File puptcrit/puptcrit.0803, message 344

Date: Sun, 23 Mar 2008 18:47:49 -0700
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Horrendousness

>Something as horrible as the TRUE Frankenstein's Monster in the 
>original novel by Mary Shelley: something patched together from 
>corpses with the creator's intention of nobility, but that went 
>completely wrong and inspires deep terror and wrongness in anyone 
>but the blind...

Dear Mathieu-

	Actually, as I recall, having done a stage adaptation of 
FRANKENSTEIN, in Shelley's novel there's virtually no description of 
the Creature - the only thing mentioned by Victor as horrible were 
his watery eyes.

	You have to break down the elements of what constitutes 
"horrendousness," and it's not so much what it looks like as it is 
what it triggers in us.  The challenge (and the potential) is in your 
thoughts of "wrongness" and in your later post, "just enough 'off' to 
be disturbing."  The offness can be either the sense of an utterly 
alien mind, as when one looks a very long time at an insect's head, 
or of a human mind inside something inhuman or distorted.  The 
Neck-Biter in the YouTube reference fails the "horror" test just ugly 
and vile, not horror-inspiring.  The same creature given extremely 
frightened eyes, or with very slow, balletic movement, might be much 
more terrifying.  Though certainly not as funny or "horrible" in the 
usual sense. 

	There's another element of horror that's contained in the 
sense of blurriness - shifting form - inability to quite comprehend 
what's there.  That's harder to do with puppets (except shadows) 
because they have such concrete form.  Can be done in light shifting 
on them or in aspects of their movement or in assymetry combined with 
movement that highlights it.  In film, a horrific scene in Pasolini's 
SALO, possibly the most difficult-to-watch films of all time, where a 
torture is happening, but seen through binoculars with the torturer 
himself blotting out our view of the victim, except for hands and 
feet.  Or the shower scene in PSYCHO: we see the shape approaching 
through the blur of the curtain, then the curtain is flung open and 
we see the murderer.  Typical horror setup, but Hitchcock is smart 
enough to cut from the full-blown image of the killer so rapidly that 
we can barely register it, and on to the montage of violence.  We 
never get a good look at him, and we're drawn into the murder itself 
as the victim herself would have sensed it, just a series of crazy 
images, beyond control.

	I guess my point is that it's not so much a thing that can be 
designed into the puppet as it is how the puppet is used, how our 
perception is affected, what's triggered in us.  In the production 
that's currently wiping out all life on Earth for me, DESCENT OF THE 
GODDESS INANNA, the Gatekeeper of the Underworld is a pretty horrific 
guy, modeled on the Papa Gede of the Voudon tradition - skull head, 
reflective sunglasses, top hat & tails, a ruffled shirt cut away to 
reveal the rib cage, long skinny arms revealing the bones of the 
lower arm, and for good measure a 4 ft. scorpion tail emerging from 
his cummerbund.  He's pretty spectacular, but I wouldn't claim that 
his appearance creates a sense of horror.  The natural shadows of a 
skull produce a huge grin, and it's only when Inanna is stripped of 
all her godhood, and he speaks the words...

     And now, honey, now you have no power.
     No bank account, no house, no dog, no cat, nor your music, nor 
the birds.  You do not have your baby doll.
     You have no hope of God, or Saviors, or Goddess, you have no 
eternal life, you have-
     No bladder control.
     You cannot feed yourself, or wipe yourself, you cannot laugh nor 
weep, and if you hear screaming you can't tell if it's you.
     You remember nothing, you are not remembered, you are not loved, 
you are not mourned, there are no snapshots of you, nor anywhere your 
     That dear lady your mother does not recall your birth.
     That's about as low as it gets.

... that we actually feel horror.  Because that's what we fear.

	Interestnig quest.  Good luck.

Peace & joy-
Conrad B.

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