Friday, May 15, 2009

the uncanny in sci-fi

Science fiction is fertile ground for the uncanny. As I've explained before, uncanny describes objects and situations which are simultaneously strange and familiar, often disturbingly so. This is typically manifested in a character or object that is familiar in all ways but one.

I thought of this while watching the Skynet infomercials (clever ads for the Terminator: Salvation film).

The characters in this video have an oddness about them. The man seems like just a poor actor. But the woman's head movements, facial expressions, and repeated touching of her earpiece suggest something disturbing about her.

Anyway, while watching that video, I realized that robots become creepy when they resemble creatures that don't move like robots. For example, one wouldn't expect a robot to move like a snake or a fish. The eye-scanning robots in Minority Report were creepy because they moved like spiders.

But if there's not enough familiarity, then it's not disturbing. For example, the cybernetic tree in Too Human is equally like a tree and like a computer, and so it simply looks cool. A cyborg is more unsettling when it is mostly human than when it is only half human.

One could design a good sci-fi horror story by filling the world with uncanny technologies.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmmm...that video looks an awful lot like the mood trailer they play for the Terminator 3D experience at Universal Studios. Maybe an updated take on them.


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