everyone, from the cast and crew to the maids and cleaners, to sign an agreement promising not to divulge anything about the plot.

Then the actors had to promote the movie without actually mentioning what the hell they do in it.

Hitchcock also prohibited anyone from seeing the movie early, and convinced cinemas all over the world to lock their doors after the start of each viewing to ensure no one was allowed to walk in late.

Finally, the last weapon in Hitchcock’s psychotic arsenal – see what I did there? PSYCHOtic? Nevermind – the last weapon in Hitchcock’s psychotic arsenal was him telling people not to mention the movie’s ending to anyone. While they were walking out of the cinema. In a recording he made himself. This mainly worked, because it was 1960, and because the audience had no doubt that if they spilled the secrets, Hitchcock would’ve come at them with the fury of a thousand angry birds. And if you think I’m talking about the game, you’re a kid and you’re a disgrace to mankind.

A film like Psycho would never work today in a world where people feel the need to post the consistency of their daily bowel movements online. I’d like to think though that had it come out these days, Hitchcock would’ve tracked down every single person using the hashtag Psycho and would’ve waited for them, just outside their shower.


~ by ashd10 on April 17, 2014.

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