A Salacious Scavenge through My Preferred Psychological Horror

Well, we’re a few months into lockdown, and I, for one, am starting to go a little nuts.

Which means it’s time, yet again, to have a good old forage through some of my favourite horror sub-genres. This week, thanks to the lack of sanity, I figured that it was about time I got a little up in your head, with some psychological horrors. I’d love to hear your favourites in this genre, so please do drop them in the comments below. And, you know, try to keep your head. These films aren’t going to make that easy, but don’t let that stop you!

  1. Darling

Look, ever since I wrote about Jug Face last week, I can’t stop thinking about the very first movie that I saw leading woman Lauren Ashley Carter in, and, truthfully, most of the reason I’m writing this article is so I have a chance to talk about it.

Darling is a 2015 horror directed by Mickey Keating, and probably one of the most singularly underrated horrors of the decade: following a young, unnamed woman, who becomes a caretaker for a large New York apartment rumoured to be a conjuring ground for the devil itself, it’s got echoes of the iconic classic, The Turn of the Screw, as we track the caretaker through her descent into paranoia following an unnamed trauma. It’s really about Carter’s killer leading performance here; set against the stark, monochrome cinematography, the colour comes from this dark, distressing, violent, and intimate tumble into devilish, frantic insanity. Slippery and impossible to forget, if you take nothing else from this list, watch this movie, alright?

2. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Okay, maybe take one other thing from it. We reviewed this movie when it first came out, and, since then, director Yorgos Lanthimos has achieved widespread critical acclaim for his follow-up, The Favourite. But I still don’t see many people talking about this film, and that’s a damn shame, because it might just be even better than his Oscar-nominated breakthrough.

Starring Barry Keoghan in one of the most singularly unsettling performances I’ve ever seen, Lanthimos invests in a curiously removed, almost emotionless tone that comes through as the distance between the central family his characters are a part of – and it’s those cracks in the facade that allow Keoghan’s unbelievably compelling villain into the story. Featuring killer turns from Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell to boot, there’s this pulsing sense of dreadful unreality right from the start, that builds to an inevitable but almost painfully tense conclusion that burned this movie into my memory for good.

3. Ruin Me

I mean, they had me from the start: a group of horror junkies go off into the woods to act out a slasher whodunnit, but things take a turn for the serious when people actually start dying.

But director Preston DeFrancis takes Ruin Me to places that I didn’t expect, and it soon turns into a trippy, torturous journey through the mind of Alexandra, a recovering addict trying to navigate an intense new relationship with her counsellor. It’s the kind of film that leans in to its strangeness and the woozy lack of control that our lead has in this bizarre world she finds herself in; addiction, abuse, and slasher tropes collide in a memorably odd and impressively focused indie mini-classic.

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By Louise MacGregor

(header image via Hollywood Reporter)

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