Monday, June 27, 2011

Making the Known Mundane into the Unknown Terror



Don't blink. Blink, and you're dead. Don't turn your back. And...don't...blink. Good luck.

~Doctor Who episode Blink.

What do Alfred Hitchcock and Doctor Who have in common?

In The Birds Alfred Hitchcock takes a completely mundane, ordinary thing--birds--and turns them into something terrible.

In the episode Blink (10th Doctor, Season 4), we meet the Lonely Assassins--terrifying beings that feed on potential energy by zapping their victims into the past. And guess how they're disguised? As common 'weeping angel' statues. "Beware the weeping angels!"

I think that that device--taking something ordinary and turning it into a terror--is probably one of the best fiction devices in use. Granted, it can be overused. I also think it would take a very experienced, competent writer to pull it off because of the factors involved--making it believable (or at least plausible enough in the story-world that the reader's/watcher's disbelief is suspended) and drawing the terror out so well that you're forever afraid of seagulls or weeping angel statues. Ahem...yeah, that's me. *raises hand* But when it works...wow. It works!

Does anyone have a favorite book or movie where this technique is used well?

10 responses:

Lostariel said...

You ought to watch "Day of the Clown" in the Sarah Jane Adventure Series 2. It turns not only clowns but a well-known fairytale into something really terrifying.

Laura Elizabeth said...

Lord of the Rings turns rings into extremely powerful objects :D

Galadriel said...

Forget clowns, Moffat can make SILENCE terrifying. Just plain old silence. There's a reason the man has his own page on TV Tropes under 'nightmare fuel' He invented the three most terrifying monsters in Doctor Who, after all...

The Traveler said...

I read a horrifying story about a somewhat-sentient bowler hat once...Scared the beegeebies out of me.

H. A. Titus said...

@Lostariel: Ugh! Clowns are scary anyway, so I can imagine...

H. A. Titus said...

@Laura Elizabeth: Ah yes! Classic example! :)

H. A. Titus said...

@Galadriel: What monsters were those?

H. A. Titus said...

@Traveler: That would be...Meet the Robinsons? That's the only story I can think of that features a sentient bowler hat. Yipes!

Galadriel said...

@Heather
Weeping Angels
The Silents
Vashta Nerada

H. A. Titus said...

I figured the Vashta Nerada and the Weeping Angels would be on there. Wow--someone has a seriously disturbed mind. ;)

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