Articles for Horror: Psycho

Plot summary of the 1960 movie “Psycho.”

Norman Bates doing his classic 4th wall-breaking stare.


Norman Bates doing his classic 4th wall-breaking stare.

Autumn Castle, Staff Writer

This article contains spoilers!

Who was Norman Bates?

Bates suffered from emotional abuse as a child from his mother, Norma, who preached to him that sex was evil and that women were bad for him. They lived alone together since the death of Bates’ father. 

When Bates was a teenager, his mother started to date Joe Considine. This made him unhinged with jealousy; leading to murdering both of them with strychnine, and preserving his mother’s dead body. Bates developed a dissociative identity disorder. Taking on his mother’s personality, he repressed her death as a way to escape the guilt of murdering her. He inherited his mother’s house, where he kept her corpse, and the family motel in the fictional town of Fairvale, California.

What was “Psycho?”

On a Friday afternoon in a Phoenix hotel, real estate secretary Marion Crane, and her boyfriend, Sam Loomis, discussed not being able to get married because of Sam’s debts. Marion went back to work to steal a payment of $40,000 that was entrusted to her for a deposit, and she set off to drive to Sam’s home in Fairvale, California. In a suspicious rush, she trades her car while she’s on the way, and arouses suspicion from both the car dealer and a California Highway Patrol officer.

Marion stopped for the night at Bates Motel, which was located off the main highway, and hid the stolen money inside a newspaper. 

Norman Bates left a large house overlooking the motel, deciding to register Marion under a different name and inviting her to dine with him. After Norman returned to his house, Marion overheard Norman argue with his mother about Marion being there with him. Norman returned with a meal and apologized for his mother’s outbursts. Norman discussed basic things about him, and creepily, how people have a “private trap” they want to escape.

Marion decided to drive back to Phoenix in the morning and return the stolen money. As Marion showered, a figure in a dress appeared and stabbed her to death. Soon afterward, Norman cleaned up the scene, putting her body, belongings, and the hidden cash in her car, and sunk it in a swamp.

Marion’s sister, Lila, arrived in Fairvale a week later and she told Sam about the theft and demanded to know her whereabouts. Norman denied knowing anything about her disappearance and the money. A private investigator named Arbogast talked to them, saying that he had been hired to retrieve the money. Arbogast stopped at the Bates Motel and questioned Norman, and his nervous behavior and inconsistent answers aroused suspicion. He examined the guest register and discovered from her handwriting that Marion spent a night in the motel.

When Arbogast learned that Marion had spoken to Norman’s mother, Arbogast asked to speak to her, but Norman refused to allow him to. Arbogast updated Sam and Lila about his search and promised to meet them within an hour at Sam’s home. After he entered Norman’s home to search for his mother, the figure once again emerged from the bedroom and stabbed him to death.

Sam visited the motel with Lila when they heard nothing from Arbogast, they were worried something went wrong. He saw a figure in the house who he assumed was Norman’s mother. Lila and Sam alerted the local sheriff, who told them Norman’s mother died in a murder–suicide 10 years earlier. The sheriff gave them the idea that Arbogast lied so he could pursue Marion and the money. 

Despite this, they were convinced that something happened to Arbogast, so they drove to the motel. Sam distracted Norman in the office while Lila snuck into the house. Suspicious, Norman becomes annoyed and knocks Sam unconscious. As he went to the house, Lila hid in the fruit cellar, where she discovered Norman’s mother’s mummified body. She screamed, and Norman, who was now wearing women’s clothes and a wig, entered the cellar and tried to stab her. Sam appears and overpowers him.

At the police station, a psychiatrist explained that Norman killed his mother and her lover 10 years earlier out of jealousy. Unable to deal with the guilt, Norman mummified his mother’s corpse and began to treat it as if she was still alive. He recreated his mother as an alternate personality, and this personality was just as jealous and possessive towards Norman as his mother. When Norman was attracted to a woman, “Mother” took over. He had killed two other missing young women before Marion and Arbogast. 

The psychiatrist concluded that “Mother” was now an engraved part of Norman’s personality. Norman sat in a jail cell and heard his mother saying the murders were all his doing as he smiles, breaking the 4th wall. 

How successful was “Psycho?”

“Psycho” was Alfred Hitchcock’s most successful film, financially speaking. It made $32 million at the North American box office during the first release, off of a production budget of approximately $807,000. The film is still known and recognized today.