Just as bodily horror can interfere with its ability to turn your body against you, psychological horror attacks your mind. The inability to distinguish reality from fantasy, or worse, is terrifying in nature. Censor (our reviewer) sees a psychological ending for its lead character, a video censor during the Video Nasty craze that loses its ability to distinguish between waking life and horror movies.
To celebrate one of Hulu’s best hits of the year this week, this week’s picks belong to horror films that distort reality for their characters in unsettling ways.
Here’s where you can stream them this week.
Black Swan – Hulu
Nina (Natalie Portman) lands the coveted lead role in a production of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”, but her commitment to perfection threatens her sanity. Darren Aronofsky’s psychosexual mind penetrates deep into Nina’s headspace as she hallucinates everything from sexual encounters to moments of bodily horror. It’s a dizzying mirror for Tchaikovsky’s ballet, in the form of a twisted psychological horror film. Nina’s transformation into Black Swan is as beautiful as it is grotesque.
Identity – Pluto TV, Tubi
James Mangold sets up an interesting but familiar slasher mystery, complete with steering errors and bloody deaths. But the biggest clue that there is more to this slasher than it looks is in the title. Ten strangers find themselves stranded together in a desolate motel by the side of the road, only to discover that someone is eliminating them one by one. Reality has a very different meaning for these characters, which makes the killer motif particularly unique. The A-list cast brings that, too.
Oculus – Starz
Kaylie (Karen Gillan) tries to exonerate her brother and seek redress for the death of her parents in find evidence of a supernatural presence in an antique mirror. But this haunted mirror has a nasty defense mechanism; it can change perceptions of reality for those around it. Mike Flanagan takes a mind-boggling approach to a haunting and distorting reality for the protagonists who attempt to destroy it. In the process, this also leaves viewers guessing.
Shutter island – Netflix, AMC +, Pluto TV
US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) investigates the disappearance of a patient from a mental hospital for insane criminals. The more he advances, the more it seems that a plot is brewing. Worse yet, it looks like the staff seem determined to keep Teddy there. Martin Scorsese plays mind games with his protagonist in this sleek gothic thriller that showcases a brooding atmosphere.
Videodrome – Peacock
One of Cronenberg’s most beloved films by fans, Videodrome follows James Woods as a shady cable TV programmer whose life begins to spiral out of control once he stumbles upon a broadcast signal featuring extreme torture. It infects his mind, causing bizarre visions and strange changes in perceived reality. Only Cronenberg could use body horror to represent a fractured mind so effectively. The surreal imagery combined with special effects master Rick Baker’s work on the film creates one of the strangest and most compelling horror films ahead of its time.