Sunday, 7 September 2008

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, " 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

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