This week on The Nightmare Feed, we discuss Psychological Horror! The key dynamic that makes psychological horror so damn good, is messing with the viewer's perception to incite terror. This can take many forms. Walking the line between reality and madness, or horror movies that stay completely cerebral by forcing the audience to decide if what they're viewing is really happening to the protagonists, or if it's all in their head. While not one of my top picks, the best use of cerebral horror was arguably Mothman Prophecies (2002). Was Klien's character crazy, or was there really a supernatural creature -The Mothman- terrorizing him. The point is that they never answer this question. On last week's pod, we also discussed the film The Possession of David O'Reilly, which also never completely confesses whether David is actually seeing demons or is just going completely insane.
Then there are movies that simply mess with the viewer's perception. Movies where we the audience get to know what's going on the whole time, but it's never certain if what the protagonists are experiencing is real. I'm immediately reminded of Oculus (2013), which reminded me what a tough nut this genre is to crack. If the audience knows what's happening is essentially real to the protagonists, tricking the audience into second guessing the horror can be difficult. While reed personally believe Oculus failed that test, it was later reconstructed masterfully by The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016), which at one point held the #4 spot on Reed's 'All Time Top 10.'
But we're not here to discuss horror that focuses on the supernatural and simply adds an element of psychological horror. If we did that John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) would end up #1 on this list again and it would get really old pretty fast. What we're discussing here are horror movies that focus almost completely on the psychological elements of horror and are great for having mastered that.