Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror fiction that relies on characters' fears and emotional instability to build tension. It typically plays on archetypal shadow characteristics embodied by the threat. The elements of psychological horror focuses on the inside of the character's mind. This includes emotions, personality, mental attitude of individuals, where characters are in a perversive situation that includes high-level immorality, inhumane acts, and conspiracies.
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 which most people repress or deny, where plot twists are the most common tool. Whereas splatter fiction focuses on bizarre, alien evil to which the average viewer cannot easily relate.
In film 
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.
Other psychological horror films 
- The Blair Witch Project
- Dark Water
- The Exorcist
- The Innocents
- The Mothman Prophecies
- The Others
- Session 9
- Silent Hill
- The Sixth Sense
- Stir of Echoes
In video games 
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 F.E.A.R., Manhunt, Condemned: Criminal Origins, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Heavy Rain, and Alan Wake.
See also 
- "Psychoanalytic theory in times of terror". Journal of Analytical Psychology 4 (48): 407. September 2003.
- Hayward 2006, p. 148.
- Skal, David J. (15 October 2001). The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. Macmillan. p. 180. ISBN 0571199968. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- Strinati, Dominic (31 August 2000). An Introduction to Studying Popular Culture. Routledge. p. 90. ISBN 0415157668. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- Browne, Ray B.; Browne, Pat (15 June 2001). The Guide to United States Popular Culture. Popular Press. p. 411. ISBN 0879728213. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- Mazierska, Ewa (15 June 2007). Roman Polanski: The Cinema of a Cultural Traveller. I.B.Taurus. p. 89. ISBN 1845112970. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- Kawin, Bruce F. (25 June 2012). Horror and the Horror Film. Anthem Press. p. 115. ISBN 0857284495. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- Reid 2009, p. 163.
- Hayward, Susan (12 April 2006). Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0415367816.
- Reid, Robin Anne (2009). Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Overviews. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0313335915.