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A History of Icky (Hitchcock's Influence On The Beloved Horror Genre)

  • May 19, 2009
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Throughout the history of great Horror films, one has to actually stop & wonder where the true inspirations came from for the so-called "slasher" films. Who created the first slasher film? What thoughts must've ran through their heads when they sat down to write these grisly pieces of entertainment? To whom do we owe the greatest honor & respect?

Personally, I don't believe there is a single Director out there either living or dead who didn't owe a huge debt to Mr. Hitchcock at some point in their career. No matter how clever or ingenius these directors have been, being placed in the same sentence as Hitchcock is a grand achievement  by itself & no one has even come to close to filling these huge shoes though many have done remarkable things in film-making history.

Dario Argento, Brian DePalma, & David Lynch are just a few of the popular names that come to mind when I think of the irreplaceable Hitchcock. Obviously, these directors are different as night & day but all have been compared at some point or another to the master himself with good reason. The actual list of directors is far greater than one could ever hope to compile or even imagine but those examples should be a good reference & perhaps a great starting point for film addicts like myself who love to explore great cinema.

Admittedly, Hitchcock never made a bad film to the best of my knowledge. However, I have to say upfront that the character Norman Bates in Psycho stuck with me longer than any other character he brought to life on the silver scream. As time has clearly proven, Psycho may very well have been one of his most influential films when we begin to examine the many spin-offs & spawned sequels. I sometimes have to wonder if Hitchcock himself knew the impact that Psycho might have on the audiences 10, 20, 30, or 40 years down the road. This seemingly endless legacy is almost as interesting as the original film itself & that's very difficult to believe.

Although Hitchcock never made slasher films per se, one could argue that he is the godfather of slasher films. One of the most evident homages to Psycho is William Lustig's Maniac which holds up quite well even to this day thanks to Blue Underground. Maniac is, by far, gorier & sicker than anything Hitchcock would've imagined but clearly reminds us of Psycho as both homicidal maniacs have the mother fixation & tend to speak with their dead mothers frequently. There is also a sly reference or perhaps variation to the infamous shower scene as well only Lustig employs a bath tub this time around. Maniac is far more bleak & disturbing than Hitchcock's Psycho but it's a worthwhile film nonetheless largely due to Joe Spinell's pitch-perfect performance.

Another entertaining film of the early eighties was the Canadian film Funeral Home. Director William Fruet was immediately accused of plagiarism when this film was initially released in theatres. Although I can clearly see the resemblences to Psycho, I still think Fruet's work was original enough to stand on it's own. Funeral Home is a suspenseful yarn about a young woman who agrees to help her sweet grandmother turn an old funeral parlor into a bed-and-breakfast establishment. Not long after the granddaughter settles in, she begins to hear voices in the basement & begins to suspect that something very sinister may be taking place in her newfound home. Although not nearly as disturbing or icky as Maniac, both films clearly take their nods at Hitchcock.

The eighties also saw the triumphant return of Norman Bates 25 years after the events that took place in the original. Hitchock, of course, would not be involved in the production but the saving grace for Psycho 2 as well as 3 is the presence of Anthony Perkins reprising his role of Norman Bates. I don't know about anyone else & perhaps am only speaking for myself but I simply can't imagine another actor pulling off this role. Psycho 2 & 3 are surprisingly quite good as far as sequels go & I truly believe the same house/motel set did help to evoke the suspense or terror of the original. Note of Trivia: Perkins also ended up in the Director's chair for the third entry in this series.

Although both films are worthy sequels which aren't a waste of the viewer's time, it's obvious these films would probably have appealed more to the younger generation as they are far bloodier & even a bit more sexual than the Hitchcock classic. I simply couldn't imagine the older generation being able to tolerate the blood & gore which slasher film fans absolutely lavish. Fortunately, these sequels do maintain the high level of suspense which the original exudes & even manage to uphold the oddball dark humor that Hitchcock himself would appreciate.

The Psycho films didn't completely cease, however, with the third entry. Psycho 4: The Beginning would re-vist the tried & true themes as Norman Bates recounts his horrid childhood memories for a late-night radio show host. Henry Thomas would play the young Norman Bates. Although I've yet to watch this final entry, I have read some positive comments on the film which originally aired on Showtime back in the early nineties.

Though all the films may pale in comparsion to the first one, I believe this may be one of the more consistent & entertaining horror series of all time.

Psycho's influence still remains after all these years in the late nineties & Gus Van Sant bequeathed his frame-for-frame re-creation of the classic. Although this was a great compliment to Alfred Hitchcock, Van Sant's re-creation lacked much originality & the film was a flop for many different reasons.  Sadly, Vince Vaughn was miscast as Norman Bates which was a huge mistake in my opinion. Vince has proven that he can act time & again but it's virtually an impossible task for him to match the intensity of Perkins in this needless re-make. Although Van Sant's Psycho wouldn't be the first or last blunder as far as unnecessary re-makes go, the world could've just as easily done without.

Countless other films still borrow elements from Psycho even now in the new millenium such as Identity & the more recent Vacancy. As anyone can predict, these films will be blessed with average to very good performances yet none of them will bring anything new or significant to the table. Sometimes it's best to leave good enough alone & to stop monkeying with tradition.

A short history of ickiness can take us all around the world & back again when we re-visit the classics as well as the second-rate box office blunders which surface today. We all have seen the good, the bad, & the ugly when it comes to rehashed elements of great horror cinema. Although visiting every Horror film ever made which may be the end product of some terrific influences is certainly futile, it's always good to know the source of inspiration for the films we see today & to perhaps take note of the grand works which may have been overlooked or simply forgotten.

This Halloween, I'll prepare my usual caramel popcorn balls & set aside a bowl of candy for the kiddies who may trail through my neighborhood. I'm currently sorting through old titles to perhaps re-visit or titles which I've never seen to this day. 'Tis the season to be scared senseless & to be sick to your stomach. Enjoy your holiday & watch out for razors in your apples. Unpleasant dreams, my friends.

Keep it evil. Keep it real.
A History of Icky (Hitchcock's Influence On The Beloved Horror Genre) A History of Icky (Hitchcock's Influence On The Beloved Horror Genre) A History of Icky (Hitchcock's Influence On The Beloved Horror Genre) A History of Icky (Hitchcock's Influence On The Beloved Horror Genre)

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May 19, 2009
I read somewhere that the movies Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, & Silence of the Lambs were all loosely based on the same guy. That could be another reason why there are a lot of similarities. Also, I just saw the 4th Psycho a few months ago. It wasn't bad but definitely weird.
June 11, 2009
Supposedly. I had read that somewhere awhile back too. Ironically, I like all those titles! The 4th Psycho was a pretty decent film but I prefer the original. Thank you for the reply! I really appreciate the comments. Cheers!
More Alfred Hitchcock reviews
Quick Tip by . August 24, 2010
Understandably he's not for everyone, and without variety it'd be a boring world. But this man has entertained and educated me like no other.
review by . May 27, 2009
     Alfred Hitchcock is most definitely one of my favorite directors of all time.  His movies although older are still relevant and brilliant.  Some of his earlier films can be rather drag but once he came into his own all of his films were on point.  He even remade one of his own films "The Man Who Knew Too Much" because he said that his first version in 1934 was "the work of an amateur".         I have seen plenty of Hitchcock …
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I've spent years trying to make others happy & not really focusing on what's most important in my own life. Having said that, my own health & security are paramount so now I'm more … more
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(born Aug. 13, 1899, London—died April 29, 1980, Bel Air, Calif., U.S.) English-born motion-picture director whose suspenseful films won immense popularity.

The son of a London poultry dealer, Hitchcock attended St. Ignatius College, London, and the University of London, where he studied engineering. In 1920 he began to work in the motion-picture industry, designing title cards for the Famous Players-Lasky Company. Within a few years he had become a scenario writer and an assistant director, and he directed his first film (The Pleasure Garden) in 1925. With The Lodger (1926), the story of a family who mistakenly suspect their roomer to be Jack the Ripper, Hitchcock began making the “thrillers” with which he was to become identified. His Blackmail (1929) was the first successful British talking picture. During the 1930s he directed such classic suspense films as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The Thirty-nine Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), and The Lady Vanishes (1938). In 1939 Hitchcock left England for Hollywood, where his first film, Rebecca (1940), won an Academy Award for best picture.

During the next three decades Hitchcock usually made a film a year in the Hollywood motion-picture system. Among the important films he directed during the 1940s were Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), and Rope (1948). He began functioning as his own producer in 1948, and he went on in the 1950s to make a series of ...

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