11. I’m Not A Serial Killer (2016)
Based on the 2009 novel of the same name, I’m Not A Serial Killer doesn’t waste any time with subtlety. It’s character roster includes a whole asylum of typologies, with the main character, a downbeat teenager (yes, another one!), labeling himself as a sociopath from the first few minutes of the movie.
More of a mystery film with horror accents than a proper spook fest, I’m Not A Serial Killer does a great job in showing us the multiple ambassadors of mental illness. As you slowly get sucked in by the story, you’ll undoubtedly meet both the self-aware psychopath who may, in fact, be harmless, and the camouflaged beast lurking in the shadows of its everyday mask.
12. Deep Dark (2015)
Deep Dark mixes a series of themes that the viewers will either fully appreciate or discard as being the product of an undecided film marker. Whichever the case, this indie film talks about the burden of succeeding and the burden of success, the impostor syndrome, and a few other plagues an aspiring artist can be riddled with.
Fortunately, Deep Dark’s main character finds a somewhat supernatural way of dealing with them in the form of a mysterious talking hole in the wall. For those interested in the artist-creation relationship, Deep Dark and its main character’s descent into madness will surely make an impression.
13. Intruders (2015)
Also distributed under the name Shut In (not to be confused with the 2016 movie of the same name), Intruders deals with intense phobia and the effects of abuse, while also delivering a few scares and thrills on its premise.
Anna, an agoraphobic middle aged woman, is the victim of a couple of neighborhood robbers who get more than they bargained for once they discover the secret of their seemingly helpless victim. While the movie would have benefited from better pacing and stronger characters, it does offer a few surprises, including Rory Culkin’s more than decent performance.
14. Pod (2015)
Another foray into the realm of paranoid delusions, Pod starts with a family intervention and ends with a lot of questions. The main character is pretty much an illustration of what people think schizophrenics might behave like: he’s rash and agitated, he hallucinates, he thinks he sees “something”, and that “they” are out to get him.
While this might not be the best representation of a mental illness, the relationship between the apparently “sane” people around him is definitely worth observing.
15. The Boy (2015)
While cinemas have recently been hit by two movies with this name, the 2015 Craig Macneill production is the one that makes the list. That’s not to say the 2016 production holds no merit, but the movie we’ve mentioned here deals with the effects of neglect and isolation, while also tackling emotional abuse.
The Boy is the story of Ted, a severely neglected young man who slowly drifts into darkness as those around him seem to neither notice nor care about his behavior. Unfortunately, while it does work as a psychological thriller, The Boy has trouble holding its ground as an actual “motel horror” film.
16. Before I Wake (2016)
Mike Flanagan has made quite a name for himself as a horror director. However, this Thomas Jane flick is more of a dark fantasy with just enough horror to keep viewers interested. A recently adopted orphan child scares his new family when his dreams and nightmares start manifesting themselves in real life.
While the premise might not necessarily be connected to an illness, Before I Wake brings the problem of night terrors into discussion and also puts a spotlight on the thin line between dream and reality.
17. Deep in the Wood (2015)
This independent Italian production starts off as a classical mystery movie with a dash of supernatural sprinkled on top. After disappearing during a local “Krampus” festival, the child of a small town couple returns after a five-year absence. As the story unravels, the mystery comes closer and closer to revealing the weaknesses and afflictions of those who maintain it.
Titled “In Fondo Al Bosco” in its native country, this slow burner will reward its viewers during the final part of the movie, although the answer may be significantly different than what you’ve come to expect.
18. Incarnate (2016)
This overlooked Brad Peyton film stars Aaron Eckhart as a “doctor” who invades the minds of possessed people, attempting to exorcise their demons from the inside. Since the movie does have its share of problems, especially when it comes to storytelling, it’s hard to tell if it works as a horror story. Most audiences were rather disappointed by this outcome.
However, what Incarnate does right is give us a sample of what psychologists and psychotherapists actually do and how one may fight his or her inner demons with proper guidance. Hopefully, this process won’t involve any exorcism rituals.
19. Creep (2014)
Not to be confused with the 2004 movie of the same name, this weird, found footage production, gives us a glimpse into the life of a complete madman.
The main character, Aaron, has the misfortune of answering the wrong Craigslist ad, thus meeting Josef, a man whose backstory changes by the hour. Aaron’s job is to film Josef through his daily routine, although Creep gives us just enough hints to discover how that routine may unravel.
20. The Canal (2014)
This 2014 Irish psychological horror follows a disappointed husband and father’s descent into madness as his daily plight intertwines with a century old mystery.
The Canal is slow, suffocating and confusing at times, much like the main character’s view on the world. Are there any supernatural elements involved? By the end of the movie, the director of multiply awarded The Fading Light will answer with a question: does it really matter?
A special category of horror films is those that take place in actual insane asylums. While most of them go for a direct approach in diagnosing their characters, a few of them have become crowd favorites.
Among them, Stonehearst Asylum (also known as Eliza Graves), Sanitarium, and Shutter Island are easy to distinguish. Session 9 and even the disputed Gothika also play with the viewer’s perception of what “sanity” actually means. Other productions such as May or Orphan could have easily given us a similar definition.
Obviously, we realize there actually 21 titles listed here, and that the list is far from complete, but we tried to restrict it to titles that appeared during the past three years. Other titles such as Magic Magic, Occulus, The Harvest, The Woman, and American Mary could have easily made the cut.
So could the Irish agoraphobia tribute Citadel, the domestic abuse metaphor Dark Touch, the disturbing I Can See You, and the haunting Spanish production Sleep Tight. However, for the time being, we’ll end this article here, hoping that we’ve provided more than a few occasions to give your sanity a break.
Author Bio: Vlad Stoiculescu is a writer and senior copywriter living in Bucharest, Romania. When not digging up obscure horror films for Taste of Cinema, he writes marketing materials, scripts, short stories and, believe it or not, children’s books.