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These Lesser-Known Psychological Horror Movies Will Leave You Shaking (But Also Wanting More?)

Did I write this list? Or is the TWIST that you were the author, all along.

Grace in the attic in The Lodge

Where horror subgenres are concerned, psychological horror doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves. Not like slashers, supernatural horror, found footage, body horror, and so on do. Unless they happen to be a big hit like Hereditary (2018). It may just be because psychological horror rarely, if ever, relies on jump scares. No matter what the reasoning is, though, the subgenre deserves better. Because these are the kinds of movies that slow-burn their terror, and as such, the chills often stay with you long after the lights come back on.

For this list, I compiled some of my favorite psychological horror movies, but instead of throwing a bunch of movies in that are well known (or popular), I’ve decided to do something different. This time, the focus is on movies in the subgenre that have come out between 2015-2020, and that aren’t discussed much anymore (or at all). How are these movies being ranked? By how unsettling and/or disturbing they are. So here they are (ranked from best to worst).

1. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

Joan in The Blackcoat's Daughter
(A24 and DirecTV Cinema)

What was in the holy water indeed? This A24 gem made very little at the box office, but how a horror movie with Emma Roberts and Kiernan Shipka flopped is beyond me. Not only is this movie very disturbing, but it also creates such an unsettling atmosphere that you’re practically biting your nails. As the movie unfolds, your eyes widen, and whatever you thought was going on before, likely wasn’t. The main twist is too big to spoil, so all I can say is that it’s very much worth sitting through. Even if it seems a bit slow or confusing at first. There’s quite the payoff.

2. mother! (2017)

Mother screaming in mother!
(Paramount Pictures Studios and Protozoa Pictures)

Chaotic is the perfect way to describe this movie. Jennifer Lawrence hits it out of the park as “Mother.” She’s, for sure, the stand-out performance in my eyes. And I’m not even a JLaw stan. The themes and allegories in this movie are expertly woven throughout to create an upsetting and surreal experience. Be warned though, there are scenes in the movie that may cause people to feel ill or disturbed. Which is ultimately the point, but it’s certainly not a movie for the faint of heart. 

The Lodge (2019)

Grace in the attic in The Lodge
( Stage 6 Films and Neon)

Horror that’s set in an isolated area with extreme weather conditions? Perfect atmosphere. Now, there was a lot of foolishness happening in this movie, so, you may be annoyed at times with the decision-making, but stick with it. The story follows a woman who gets stranded at her fiance’s lodge with his son and daughter. Eventually, events involving her past in an extremist Christian cult (with her father as the leader) intersect with the plot. And who’s to say what’s really going on? It’s a trippy and creepy ride. And of course, anything involving extremist cults usually means disturbing imagery. This movie sure has that. It’s not a perfect movie, I don’t know that every disturbing scene was necessary, but it definitely makes an impression.

Unsane (2018)

Sawyer being paranoid in Unsane
(20th Century Studios and Bleecker Street)

What’s most frightening about this movie is how realistic it is. There’s no paranormal force disturbing Sawyer (Claire Foy), it’s simply her not being believed about her stalker. Which sounds more like regular life than a movie. Being stuck in a mental institution and knowing your stalker has infiltrated it (to continue to stalk you) is a horrific thought. And being stuck in a state of paranoia is even worse—the film has you (and the character) questioning if maybe they really are imagining things, and not being able to trust your own perception is the scariest thing of all. This movie couldn’t not make it on this list. 

Nocturne (2020)

Juliet in Nocturne holding bloody tampon
(Amazon Studios)

Do you love Sydney Sweeney? Or Madison Iseman? Or Julie Benz? Well, this movie has all 3. It’s a psychological horror movie that leaves you thinking about it long after it’s done. Jealousy is a main theme in the movie, as it follows a teenage girl, Juliet (Sydney Sweeney), who is jealous of her twin sister’s success as a pianist. Then she begins to unravel. There are certainly a lot of twisty scenes in this film, and tons of creative moments, including a tampon scene which is so badass. Ultimately, this movie landed at the bottom of the list because it’s not as disturbing as the others. But it made the list because it’s unsettling in its own way. 

(featured image: Stage 6/Neon)

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Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.