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Psychological Thriller

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A subgenre of Thriller, Psychological Thrillers also focus on giving thrills to the audience. But while a regular Thriller is usually based on action and a tightly-woven storyline, a Psychological Thriller is centered around the characters, their thoughts, their motivations, and their behavior. It's not what the characters are doing that's so disturbing, it's their reasons for doing so. Most commonly, one of the main characters is mentally unstable. Either a character's instability is causing trouble for others, or the other characters are targeting an unstable person. To use two Alfred Hitchcock classics released back-to-back as an illustration, North By Northwest, about a man who has to evade danger after getting unwittingly wrapped up in an espionage scheme, is a Thriller, while Vertigo, about a man hired to track a beautiful woman, only to become obsessed with her to an unsettling degree, is a Psychological Thriller.

"Psychological Thriller" is a very fluid genre description, and it frequently overlaps not only with the Thriller, but also Mystery Fiction and sometimes Horror. Psychological Thriller is sometimes taken to mean "Horror-lite" or "A Horror story that's too good to be called Horror" (the latter is especially prevalent when baiting for awards). There's also the close cousin Psychological Horror.

Philosophical and ethical issues are often explored in Psychological Thrillers. Common narrative devices used to facilitate the exploration of the characters' psyches are Backstory, Character Narrator, and Battle of Wits.


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