10 Best Slow-Burning Psychological Horror Movies

These slow-burn horror flicks may prove too hot to handle.

The Lodge
Sony Pictures Releasing

The slow-burn is hard to nail. In order to successfully pull one off, not only does a filmmaker have to be a master at their craft, but needs to have a borderline resentment for their audience.

When compared to other sub-genres, such as slashers, slow-burn horror is more difficult to get right. All you need for a good slasher is a killer draining buckets of blood from unsuspecting victims. With this kind of psychological horror on the other hand, filmmakers don't have the luxury of cutting to the chase. They have to build-up mystery and tension over the course of the film, and then somehow stick the landing in the end.

Take the modern classic The Wailing for example. It is close to three hours long, yet despite that not a second is wasted with no moment feeling superfluous. It manages to relentlessly build mystery and suspense right up until the moment where everything comes together. Not an easy task at all.

Speaking of The Wailing, let's now take a look at some other movies in the same vein with the ten best slow-burning psychological horror movies. Due to some of the content of the selected entries, reader discretion is advised.

10. Martha Marcy May Marlene

The Lodge
Fox Searchlight Pictures

We'll start this list off with a movie that walks the line between psychological horror and psychological thriller, but ultimately lands firmly in the center of the former rather than the latter.

In Martha Marcy May Marlene, after escaping from a crazed cult a young woman, Martha, tries to go back to having a normal life while staying with her family. However, her paranoia begins to get the better of her as she suspects that she might not be out of the woods just yet.

Martha Marcy May Marlene is terrifying at every moment. Each and every frame feels like a threat, like anything could happen at anytime. You'll find yourself just as paranoid as Martha, constantly scanning the screen for any sign of the cult.

There's one moment in particular where she has a flashback to the time she helped them in a home invasion that will no doubt put you on edge and have you double checking your home security system.

Martha Marcy May Marlene feels violating, using its slow pacing as nothing more than a tool to drag out this feeling of vulnerability to its furthest extent.


Part-time writer, full-time Kurt Russell enthusiast.