Zach's 10 Favorite Movies: 9. Psycho (1960)


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


High school was the first time I had friends I wanted to do things with. I liked hanging out and being with people I felt completely comfortable around. They knew I was a burgeoning cinephile and we'd often go to the movies, but there was a very big hole in my repertoire and that was horror, thrillers, suspense, and Hitchcock.


One night I was invited to go to a midnight show of Psycho. It was at The Grand Cinema in Tacoma (Please, let The Grand survive COVID-19) and I was nervous the whole ride there. I remember Amanda and Adam were the ringleaders of the outing and they knew I was very nervous for the experience. They gently ribbed me about it until the lights went down and I gripped the armrest a little tighter.


Psycho lures you into this false sense of security. For at least a half an hour, the plot only revolves around Marion Crane stealing $40,000 and escaping Phoenix, AZ for her boyfriend's place in Fairvale, CA. As soon as she gets to the motel, though, I know what's supposed to happen. I've seen parodies and clips of the shower scene. It didn't make it any less scary, but after the scene I was lured again into that false sense of security.


What really gets me about the film, what still gets me, surprises me and makes me come back is the murder of Arbogast. The overhead shot of him coming up the stairs and then, with only that musical warning, a person shoots out of a room and stabs him, letting him fall down the stairs with the camera on his face the whole time.


I remember clutching someone's hand when that happened and sitting up in my seat. I suddenly was on edge, that scene kept me on my toes for the rest of it. I started expecting more murders. Though, they didn't come. That final scene appears and the car is lifted out of the swamp and the lights came up. I was shaking for a while after that, but it was only half fright, the rest was electricity. It was excitement.


After that, it was easy to dip my toes a little more, scare myself a little more, get that thrill. Though, it still scares me, I long for that first time with Psycho again. Just as Psycho has longing throughout. The two main characters are full of longing. Both are longing for a kind of freedom. Marion longs for the kind of freedom that comes with commitment. She wants to free Sam from his ex-wife and his debts so they can be together and so she doesn't get hit on by sleazy, wealthy men. Norman longs for freedom from his urges. He wants to quiet the loud, violent forces inside of him and live a quiet life with mother.

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