Psychological Horror Films

Repulsion (1965)

Repulsion (1965)

When this film was first released, it surprised audiences for its portrayal of the main villain of the film: it was the heroine. Carol Ledoux is an underdog; she has insecurities and a low end job –this makes her seem pitiful and in many ways, relatable at first. Her position in the story is made even more clear by the way she interacts with the characters around her. But slowly, over the course of a the film, a manic sense of darkness starts to hang over her –it affects everything she does much to the misfortune of those around her.

The film’s title, Repulsion, is based on the way that Carol’s suitors find her awkwardness as something to be demeaned and as such, it is something that repulses them. Much of the horror in the movie does not come from the actress or the events that happen, but in the way that the camera tends to isolate the audience’s view and the paranoia-inducing music.

The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980)

This Stanley Kubrick adaptation of a Stephen King novel is the kind of film you would expect to be shown at most film school when it comes to educating filmmakers about how to make a good movie. It hits all the technical parts well: good acting, great use of lighting, smart camera handling, and some of the most fear-inducing moments onscreen (while most people refer to the part where Jack Nicholson axes his way through a door, some of us here find the hallway scene with the twins to be far scarier than anything else).

In this movie, an aspiring writer seeking some alone time to work on his book takes up a caretaking job for a hotel that will be closed for the winter. While this seems like a good plan, he also takes his family along. Things start getting creepy when they realize that the hotel is not all that it seems.

The Changelling (1980)

The Changeling (1980)

The film is not to be confused with “Changeling”, which is a more modern film about kidnapping (it’s a pretty good movie though). “The Changeling is about ghosts”, it feels a lot less like a basic horror story and more like a murder mystery film. When a widower (the main protagonist of the story) moves into an old Victorian-style mansion, he encounters a pretty pissed off ghost. This feels a little scary at first, but as the man learns of the ghost’s pretty tragic past, he resolves to attempt to do something about it. It is not until when the widower meets the man who took the identity of the ghost (hence the title), does the movie start become more like the horror film it is said to be.

Cat People (1942)

Cat People (1942)

When Irena Dubrova tries to seek love, she finds herself unable to pursue a proper relationship do to strange circumstances; if she enters full arousal, she would turn into a panther and potentially kill whoever is with her. This comes to a head when she meets Oliver Reed, who somehow manages to get her to marry him. But Irena refuses to relent, and as the days pass on their unconsummated marriage, Oliver slowly starts drifting away and into the arms of another woman. This turn of events pushes Irena beyond her limits, and starts a chain of gruesome tragedies that will not end well for anyone.

When this film was released back in 1942, it was a pretty big hit thanks to the amazing cinematography (which was then quite innovative) and amazing way that the ‘panther’ was filmed. The movie made use of shadows instead of actually showing the monster –which is good for creating tension, but is a film style not appreciated by many modern day audiences when it is used for non-horror-specific films.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Considered as an extremely influential movie in the industry of filmmaking, The Silence of the Lambs is an amazing cinematic experience. Horror fans love to cite Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Doctor Hannibal Lecter as one of the scariest and most intimidating characters seen on screen. This is quite a feat, as Hopkins is not a physically imposing person. Instead, his speech, mannerisms, and even the most subtle parts of his body language will all trigger danger flags to the observers’ brain. You just know that this man is ridiculously dangerous. While other horror films bank heavily on the supernatural or the unknown to strike fear into the audience, Hannibal is a walking, living mindgame.

In the film, Jodie Foster plays the role of Clarice Starling, assigned by the Bureau as a liaison for Hannibal who was a prisoner of the government. Her task is to get the mad doctor to help them capture a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. The resulting situation puts Clarice in utmost peril; while Buffalo Bill is an immediate threat that needs to be dealt with, Lecter is by far proving to be an even more dangerous threat. And as his demands for his cooperation slowly increase, Clarice begins to wonder how they can truly be from Lecter.