A psychological thriller generally tends to use very snappy cuts, as to keep the viewer in suspense- often leaving the action very unclear as to what happened to create a strong sense of narrative enigma, leaving the audience unclear as to what happened until it is revealed later in the film, another tactic that helps the film maintain its suspense is the use of sound, such as music to create a sense of atmosphere and pro-longed sense of dread that can last for scenes on end but it can be quite passive too.
Lighting also plays a key role in the way that there is a strong use of shadow and the contrast with light, often masking things. The use of location often ties in strongly with a character and there is a repeated use of stairs and mirrors with the concept of illusion.
The narrative often places an equal focus on character and on the plot of the film, however quite often the main character is found to be an unreliable narrator. Often the character has a back story that unravels as the film progresses and as such we gain a deeper understanding of the character as the film progresses. Often the character will have a conflict of identity- unsure about who they are or what their purpose is and as the film progresses the film explores the characters mind.
Notable Directors within the Psychological Thriller genre include:
Darren Aronofsky- Who directed Pi (1998) and Requiem for a Dream (2000).
Park Chanwook- The Korean director of the 'Vengance' Trilogy starting with Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (2002) about a man who is deaf and seeks a way to find his ill sister a new kidney.
Brian De Palma- The Director of Dressed to Kill (1980), notable for its strong use of dreams and mirrors and with strong aspects of a characters sexuality.
David Fincher- The Director of Fight Club (1999) a film about a man who is deeply unhappy with life and seeks a way to change everything around him.
Mary Harron- She directed the film American Psycho (2000) about a wealthy young businessman, it includes several narrative aspects of the genre such as a first person narrator who is shown to be unreliable as the plot pans out.
Richard Kelly- Donnie Darko (2001), follows all of the conventions and leaves the audience guessing and lets the viewer interprit the ending.
Stanley Kubrick- Films such as A Clockwork Orange (1971), focus on thecharacters mentality or in this case...lack of it.
David Lynch- Very surrealistic style of film, often the characters and the audience are left to decide what happened, for example Lost Highway (1997).
Martin Scorsese- Directed Shutter Island (2010).