Analysing Trailers…’Psycho’

Posted: July 9, 2010 in Media

(Above: two posters for the original horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock that inspired thousands)

Featured below is the trailer analysed….


The trailer makes it clear to us that this film is going to be a horror. I think this is mainly acheived through the way the director talks about the gruesome and horrible things that have happened to various victims, and what we can expect to see in the film. The horror genre is also acheived through the use of a woman screaming and the music in the background- which is chilling and sinister- a common convention seen in horror trailers and the films themselves. There also appears to be a subgenre of crime/thriller as vital details are left untold and clues are hinted at but not explained in full detail- giving audiences the idea that the film will be shocking and involve twists and turns in the plot which will revolve around a dreadful crime, and we will be inspired to try and figure out who is responsible.


The narrative is revealled mostly through the director’s kind of ‘narration’ throughout the trailer, such as when he talks about ‘horrible events took place’ and ‘second murder’ which reveals to us that the film will revolve around terrible crimes committed at the house where the trailer is located. We instantly want to know who is responsible for this crime and whether they will eventually be caught. We want to know whether the equilibrium will be restored and how this will eventually come to happen. The fact Hitchcock points out certain objects, such as a picture and says it has ‘great significance because…’ and then moves on gives the us the idea that the picture will be important to the narrative and play a key role, and by not going into detail it makes want to watch the actual film to see how it is so important. Overall I’d say the basic points of the plot are clear- people have been murdered and there is  a psychotic theme to what happened to them, but details of why it happened and how are left vague so that audiences are intrigued to go watch the film and find out the answers to these questions.


Most likely to be Alfred Hitchcock who is pretty much the only star of the trailer (bar the woman at the very end). A legendary and popular director, Hitchcock is well known for his great classic movies such as ‘The Birds’ and ‘Vertigo’ which have been large successes ever since their releases and anyone who has seen other films he has directed and enjoyed them, is likely to pay attention this trailer when they see that he has directed it and stars in the trailer. It will make them more likely to go see the film if they learn that Hitchcock has directed it.

Target Audience…

Probably older audiences, I say around 17/18+ as the trailer looks rather old and younger teenagers are likely to label it as boring or too slow paced. It also looks like the film will be rather scary as he talks about ‘back broke’ and ‘there was the knife’ which connotes the fact the film will involve horrible and frightening scenes of psychotic murders which would upset, scare or influence younger audiences.  I think gender wise men or women can enjoy this film, for example, the two victims were both women so this gives women characters that they can relate to and connect with during the film and a male character is also said to be involvedso male audiences thereofre know they’ll have someone to connect with too.


Although the music doesn’t play a very big role in this trailer I think it is important to note upon it. Because the trailer is so different and slow paced background music isn’t required to help build tension but is used for different purposes. It does help create certain atmosphere for the trailer as it is eriee and sinister- backing up the fact this is advertising a horror/thriller film and that we are being told about horrible and disturbing things such as murders. The music kicks in quite louder than normal when Hitchcock says certain words, like ‘murder’ for example and this makes the viewer and tense and feel scared as it makes the film’s plot out to be realistic and as though it actually happened. It also makes us wonder what is going to happen next and therefore makes us watch on. The iconic ‘psycho’ music (which is familar to most audiences as this is reguarly copied by horrors today) is played in the background at the very end when the woman screams, frightening the viewer and also adding shock. it tells us the film itself will be shocking and have a complex narrative, always leaving us guessing to what’s going to happen next. It leaves us wanting to know more and the only way this can be done properlly is to watch the film itself.


I don’t think camera shots were that important in this trailer as it seemed to rely on dialogue more than anything to be honest. I did pick up on a few things, like a few mid shots of Hitchcock as he described the scenes of the crime- it helped show the emotions he was feeling and convey how horrible the murders really were as most of the time he looks horrified and disgusted, telling us that the film is likely to scare us. We reguarly use a tracking shot to follow Hitchcock around the various locations of the film and this conveys to us that he is important to our understanding of what is happening and will help us judge whether we’d enjoy the film being advertised or not. When the woman in the shower is revealled and screams a close up is used. This heightens her emotions and makes us feel scared also- it also makes us wonder what she is screaming at and why she seems to be so scared. Reaction shots are also used to portray Hitchcock’s reactions to what has happened  and this helps us realise that what happens in the film may evoke the same reaction in ourselves.


The pace is, unlike most trailers we see today, very slow. This draws the viewers in as we are watching and patiently waiting for something to happen. I think this slow pace of editing also attempts to make it look realistic and if the murders had actually occured- this would make viewers of the trailer feel very intimidated and scared as this connotes that this could be anywhere and could easily happen in reality. It hypes up fear in audiences and the fact the trialer is very slow means we do not predict anything shocking or out of the ordinary to happen- so when Hitchcock pulls the shower curtain open to reveal a screaming woman this shocks us as a slow paced trailer would probably not connote something as shocking or scary as this.


I think dialogue is most likely to be viewed as the most important aspect of the trailer itself. For example, Hitchcock’s descriptions of the houses introduce us to the locations of the film- ‘harmless looking’, ‘scene of a crime’ and ‘sinister looking’ gives us not only information about the importance of these houses but also indications at genre (such as describing something to look ‘sinister’ connotes the film will be a horror). The dialogue featured by Hitchcock makes the murders sound as if they actually happened and makes it seem realistic and most likely because of this, all the more scary: ‘ beautifully preserved’, ‘horrible crash’, ‘imprint of her figure on the bed’, ‘you should have seen the blood’ etc which not only makes the film out to contain horrible scenes of murder but also sounds rather realistic, like he is a policeman explaining what happened to the victims in an old murder case to us, the audience. The way he goes to explain important things and then either leaves them because he feels they’re too horrible to explain or whatever the reason, such as : ‘won’t dwell on it’ , ‘an important clue was found here’, ‘ this picture has great significance because..’, ‘too horrific to describe..’ etc this leaves the audience wanting to know more as he is giving them subtle little hints but isn’t elaborating upon them. The fact he cannot describe the details of what happened implies it is so gruesome that words cannot possibly describe what happened. Thus leaving us, the audience, eager to discover how these things are relevant to the story.

Voice Over…

I’m not sure there actually is one. I mean, the trailer is quite old and maybe this wasn’t the usual convention int railers back then. Or maybe one wasn’t required because of Hitchcock’s unique and very intriguing dialogue.

Special Effects…

I’m not sure these were required in the trailer and probably wouldn’t be actually featured in the film either. The trailer seems to be making the murders that happened within the film out to be real so maybe special effects would take away this ‘realistic’ feel and therefore wouldn’t scare audiences as much.

Credits and Intertitles…

Not used as much in this trailer as they usually are. At the beginning though there are a few to introduce the audience to what is going on: ‘The Fabulous Mr Hitchcock is about to escort you…’ – this gives the main USP, which is director Alfred Hitchcock tot he audeince straight from the off, grabbing their attention. It also personally and directly addresses the audience member, making them feel connected to the trailer itself and want to watch on. ‘On a tour of the location of his new motion picture ‘Psycho” – breaking normal conventions within trailers, this one gives the title of the film at the beginning, introducing the audience to the film and it’s name just as the trailer begins, meaning less tension is built. There are no more titles until the very ending of the trailer where block white letters, usually seen in trailers spell the title of the film ‘PSYCHO’ even though we’ve already been told the title of the film the trailer is about. The letters break and shatter, perhaps signalled by the woman’s unGodly scream or to denote that the film will be shocking to it’s viewers and scare them. It then gives the names of some actors/actresses starring in the film: ‘starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles and John Gavin…etc’ (Vera Miles- The Searchers, John Gavin- Spartacus etc) maybe these were well known and popular actors/actresses at the time and would therefore persuade audiences to go see the film when they realised who would be starring within it. There is then a few white on black titles to tell us a little about the film and tell us what kind of film it will be like:‘The picture you MUST see from the beginning…’ ,’Or not at all!…for no one will be seated after the start of…’ ,’Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest shocker, PSYCHO’ this lets the audience know the film will be shocking and likely to scare them and will leave them to judge whether it’ll be the kind of film they would enjoy (which, judging from questionnaire answers, is what they like about trailers).


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