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Have you ever noticed how a psychological horror can be scarier than your run of the mill, gore fest horror movie? "Psychological horror" is a subgenre of that relies on character fears, guilt, beliefs, and emotional instability to build tension and further the plot. Psychological horror is different from the type of horror found in "splatter films," which derive their effects from gore and violence, and in which the object of horror does not always appear as a monster or a visious stalker, but usually another person or a supernatural presence, whose horrific identity is often not revealed until the end of the movie.
There are plenty of psychological horror movies, that creep into your sub-consious and haunt you well after the movie has finished, they usually effect you on a deeper level, and stay with you for longer. Usually creating a great lead character, who stays with you, and who you can identify, and empathise with. Well-known examples of psychological fiction include ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘The Blair Witch Project.’
These movies create discomfort in the viewer by exposing common or universal psychological vulnerabilities and fears, most notably the parts that most people repress or deny. For example, even though ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ is now seen as a slasher movie, if you go back to the first three movies. The character of Freddy Kruger plays on his victims worst fears in their nightmares; for example, in ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors’, Kruger menaces one girl, who is a recovering heroin addict, by turning his knives into needles and giving her an overdose.
Psychological horror comes from within, exposing the evil that hides behind normality, while splatter fiction focuses on bizarre, alien, or evil themes, which the viewer can't easily relate to. In ‘American Psycho’, the character, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), shocked many people, he was so normal to the outside world, but completley nuts when he had his victims alone, and when the viewer witnessed what was going on in his head. Likewise, Hannibal Lecter from (Antony Hopkins) ‘Silence of the Lambs’ etc., captured audiences fascination because the character in itself was pure evil, but hid behind the veneer of gentility, which was often shocking to see.
These movies often mix horror with strong themes of the thriller genre. ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, is a fantastic example of psycological horror. The character is an everday woman, who moves into an apartment complex, she is told once had strongs relations with whichcraft. As she falls pregnant, more clues point to the fact that someone is after her unborn child, her paranoia builds, as does the audiences. Everybody is a suspect to her, she feels in the end that she can trust nobody, that everyone is after her. And they are. The great thing about this movie, is the fact that nothing is seen until the very end, and then there is little shown; however the fear is taught throughout, and the audience relates to Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), asking what is real, wanting her to get away safely from the everyday conspirators. Psychological horror is frightening to some viewers because of the tension built upon throughout the story.This movie, as with movies such as ‘The Ring’ can haunt the audience long after the credits role.
Splatter films and slasher movies usually rely upon sudden jolts and direct physical harm or threats to sympathetic characters, such as a Michael Myers jumping out of a cupboard and stabbing someone. The primary effect of psychological horror is to play upon the anticipation of a perceived threat, or to confuse the viewer regarding the nature, or existence of the threat being there. ‘The Omen’ or ‘The Village’ make you believe or doubt something about the entire plot of the film, which either we never discover, or have to make our own minds up about, or sometimes completley shock us with an unexpected plot turn.
Some psychological horror movies to look out for, are, ‘Copycat’, ‘The Omen’, ‘Silence of The Lambs’, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘Alien’, ‘My Little Eye’, ‘Jaws’, ‘The Ring’ ‘The Entity’, ‘The Village’, ‘Poltergiest’, ‘Blair Witch Project’, 'Psycho', and ‘The Others.’
Content copyright © 2013 by Steven Casey Murray. All rights reserved.
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