The Little Red Riding Hood Genotype in Psycho (1960)
One of the constant refrains in the film criticism about Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is the sheer unexpectedness of the murder of Marion Crane at the hands of Norman Bates. For example, in his study Hitchcock’s Films, Revisited (2002), Robin Wood says that “so engrossed are we in Marion, so secure in her potential salvation, that we can scarcely believe [this murder] is happening”.2 Wood adds that Marion’s death strikes us as “irrational” and “useless”; the shower bath murder is “probably the most horrific scene in any fiction film”, partly because of its sheer “meaninglessness”.3 In some ways, however, this reaction is misplaced. The audience has seen this shocking denouement before. After all, this is the way in which Charles Perrault concludes his version of Little Red Riding Hood. Once this is pointed out, the reason why this Eighteenth Function has proved so popular should become evident: the screenplay of Psycho is the most famous instance of the Little Red Riding Hood plot genotype.
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