Psycho Review

Figure 1: poster (1960) 

Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho"(1960) is one of the great films of the 20th century; it plays with the idea of the mind in ways other films at it’s time could only imagine. The film is a psychological roller coaster, changing it’s main focus constantly to confuse the viewer and to hide the ending.

The story follows Marion as she steals 40 thousand dollar, it appears to be documenting the psychological journey she must take after stealing the money. Scenes in which the viewer can hear people talk about Marion, don’t feel like a monologue; instead they feel like a projection of Marion's anxiety. As the voices go on she begins to reconsider what she has done, but by then it is too late. Bosley Crowther said “It seems slowly paced for Mr. Hitchcock”( Crowther, 1960) which is true, it takes a while for the film to establish it’s story, and this makes the film feel mysterious; adding suspense. The story really begins when Marion stumbles on the bates motel, and signs are hinted to her demises; as a spectator the location feels to perfectly hidden from society which gives of an uneasy feeling. 

Figure 2:shower scene (1960) 

The shower scene or “the most disgusting murders in all screen history” (Lejeune, 1960) is more iconic than “disgusting”. It’s minimalistic approach to showing murder has been copied and redone to the point where those who have not seen Psycho know about the scene. The scene shows Norma Bates as the killer, which becomes confusing when the viewer is told she is dead. This confusion can momentary change the genre of the film from thriller to horror, by introducing the idea of ghosts.

Figure 3: Mother(1960) 

Once the ending has been revealed, it is clear that Norman Bates was suffering an Oedipal Crisis. Normans case is a bit confused, he kills his mother and her lover (potential father) and then becomes his mother, to be with his mother. Norman believing his mother is alive could be his unconscious guilt for what he has done. To protect his ego Norman is repressing his mothers death, displacing his mothers likeness onto the corpse and sometimes allowing it to take over his own body.

Norman’s ego seems to be using all it defence mechanisms to protect his psyche. Repression and denial can be attributed to Norman killing his mother and her lover and not accepting that he killed them and believe it never happened. Norman is also projecting his own flaws onto his mother and Displacing emotions by killing women who visit the motel. Regression is a more difficult one to pinpoint, but he seems to be stuck in the time before the death of his mother. Lastly Sublimation can be attributed to his taxidermy, satisfying his impulse by killing and stuffing Birds. Roger Ebert said it best with ”Hitchcock marred the ending of a masterpiece with a sequence that is grotesquely out of place.”(Ebert, 1998 ) There was no real need for the psychiatrist at the end, it felt as if Hitchcock was belittling and questioning the viewers intelligence, at least from a modern perspective.

Illustration list

Figure 1: poster (1960) [Poster]Available From:

Figure 2:shower scene (1960) [Film still]Available From:

Figure 3: Mother(1960) [Film still] Available From:


Crowther, b. (1960) MOVIE REVIEW Psycho (1960). At: (accesed on 25/01/2015)

Ebert, R. (1998) Psycho Film Review. At: (accesed on 25/01/2015)

Lejeune,C. (1960) Psycho: Archive review. At : (accesed on 25/01/2015)


  1. very insightful re. the sublimation theory and the taxidermy: I like the psychoanalytical slant of your review.

  2. Hi Ryan,

    You have discussed some of the underlying ideas such as the Oedipus complex well here - it's good to get in the habit of applying theoretical ideas to your film reviews, as it will make it easier in the long run, when you come to write your essays. :)
    Just one point, you say the viewer becomes confused when they see the mother doing the killing, as they think she is dead... at this point in the film, she is supposed to be alive still - Norman says she is resting and can't be disturbed, remember? Even when he takes her down to the cellar towards the end, the audience still think she is alive, as you hear her voice speaking to Norman... That's what makes the shock of seeing the mummified corpse greater.


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