Pretty Little Liars is more than just a guilty pleasure: it’s smart, culturally-relevant, and regularly pays homage to the horror gods in the form of a seasonal Hitchcock reference (or two). These allusions come most notably in the season finales, and add a hint of sophistication and classic Hollywood suspense to the series. Here’s a roundup of the nods to The Master of Suspense.
Season One: Vertigo
The Hitchcock homages began in Season 1. In the finale, Ian chases Spencer up into the bell tower of the Rosewood church. Though he tries to kill her by pushing her off, Spence is ultimately saved by “A” who pushes Ian off of the tower instead. The scene was a deliberate reference to Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which sees Jimmy Stewart’s Detective Ferguson chase after Kim Novak’s Madeleine Elster to try to stop her from jumping to her death. Though the situations are decidedly different, the suspenseful race up the bell tower’s stairs in Vertigo is eerily similar to Spence’s own dash for safety. Awesome.
Season Two: Psycho
The first season’s reference was hard to top, but PLL managed to throw together a whole episode of Psycho references that made the Season 2 finale that much creepier. Even those viewers who haven’t seen the classic film have most likely seen it parodied or referenced in some way before, and touches like the creepy motel man (and his taxidermied eagle) and Hanna’s nearly fatal shower scene were spot on. This blog has a great shot comparison of the Season 2 finale and the Hitchcock classic that is worth checking out. Be warned: you may never be able to take another hotel shower again!
Halloween Special: Strangers on a Train
Though the third season’s Halloween special was not a season finale, the epic ep still featured quite a few Hitchcockian references, the most obvious being the setting: a moving train, a popular conceit in many of Hitchcock’s films (including Strangers on a Train, which apparently was one of the initial inspirations for the episode’s story). The All Things Pretty Little Liars blog has a nice roundup of all of the ways trains are used in Hitchcockian and other classic Hollywood films.
Season Three: North by Northwest
PLL finished off its third season with an homage to North by Northwest, Hitchcock’s mistaken identity thriller. The iconic scene in North by Northwest features an airplane chasing Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill down. In the Season 3 finale, Spencer watches a similar plane land outside of Rosewood. Later in the ep, the lighter that started the lodge fire is planted near Toby’s unconscious body. The lighter is inscribed with a map compass with an additional marking for the direction “northwest.” Hmm...
You also don’t have to be an avid PLL viewer to know that the theme of mistaken identity, so crucial to the North by Northwest plot, runs through the teen suspense drama. It was particularly prevalent in this episode, in which Toby is revealed as “Pretty Eyes,” Spencer as a member of the “A” Team, and Red Coat as...well, whoever she is.
Season Four: The Birds
Given how well PLL has pulled off the odd Hitchcockian reference thus far, we’re excited to see what they will do with their teased homage to The Birds, Hitchcock’s avian horror, in Season 4. It sounds like the reference will come earlier in the season, which means we can look forward to another Hitchcock homage in the season finale (and, fingers crossed, the Halloween special?). Hitchcock made dozens of films in his career, which means Marlene&Co have plenty to choose from. As long as PLL keeps referencing, we’ll keep watching.
Which has been your favorite Hitchcock reference in PLL? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Pretty Little Liars Season 4 premieres on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC Family.