Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror and psychological fiction with a particular focus on mental, emotional, and psychological states to frighten, disturb, or unsettle its audience. The subgenre frequently overlaps with the related subgenre of psychological thriller, and often uses mystery elements and characters with unstable, unreliable, or disturbed psychological states to enhance the suspense, drama, action, and paranoia of the setting and plot and to provide an overall creepy, unpleasant, unsettling, or distressing atmosphere.
Psychological horror usually aims to create discomfort or dread by exposing common or universal psychological and emotional vulnerabilities/fears and revealing the darker parts of the human psyche that most people may repress or deny. This idea is referred to in analytical psychology as the archetypal shadow characteristics: suspicion, distrust, self-doubt, and paranoia of others, themselves, and the world.
The genre sometimes seeks to challenge or confuse the audience's grasp of the narrative or plot by focusing on characters who are themselves unsure of or doubting their own perceptions of reality or questioning their own sanity. Characters' perceptions of their surroundings or situations may indeed be distorted or subject to delusions, outside manipulation or gaslighting by other characters; emotional disturbances or trauma; and even hallucinations or mental disorders. In many cases, and in a similar way as the overlapping genre of psychological thriller, psychological horror may deploy an unreliable narrator or imply that aspects of the story are being perceived inaccurately by a protagonist, thus confusing or unsettling the audience and setting up an ominous or disturbing overarching tone. In other cases, the narrator or protagonist may be reliable or ostensibly mentally stable but is placed in a situation involving another character or characters who are psychologically, mentally, or emotionally disturbed. Thus, elements of psychological horror focus on mental conflicts. These become important as the characters face perverse situations, sometimes involving the supernatural, immorality, murder, 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 and monster movies often focuses on a bizarre, alien evil to which the average viewer cannot easily relate. However, at times, the psychological horror and splatter subgenres overlap, such as in the French horror film High Tension .
The novels The Golem written by Gustav Meyrink, The Silence of the Lambs written by Thomas Harris, Robert Bloch novels such as Psycho and American Gothic , Stephen King novels such as Carrie , Misery , The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon , The Shining , and Koji Suzuki's novel Ring are some examples of psychological horror. Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle is often viewed as one of the best examples of psychological horror in fiction.[ citation needed ]
Psychological horror films generally differ from traditional horror films, where the source of the fear is typically something material, such as grotesque or horrifying creatures, monsters, serial killers, or aliens,as well as the splatter and slasher film genres, which derives its frightening effects from gore and graphic violence, in that tension in psychological horror films is more frequently built through atmosphere, eerie sounds and exploitation of the viewer's and the character's psychological fears. Psychological horror films sometimes frighten or unsettle by relying on the viewer's or character's own imagination or the anticipation of a threat rather than an actual threat or a material source of fear portrayed onscreen.
However, some psychological horror films may in fact contain an overt threat or a physical source of fear, as well as scenes of graphic gore or violence, yet still rely or focus mainly on atmosphere and the psychological, mental, and emotional states of the characters and viewers to frighten or disturb. For instance, some psychological horror films may portray psychotic murderers and scenes of graphic violence while still maintaining an atmosphere that focuses on either the villain's, protagonist's, or audience's psychological, mental, or emotional status.
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 (1968). Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining , adapted from the aforementioned Stephen King novel, is another particularly well-known example of the genre. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) directed by Jonathan Demme, as well as the animated film Perfect Blue (1997) directed by Satoshi Kon, are both notable examples of psychological horror, as on the surface they incorporate elements of the thriller genre. Recent English-language films in the genre include Black Swan (2010), The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2015), Get Out (2017), Hereditary (2018), The House That Jack Built (2018), Midsommar (2019), The Lighthouse (2019), Saint Maud (2020), and Last Night in Soho (2021).
The Italian film genre known as giallo often employs elements of the psychological horror subgenre. The subgenre is also a staple in Asian countries. Japanese horror films, commonly referred to as "J-horror", have been noted to be generally of a psychological 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). A landmark film from the Philippines, Kisapmata (1981), is an example of psychological horror.
Psychological horror video games are a subgenre of horror video games. While such games may be based on any style of gameplay, they are generally more exploratory and "seek to instigate a sense of doubt about what might really be happening" in the player.Phantasmagoria (1995), D (1995), Corpse Party (1996) and Silent Hill (1999) are considered some of the first psychological horror games.
A film genre is a stylistic or thematic category for motion pictures based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film.
Horror is a film genre that seeks to elicit fear or disgust in its audience for entertainment purposes.
Horror is a genre of fiction which is intended to frighten, scare, or disgust. Horror is often divided into the sub-genres of psychological horror and supernatural horror, which is in the realm of speculative fiction. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon, in 1984, defined the horror story as "a piece of fiction in prose of variable length... which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing". Horror intends to create an eerie and frightening atmosphere for the reader. Often the central menace of a work of horror fiction can be interpreted as a metaphor for larger fears of a society.
Thriller is a genre of fiction, having numerous, often overlapping subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. Successful examples of thrillers are the films of Alfred Hitchcock.
Survival horror is a subgenre of survival of the players as the game tries to frighten them with either horror graphics or scary ambience. Although combat can be part of the gameplay, the player is made to feel less in control than in typical action games through limited ammunition or weapons, health, speed and vision, or through various obstructions of the player's interaction with the game mechanics. The player is also challenged to find items that unlock the path to new areas and solve puzzles to proceed in the game. Games make use of strong horror themes, like dark mazelike environments and unexpected attacks from enemies.
The distinction between terror and horror is a standard literary and psychological concept applied especially to Gothic and horror fiction. Terror is usually described as the feeling of dread and anticipation that precedes the horrifying experience. By contrast, horror is the feeling of revulsion that usually follows a frightening sight, sound, or otherwise experience.
A campaign setting is usually a fictional world which serves as a setting for a role-playing game or wargame campaign. A campaign is a series of individual adventures, and a campaign setting is the world in which such adventures and campaigns take place. Usually a campaign setting is designed for a specific game or a specific genre of game. There are numerous campaign settings available both in print and online. In addition to published campaign settings available for purchase, many game masters create their own settings, often referred to as "homebrew" settings or worlds.
Romance films or movies involve romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theatres or on television that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters. Typically their journey through dating, courtship or marriage is featured. These films make the search for romantic love the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family resistance. As in all quite strong, deep and close romantic relationships, the tensions of day-to-day life, temptations, and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.
Dark fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literary, artistic, and cinematic works that incorporate disturbing and frightening themes of fantasy. It often combines fantasy with elements of horror or has a gloomy dark tone or a sense of horror and dread.
In literature, psychological fiction is a narrative genre that emphasizes interior characterization and motivation to explore the spiritual, emotional, and mental lives of the characters. The mode of narration examines the reasons for the behaviors of the character, which propel the plot and explain the story. Psychological realism is achieved with deep explorations and explanations of the mental states of the character's inner person, usually through narrative modes such as stream of consciousness and flashbacks.
In Italian cinema, Giallo is a genre of mystery fiction and thrillers that often contains slasher, crime fiction, psychological thriller, psychological horror, sexploitation, and, less frequently, supernatural horror elements.
Psychological thriller is a genre combining the thriller and psychological fiction genres. It is commonly used to describe literature or films that deal with psychological narratives in a thriller or thrilling setting.
Suburban Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction, art, film and television, focused on anxieties associated with the creation of suburban communities, particularly in the United States and the West, from the 1950s and 1960s onwards.
In film and television, drama is a category or genre of narrative fiction intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular super-genre, macro-genre, or micro-genre, such as soap opera, police crime drama, political drama, legal drama, historical drama, domestic drama, teen drama, and comedy-drama (dramedy). These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods. To these ends, a primary element in a drama is the occurrence of conflict—emotional, social, or otherwise—and its resolution in the course of the storyline.
Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots is particularly exploited by the filmmaker in this genre. Tension is created by delaying what the audience sees as inevitable, and is built through situations that are menacing or where escape seems impossible.
The representation of gender in horror films, particularly depictions of women, has been the subject of critical commentary.
Body horror or biological horror is a subgenre of horror that intentionally showcases grotesque or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. These violations may manifest through aberrant sex, mutations, mutilation, zombification, gratuitous violence, disease, or unnatural movements of the body. Body horror was a description originally applied to an emerging subgenre of North American horror films, but has roots in early Gothic literature and has expanded to include other media.
A horror game is a video game genre centered on horror fiction and typically designed to scare the player. Unlike most other video game genres, which are classified by their gameplay, horror games are nearly always based on narrative or visual presentation, and use a variety of gameplay types.