Sins of Omission: ‘Psycho’ (1960)

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These are sins before horror. I am here to make amends.

Welcome to the new Sins of Omission column here at Horror’s Not Dead. It’s not really new, it’s just renamed. Think Tide with Color Guard; same soap, new label. This iteration is going to cover a huge sin of omission: Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece Psycho.

The Omission

Psycho is the the story of Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) a secretary who embezzles $40,000 from one of her employer’s customers. Marion makes a run for it, eventually checking into The Bates Motel, a roadside hotel owned and operated by the Bates family.  Marion is checked in by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Norman takes a liking to Marion, inviting her to dinner. Before dinner Marion hears an argument between Norman and his overbearing mother.

Soon after dinner we witness on of the most iconic scenes in all of cinema: the murder of Marion Crane in the shower. I have viewed this scene dozens if not hundreds of times, and it stands up to the test of time. A women at her most vulnerable is murdered by a complete psychopath. The remainder of the film is following Marion’s friends and family in their search for her. Eventually the family figures out what happened.

I have two reasons for my sin. First, I was not born when it was made, Psycho came out a decade before my birth. Secondly, and horrifyingly simply, I just never got around to seeing it.

The Unrivaled Canon of Val Lewton.

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[You may recently recognize Adam Charles from around the HND comment section, but here he is to contribute, in my opinion, the best editorial this site now knows.  Hopefully it is the first of many.]


When you hear films titled such as these, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  For me, when I bought the Val Lewton DVD collection, put out by Warner Brothers initially back in 2005 and then re-released in 2008 with a documentary featuring Martin Scorsese discussing Val Lewton, I expected to see films similar to those of the classic horror pictures of Universal Studios.  Films like those in the Dracula and Frankenstein series’.  In fact, I expected something much “cheesier” as these titles sound straight out of the Ed Wood filmography.

The closest thing I had to any knowledge of any of the pictures was a friend’s write-ups on the CAT PEOPLE and THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE.  So, my expectations weren’t exactly set low, but I wasn’t intending to watch anything that would affect me any differently than any of the other horror pictures of the 30s and 40s.

Chronologically I should have begun my viewings with CAT PEOPLE, but since I was somewhat aware of what to expect I wanted to save those films for the end.  So, I left it up to chance and the first DVD I grabbed was I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and THE BODY SNATCHER.

Photographically opulent.  Atmospherically eerie.  Psychologically complex.  Intelligently written.  Professionally performed.  Well constructed.  Unquestionably, and assuredly frightening.  These aren’t things that are normally associated with classic horror films, and certainly not associated with B-horror films prior to Romero’s landmark NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.  By all accounts and purposes, I should not have seen what I saw.

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