13 Psychological Horror Movies That Will Destroy Your Brain For All The Wrong Reasons
These mind-melting movies are better left unwatched.
We all love a . There's nothing quite like being simultaneously terrified and made to really think hard about what you're watching--and there are plenty of good ones to go around that gain critical acclaim, cult appreciation, or sometimes both. But for every fantastic psychological horror movie to hit screens big or small, there seems to be an equal amount that are just--well. Sometimes just saying they're "bad" isn't enough.
From totally unnecessary sequels and reboots that miss the point of their fantastic predecessors to monster movies that conflate cool horror villain origin stories with real-world mental illnesses, bad psychological horror movies often fail on more than one level, and leave you wishing you'd saved yourself the time and read the wikipedia plot summary instead.
Still, sometimes it's best to come at these situations as well prepared as possible--so we've curated a list of 13 psychological horror movies you'll probably want to avoid. And if you don't want to take our word for it, give them a watch and let us know what you think in the comments below.
1. The Happening
M. Night Shyamalan has become a meme over the years for his groan-worthy twists and surprise endings--in fact we could probably populate this list exclusively with his filmography if we wanted to branch out in genres--but in terms of really missing the mark in psychological horror, The Happening is our top pick. You don't get much goofier than plants that hate specific people.
2. The Bye Bye Man
They say you should never judge a book by its cover so we'd like to extend the same courtesy to movies with absolutely ridiculous names, but unfortunately The Bye Bye Man just doesn't hold up, even if you can get past a bunch of terrified teens trying to say the phrase with dire sincerity.
3. Brahams: The Boy II
To be totally fair, The Boy was actually pretty good! We can't say the same for this sequel, though, which in addition to making little to no sense, actively seemed to want to undermine and muddle all the decent ideas of the first film.
4. Slender Man
You'd think with the popularity of internet urban legend Slender Man, as well as the wealth of free, amateur-made webseries on YouTube, Hollywood would feel especially motivated to pull out all the stops in making a big budget, big screen version of the monster. Instead, we got Slender Man, a movie that is definitely best left unwatched--but not for any spooky reasons, just because you've definitely got better ways to spend your time.
5. Goodnight Mommy
The trailers for this one showcased a lot of potential: twin boys become convinced their mother has been bodysnatched by a monster after she undergoes extensive plastic surgery. It was moody and atmospheric and seemed to promise a delightfully surreal spiral into paranoia. The reality, however, wound up being a boring slog through some ham-fisted metaphors about grief and misunderstood childhood psychology. It still gets some style points, but that's about it.
6. Jacob's Ladder (2019)
The original Jacob's Ladder from 1990 was a harrowing and thought provoking examination of PTSD in a soldier grappling with the trauma of serving in Vietnam. The 2019 remake was decidedly not that. Just stick with the original.
The early '00s were a weird time for all of us, but while some horror was making the best of it--or at least being so bad they accidentally wound up being good--other movies were doing whatever FeardotCom was trying to do. It's dated, incoherent, and a jumbled mish-mash of ideas that will definitely make you cringe for all the wrong reasons.
8. The Disappointments Room
Spooky old houses are a staple of horror that really ought to work no matter the context, but The Disappointments Room proves otherwise. What could have been a run-of-the-mill gothic ghost story wound up being a hamfisted story about fear of disability and mental illness--in other words, a huge disappointment.
9. Cube 2 Hypercube
The original Cube is a scary, economical bottle movie with great practical effects and enough mystery to keep you hooked from beginning to end. Cube 2 Hypercube is basically the worst WinAmp visualizer you've ever seen turned into a movie.
In terms of American remakes of Japanese horror movies, the first Ring movie is actually pretty good, the second significantly less so, and the third--called Rings in the US rather than The Ring 3--scraped the bottom of the barrel. Not only did it bring nothing new to the table, it also seemed to actively want to muddle and dull all the edges to the original premise.
Another early '00s disaster, Gothika attempted the tried and true "is this woman seeing ghosts or is she just clinically insane?" and wound up being just the worst version of either possibility.
12. The Tall Man
Yet another riff on the Slender Man style of urban legend, The Tall Man manages to not only be boring but to also tell a wildly absurd tale about real world issues like foster care and adoption. And despite how sensationalized it all is, the movie still manages to be anything but scary.
13. Lights Out
What started as a genuinely scary and extremely well made short film published online for free transformed into an awful full length feature film, complete with more ghoulish depictions of mental illness and sensationalized suicides than you can shake a stick (or flip a light switch, as the case may be) at.