A brilliant—and oft parodied—bit of film editing. An exceptional example of the narrative-driving MacGuffin. And the signature piece from what is widely regarded as the first “modern horror” movie. The shower scene from Psycho is all those things.
The violent death of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in the bathroom of the Bates Motel—surely one of the most famous sequences in film history—is as emotionally jarring as it is brutal: the three-minute scene took seven days to shoot and incorporates no less than 50 cuts (accompanied by the screeching violins and cellos from composer Bernard Herrmann’s jittery score).
Her death is made even more jarring by the fact that she—who we presume to be the movie’s central character—is dispatched in the first third of the film. Memorably played by Leigh, Crane functions as a storytelling device that motivates characters into action: her earlier crime (embezzling money from work) and subsequent disappearance lead interested parties back to Norman Bates.