Disturbing Movies that Use Psychology to Create Fear

ShowerAs the weather begins to turn cooler and the official start of autumn has begun, maybe you are thinking about curling up on the couch with a scary movie as darkness falls. For me, the most frightening movies are not usually the ones in which there is a lot of blood and gore. Instead, the films that stay with me the longest and sometimes keep me up at night are the psychological thrillers – the ones with characters whose twisted affect or lack of basic humanity can make a horror movie captivating. Whether in books or movies or television, I love to see smart work that incorporates what happens inside the minds both of the perpetrators of violence and their victims.

Silence of the Lambs is one great example. While there certainly are a few graphic scenes, the fear and tension mostly comes from the chilling personality of Hannibal Lechter. He can make your skin turn cold with a simple look.

Or how about Psycho? Of course there is the famous shower scene, but I think that Norman Bates’ eyes and his relationship with his “mother” are much more disturbing.

In Primal Fear, starring Richard Gere and Edward Norton, a young man is accused of killing a priest and appears to have taken on multiple personalities as a way of coping with previous abuse. But the truth proves to be much different.

The Blair Witch Project, if you could get past the unsettling camera work that some viewers complained made them sick, was a terrifying “documentary” that was so scary exactly because of what you could not see.

There are so many movies with a powerful psychological component and that could be discussed as part of criminal or forensic psychology course, but I now want to know your favorites.

What are those two or three movies that really have left an impression on you for the terror they inflicted that had nothing to do with physical violence?


Watch the scary hunt for a serial killer with vigilante detective Emily Stone:


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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