Psychological horror  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Psychological horror" is a subgenre of horror fiction 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 from the sub-genre of horror-of-personality, in which the object of horror does not look like a monstrous other, but rather a normal human being, whose horrific identity is often not revealed until the end of the work. Well-known examples of psychological fiction include The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) Psycho (1960), Peeping Tom (1960), Repulsion (1965) and The Tenant (1976) . The Others is a more recent example of a psychological horror film.



Psychological horror aims to create discomfort by exposing common or universal psychological and emotional vulnerabilities and fears, such as the shadowy parts of the human psyche that most people repress or deny referred to in Jungian psychology as the archetypal shadow characteristics: suspicion, distrust, self-doubt and paranoia of others, themselves and the world. Thus, elements of psychological horror focus on mental conflict. These become important as the characters face perverse situations, often involving the supernatural, immorality and conspiracies. While other horror media emphasize fantastical situations such as attacks by monsters, psychological horror tends to keep the monsters hidden and to involve situations more grounded in artistic realism.

Plot twists are an often used device. Characters commonly face internal battles with subconscious desires such as romantic lust and the desire for petty revenge. In contrast, splatter fiction focuses on bizarre, alien evil to which the average viewer cannot easily relate.


The novel Silence of the Lambs written by Thomas Harris and Stephen King novels such as Carrie, Misery, and The Shining are some examples of psychological horror


Psychological horror films differ from the traditional horror film, where the source of the fear is typically something material, such as creatures, monsters or aliens, as well as the splatter film, which derives its effects from gore and graphic violence, in that tension is built through atmosphere, eerie sounds and exploitation of the viewer's and the character's psychological fears.

The Black Cat (1934) and Cat People (1942) have been cited as early psychological horror films.

Roman Polanski directed two films which are considered quintessential psychological horror: Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary's Baby. Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining is another particularly well-known example of the genre. The Changeling (1980) directed by Peter Medak is another good example of a psychological haunting story.

Japanese horror films, commonly referred to as "J-horror", have been noted to be generally of a psychological horror nature. Notable examples are Ring (1998) and the Ju-on series.

Another influential category is the Korean horror films, commonly referred to as "K-horror". Notable examples are A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), Hansel and Gretel (2007) and Whispering Corridors (1998).

Video games

While video game genres are based upon their gameplay content, psychological horror as narrative is used in some video games. A few successful video game franchises have spawned from using psychological horror as a main form of creating fear, the most well known being Silent Hill. Other psychological horror games include Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Manhunt, Nocturne, Condemned: Criminal Origins, LSD, Alan Wake, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, F.E.A.R., SCP: Containment Breach, The Suffering, Anna, Lone Survivor, Five Nights at Freddy's (and it's upcoming sequel) and to some extent, BioShock, Spec Ops: The Line and The Swapper.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Psychological horror" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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