The main intention with Psychological Horror is to truly mess with your head. It is to have the idea take root within it’s readers head and never leave. Live rent free. It is the genre that takes a readers worst fears and to make them a reality.
It’s more horrifying than monster horror or aliens. We know deep down that these creatures don’t exist. We can rationalise them. We know that it’s a good story but at the end of the day, that’s all it is, a story. Psychological Horror, however, well that’s a whole different ball game.
It takes root from what our own minds conjure up. It can be a small thought, a worry or anxiety and in the right hands can manifest into the scariest thing of them all. The mind is truly both a magnificent thing and our worst enemy. From scenario’s that are only two steps away from becoming reality to big stretches of the imagination that still seem seeped in realism.
From stories that tell a tale of severe mental illness, mistrust and our worst fears such as being buried alive, psychological horror really plays with us.
Take for instance, Crossroads by Laurel Hightower. It is a story of a mother that has just buried her son but then starts to see her son again. Ghost form. There are themes of Psychological Horror running through it; not trusting her own senses, a mother’s grief, wanting to manifest his form and willing to do anything to make it happen. Losing a child is a parent’s worst fear, it isn’t a stretch to think your brain could make these things happen. it plays with you.
Or, I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. This book is a bit of marmite for a lot of people. I personally, LOVED it but i know there is a lot of people that struggled with the writing style. I think this is probably the best example of the unreliable narrator trope and is just a work of art. It has severe mental illness at its core and again it’s horrifying in its realism.