Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Child's Play 20th anniversary

Masked faces and doubling: Actors dressed as horror film star Chucky pose in New York to plug the 20th birthday edition of Child's Play on DVD. This image appeared in The Metro, 11 September 2008.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

"Screamer" video: Ghost in the London Dungeon

An example of a "Screamer" video: Ghost in the London Dungeon

Reactions to Ghost in the London Dungeon

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Hans Bellmer and the omnipotence of thoughts

"Indian disguises and conjuring tricks, according to Webb, were among the toys Bellmer received in 1931, and it was surely from the "pulp writer" Karl May, who wrote adventure stories for young German boys about the American Wild West, that the artist had long before learned of the skills of medicine men. The uncanniness of these childhood memories for Bellmer, tinged with a renewed enthusiasm for the accouterments of magic, has to do with the omnipotence of thoughts, a concept Freud adopted from the Rat Man and introduced in the third essay in Totem and Taboo (1912-1913) and again in "The 'Uncanny'" (1919). Associating the reported behaviours of tribal societies with animistic beliefs and the actual symptoms of his own neurotic patients, Freud outlined the ways that magic satisfies various psychic needs: it subjects natural phenomena (such as illness) to the human will, protects the individual, and provides the power to injure enemies. Ultimately, it is based on "mistaking an ideal connection for a real one": convinced of his or her own telepathic mental capacities, a person can attribute to them coincidental effects in the real world."
Taylor, Sue p.53 Hans Bellmer: The anatomy of anxiety (2000)

Are "Screamer" videos uncanny?

Recently a number of videos have been posted on youtube, intentionally using the same editing strategy to give the viewer a sudden scare. These videos are known as "screamers".

The uncanny is commonly associated with a creeping unease rather than a jolting shock, but how useful is this distinction in relation to "screamers" and more generally to representational media like film, video and photography?

Freud wrote, "...an uncanny experience occurs either when infantile complexes which have been repressed are once more revived by some impression, or when primitive beliefs which have been surmounted seem once more to be confirmed."

"As soon as something actually happens in our lives which seems to confirm the old, discarded beliefs we get a feeling of the uncanny; it is as though we were making a judgement something like this: 'So, after all, it is true that one can kill a person by the mere wish!' or, 'So the dead do live on and appear on the scene of their former activitie!' and so on."

When we are jolted by a sudden sound or image in a representational media (in these video clips, a sudden burst of noise and a close-up image of a maniacal face with teeth bared) it is an example of a primitive belief which has been surmounted momentarily being experienced as confirmed (ie. the belief that images can come to life). Using Freud's formulation: it is as though we were [momentarily] making a judgement something like this: 'So, after all, a picture can have the properties of what it represents,' or, 'So a video of a threatening person can lurch out of the picture into reality and actually hurt me'.

David Lynch interview parody

Ghost in Dumb and Dumber

Scary Car Commercial