A Psycho is a 2020 American Psychological Slasher Horror film written and directed by Damien Chazelle. It is the seventh overall instalment in the Psycho film franchise that began with Alfred Hitchcock's seminal 1960 psychological horror film classic Psycho. A Psycho serves as a prequel to Hitchcock's original film and while containing easter eggs and homages to the entire franchise's overall material; including the popular A & E series Bates Motel it is only connected in plot to the 1960 film.
Produced by Jason Blum and distributed by his company Blumhouse Pictures, the film stars Emmy Raver-Lampman, Ken Baumann, Olivia Colman, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
Norman discovers his mother in a cold detached stage in their Phoenix, Arizona home after he uncovers his father's corpse in the living room, dead of head trauma, as his cracked skull is bleeding over the carpet.
From there after authorities arrive Norman's father's death is ruled an accident and he and his mother Norma relocate after to Fairvale, California after Norma notices a for auction highway motel on the border between Fairvale and Hitchcock, which she purchases along with the large gothic mansion on the property.
Norma becomes very domineering over Norman, while Norman believes that Norma murdered his father in self-defence as he was verbally and physically abusive.
Norman begins school at the local Fairvale High School by the end of 1948, though struggles to connect with any students and has a bullying incident with a classmate Kyle who is the boyfriend of a girl Rita who serves as his orientation day guide. After this Norma cracks down on her control and abuse over him, homeschooling.
A bus stop on the side of the highway brings Norman into contact with a student Vera Mills whom he mostly watches from afar. Vera and boyfriend Harry's deaths come as a result of Norman breaking when learning over the next four years that Norma's home repairman partner Joe is moving in with them, and she has become dismissive of him. Upon seeing Vera with Harry for the first time at the highway stop that night he breaks and imitating his mother kills them with a rock.
The same night at dinner he surprises Norma and Joe by having prepared it for them while they were busy having sexual intercourse, having poisoned both their soup dishes. Their deaths are ruled a murder suicide on Norma's part, as Norman also testifies that his mentally unwell mother also murdered John Bates. Vera and Harry are reported missing, and never found as Norman storing them in the motel, eventually under the persona of 'mother' dispatches them in a nearby swamp.
After this the film breaks from color to black and white as a result of Norman's now fully fractured psyche. Norman reclaims his mother's buried corpse from the Fairvale cemetery and keeps it about the house in living positions, under her instruction.
The guests decrease in capacity over the years as the highway is being re-routed and the first guests in a while: secret couple Lily Torres and Andrea Walker check into the Bates Motel, where Norman, dressed as Norma stabs them to death with a kitchen knife. The next guest a tall disgruntled art model Mary-Anne is axed to death in Room 1. A prostitute runaway Anica checks in early 1959, who is en route to Los Angeles to reconvene with her estranged brother Henry. Norman/Norma attacks her with a kitchen knife, and pursues her to the house where she makes a discovery that results in her being stabbed in the heart.
The film then reverts to color as Fairvale discriminated Detective Nadine is contacted by Henry to investigate into Anica's disappearance, both coming to the Bates Motel. At the house after entering at night a Norma dressed Norman appears and pushes Henry down the fruit cellar stairs resulting in his death. Nadine is spared after surprising Norman with a blow to the head and making the discovery of Norma, as Norman she makes the decision to leave and not mention what has happened, as being her no one will ever believe her.
- Ken Baumann as Norman Bates
- Emmy Raver-Lampman as Officer Nadine Simmons
- Olivia Colman as Norma Bates
- David Harbour as Officer Park Lincoln
- Paul Greene as Joe Considine
- Ryan Gosling as Henry Davidson
- Emma Stone as Anica Davidson
- Ralph Ineson as John Bates
- Stephanie Nogueras as Vera Mills
- Drew Ray Tanner as Harry Willis
- Gwendoline Christie as Mary-Anne Bryor
- Aimee Garcia as Lily Torres
- Michelle Borth as Andrea Walker
- Jemima Kirke as Receptionist Diane Morrisey
- Holt McCallany as Officer Westall 1949
- Tim DeKay as Mr. Rosemond
- Jeremy Bobb as Officer Seynard
- William Shockley as Phoenix Detective Churchill 1947
- Lisa Ann Walter as Phoenix Neighbor Phyllis Abrams 1947
- Farah Zeynep Abdullah as Classmate Rita Jordan 1948
- Najarra Townsend as Classmate Petula Channing 1948
- Jacob Williams as Classmate Tobias Brennan 1948
- Logan Huffman as Classmate Calvin Saunders 1948
- Phillip Rhys as Pietro Willis
- Gaby Hoffmann as Julianne Considine
- Zach Sulzbach as Bryan Considine
- Kannon Hicks as Julian Considine
- Maya Bednarek as Whitney Considine
- The film serves as a periodical prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 original film Psycho
- The first half of the film is in color, while the final half switches to Black and White following Norman's murder of his mother Norma and her partner Victor, to present Chazelle's interpretation of the original and Norman Bates' fractured psyche. While technicolor was already a mainstream format in film by 1960, Hitchcock elected to make Psycho all Black and White to add to the suspense atmosphere.
- In the conclusion of the 1960's Psycho, the psychiatrist who receives Norman's confession as 'Norma' enquires as to whether they have any local missing persons' cases as Norma had confessed that two other young women were victims. The two young women in this case are clarified to be characters Mary-Anne Bryor and Andrea Walker. Although in the movie Norman as 'Norma' murders a total of five young female guests at the Bates Motel throughout the period of 1958 to early 1959. Lily Torres and Anica Davidson are the other two female guest victims of Norman/Norma Bates that don't go on missing persons' record as they are not local, and Torres being of Puerto Rican descent, and Davidson a confirmed prostitute were segregated.
- Norman's strychnine poisoning of his mother Norma, and her partner Joe Considine, is shown as a dinner poisoning that he staged as a murder suicide on his mother Norma's planning, after uncovering Joe's existing marital life. Their bodies are found in bed, as after being poisoned at supper the two return to the bedroom and succumb to their violent poisoning.
- The film contains a heavy social and periodical commentary, touching on the existing time issues of racism, segregation, sexism, general discrimination and homophobia.
- Norman's first victim: his abusive father John, is Norman's only victim outside of Fairvale, California.
- The victim teenage couple: Vera Mills and Harry Willis, murdered by Norman as his second and third victims, go undiscovered, and while seen killed mostly on-screen in Norman's breakdown, the same night he later poisoned his mother and her boyfriend, their disappearances go on record locally being Fairvale residents, although due to their ethnicity, and the time period of 1949 and the heavy segregation from Caucasians and all other ethnic groups, they are swept away.
- The film ends with Norman disposing of Henry Davidson's body after Officer Simmons makes her spared escape, Norman disposes of Henry in the swamp near his sister, and returns to the house where his 'mother' overtakes him, who he paces his in her upstairs bedroom, just had been done before Marion Crane fatefully arrived at the Bates Motel in 1959.
- Norman's identity characterisation of 'Mother' like the A & E series of Bates Motel is not only controlling, but violently impulsive, defensive and presumptuous, despite in both cases the actual Norma Bates not being an actual murderer, (though in the series Bates Motel being a self defence killer).
- The initial motel name prior to being the Bates Motel after Norma's purchase of the property in fall 1947 is Sea Fairer Inn, which pays homage to the motel's initial name before Norma's purchase and rebranding in the series Bates Motel.
- Norman throughout his later teenage years is seen (specifically after his relocating to Fairvale with mother, and the death of his father) nervously chewing on the confectionery lolly Candy Corn, as had been seen with Norman in Hitchcock's Psycho.
- Couple Lily Torres and Andrea Walker, and Anica Davidson are the only victims of Norman/Norma Bates in the film to be killed with the classic kitchen knife he had utilised to kill both his victims in 1960's Psycho: Marion Crane and Detective Milton Arbogast.
- The Sheriff who goes unseen of Fairvale police department, though is referenced by Officers Simmons and Lincoln, is named as Sheriff Al Chambers, who was in indeed the Fairvale Sheriff that appeared in Hitchcock's 1960 Psycho, portrayed by John McIntire, his wife Mrs. Chambers who was portrayed by Lurene Tuttle in Psycho is also mentioned.
- Norman's previous Bates Motel guest victims: Lily Torres, Andrea Walker, Mary-Anne Bryor and Anica Davidson are not all lodged in the guest ledger of the Bates Motel. Torres' name is in the ledger, with supporting guest Andrea Walker omitted, to hide their prohibited relationship, Bryor's name which was lodged on a separate page, has been torn out by Norman and Anica Davidson lodging like later victim Marion Crane, under a fake name: Hope Marshall.
- The swamp near the Bates Motel, that is used to conceal the corpses of Norman/Norma Bates' victims is shown in the film as being directly near the Motel, across the main highway that turns into the Motel, behind a set of thin woods near the bus stop which was frequented by Norman's undiscovered victim Vera Mills, whose body along with boyfriend Harry Willis' were fully decomposed and sunk deep enough within the swamp, to not be recovered at the time the police were able to drag Marion Crane and Milton Arbogast's bodies from the swamp.
- Anica Davidson is the only character to be attacked by Norman/Norma Bates in a motel bathroom, while unlike later famous victim Marion Crane, who perished via stabbing in the room's bathroom shower, she is able to escape long enough to escape toward the Bates House before her finalised death.
- All guest victims of the film: Lily Torres, Andrea Walker, Mary-Anne Bryor and Anica Davidson are all checked into Room 1, like later and final guest victim Marion Crane from Psycho, where they are secretly observed through wall peephole by Norman Bates.
- Anica Davidson is the final guest of the Bates Motel prior to Marion Crane's fatal check-in that same set year of 1959 in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). Anica's brother Henry and Detective Simmons who contend with Norman/Norma Bates do not check into the Bates Motel as Marion's boyfriend Sam Loomis and her sister Lila Crane had done as a fake couple in Psycho to confront Norman/Norma Bates.
- Henry Davidson is the final victim of Norman/Norma Bates prior to Marion Crane in Psycho (1960) four months later, that same year of 1959.
- Body-Count: 10 (1 off-screen with John Bates, the opening victim, his bloody body seen, partially concealed by camera angle)
- Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have previously starred together twice before, in the comedy drama Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and La La Land (2016), La La Land being Chazelle's film which also secured an Academy Award for Stone. Here in this film (their third collaboration) they do not portray a romantic couple however, but rather brother and sister.
- David Harbour was hired in part due to his established role as Chief Hopper in Stranger Things (2016-)
- Emmy Raver-Lampman's selection for the lead role of Officer Nadine Simmons was aided by timeless look, which Chazelle believed could translate well to 1959 character.
- Like the previous film, Psycho (1960), this prequel focuses on one particular main character, before after the halfway point of the film, switching to another two. In Psycho this was done with Janet Leigh's Marion Crane, until at the halfway point at the Bates Motel she is surprisingly murdered by Norman/Norma Bates, the film then switching to the shared leadership of protagonists Lila Crane and Sam Loomis. In Chazelle's A Psycho the first half focuses on Norman Bates and his mother Norma, up from the off-screen killing of father Sam, to his covered up killing of mother Norma and her boyfriend Joe Considine, then after that as the film changes from color to black and white & back again to color, the plot focuses on Officer Nadine Simmons investigating into the disappearance of Anica Davidson, in correspondence with her worried brother Henry. While Henry and Simmons play out the investigative partnership that draws parallels with Psycho's Lila Crane and Sam Loomis investigating into Marion's disappearance, equal time is given to Lila and Sam, while A Psycho more time is given to Simmons, establishing her as a leading character, which also becomes a given as with the film's conclusion Henry falls victim to Norman/Norma while Simmons survives.
- The third Psycho franchise prequel following Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) and Bates Motel (2013-2017).
- Nestor Carbonell (who portrayed Sheriff Alex Romero in the series Bates Motel) was considered for the role of Norman Bates, whom he became a subsequent victim of in Bates Motel. He was considered in part due to his striking resemblance to original Norman Bates actor from Psycho: Anthony Perkins.