This Friday marks the release of not one but two psychological horror movies; The Night and the long-awaited Saint Maud. In anticipation, this week’s streaming picks belong to horror movies that seek to get under your skin by messing with your mind.
Psychological horror movies prey on emotional and mental vulnerabilities to create unease and fear. They often challenge their protagonists to question reality through gaslighting, hallucinations, trauma, or even paranoia induced by claustrophobic or unnatural settings and situations. Sometimes, not much is scarier than being trapped inside your own head.
These five psychological horror movies bring the dread and intensity.
Here’s where you can stream them this week…
10 Cloverfield Lane – Crackle
Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes in a stranger shelter after getting into a car accident. Its owner, Howard (John Goodman), declares himself her savior as the outside world has fallen under a widespread chemical attack. Howard’s volatile temperament leads to all-out paranoia, as Elizabeth realizes she may be locked inside with a madman. Dan Trachtenberg’s feature directorial debut makes for one suspense-filled pressure cooker that keeps you guessing right up until its very Cloverfield-like climax. And Goodman makes for one unnerving antagonist.
Piercing – Netflix
Filmmaker Nicolas Pesce’s adaptation of Ryu Murakami’s novel follows Reed (Christopher Abbott) as he kisses his family goodnight, checks into a hotel, and calls for an escort through a service. He’s plotting murder to curb his dark impulses, but those plans go awry the moment prostitute Jackie (Mia Wasikowska) arrives. Jackie’s a bit unhinged herself. The night unfolds into a twisted, violent game that blurs the lines between predator and prey. Pesce injects a ton of style, including drawing heavily from notable Giallo films.
Possum – Prime Video
This psychological horror film doesn’t offer many clear-cut answers, but it does provide creeping dread and nightmarish imagery. Sean Harris stars as Philip, a disgraced puppeteer that returns to his childhood home and is forced to confront his childhood traumas. Though Possum prefers ambiguity, it’s crystal clear why Philip’s last paying gig caused him to run home in shame; his puppet, Possum, would terrify anyone, let alone an arachnophobic. With an arachnid body and monochromatic human head, Possum elicits some incredibly creepy moments. Harris also nails his performance as the socially isolated man descending into madness. This character study favors a quiet, deliberate pace, but boy, is it creepy.
Shrew’s Nest – Shudder
Set in the ‘50s, agoraphobe Montse (Macarena Gómez) dedicated most of her life to raising eighteen-year-old kid sister Nia (Nadia de Santiago). With the parents long out of the equation, Montse obsessively played the role of mother, father, and sister, but she often lashes out thanks to a deranged temperament. Her tenuous grasp on reality comes unraveled when a neighbor injures himself right outside the sisters’ apartment. Nia will have to choose between sanity or family when Montse takes the man in and threatens harm. Produced by Álex de la Iglesia, Shrew’s Nest bides its time in revealing all the disturbing skeletons in its closet, ramping up the tension with cringe-worthy violence along the way. Shrew’s Nest is an effective yet simply psycho-thriller that plays out how you’d expect but does throw in some gruesome surprises along the way.
The Clovehitch Killer – Hulu
Set in a small town nestled in the Bible Belt, teen Tyler begins to suspect his father might be the infamous Clovehitch Killer responsible for murdering ten women a decade ago before disappearing. The crimes were so vicious that the memory of the Clovehitch Killer never faded from the town’s memory, and Tyler stumbles onto proof that the killer has started anew. Dylan McDermott plays Tyler’s father, a squeaky-clean church-goer and doting family man. But there’s an underpinning of danger there, and the more Tyler begins to dig into the Clovehitch Killer, the creepier dad gets. Because of McDermott’s performance, this coming-of-age story by way of a terrifying serial killer cat and mouse game is as captivating as it is horrific.