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Psychological Horror is an element of fiction, not tied to a particular genre (it manifests itself in many stories which are not identified as "horror stories"), which aims at creating horrific or unsettling effects through in-depth use of psychology.

This may involve replacing physical threats with psychological ones (e.g. madness), thorough exploration of the mind of the involved protagonists (including the bad guys/MonsterOfTheWeek), replacing [[PeekABooCorpse overt displays of horror]] by more subtle, creepy details, and so on. Often overlaps with SurrealHorror.

Often works hand in hand with NothingIsScarier, MindScrew, and ThroughTheEyesOfMadness. Due to the nature of this form of horror, it is usually NightmareFuel.

This type of horror is particularly common in Japanese horror, or "J-Horror" as it is often known as.

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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Anime/KeyTheMetalIdol'', the root influence of a lot of the other anime listed here.
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' in some parts. In other parts, it's pure CosmicHorror.
** The movie ''EndOfEvangelion'' certainly piles on the horror aspect of this trope.
* ''Anime/ErgoProxy''
* ''Manga/DeathNote''
* ''Anime/{{Texhnolyze}}''
* ''Anime/ParanoiaAgent''
* ''Anime/SerialExperimentsLain''
* ''Anime/BoogiepopPhantom''
* ''Anime/GhostHound''
* ''LightNovel/KaraNoKyoukai''
* ''Anime/{{Mononoke}}'' (pushing it to the limit: several complex ghost stories where exploring the minds of the ghosts and of the protagonists is a major plot point)
* ''Manga/{{Monster}}''
** [[spoiler: Impressively, the only threat in ''Monster'' comes from the horror/madness as it's established very quickly that Johan specifically wants to keep Tenma from being killed.]]
* ''Manga/MPDPsycho''
* ''Manga/{{Narutaru}}''
* ''Anime/GhostInTheShell 2 : Innocence'' - The whole part in Kims mansion goes quite into this.
* ''Anime/PerfectBlue''
* ''Manga/{{Uzumaki}}''
* ''Manga/ElfenLied'', moreso in the manga than the anime.
* ''Manga/NightmareInspector''
* ''Manga/AlienNine''
* ''Anime/GregoryHorrorShow''
* ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'' combines this with plain CosmicHorrorStory.
* ''Anime/ShamanicPrincess''
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'' is much more about shonen fights and power levels, but the counted times KuboTite has used this trope worked surprisingly well. [[spoiler: Shukuro Tsukishima [[MindRape mindraping]] Ichigo's family and friends, and then using them to MindRape '''Ichigo''']] was ''made'' of this, and it was both [[TearJerker heartbreaking]] and [[NightmareFuel horrifying]].
** Kubo does this again with [[spoiler:Byakuya]], courtesy of As Nodt.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comicbooks]]
* Quite common in Franchise/{{Batman}} comics, especially since practically every [[RoguesGallery Bat-rogue]] is insane some way or another, and Batman himself is often described as being insane in his own special way.
* Grant Morrison's run of ComicBook/AnimalMan was like this. So is ''Comicbook/ArkhamAsylumASeriousHouseOnSeriousEarth'' also written by Morrison. He kinda likes this.
** That's to say nothing of his ComicBook/DoomPatrol run. Oh, god, his Doom Patrol run.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* Almost any Creator/AlfredHitchcock movie ever made:
** ''Film/{{Psycho}}''
** ''Film/DialMForMurder''
** ''Film/{{Vertigo}}''
** ''Film/RearWindow''
** ''Film/StrangersOnATrain''
* ''Film/{{Antichrist}}''
* ''Film/TheBadSeed''
* ''Film/BlackSwan''
* ''Film/{{Carrie 1976}}''
* ''Film/TheCell'' (takes place inside the mind of a serial killer. It's a very unpleasant place.)
* The Soviet war movie ''Film/ComeAndSee''
* ''Film/TheDarkKnightSaga'' appears to have traces of this, especially ''Film/TheDarkKnight''.
* Most of Creator/DavidLynch's movies fall into this category.
* ''Film/TheEye'', which is a Hong Kong movie, also does feature some elements of J-Horror.
* ''Film/{{Shutter}}'', a Thai movie.
** ''Alone'', by the directors of Shutter.
* The 1961 British movie ''Film/TheInnocents'', based on TheTurnOfTheScrew
* This is a big part of Japanese horror, or "J-Horror", and why it was so popular a few years ago.
** ''{{Juon}}''/''TheGrudge''
** ''[[TheRing Ring]]''
** The film adaptation of ''Manga/{{Uzumaki}}''
** ''Film/NoroiTheCurse''
** ''Film/{{Kairo}}''
** ''Film/{{Audition}}''
** ''Film/{{Reincarnation}}''
** ''Film/DarkWater''
* ''Film/JuliasEyes''
* Alejandro Amenabar's ''Film/TheOthers''.
* ''Film/ThePurge''
* ''Film/RedEye''
* ''Film/RightAtYourDoor''
* Then there's Creator/RomanPolanski:
** ''Film/KnifeInTheWater''
** ''Film/{{Repulsion}}''
** ''Film/RosemarysBaby''
** Arguably ''Film/{{Chinatown}}''.
* ''Film/TheShining''
** ''Film/FourteenOhEight''
** On that note, any other film based on a Stephen King novel.
* ''TheSilenceOfTheLambs'' and that whole series.
* ''Film/ATaleOfTwoSisters'' is Korean, and Korea is no slouch in this department, also putting out movies like:
** ''{{Acacia}}''
** ''Film/{{Oldboy}}'' (arguably)
** ''The Red Shoes''
** ''Film/WhisperingCorridors'' (and its many sequels)...
* Take a movie by Creator/AndreiTarkovsky. ''Any'' movie by Tarkovsky. But particularly ''Film/{{Stalker}}''.
* In ''Film/HellraiserInferno'', the gore and Pinhead and the Cenobites' presence is toned down considerably. The horror focuses instead on the psychological descent of a flawed character subjected to nightmarish visions and seeing his reality crumble around him.
* In ''Film/TheFactsInTheCaseOfMisterHollow'' An OccultDetective investigating a MysteryCult has to slowly piece together the larger, sinister context in which a {{Spooky Photograph|s}} was taken, communicated by small details present in the photo itself, building to a conclusion that is either symbolic of the investigator's epiphany, or an explicit paranormal manifestation.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Heavily used by Creator/HPLovecraft
* Creator/EdgarAllanPoe's main subject as well.
** Especially impressive with Poe, considering he did his writing nearly half a century before psychology was even a recognized field of study. He was writing about mental disorders that hadn't even been named or studied yet.
* Lots of Creator/StephenKing's stories also qualify:
** As mentioned, ''Literature/TheShining''
** ''Thinner''
** ''The Tommyknockers''
** ''Dolores Claiborne''
** ''The Man in the Black Suit''
* ''Literature/HouseOfLeaves''. Does the Navidson Record really exist? Did Zampano actually write the manuscript or is it all in Johnny's head? Is the house on Ash Tree Lane a metaphor for the minotaur the darkness within the human mind? [[MindScrew Does anyone have any idea what's going on at all?]]
** ''Literature/TheFiftyYearSword'' by the same author. Who are the five speakers? Does anyone else have one of the man with lavender eyelashes' sword? What is it that can stitch and hold the wound?
* "Literature/{{Miriam}}" by Truman Capote explores mental decline.
* Many of GeorgeRRMartin's stories use this trope heavily. For example, "A Song for Lya", "Meathouse Man", or "The Second Kind of Loneliness".
* ''Literature/TheBadSeed''
* Victor Kelleher's insanely creepy ''Del-Del''.
* Alexandre Dumas, ''pere'', and his ''Literature/TheWomanWithTheVelvetNecklace.''
* Caitlín R. Kiernan's ''[[Literature/TheRedTree2009 The Red Tree]]''
* Literature/TheNecromanticMysteriesOfKyleMurchisonBooth
* ''Literature/TheHauntingOfTobyJugg'' by DennisWheatley
* "Literature/TheYellowWallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a classic example. The fact that it's semi-autobiographical just adds to the scariness.
* ''Literature/AShadowGirlsSummerOfLoveAndMadness'' by Jackson Boughen. It's kind of implied by the title.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The episode [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E10Midnight "Midnight"]], by Creator/RussellTDavies, uses a combination of PrimalFear and ParanoiaFuel to turn the act of simply repeating sentences into terrifying conversations. Same goes for "The God Complex", which includes a monster that strips away your faith -- not just religious faith, but faith in anything -- and feeds off of it.
** Steven Moffat's take on the show plays with ideas of madness, and [[ItWasHereISwear things you think you saw from the corner of your eye]]. On the one hand, no, you're not going mad; on the other hand, yes, these things are real, and they ''are'' out to get you.
* ''Series/AmericanHorrorStoryMurderHouse'' uses it along with all the SurrealHorror, particularly in Ben's plotlines.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Videogames]]
%%* ''VideoGame/FatalFrame''
* ''Franchise/SilentHill'': The enemies and environments of each game are pulled from the screwed-up psyche of one or more of its characters, and the series relies far more on NothingIsScarier, surreal imagery and symbolism than jump scares and gore. The games occasionally hint that the protagonist may simply be insane.
%%* ''SilentHillShatteredMemories'' in particular relies on psychological horror, since it prefers to downplay the "survival" element.
* ''VideoGame/EternalDarkness'', especially since one of the three traits in the game is Sanity, alongside vitality and Mana. Not only are you dealing with enemies that defy common logic, they are purposefully distorting your perception of reality. If you beat them [[EverythingFades they're gone]] and not only will you be trying to describe something that sounds insane, you probably are insane. Even if the psychological tricks don't scare you, let that sanity bar run out and your vitality will quickly go down the drain.
* ''VideoGame/TheSuffering'' is a cross between psychological and physical horror. While you will be fighting inmates, guards, and wretched abominations, you will also encounter horrific hallucinations and the ghosts of Carnate Island's insane and psychopathic residents.
%%* ''[[VideoGame/FirstEncounterAssaultRecon F.E.A.R.]]''
%%* ''VideoGame/{{Penumbra}}''.
%%* ''VideoGame/AmnesiaTheDarkDescent''.
%%* ''VideoGame/RuleOfRose''.
%%* ''VideoGame/ThePath''
%%* ''VideoGame/{{Pathologic}}''
%%* ''VideoGame/YumeNikki''
%%* ''VideoGame/AlanWake''
%%* ''Franchise/DeadSpace''
%%* ''VideoGame/{{Manhunt}}''
%%* ''VideoGame/{{Condemned}}''
%%* ''VideoGame/{{Thief}}''
%%* ''VideoGame/AmericanMcGeesAlice''
%%* ''VideoGame/AliceMadnessReturns''
%%* ''VideoGame/CallOfCthulhuDarkCornersOfTheEarth''
%%* ''VideoGame/{{Calling}}''
%%* One or two of the missions of ''VideoGame/{{SWAT 4}}'' tackle extremely disturbing crime cases in very creepy locales.
* One of the reasons why the original ''VideoGame/OperationFlashpoint'' and its current successor ''VideoGame/{{ARMA}}'' are praised for their realism is how they not only accurately portray the tech and tactics employed on a modern battlefield, but also [[WarIsHell the tension, paranoia and uncompromising unpredictability of military operations]]. Compared to most other military games, which are usualy action-pumped thrill rides with lots of loud set pieces, these titles have the player experiencing almost unbearable tension while moving through enemy territory. The enemies can be well hidden, may already know of your position, may be already surrounding you stealthily and killing you before you even manage to register them and realize your grave mistake. And don't even get us started on situations like being TrappedBehindEnemyLines, completely out of ammo and hiding in the bushes, because heavily armed brigades of soldiers and vehicles are combing the whole area. All of this goes hand in hand with the horror occuring [[DaylightHorror commonly during missions set in broad daylight]].
* ''VideoGame/IronStorm'' is a shooter that has zero supernatural elements, but is set in a nigh-nightmarish DieselPunk world scarred by an increasingly insane and [[{{Dystopia}} dystopic]] ForeverWar.
* ''VideoGame/SpecOpsTheLine'' is a curious example of the trope. It opens much like any other modern military shooter, but about halfway through the game (after the protagonists [[spoiler:unwittingly burn forty-seven innocent civilians to death with white phosphorous rounds]]) it starts to take on more and more elements of psychological horror, including surreal, horrific imagery, hallucinations etc.
* ''VideoGame/{{Metro 2033}}'' is a first person shooter, but while it has gunfights against bandits, mutants, and Neo-Nazis and/or Communists, those are brief levels of heart-pounding adrenaline between long stretches of isolation, unexplained but explicitly supernatural horrors such as ghosts and 'anomalies', and a growing sense of gloomy, claustrophobic despair in the tunnels that manages to evolve into agoraphobic paranoia when Artyom is in the open on the surface. Worst of all are some of the completely unexplained instances of blatant and lethal MindScrew that defy explanation--the less said about the Dark Ones, the better. It's saying something when it's ''comforting'' to have a level with Nazis to shoot at, versus the game's alternatives.
* The trippy horror in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4'' was intended to disturb on this level, such as unmanned biomechanical robots that moo like cows and can rotate their legs on 360 degree joints to climb buildings, and a very sexy woman in a skintight suit wearing Snake's face while murdering people and laughing with huge robotic tentacles, and the 'white room' segments after defeating the bosses in which you hear a distorted soundtrack of women moaning in orgasm and crying/screaming/snarling/laughing, and so on.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* The ''Franchise/WhenTheyCry'' series is made of this (often mixed with some gore), as the protagonists often succumb to madness and hallucinations or are mentally tortured/have their hopes crushed in various ways.
%%** ''VisualNovel/HigurashiNoNakuKoroNi''
%%** ''VisualNovel/UminekoNoNakuKoroNi''
%% This entry needs to be independent of the others.
%%* ''VisualNovel/HiganbanaNoSakuYoruNi'', by Ryukishi07, keeps a similar tone, minus the gore (with a few exceptions like the 5th story).
[[/folder]]


[[folder:Webcomics]]
%%* ''WebComic/SilentHillPromise''
* ''Webcomic/GunnerkriggCourt'':
** The comic dips into this any time Zimmy shows up. Her perception of the world is very abnormal--and she has RealityWarper PowerIncontinence. So when the focus switches to Zimmy, bizarre, dreamlike events are quick to follow. It's never entirely clear how much of this is real and how much is hallucination... or how much is a hallucination that's ''becoming'' real.
** A non-Zimmy example happens in the chapter "A Ghost Story". Annie has to counsel a ghost--and since the ghost doesn't realize he's dead, he unintentionally creates a shared hallucination that symbolizes an event from his old life.
* ''{{Homestuck}}'' delves into this around the middle of Act 5 when [[spoiler:Gamzee goes sober and starts killing off the characters, which had already started dying by Eridan and Vriska earlier.]] Probably the creepiest part is a flash in which, after seeing a few scenes of [[ThoseTwoGuys Nepeta and Equius]] talking adorably to one another, the reader is forced to play as the both of them and lead them through a dark, deserted lab as ominous music [[spoiler:riddled with honks]] slowly grows louder. The worst part is that, unlike in a video game, the 'player' [[ButThouMust has no choice]] - they know the story depends on the two characters moving towards the threat, so unless they just stop reading altogether (which doesn't solve the problem as of course the story continues on regardless) they can't continue any other way than by leading these beloved, oblivious characters to what is likely their doom. [[spoiler:And indeed it is.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Originals]]
%%* Several ''Podcast/EarbudTheater'' episodes.
* A good chunk of vlogs and stories pertaining to TheSlenderManMythos ''love'' this trope. As for ''MarbleHornets'', one of the more prominent examples, [[MeaningfulBackgroundEvent it's pretty much]] [[EnemyRisingBehind made of this trope]]. Well, that and ParanoiaFuel. Lots and lots of that, too.
** This trope, SurrealHorror, and ParanoiaFuel are the backbone of most [[CreepyPasta creepypastas.]]
%%* ''Literature/TheSickLand'' is a CosmicHorrorStory that leans heavily on this trope.
%%* ''LetsPlay/TheTerribleSecretOfAnimalCrossing''
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'' uses this fairly frequently. Most notably, anything having to do with [[spoiler: the Ice King's past]] is either going to be this or a TearJerker.
[[/folder]]

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