Genre is the category that a film falls under there are different ways in which films are categorised which can then become a marketing tool for distribution. It is always changing so can get difficult to define.
Psychological Thrillers tend to cross and mix with many other genres, typically horrors. Plots in a thriller are suspenseful, scary and you typically don’t have all the answers until the very end. They tend to jump in terms of narrative structure. A perfect example of this is ‘Limitless’ by Leslie Dixon where we start at the end of the film then go through how the actor ended up in that situation. It’s easiest way to keep the audience engaged. However, most thrillers use Todorov’s theory where we have; equilibrium, disruption, resolution, restored order, new equilibrium.
Iconography is the imagery used in specific genre films which is why they are important because they set the tone of the film. Classic psychological thriller iconography is the use of shadows to create tension and connote danger and mystery to the audience. A classic example of this with Alfred Hitchcock ‘Psycho’ who is said to have kick start genre. The scene where Norman Bates kills for the first time on camera and the silhouette of him with the big knife raised behind the shower curtain. Showing the shadow as the murder occurs also helps conceal the twist at the end.
Confined spaces are also an iconography of psychological as it puts audiences on edge as it’s a large fear that most audience members have. An example of this is with Neil Marshall’s ‘The Descent’. The women in that film constantly find themselves in confined spaces as they are in a cave and have to manoeuvre through small spaces to get to the other side. This connotes to the audience to the audience that the character is helpless and have no other choice both physically and mentally.
There are no specific narrative themes in psychological thrillers due to how broad they are. Nevertheless, they must be thrilling. Their purpose it to make the audience nervous, excited so rhythmically they have to constantly be moving on to the next thing which is why their narrative is typically constructed in a way that allows them to take it one step further. For example; ‘Se7en’ was constantly building up, the crime becoming more methodical and closer to the detectives until the case is right on their front door.
The pacing in psychological thrillers tends to be slow, for example; ‘Hereditary’ by Ari Aster. It is incredibly slow in terms of pacing, but we feel for these characters and the slow pacing makes the hurt more impactful. We feel it too.
It seems psychological thrillers in today’s industry tend to lean more towards horror movies. Psychological thrillers are thriving as Tv shows now with shows such as ‘Black mirror’ which terrifies audiences with how realistic they are in today society where technology is our greatest achievement and biggest enemy.