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Psychological horror

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Psychological horror

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Psychological horror is horror based on knowledge and situation as opposed to horror based on gore and fright. A well known example is The Sixth Sense. This is made more explicit in that many horror films are not based on psychological horror, using instead "cheap" fright and gore to thrill the audience.

Psychological horror plays more on the psyche than to the instinctual reaction to violence. By confusing and/or reaching the subconsious of the viewer, psychological horror is able to have a deeper effect that is more socially acceptable than a gory film, yet is also nearly universal in impact. This genre is similar to the psychological thriller in that it uses psychology, but in the psychological thriller, the psychology is often applied to a character as opposed to the viewer. Psychology can be applied to the viewer either through subconsious of behaviorist perspectives. A subconscious apporach would be to find a common phobia or point of underlying fear among a large spread of the population, and play upon this. For example, someone may have a subconscious reaction to an unstable vehicle, from possibly being in a car accident at an early age. This could be played upon by haveing someone driving hear an unusual noise, at which point anyone who might be repressing a memory of a car accident would feel uncomfortable. A behaviorist angle would be to have a boiling pot of water on the stove. A small child may reach up to pull it off, and the crowd would feel uneasy due to their memories of when either they or their child had such an accident.

Psychological horror is more common in literature than in modern film, and can also be found in some computer and video games. Prominent examples of video games that make use of this brand of horror include the Silent Hill series, Condemned: Criminal Origins and Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem.

Key Elements of Horror

1. A highly improbably sequence of events, that usually begins in an ordinary situation.

2. The main characters are easily identified with.

3. Lives of others depend on the sucess of the protagonist.

4. The mood and setting are dark and/or forebodeing.

5. The plot contains frightening and unexpected elements.

6. Violence.

7. A third person perspective is used.

8. A plain style of cinematography is used.

Why Scary

Psychological horror is scary to some viewers because of the tension and anticipation that they build upon throughout the story. The gore and fright thrillers usually rely upon the hidden or unknown as a source of a scare; such as the monster jumping out from behind a corner or some other unforseen location, or some other sudden jolting action happening. The Psychological horror relies on the fact that the viewer knows there is an imminent threat and usually they know the nature of the threat itself. Its the nature of the threat that plays upon the psyche of the viewer rather than merely shock value or appearance alone.

The Psychological horror sometimes gives a certain amount of information about the nature of the threat, but tries to keep all the facts hidden until the last moments of the film. Clues are often given throughout the film but 'twists' and 'plot holes' always occur generally trying to make it difficult for the viewer to work out the real truth until the end of the movie.

In some of the better pyschological horrors, there is never even any blood shed or gore.

Such as in the Blair Witch Project, the antagonist is never revealed. The viewer never knows if the threat is actually the witch or some human element. The scary elements of this film play upon what the viewer's mind and not just the viewer's sight.


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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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