Normannn.... Normann BATTEEESSS!

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I was amazed how much different watching Psycho was than reading it. Naturally we expect a great amount of variation between the book version and the movie version, but I was pretty disappointed with the movie now that I have read the book.  It has always ticked me off when directors leave out really small details that they easily could have maneuvered in, or simply change something minuscule, like the number of a hotel room from 6 to 1, just to do it.  I think it really does take a lot out of the value of the movie, because readers are waiting to see the plot come to life, and when it’s not done well, it’s a huge displeasure.  On the other hand, there was a lot of things that I liked in the movie that I think are def. worth talking about, especially in regards to the actual filming, cast selections, etc.  Now I’ve never taken a film class before (despite my many efforts here at SHU), so bare with me when stuff gets technical because I’m not going to pretend like I’m an expert at this stuff. Ha-Ha.

Obviously the movie was in black and white, and to me that has always been the avenue of scary movies.  To me, there is just something about watching an old horror movie that really speaks to me about the genre.  I don’t know if it’s because of the play with color, or the emphasis of shadow, but black and white filming really does it for me in the field.  While this sounds corny, I also like the music choice.  It makes me laugh of course because it is so pronounced, and so loud, but it does help to foreshadow and allude to suspense.

I also enjoyed the fade out technique that they seemed to use a lot.  It works exceptionally well in this circumstance because of the black and white coloration, but I feel that it really takes a spin on leaving the viewer in suspense.  I always looked at it as a timer because it seems to be pushing the plot and trying to get you to figure it out before your surrounded it black—not to mention creating suspense and keeping you in the dark about what’s going on while you don’t see anything.  Very creepy. In addition to that, I also liked the back and forth camera movement that they director used to show emphasis and create suspense and an impending sense of doom.  It went from the character to the object, setting, etc. and then back and forth a few times to really get the viewer to pay attention and draw their own conclusions, which to me, worked very well.

I found it strange that they didn’t really push the rain in the movie, because that seemed like an important element in the book.  For one, it creates conflict for Mary (and they do show it rain, slightly, but now to the downpour extent that we read in the novel), and secondly, it adds to the mood and tone of the plot.  Rain naturally is going to cast a gloomy shadow, but the whole sense of the storm really drives home the scary, insanity, your-not-going-to-make-it-out-alive scenario. 

Moving on towards the character, I’ll admit I’m torn with my overall opinion.  Norman seems very, very childlike when we are introduced to him, which I was pleased to see.  But he def. doesn’t look anything like I pictured him too, and his stutter shows his nervousness while being giddy in general, especially during the questioning.  I found that to contrast with the character that I met in the book.  True, he was nervous at first when questioned about the disappearance of Mary, but in the end, it really pulled it together, and I just didn’t see that in the movie.

To me, he seemed almost static when he seems Mary dead, because he doesn’t really react, which I thought was strange; I almost didn’t see any distinction between his split personality, which upset me. He is very calm when cleaning everything up, like he knew that it was going to be there, and he automatically knew what to do with everything, and it just wasn’t realistic to me.  I also was really bothered by the fact that he didn’t drink at ALL in the movie.  That was so important in the book because it really through the reader off to the reality of what was happening, in addition to giving him an excuse to when the mother took over; I just couldn’t believe that they left that out in the film.  Also, he doesn’t even acknowledge the similarities between Mary and her sister.  It was great casting because the two did look very much alike and I was waiting for Norman to have a distinct oh-my-god-she-is-back-from-the-dead moment when he say her, but alas, he did not. I also think they did a great job casting for the sheriff, both physically, and in the presentation of his personality.

I think what bothered me the most about Norman was the fact that he didn’t have the sense of knowing there was something wrong with him in the movie.  In the novel, he states a couple times that he thinks he is schizophrenic, or hints about there being a prominent psychological issue with him, but in the movie it is almost as if he is completely oblivious to any of that.  I think that really hit the film bad because it took a great deal away from the psychosomatic genre of horror.

Now moving on to dear mother… Oh the craziness.

Honestly, I think you’re lying if you say that you didn’t chuckle at the whole shower scene stabbing.  It was jagged and well pathetic from the murders we see in films today and it really shows you have far we have come technologically.  I was quite disappointed, however, that the whole realization of who the mother really was, was quite anticlimactic.  It just seemed like it happened to fast, and that they didn’t spend enough time/effort of the true horror of the situation.

I think that they showed a lot of good portions regarding dear Momma Bates though.  For instance, I liked the part towards the end when Norman is looking out the window as Sam walks up to the motel.  Talk about the irony there, especially since it is normally his mother looking out!  The indent on the bed was also a nice touch, although it seemed a little too dramatic to me.  I mean that indent was really prominent and really in there good- was it realistic?  I’m not so sure. Also, I thought they did I good job with the d├ęcor of the room (very old in its style and decoration) but it seemed like it didn’t fit in with the rest of the house…like it did in the novel. 

Finally, I was surprised at how different some of the details were from the book, and it all seemed to be little things!  Norman put Mary in room 1 instead of 6 (honestly why change that???), and Mary didn’t leave the money in the car, but rather kept it in the room with her.  Now this I can actually understand, because they don’t want the viewer to forget about the money, etc. etc. but still.  The house didn’t look very old school to me, with the exception of the Mother’s room, AND she(/he) killed Arbogast with a knife and not with a razor?  I don’t know if they did this for consistency in the movie (like the killer always uses the same weapon or something) but I was a little mad about that, because I wanted to see some diversity.  Also when that scene occurred, she(/he) def. came from the side to attack, but yet it shows a full on stabbing from the front view of the camera, which totally wouldn’t have happened.  I’m just confused why they shot that part weird.

Then, there is the whole issue with the earring, which was completely left out…and instead changed to a piece of paper (from her balancing her funds) that she dropped on the floor?  I thought that was a lame detail to change, especially in a murder mystery type of movie. The big one that got me though was the mother at the end.  Wasn’t she stuffed in the book???  I mean I like the whole skeleton vibe so much more, but I thought Norman ransacked her body from the coffin and stuffed her to keep her preserved.  I may be wrong on that one…but the movie gets a point there for me.

I was pretty pleased with the very ending, and with the conclusion of the psychological understanding that the viewer got.  I also liked that they took the final quote from the book and played that at the end in a woman’s voice.  It made it that much creepier, and tied everything together.  And we can’t forget that crazy, horrid smile at the end.  Talk about leaving a lasting impression!  GREAT!

1 Comments

Marcus Chrisitan said:

I like your breakdown of this movie. You've done a good job. I've taken many film courses and you point out many things we were asked to point out.
Anyway, I agree with you that watching the movie was a disappointment after reading the book. Even though I'm a huge Hitchcock fan, there is something that we miss by not seeing more from Norman's point of view. We don't get the brooding and plotting that we do in the novel and I think that's where we loose a lot of ground storytelling wise.
Very interesting post though.

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