Psychological horror

"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. [ [ Will You Step into My Parlor?] A Guide for Horror Lovers] 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 Sixth Sense" and "The Blair Witch Project".


Psychological horror tends to be subtle compared to traditional horror; typically it plays on archetypal shadow characteristics embodied by the Other. [ [ The Other in Fiction] - Archetype Writing] In other words, it creates discomfort in the viewer by exposing common or universal psychological vulnerabilities and fears, most notably the shadowy parts of the self most people repress or deny.

Psychological horror comes from within--it exposes the evil that hides behind normality, while splatter fiction focuses on bizarre, alien evil to which the average viewer can't easily relate. [ Journal of Analytical Psychology, 48 (4), p. 407 September 2003] Psychoanalytic theory in times of terror] Though Bret Easton Ellis's "American Psycho" shocked many people with its blatant gore, much of what made the main character so frightening was how "normal" he seemed on the outside. Likewise, writer Thomas Harris' fictional character Hannibal Lecter from the film adaptions of his books "Red Dragon", "Silence of the Lambs", "Hannibal", and "Hannibal Rising", captured moviegoers' fascination because the character in itself was pure evil, but hid behind the veneer of gentility, which was often shocking to see.

Carl Jung has argued that attraction to the uneasiness caused by the Other is an attempt to integrate the "otherness" of the shadow while others believe horror serves only to repress it.

Occasionally - such as in the film "Blair Witch Project" - the antagonist is never revealed. With no explicitly defined threat presented on screen, the "fear of the unknown" theme becomes central and can be explored fully.

In popular media

Psychological horror can be found in some video games like ', ', "The Darkness", ', ', Manhunt 2, "F.E.A.R.", the "Silent Hill" series, and "The Suffering".

Psychological horror is frightening to some viewers because of the tension built upon throughout the story. Splatter films usually rely upon sudden "jolts" and direct physical threats to sympathetic characters, such as a monster jumping out from behind a corner. 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 (examples of the latter approach can be seen in the films "Let's Scare Jessica to Death" and "Hour of the Wolf", and the games "Rule of Rose" and "Silent Hill").

The use of psychological horror on the hit horror game, "The Suffering" and its sequel: "", was used by implementing a sudden vision, usually with some method of death on the main character, as well as quotes by other characters, and Torque's (the main character) "inner demons" telling him to perform evil acts.

Often, psychological horror films have no recourse to the "gore" prevalent in splatter films. However, some violence may be used to reinforce the notion of possible physical danger, while still keeping true to the psychological nature (an example would be the 1999 Japanese film, "Audition").

ee also

*Lovecraftian horror


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