Ever since the public health practices have been ordered due to COVID-19, people are afraid of getting bored and tired of staying days, weeks or even months at home. Either in total quarantine or in partial confinement, there is always time to kill. Time to spend doing things you like, and not necessarily being productive.
While many people decide to learn new skills, take online courses or read books, others just decide to rest from work and school, take endless naps or catch up with TV shows and movies. If you fit in the latter category, this article is for you! Especially if you like psychological thrillers. If you do not know what a psychological thriller is, let me explain that to you briefly. It is either a book or a movie. It has a thrilling and suspenseful storyline with a psychological narrative.
In general, a psychological thriller explores the mental states of its characters. Meaning it emphasises on their perception of life, their psyche, their thoughts and struggles to grasp reality.
Why should you watch psychological thrillers?
Simply because the plot provides the viewers with an unusual perception of psychological issues or phenomena, and how they are experienced by people who are not ourselves. These five psychological thrillers I have selected, provide a certain insight into various mental conditions. Real mental conditions that have been and are experienced by real people.
1 – A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
A Tale Of Two Sisters, directed by Kim Jee-woon, is a South Korean psychological thriller. It is inspired by a folktale from the Joseon Dynasty called Janghwa Hongryeon meaning “Rose Flower, Red Lotus”. The protagonist of this movie is Su-mi, a teenage girl who recently got home from a mental health institution. The plot follows Su-mi looking after her younger sister, Su-yeon, and the tension in their relationship with their supposedly evil stepmother and the ghosts haunting their house. It would be quite confusing, but you will understand the movie once you reach the plot twist. A Tale of Two Sisters deals with the themes of grief, sisterhood, dissociative personality disorder, and family.
2 – Swallow (2019)
Directed by Carlo Mirabell-Davis, Swallow is an American psychological thriller about a newly married couple. As the plot progresses, Hunter, the wife, gets pregnant and starts some new bizarre habits of swallowing unusual objects. These habits come to raise the tension between her, her husband and her in-laws as they try to insensitively control her and her behaviour. Swallow explores the themes of eating disorders (particularly pica) and their relation to traumatic experiences. As well as a slight critic of social class differences.
3 – Hereditary (2018)
Directed by Ari Aster, Hereditary follows the life of the Graham Family. After the death of Ellen, Annie’s mother, weird and intriguing events start to happen. Annie begins to discover the cryptic and terrifying secrets of her family’s ancestry. Despite some of the graphic scenes, Hereditary offers a complex exploration of grief, guilt and how they affect human relationships as well as an ambiguous exploration of transgenerational trauma. Along with an adaptation of the story of King Paimon.
4 – Midsommar (2019)
Midsommar is another psychological thriller with a pinch of horror and pagan traditions by Ari Aster. After the death of Dani’s parents, she travels to Sweden to attend a pagan summer festival with a group of friends including her boyfriend, Christian. Once there, the festivities begin… accompanied by uncanny rituals and eerie events which lead to a twisted ending. Despite being set in an even place and in broad daylight, Midsommar presents a terrific exploration of grief, complicated relationships, trauma as well as an interesting portrayal of mental illness.
5 – Cam (2018)
Directed by Daniel Goldhaber, Cam tells the story of Alice Ackerman, a camgirl who is obsessed with her rank in the site she is in. Everything goes well for Alice until she loses access to her account, and she realises that a clone of her is still broadcasting from the same room she is in. Alice loses her sanity and becomes ready to do anything to regain her account and her rank. Cam might be trivial for some, but it is deeper than what it seems. It explores the anxieties associated with social media superficiality, the intricacies of identity theft and the damages that are caused by internet addiction.
These are only five psychological thrillers among many. Each one provides us with different themes and representations of human experiences from perspectives. I believe psychological thrillers are essential in the world of cinema as well as in that of literature. They channel conditions we have not lived, and provide us at least with a certain understanding of the said condition and how it affects human beings. They can also serve as awareness as to understand the struggles caused by some psychological conditions, and that, I believe, contributes in removing stigma from human conditions, especially mental illnesses, that are considered trivial and taboo.
Author: Imad Moussaoui.