Many audiences regard Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as the original horror movie because of its thrilling storyline, unexpected twists, and mysterious plot. It has been praised by audiences for decades and many movies since have taken various elements from this film and added new twists. A modern relative of Psycho is Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. Like Psycho, Scorsese’s film is both terrifying and mysterious. Both movies twist the audience’s mind to give them a rush of excitement and horror. Psycho and Shutter Island differ in some ways, yet both involve fantastic editing, genre mash-up, and the ideology of self actualization.
Psycho is a classic film about the mysterious activities surrounding the infamous Bates Motel. It is run by a young man, Norman, who supposedly lives alone with his mother. However, no one ever sees the mother and she is only mentioned through Norman. The two are extremely attached to one another and share over-the-top concern for one another. When visitors to the hotel begin to cause trouble for Norman and his mother, they are murdered and it seems no one can solve the mysterious occurrences. A surprise ending reveals that the mother is, in fact, deceased and Norman is living for the both of them. When Marion, a visiting woman, gets too close to Norman the “mother” steps in to murder Marion in order to protect her son. When people come around to question her disappearance, Norman assumes both roles to prevent any detection.
Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island is very similar to Psycho because of its psychologically thrilling nature and horrifying plot. Edward Daniels, a federal marshall, is called to an insane asylum on island to investigate the disappearance of a lethal patient, Andrew Laeddis. Throughout his investigation, Daniels believes he uncovers exactly what is going on at Ashecliffe Hospital (Lehane). He comes to find out that the staff members are performing lethal, illegal operations on patients and that they are the cause for the mysterious occurrences on the island. However, the audience eventually learns that Daniels is Laeddis himself, and that he has made up the whole scheme in a storm of denial.
Between the two great movies, there are fantastic examples of masterful editing. Psycho is directed with various types of shots including rapid shots, shot reverse shot, and trombone shots (Scorsese). During the murder of Marion, the camera jumps rapidly between various shots to give the audience a sense of the hectic and rapid stabbing of the helpless victim. After Marion steals $40,000 from her employer, she flees and eventually is stopped by a stern police man. After letting her go he follows her for some time and Hitchcock utilizes the technique of the shot reverse shot. The camera shoots Marion and then reverses to shoot the cop behind her as if to show her view through her rear-view mirror. This creates senses of suspense and anxiety for the audience who wonders if she will get caught in her crime (Ebert). The unique trombone shot is used when the detective is murdered at the top of the steps. The camera is pulled away from the man while the lens zooms in to give the effect that the man is falling helplessly down the stairs after being stabbed. Shutter Island uses different editing techniques that are just as effective. For example, when Daniels is interrogating a patient of Ashecliffe she asks for a glass of water. However, when she lifts it to her mouth the glass is not in her hand and she sips nothing out of her hand. When the camera shoots her hand again, the glass can clearly be seen empty as she places it on the table. This gives the audience the same feeling of paranoia that Daniels feels in his schizophrenia. The flashbacks throughout Shutter Island are introduced with flashes which lets the audience know that the timeframe and setting are changing. Scorsese also involves the use of continuous editing throughout Daniels’ schizophrenic episodes. When Daniels is about to blow up a car, his sees his daughter walk into frame with his wife. The car explodes and both are engulfed in the flames. However, when the flames subside, the daughter and her mother are both still visible as Daniels runs away. Both films use editing to give the audience the same senses that the main characters feel and instill fear, suspense, and anxiety.
Both Shutter Island and Psycho are examples of genre mash-ups because of their various elements. The two movies can be classified as thrilling horror films because of the suspense that the directors create in every scene (Bloch). However, both are also crime dramas because the audience is anxious the entire time through both movies. They want to find out exactly what is going on at both the Bates Motel and Ashecliffe Hospital. Shutter Island and Psycho are also examples of psychological thrillers. Edward Daniels and Norman Bates both suffer from psychological disorders and schizophrenic episodes (Holtreman). Hitchcock and Scorsese both use different tactics to tackle various genres and both create films that thrill audiences everywhere.
The idea of self-actualization is the pinnacle of both Shutter Island and Psycho. Both Edward Daniels and Norman Bates lie to themselves and deny the truth in order to act the way they see fit. Daniels denies the truth that he murdered his wife after she murdered their children because he does not want to see himself as a murderer. In fact, he forms elaborate stories, schemes, and scandals in which he is the hero who solves cases. Similarly, Norman Bates assumes the role of both his mother and himself because he denies her death. He acts as both protective mother and son because he was so attached to his mother who loved him. Both directors demonstrate how people in society are so willing to lie to themselves and deny the truth because they do not want to see the negatives of their lives. People are so willing to reach their full potential that they will hide the truth and deliberately entertain extravagant fantasies because they want to see themselves a certain way. Scorsese and Hitchcock go even a step further and let the audience play along with the main characters’ fantasies. Hitchcock deliberately leads the audience to believe that both Norman Bates and his mother are alive. The entire time the audience denies the truth that Mrs. Bates has passed away because it experiences the same delusions Norman does. Similarly, throughout Shutter Island the audience truly feels as if Daniels is the hero the entire time and believes all the wild fantasies he makes up to justify himself. Hitchcock and Scorsese give the audience the same feelings of paranoia and confusion that the main characters feel in their psychotic delusions.
Although both films are similar in many ways, they also have certain differences. For example, in Psycho the character who the audience is weary of throughout the film is, in fact, the culprit. However, in Shutter Island the protagonist ends up being the one that the audience sees as guilty the entire time. Psycho also deals more with human instinct and action. Many psychologists have theorized about the strong bond between the mother and son as a result of human nature. Norman displays this bond with his mother as he denies her death and acts as a protector. He assumes the role of a mother who takes drastic measures to protect her son as well as the role of a son who is willing to hide his mother from the slightest bit of a harm or detection. Hitchcock also touches on the sexuality of human instinct and desire through the use of the viewer/voyeur. Norman peers through a hole in the wall at Marion who is undressing because he is sexually attracted to her. The camera shoots Marion through the wall to give the audience a feel of what Norman is looking at (Byrne). The audience feels the need to close its eyes because it sees the violation of privacy that Norman is committing. However, it is also intrigued by the sexual appeal of Marion. Hitchcock purposely does this in order to give the audience a perverted feeling. Shutter Island drifts away from basic instinct and touches more on an in-depth, rational human nature. The audience sympathizes with Edward Daniels because he simply wants to achieve his ideal self. He becomes completely engulfed in his new role as a detective that he forgets and denies the truth. On the other hand, Norman bounces between the role of his mother and himself. Hitchcock also includes more types of shots into his film. He uses these shots to create suspense and anxiety. However, Scorsese makes use of other types of editing such as flashbacks and continuous editing to create a storyline of excitement and terror.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho set the stage for terrifying thrillers and Shutter Island followed suit with its own elements of suspense and horror. Both movies have fantastic examples of editing. Psycho is famous for its revolutionary shots ahead of its time. Shutter Island is known for its chilling flashbacks and terrifying continuous shots throughout climaxes of excitement and terror. Both movies mash genres including horror, drama, crime, and thriller into masterpieces of their times. The two touch on social ideologies of self-actualization and the idea that humans will cross boundaries to become who they want to, rather than who they are. The two eerie films have unforgettable twists of fate in which the audience realizes the delusions of the main characters. Psycho and Shutter Island are similar for their plots that fool the audience into the schizophrenic episodes of the main characters. However, both characters experience different delusions kick-started by different traumatic events. The two films are different fruits of the same tree and both will be remembered for their terrifying plots, psychological toying, and unexpected twists.
Bloch, Robert. “Psycho.” WorldCat. OCLC, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
Byrne, Dr. Joseph. “The Male Gaze in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.” Web log post.ENGL245: Film Form and Culture. WordPress.com, 14 Oct. 2013. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
Ebert, Roger. “Psycho.” http://www.rogerebertreviews.com. N.p., 6 Dec. 1998. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
Holtreman, Vic. “Shutter Island Ending Explanation & Discussion.” Screenrant.com. N.p., Dec. 2010. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
Lehane, Dennis. “Shutter Island (Book 2003).” WorldCat. OCLC, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
Martin Scorsese. Analysis of Hitchcock: Martin Scorsese on Psycho. Rec. 10 July 2013. YouTube.com, n.d. MP3.