“Your mother's in here, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I'll see that she gets it.”
― Pazuzu, 'The Exorcist' (1973)
After combing through movie lists from IMDB to Reddit, I think I've created the most complete collection of horror movies that climb inside your skull and mess with your brains.
Some people claim that the benchmark of true psychological horror is that the truly petrifying aspect is what isn't shown, not necessarily what is. But I've also included horror films that rely on the wholesale disintegration of the human psyche, and films where characters begin to lose faith in what is strictly real.
Beginner's Guide: Psychological Horror, via Film Inquiry:
What Exactly Is a "Psychological" Horror Film?, via PopMatters:
Why 'The Shining' is the Best Psychological Horror Film Ever, via The Tangential:
Why We Crave Horror Movies (PDF), via Stephen King:
Common Themes in Psychological Thrillers, via The Artifice:
Death, Grief & Why Horror Films Matter, via Talkhouse:
The Psychology of 'Annihilation', via Storytellers:
Psychological Thriller ‘Oculus’ Challenges Perceptions Of Horror Genre, via The Heights:
Psychological Horror in the Films of David Lynch, via film-o-holic:
“Now you're looking for the secret. But you won't find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.”
― John Cutter, 'The Prestige' (2006)
Great films with poignant, memorable, Shyamalanesque, or downright traumatic endings.
When Movie Twists Fail, via Georg Rockall-Schmidt:
What a Twist: Double Consciousness and M. Night Shyamalan, via Back Row:
6 Huge Movie Plot Twists That Caused Even Bigger Plot Holes, via Cracked:
'mother!’s Ending: What Does It All Mean?, via Vanity Fair:
Why 'The Sixth Sense' Ending Has Never Been Matched, via Esquire:
And the Award for the Grossest Twist Ending of the Year Goes To…, via The Mary Sue:
Historically low gas prices. A boy band for every block. Philips CD-i. POGS. Maybe we just had it too good during the ’90s because audiences weren’t flocking much to horror movies this decade. As a result, there are less entries here than on our ’70s and ’80s lists. Nevertheless, if you feel like getting grungy and/or jiggy with it (in whichever order, we’re fair) then check out Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the 40 Best ’90s Horror Movies!
The first half of this decade was notoriously rough for horror, as diminishing production value, lost craft, and sequel bloat buried the genre. Jason, Michael, and Freddy all got canceled, with only Wes Craven’s New Nightmare getting good enough reviews to show up on this list. Even more, New Nightmare‘s post-modern meta-story would pave the way for Craven’s own Scream, which would revive horror leading into the 21st century. Other highlights from this era in horror movies include the only one to ever win Best Picture (The Silence of the Lambs), the rise of Peter Jackson (Dead Alive, The Frighteners) and Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, Mimic), sophisticated adult fare (Jacob’s Ladder, Candyman), and winking B-movie mashups (From Dusk Till Dawn, Tremors). The only stipulation for a movie to be considered for this list was a Fresh rating from at least 10 reviews, before we ranked them all by Adjusted Tomatometer.
Like a kiss from a rose or a rotting vegetable, here comes the best scary 1990s movies…TO THE EXTREME!