Slasher movies don't usually do it for me - I'm the girl happily munching her way through a bowl of popcorn whilst everyone else closes their eyes and grips on to the person sitting next to them. There are one or two rare exceptions - Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) is one. With television channels airing horror films in the run-up to Halloween, I recently had the opportunity to spend a Friday Night In revisiting this movie classic.

'We all go a little mad sometimes - haven't you?'
Why is it that the original Psycho gets to me, but more graphic, bloodthirsty or supposedly scary movies are a cakewalk? Perhaps it's because Psycho is just so very real. We're unlikely to have poltergeists or other supernatural phenomena wreaking havoc in our houses (and if we do, there's a rational, logical, scientific explanation, folks), but any one of us could stumble into the wrong motel on a rainy night and strike up a conversation with a psychologically fragile chap with mommy issues. In addition to a very plausible plot, it's the perfectly understated manner in which it's presented  - it's what you don't see, that which is implied, that piles on the fear factor. Throw in striking cinematography (Hitchcock chose to shoot the movie in black and white), an exceptional script and superb acting and you've got yourself not only one of the most scary horror movies of all time, but quite possibly the best movie in cinemagraphic history. (Read: 50 Reasons Why Psycho is the Best Movie of All Time).

'A boy's best friend is his mother.' - Norman Bates

About Alfred Hitchcock
Englishman Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (1899-1980) is widely regarded as the greatest movie director ever. Hitchcock is undoubtedly the master of suspense - directing such movie thrillers as The Birds and Rear Window. When it came to the low-budget Psycho, he went to extraordinary lengths to build that suspense, even buying up all copies of the novel (by Robert Bloch), on which his film was based so that the audience would be unable to discover how the story unfolds, without seeing his movie (press junkets in the age of social media could learn a trick or two from the less-is-more Mr Hitchcock). Hitchcock is also known for this signature quirk - fleeting cameo appearances in his own films. Can you spot him in Psycho? Here's a clue...

About Psycho
The plot is simple and slick - Secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) absconds with $40 000 in cash, taken from a client of the real estate firm where she works. She pulls into the Bates Motel and there encounters the shy proprietor, Norman Bates. After having a sandwich and a chat with him, she jumps into the shower. The rest, as they say, is history...

Haven't Seen Psycho?
Here are five reasons why you really should!
  1. Psycho is the best film never to have won an Oscar for Best Film - although it received four Oscar nominations (for Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Janet Leigh; Best Director - Alfred Hitchcock; Best Cinematography - Black and White and Best Art Direction - Black and White), West Side Story made a sweep of the Oscars that year (1961)
  2. Psycho paved the way for all horror flicks which followed, setting a new standard for violent, sexually charged content. In a world still trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, Hitchcock demonstrated that monsters lie not underneath man's bed, but in his head. 
  3. Psycho pioneered movie-making techniques - German Expressionism influenced Hitchcock and he combined this dark, moody school of film with (at the time) progressive techniques like quick-cuts, disconcerting slicing sounds (a props man slicing melons), rapid changes of pace, contrasting light and shadows, and focusing intently on some characters and objects whilst simultaneously blurring others.
  4. Every movie fan needs to see the infamous Psycho shower scene!
  5. To find out more about 'Mrs Bates'...