Thursday, August 25, 2011

40 Days of Night(mares) Day 3: Favorite classic horror movie

In thinking of this entry, my mind automatically went to the slasher heyday of the 80s, a real boon period in the American horror film timeline. But, the real question became what defines a classic. To me, it's when a film of any genre can be watched in any generation and maintain its relevance. The collected works of Alfred Hitchcock do just that. Although his pacing is a little slow for the modern quick cut ADD audience, the man knew how to deliver the goods. A prime example of his genius is a little film called Psycho. A tense drama that starts in one direction, and quick cuts to a whole new plain and comes back around to have one of the greatest cinematic twists of all time... SPOILER ALERT... The modern late reel twist endings that the likes of M Night Shyamalan use to such solid effect are homages to Psycho's surprises. Our heroine, the vivacious Janet Leigh, plays a secretary who robs her employer and goes on the lam, only to wind up at the motel operated by Norman Bates (played with such a creepy intensity by Antony Perkins), a man long under the thumb of his oppressive and brutal mother. Much is made of Leigh being a star in this film, but her untimely and memorable shower demise comes fairly early in the film, after which Perkins shines all the way to the climax where Mother's imprint is shown in a masterful light. 
The score heightens the tension and the violence through the use of strings only. The signature sound of Bates's attack is as easily familiar as the low bass of Spielberg's shark and twice as likely to induce chills. The audience of the time found the brutal violence of this singular scene to be a scandalous and swoon inducing moment, although it pales in gore and viscera compared to modern tastes.

Psycho was needlessly remade shot for shot in 1998 with Vince Vaughn stepping into Perkin's shoes, but failing to fill the role with as much tender menace. Stick with glorious black and white and watch the master of suspense's singular masterpiece and enjoy.
My score is a sincere and loving 10 out of 10.

As a side note, for those looking to expand their Hitchcockian universe, the next best movie I would recommend is Strangers on a Train.

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