Played By: Anthony Perkins
Movie: Psycho (1960)
Slasher flicks typically don't offer much in the way of dynamic villains. All a slice-and-dice flick's killer needs to satisfy the masses is a mask, a knife, and some thinly conceived motive. The great slashers, however—like the grandaddy of them all, Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 adaptation of Robert Bloch's novel Psycho—work on much deeper levels of psychological complexity.
The film's central figure, young hotel proprietor/mamas's boy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), is—Spoiler Alert—a schizophrenic, homicidal maniac who dresses up in women's clothing before offing people. It all stems back to when Norman murdered his mother for spending more time with her new lover than with him. Since killing her, Norman feels tremendous guilt and, in order to keep "mother" alive in his head, he's developed an extra personality that speaks in mother's tone.
That's much different from slasher movies about bullied social outcasts enacting their adulthood vengeance by targeting bimbos with huge breasts and non-existent personalities. In Psycho, the blame for Norman's problem is placed on those mommy issues, providing another, and perhaps the biggest, reason for critics to call the film misogynistic: It's all the woman's fault. But in Norman's eyes, it truly is her fault.
You're not buying that? Well, remember this: He's a psycho. Killing her triggered his worst mental imbalances, and her voice is always in his thoughts, controlling his actions—stabbing Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) to death in that now-iconic shower, for instance. —MB