Warning: If, for whatever reason, you don't already know really anything about Psycho and are curious to see it, there are spoilers ahead. But I'm sure there can't be many of you out there.
Psycho is considered by quite a few (apparently) as Hitchcock's best, or at least as a fan favorite. Regardless, it's the one everybody knows. But that also means it had the highest possibility of disappointment going in... but was I? The story at first focuses on Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a young woman who ends up stealing $40,000 and running away. On the road for hours, she ends up at Bates Motel, run by shy nice guy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Norman, however, starts to show all is not what it seems when he begins having mommy issues... and peeks through a hole in the wall to spy on Marion in her room. And then Marion is killed in the shower (spoiler?), and the rest of the movie has a private detective named Arbogast (Martin Balsam), as well as Marion's boyfriend Sam (John Gavin) and sister Lila (Vera Miles), trying to find her.
So I'll start off with the admission: Unfortunately, to me, Psycho suffered from a mix of "classic film overhype downfall" and "I knew everything about it already anyway." And that's a hard mix to get over on your first viewing. For the first hour, I was pretty dang bored. The first 30 minutes is just Marion's personal life, stealing the money, and making a run for it. There's some suspense here and there with cops and whatnot, but she's such an unlikable character that I didn't care. The next 30 minutes is the most famous part of the movie. She shows up at the Bates Motel, Norman gives some classic lines ("We all go a little mad sometimes"), and we see the classic shower scene. But that whole part of the movie, while good, was so inundated in my movie knowledge--as it is with most movie fans--that I felt like I'd seen it a hundred times already.
However, we move into the last 45 minutes or so, which is the part of the movie I didn't know much about at all. The film becomes more of a detective mystery (despite knowing the mystery upfront), and it picked up quite a bit for me here. The film garnered some suspense because, even though you know Norman isn't the good guy, you somehow don't want him to get caught. But then, during the last 10 minutes of the movie, we're dragged to a halt. We get nothing but exposition here. It's a guy telling us the psychosis behind Norman and why he acted the way he did. Some of it was interesting, but a lot of it did drag.
The acting was decent, primarily from Anthony Perkins, who was the highlight of the movie. I felt the movie suffered when he wasn't on screen, as his moments were the best. And it was interesting to see Martin Balsam in something outside of 12 Angry Men. Everyone else, though... they were good, but it suffered from "classic acting" syndrome, which I think is a bit strange for a movie in the 60s, but maybe not. Not to mention it's strange that this movie feels more dated than Rope, a film made 12 years prior.
Overall, it was good, but I think I was too hyped on it (again, mixed with knowing almost everything major about it). Because of knowing most of it, I felt the suspense was very little. If you're going to watch classic mystery/thriller or Hitchcock, however, it's an essential. Definitely watch it for Anthony Perkins' performance. Otherwise, and especially if you know most of the twists and whatnot, try not to go into it with the mindset that you're about to watch one of the greatest director's greatest movies... or, like me, you'll leave disappointed.