There are many tension-filled mind-plays in recent movies, but only seven psychological movies have made our list. Let’s get your brain wet and begin your psycho-thriller-loving journey.
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Gillian Flynn
Plot: The amazingly perfect wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing, the house looking like a murder scene and her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck) is suspected of murder. And the media has never-ending field days with this case, even after the case closes.
Review: Manipulation is the name of the game, and this results in a trapped relationship. “Gone Girl” is a well-crafted psychological thriller that is incredibly acted, edited, and shot. And the music is quite good too! The stand-out is the storytelling where everything comes into place — or seems like it does. You see how a need to create perfection can manifest into cruelty towards others and have long-term consequences.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay) and Ted Chiang (story “Story of Your Life”)
Plot: Louise (Amy Adams) is a linguist specialist and professor hired by the military to attempt to translate an alien language that no human has heard nor read. Twelve half-floating dome shapes appear on Earth, causing confusion, later resulting in wide-spread panic.
Review: This is more of a psychological sci-fi drama than a thriller, as the theme of the movie is communication, and language and time play an important role with flashes from Louise’s life. The film is well-acted, and the CGI of the two aliens is well done. The use of lighting was interesting as well. The film starts darkly lit, and as the story progresses, the lighting becomes brighter. As if you were going from not understanding, in the dark, to understanding, in the light.
Director: Tate Taylor
Writers: Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay) and Paula Hawkins (novel)
Plot: Rachel (Emily Blunt) takes the train twice a day and looks out the window to watch the idyllic looking-life of Megan (Haley Bennett), who lives a few houses down from Rachel’s old house with her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby girl. One evening Megan goes missing, and Rachel is caught up in the mystery.
Review: This psychological thriller follows the three women, Rachel, Megan, and Anna, with a lot of focus on Rachel. We feel for Rachel and Megan as we get to know them better and see how they use their vices — sex and alcohol — to deal with their individual traumas.
The flick is well-acted, and Bennett gives a chilling performance until Megan starts to open up. The suspense locks you in as you think Rachel is guilty only for the twist to catch you off-guard at the end. Psychological elements come in the form of manipulation and gaslighting.
Director: Adam Robitel
Writers: Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik
Plot: A group of lone survivors, from all walks of life and different ages, unknowing, enter into an escape room where the stakes are real, and death is the outcome.
Review: The movie was suspenseful from start to finish. The camerawork, and editing, were all standard, and the acting was superb, making you relate to the characters immediately and feel for them. The haunting score kept the tension up with its simplicity. But, the standout is the set design, particularly in the second-to-last room. The film will keep you glued to your seat despite the occasional logical leaps some characters display.
Director: Tate Taylor
Writer: Scotty Landes
Plot: Ma/Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) befriends a group of high schoolers by allowing them to drink and party in her basement. But soon, her true character begins to show as she starts taking revenge on them for their parents’ mistakes.
Review: The movie follows the story of Sue Ann (played creepily and emotionally by Octavia Spencer), who behaves a touch more as a teenager than an adult, as something cruel happened to her in the past that made her stay in that state of mind in a way. “Ma” is a psychological story with very few jump scares, which is a plus, and you can almost side with Ma thanks to Spencer’s performance and almost start cheering her up, which is bound to make you question the ways art and narrative influence our thoughts.
The acting was good, although the adult characters were much better than their younger counterparts. The psychological aspect of the movie is best seen in the idea of being trapped in the mind of a troubled teen as an adult without letting go of the past. And the mother-daughter relationship between Maggie (Diana Silvers) and Erica (Juliette Lewis) was also a pleasure to watch.
Director and Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Plot: Set in the world of “Unbreakable” and “Split,” “Glass” tells the story of Kevin (James McAvoy), David (Bruce Wills), and Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson), who end up in a psychiatric home unwillingly. Dr. Staple (Sarah Paulson) wants to “cure them of their delusions of being superheroes.” But, there is more at play.
Review: “Glass” is well-acted, and the set design was interesting, especially in the group meeting scene. The camera work is fantastic, with lots of unusual shots and curious camera angles to illustrate the atmosphere of the setting. It is long, with the pace only picking up closer to the end. There were also plenty of rather touching scenes to break the monotony and give the viewer a break from unconventionality.
Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Writers: David Desola and Pedro Rivero
Plot: Goreng (Ivan Massagué) voluntarily goes into “the hole,” a vertical prison where a huge table of food goes down daily. But, he quickly learns of the horridness of some people in the top and lower levels.
Review: This is a well-shot and interestingly edited movie (when compared to Hollywood products). The acting is well done also, and it raises a lot of emotional questions when the audience puts themselves in Goreng’s shoes. The story is a comment on the hierarchy and how much or how little people at the top actually understand what is going on in the prison.
“Platform” is suspenseful while being more dialogue-driven until the third act, where the action picks up. It is more of a heavy psychological satire than a thriller. The audience is asked to think about what they would do and how they would change in the situation, much like how Goreng did, although he went back to his good-natured self. It keeps you watching and thinking.