fantastic Cinema : the presence, the shadow and the absence of #3

Hide the threat or suggest to the viewer ? This is the question of the fantastic cinema and terror.

The various examples seen so far tend to show that the absence, concealment and presence in an unexpected way and of the threat, have participated in the creation of a form of fear own to the cinema of terror. Now we no longer just fear of the mythic figures of horror, croque-mittens presented in stories, we fear the treatment by which the filmmakers play with both our curiosity and our fears. Thus the curious tangle of the two positions that we occupy simultaneously, namely the one that impels us to be invested emotionally in a plot, to go beyond the framework of fiction to identify with and enter into empathy with the protagonists, and the one that invites us to enjoy the images from our position as viewer, aware that his anxiety and his sudden voltage rises caused by an execution and a narrative, or a set of processes artificial own to the cinema.

In pushing forward this reflection on the position of the spectator vis-à-vis a work, the filmmakers have gone so far as to experiment with a certain abstraction of the terror, prospecting on the possible survival of the terror, despite the absence or disintegration of the harmful component, supposed to embody and to convey the terror on the screen. Playing on a type of paranoia heiress of that of the Profaners of tombs, where mankind is progressively offset by an unknown entity and unquenchable, M. Night Shyamalan chooses the nature as the antagonist of his film Phenomena. By the terms “nature”, you can hear the wildlife, and therefore of possible life forms that may take on the role of predators, such as those on which are based interest films attack animal (sharks, wildcats, snakes, etc.). But where the movie of Shyamalan stands out, it is in his plans on fields of grass or grain, sunny, on the tops of trees agitated by the wind, during which the tension mounts as if we were perceiving them in images usually devoid of connotation of horror, the face or the thousands of faces that adopts this horror subliminal. The director touches the quintessence of this anguish, paradoxically, nourished by images, clear, legible, bright, and without shadows, in which a threat usually has to hide, by choosing as the opening credits, a blue sky dotted with clouds. It is thanks to the musical score tense of James Newton Howard, the spectator understands that he is admiring the evil at work.

The Unspeakable must therefore deal with visual elements that are unexpected to create the surprise at the screen. The pitch is even It Follows allows its director David Robert Mitchell to install an atmosphere where the viewer is never really quiet. The heroine, Jay, is contracting a sexually transmitted disease that manifests itself in various personifications to be harmful (an old lady, a gigantic male, a young female etc…) that suggests to the public that it is able to change appearance at will, so that Jay knows never up to the end of the movie, where is the threat. Mitchell then uses frames wide, in which supers may enter from the background, to keep the viewer on alert, pushing it to watch for any person that ventures into the field, regardless of its physical aspect. Sometimes it is the threat, sometimes our paranoia leads us to suspect of the extras, completely harmless; the enemy, therefore, is not always present on the screen but the state of alertness that it produces in the viewer remains present until the end.

In the same vein, James Wan chooses him also to play with the imagination of the public and its need to decrypt the image, while filming the shadows cast in The Conjuring, folders, Warren. Wan focuses the public attention on a dark corner of a room of the haunted house, pushing the to discern the same shape worrying that one of the young protagonists. Carried away by the mood of the film and influenced by the point of view of the family persecuted by the antagonist evil, the viewer comes, if not to see a silhouette scary to detach from the darkness, to feel the presence to be malicious.

However, the idea of James Wan is only an effect of terror, among many others in The Conjuring, which made just its reputation through its compilation of gimmicks and ad hoc elements of the atmosphere. Oren Peli, it has thought fully Paranormal Activity around the apprehension of the spectators, who had come to watch a horror movie and waiting so that the threat rose to the surface and causing it to jump. The staging of Peli part of a narrative device and simple technique, where the fixed plans delineate the field of view to a room haunted by a spirit ; the time code is scrolled, the pace comes dangerously close to real time, and heightens the impression of realism of the images. It watches for the slightest movement, the slightest anomaly in this context of numbness and silence, to the point that a door moving alone eventually appear as a paranormal phenomenon of the more edifying.

Nevertheless, despite the trend that shows us these examples, the filmmakers are not obliged to abandon any idea of a personification of the threat to guarantee their intention of ignoring the terror. A counter-example lies in one of the figures in the most mythical of the horror movie, Michael Myers, the serial killer from the movie Halloween. Created by John Carpenter, the boogeyman hidden has, as any character, origins, characteristics, and interactions with the other characters of its own, yet a part of her destructive insanity, and the character’s irrepressible of his career murderer keep their waterproofness in the eyes of the public. If there is an analysis of Myers with logic and pragmatism, he is a human being, and should therefore express a personality in the course of the story. However, Samuel Loomis, the psychiatrist who’s been studying since his childhood, the means at the beginning of the film by the pronoun “it“, that one can translate by “it”. You to me will answer, then, that this difference in language does not concern that Loomis and expresses his dislike for Myers, what I would say that Carpenter himself was considered the killer as a “thing” dehumanised, to the point that he was called “The Shape“, or in French “Form”. The intent of the filmmaker is clear : compose on the screen an abstract form of threat, an absolute evil and invulnerable, a silhouette corresponding to that of an adult man in many ways (moving on two legs, capable of handling a knife), but whose gaze is absent most of the time of the image, and the face frozen and unreadable there is a white mask, which has since become a symbol of terror.


Conceal, delay or make it appear that the terror in abstract form thus constitutes one of the fundamental principles of genre cinema, to the point that this set of effects of staging and narrative to define the belonging of the films in the fantastic. Usually, to match the definition of the genre, a fantastic account requires that an element of paranormal activity breaks into the daily life of the protagonists, for whom the events that will follow will appear as strange and averse to design a cartesian of the reality, and for the spectators. But if we take this definition, then where it begins and ends with the character fantastic of a work ? It can fluctuate over the discoveries the protagonist makes about the threat ? One might consider the movies playing on the same codes and the same process of storytelling that They, like games permanent on our expectations of the viewer, inviting us to make our prediction as to the nature, supernatural or not, or antagonists. And what can one say of the case of Michael Myers in Halloween ? Should we see him as a human being, or the ambiguity created by Carpenter we encourage rather to consider it as a creature made of evil in a pure state ? The second option would explain, that he seems to be invincible in the course of the episodes, when a mere mortal would have died a countless number of times, in his place.

This constant fluctuation as much as possible superposition of two readings for the part of the viewer, contribute to the strangeness and the fear films that cities need to ensure their artistic success. Sometimes the veil is lifted on the true nature of the threat at the end of the movie, sometimes a part of the mystery persists and continues to fuel the theories of film lovers, generations after generations. We’ll finish with the example of the truck persecutor of the Duel, adapted by Spielberg a new Richard Matheson, which was precisely one of the most famous authors fantastic. In the end, what was the purpose and motivations of the mysterious driver of the truck ? This driver mastered it completely to his vehicle ? Besides, have you clearly seen and identified as a normal human being ? The directing of Spielberg and more particularly the lack of close-ups of the driver, may thus cause a good number of theories as to the nature of the threat (truck or driver ?), proving that porosities can exist between the genres ; as here between the fantastic and the film is generally presented as a thriller.

Part 2 : Delay the onset


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