Since watching this film, whenever I have a shower I have to shampoo with one eye open, just in case somebody should come along and stab me! Remind me never to stay at Bates Motel... Ever!
This film is terrifying, yet at the same time, very out of date... I suppose it's one of the best horror films out there, however.
One of the things that makes this film very unique is the fact that none of the actual murders were shown, more implied by stabbing gestures with a knife, horrific screaming, and the blood going down the drain. This leaves most of the grisliness up to the imagination, perhaps one of the reasons it's so terrifying!
I think the thing that makes this film so scary is the soundtrack of screeching string instruments, giving Psycho a lot of suspense and dread for what is to come. The screeching music was particularly overpowering in the famous shower scene, adding to the horror of the implied murder.
To be honest, the suspenseful music comes several times throughout the movie, so sometimes I wonder "why is the scary music playing? What's going to happen now?", especially near the beginning while Marion Crane was driving away from Phoenix.
Psycho starts with the characters Marion and Sam in a hotel room after their romantic rendezvous during lunch break. As Wikipedia notes, this scene would have received a lot of controversy, as unmarried couples weren't allowed to share a bed or have sexual contact before marriage, in the times the film was made (1960). They talk about getting married sometime, and then Marion sets off back to work again.
A very rich gentleman comes into the business and hands a huge sum of money over to her, (as it's going to buy his daughter a house) and her employer tells her to put it in the bank overnight. Of course, being Marion Crane, she doesn't put the money in the bank and decides to steal it for herself... I must admit, she really rubbed me the wrong way in several places, especially where she steals the money. Why would she do that? What on earth was going through her mind at the time? She seemed perfectly normal and not the type to steal, if you know what I mean, and then she just packs it in her suitcase and goes on the run... I just couldn't understand her motives! Perhaps I'm only frustrated with her because I knew what was going to happen to her for stealing, but I must admit that she annoyed me quite a bit.
As she was driving out of Phoenix, the suspense music began again, and it was fresh from the title sequence. It had me wondering when she would die, or if she'd just turn around the car and give back the money before she gets in trouble. Of course she doesn't, despite feeling horribly guilty about it for the whole journey. She was stopped and watched by a policeman a couple of times, mainly because of how suspicious she was acting, and then pulled up at Bates Motel on a very rainy night.
Norman watched her undress through a hole in the wall, disguised by a picture of a bird, which I must admit was really creepy; he can't have contact with women because of his mother's jealousy. I forgot to mention that he is very close to his mother, no matter how badly she treats him, saying that "A boy's best friend is his mother"!
Marion slips into the shower in what seems like a baptizing wash, after she decides to return the money the next day. It's too late. She is stabbed by a shadowy figure over and over, until she clings onto the shower curtain and falls dead to the floor. At first you are meant to think that the shadowy figure is Mother, because of the build and cameo-like hairstyle of the shadow, and also because it's known that she's insane... But we later find that it's not true. Norman rushes in and cleans the crime scene, wrapping Marion in the shower curtain to catch the blood, then sinks Marion, her personal belongings left behind, and her car into a nearby swampland.
People are made to look into her disappearance, as her boyfriend and sister are very worried about her. It was known that she ran away with the stolen money, and yet nobody was bothered about the money, they were all intent on making sure she was safe and well; even the police weren't bothered by the fact that she had broken the law! This also annoyed me a bit, to be honest. They go out to look for her and a policeman gets killed my Mother/Norman in the process, as he snook up to the house to talk to Mother without Norman's permission.
So Sam and her sister go to look for her themselves, not trusting the policeman (and not knowing he was murdered). They call on somebody - I think another policeman - and find out that Norman's Mother had been dead and buried long ago! Apparently she died after murdering her husband, and then herself in a murder-suicide. Again, not true. The tale unravels at the end.
After talking to him and not believing it as they saw "Mother" in the window of the house, they decide to pretend to be married and book themselves a room at the hotel... Together they hunt through Cabin 1 where Marion was killed, and find clues telling them that Marion had definitely stayed at Bates Motel before her disappearance. This includes the bath without the shower curtain (as Marion pulled it down when she collapsed to the floor) and a tiny piece of paper that didn't get flushed down, with the sum of money that Marion stole written down on it. Then they jump to the conclusion that Norman killed her in order to steal the money for himself, making his hotel richer with the money and gaining success. Sam distracts Norman (in what I thought was a very pushy, aggressive manner) while Marion's sister goes up to Norman's house to see Mother.
The house is so creepy, almost like the Haunted Mansion, but worse! She riffles around in Mother's room, touching her clothes and rooting around, wasting time. The fact that the imprint of Mother's body on her bed was still there, was really disturbing... Norman enters after knocking Sam out, knowing that the woman was in his house. The woman hides near the basement/fruit cellar, and when she hears Norman go upstairs, she enters it.... Where we find one of the most terrifying scenes I've ever seen.
Mother is sitting there with her back to the woman, so when she calls out to her, a disgusting mummified corpse turns around, complete with sickening grin. The corpse is wearing a wig and clothes, and when the woman screams, Norman comes rushing in wearing a lady's dress and wig, bearing a huge knife. He would have succeeded in killing her if Sam hadn't tackled him.
Then we move to the scene in the police station where everything comes to light. Marion's boyfriend and sister accept that she's dead in what I thought was a very emotionless way - perhaps because they already knew - and we hear from a psychiatrist all about Norman. He killed his mother and her lover when he became jealous, getting a split personality of both him and Mother to cope with what he had done. The Mother part of his mind would become wildly jealous and murderous whenever he spoke to women, or if something mildly threatening happened. And the reason he wore a dress was so that he could keep the illusion going that he was mother. The film ends with a monologue by Norman's mother, claiming that Norman was wrong; she would never hurt a fly...
Overall, I loved this film, but for what it was, I thought that some of the characters could have been more emotional, especially at the death of Marion.