Effects of Suspense in Psycho Essay

The building of emotion, whether it is romantic love or deep hatred, can make a low-budget film into a blockbuster hit. Directors are constantly trying to build this deep feeling and emotion to make blockbuster hits. Alfred Hitchcock made hit films but instead, he built suspense – so much that it scared women from showering alone for years. Hitchcock’s appropriate label as the “Master of Suspense” came supremely out of his number one thriller, Psycho. His genius cinematic view shaped modern-day thrillers and horrors, and many of his techniques are still used today in such films.

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Hitchcock’s combined use of eerie sounds, high camera angles, creepy settings, and misleading tricks make Psycho one of the best (if not, the best) thriller ever made. Hitchcock constantly tricks and misleads his audience one direction, which builds tension and creates shock. From the very beginning of Psycho, Hitchcock guides his audience into thinking this film is a different genre than expected from the title.

He opens the film with Marion and Sam in a bedroom together, which leads the audience into believing that this is a love or romance film.

Then, when Marion steals the money, the audience is led to believe it is a crime drama. This stays true while she is on the run, until she comes across the Bates Motel. This is when the genre shifts again – now into a horror thriller. Through this progression in the film, Hitchcock uses subtle humor to misguide his audience as well. This technique guides the audience in the wrong direction, while successfully building suspense as the film progresses. Hitchcock’s misleading techniques create wonder and tension in the audience. This, along with false suspense allows for the big shocks to become even more terrifying when they do occur.

Marion’s getaway trip includes many tense moments that create false suspense, which brings the audience to the edge of their seat before she even meets Norman. When she wakes up in her car to a cop behind her, there is an automatic rush of suspense. The audience believes she will get caught with the money at this point. Marion’s look of nervousness along with the cop’s calm expression builds an ordeal of suspense. More tension is built when she drives away and constantly looks in her rear-view mirror at the cop car following her. Hitchcock cuts between the eyelevel medium shot of the car in the mirror and an anxious Marion driving away.

Quickly deciding to trade in her car for a new one adds tension to the film as well. She is rushed and panicked while at the dealership, which keeps the audience on their feet. Hitchcock uses this false suspense close to the beginning of the film to keep his audience tense and anxious before Marion even comes across the Bates Motel. The two major shocks in this film come after Marion checks in at the motel, all of which are built up with suspense through Hitchcock’s genius use of mise-en-scene, camera angles, and sound. The famous shower scene is built up with so much suspense from perfect camera angles.

When Marion is undressing, the eyelevel medium close up shot makes the audience feel uncomfortable because it is as if we are intruding in her private space – almost like when Norman watches her through the hole in the wall. The cut to the low angle close up from Marion’s point of view of the running water seems so subtle, yet it builds so much tension. This cut makes it look like the water is coming down on the audience, which distracts them from other noises and the rest of the bathroom. This builds much suspense because the audience is oblivious to what is going on around Marion.

The camera and audience are stuck in the shower with Marion as the door opens behind her and the shadowy figure creeps in. This builds tension and horror in the audience because we feel trapped and vulnerable with her. When the figure rips off the curtains, the sharp shrieking violin strings create terror and build even more suspense for the rest of the film. The death of Arbogast uses some of the same suspense techniques as Hitchcock uses for the shower scene. Both Marion and Arbogast are viewed in high angles to make them seem inferior and vulnerable.

As Arbogast climbs the stairs, the tracking shot is always a bit above him to exaggerate his small stature. The close-ups and high angles along with the sinister-looking house and Arbogast’s footsteps create a vast amount of suspense as he climbs the stairs. He even looks scared right before it cuts to the birds-eye view just prior to his death. The look on his face brings the audience to the edge of their seat, wondering what will happen to him. Again, the violin shrieks play as Arbogast gets stabbed to death, which majorly adds to the horrifying sight.

Hitchcock’s incredible combination of sight and sound in Psycho create suspense that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat the whole way through. Psycho is a perfect example of why Alfred Hitchcock is the “Master of Suspense. ” He used these specific camera angles, sounds, music, and mise-en-scene to give everything a suspenseful look and feel. He placed them all perfectly to keep his audience alert and tense the whole way through. Alfred Hitchcock shaped the thriller genre, while going down as one of the best directors in film history.

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