Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror fiction that relies on the characters' fears and emotional instability to build tension. It typically plays on archetypal shadow characteristics embodied by the threats characters face, for instance having a protagonist followed by a mysterious stalker on a night street. Thus, elements of psychological horror focus on the interplay inside of the characters' minds.
Background traits such as emotional feelings, personality types, and so on become important as the characters face perverse situations, often involving high-level immorality, inhumane acts, and conspiracies. While other horror media emphasize fantastical situations such as attacks by stylized monsters, psychological horror generally involves situations more grounded in artistic realism. Characters face struggles known as 'adult fears' that attack the sense of psychological safety and security of the audience experiencing the fictional work. Example scenarios include kidnapping, home invasion, sexual assault, and the like, often with the line between dreamed threats and real threats blurred.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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).
In video games
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Psychological horror is not a very common theme in video games. Nonetheless, 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 Condemned: Criminal Origins, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and its sequel Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, The Suffering, Anna, Lone Survivor, One Late Night, and to some extent, Bioshock.
- Psychological thriller
- Category:Psychological horror films
- Japanese horror
- List of films featuring home invasions
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