[Quick Summary: When a young woman absconds with her boss' client's money, she ends up at the Bates' motel, where it's always the wrong place & wrong time.]
I do not like horror nor creepy, & have never read nor seen the whole Psycho.
So how surprised am I that this is the best horror script I've read to date? Very.
This is an extremely fast read (even at 133 pgs.) & breaks all kinds of rules. ex. The protagonist, dies about 1/3 into the story & is replaced by another one (Norman Bates).
But Psycho is heads & tails above all other horror scripts because it structures the fear so well.
Every level pushes the character off a ledge (cliffhangers = high vertical suspense), & can only be answered by the next level (this increases pace = fast horizontal speed).
ex. LEVEL 1 - The writer establishes empathy for Marion & sends her to the Bates motel. This sets up an unresolved question: Why did she have to die? We liked her & this is disturbing!
LEVEL 2 - Then the writer sends a private eye to the motel & he dies. The fear rises to a panic: Doesn't anyone notice? Who will stop these deaths?!
LEVEL 3 - So when Marion's sister & Marion's boyfriend come to investigate, the fear is at an all time high. Don't split up! Why are you two splitting up? You know there are crazy Bates who've killed twice!
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The genius of Psycho is that we expect Marion to live, but she doesn't...& the script doesn't die, but speeds up.
by Joseph Stefano