— PART 4 —
"If anxious thoughts turn into sensations of fear, I have created a monster which did not exist before."1 — Harald Gebert
In this last part of the chapter "The Face of the Evil" we will take a look at how creatures without a face work and how the avoidance of a face can create a portrait of the evil too.
In the previous part we wandered around some memes and asked the question if the Evil and the Devil could be memes themselves. I want to continue to walk this path and look at some other popular memes first.Slenderman
could be seen as a modern reincarnation of the traditional Boogeyman
— a creature of folklore that is said to abduct children that stay up too late at night or that dare to enter remote or dangerous places. Like the traditional boogeyman Slenderman lurks in dark corners and nightly woods. He appears to be human but has no face and moves without making any sounds. He can easily be interpreted as a symbol for the unknown and the anonymous that is hidden in the dark depths of the internet. A person who hides his face; without character and without a real name; in analogy to the unknown people that stalk the internet anonymously. Other versions of Slenderman could be seen in The Rake
or The Strider.
They too are basically faceless creatures that hide themselves in the unknown.2
And this brings us to the last part of this chapter. All the previous parts dealt with the question how the face of the evil is depicted. This part revolves around the question how faces can be stolen, hidden or distorted. In Slenderman we can see a figure that again does not only get its spooky potential from the stories that surround it, but also from its appearance. Slenderman has no face and with this has no ways of expressing emotions through it. Albert Kümmel
notes that the Devil too actually has no face, only ways of expressing himself through distortions and grimaces.3
Creatures that have no face appear ambivalent, androgynous and anonymous. We mainly use the face of a person to read his feelings, thoughts and intentions. If a face is missing we are left wondering, uncertain and lost. But a person has still ways of expressing himself; for example through actions and poses. A figure without a face that runs towards us is completely ambiguous, because we are not able to say why it is running towards us and what it will do to us if it reaches us. Is it happy to see us? Does it want to hug us? Does it want to run into us? Does it want to kill us? Does it simply want to run past us to escape something else? We have no idea, because we cannot read the intention of this creature. The only thing we can do is to assume the worst and run away from it before we find out what it wants the hard way (we will talk more about this effect in another essay).
I: Slenderman, the modern Boogeyman of the internet.
With this the circle is closed; from the face of the evil over a lack thereof back to the unknowability and inconceivability of the evil. Authors like H. P. Lovecraft
knew about the potential of the truly evil; the avoidance of clarity and a specific face. Instead the evil is only hinted at, it is paraphrased and only its actions are shown, not its face."Bear in mind closely that I did not see any actual visual horror at the end",4
Lovecraft writes at the beginning of one of his scary stories. He foreshadows that the reader will not see the actual evil, but he will experience its frightening deeds. Lovecraft takes away the mask of the evil, but not to show the face behind it. He takes away the mask to let the evil be without a visual representation. This allows the scary and evil to return to its primal state of something unexplained and unknown. The idea of not creating a specific image for the evil was used by many authors and artists besides him. You can see the theft of a specific face for the evil in Hansruedi Giger's Alien
(1979), in John Carpenter's The Thing
(1982) and in the modern Necromorphs
in the video game Dead Space
(2008). All these creatures do not have a concrete face, but a bubbling distortion of the fragments of something that once was a face. The evil resonates with these contorted and seething face fragments and stays unknown and alien despite of being provided with a body. A single image is replaced by a puzzle, ambivalence, suggestions, symbols and associations that hint at the evil without showing it plainly in the end. It becomes visual absurdity. Something without logic. Something abstract. And with this something frightening.The Thing
is an absurd hybrid of various monstrosities and at the same time is nothing in particular. It can change its shape, can imitate people, can live inside our bodies and can kill us in insidious ways. Cut off from the civilized world and trapped in the isolation of Antarctica this "thing" can become anything and anyone. It takes on the faces of other people; disguises itself. These ever changing and unspecific traits are what makes the creature so effective. It is no human, no animal, no alien, it has not even a real name. What is it? Just a "thing" that cannot be compared to anything we know.
In the first movie adaptation from 1951 the Thing was depicted as some kind of Frankenstein
monster. John Carpenter however decided to not give his interpretation of the Thing a specific body. For him the general story was scary, but whenever the actor in a Frankenstein suit entered a scene the frightening aspect was lost. The watchers simply expected so much from an indefinable thing from another world that a costumed actor was not scary enough to meet these expectations. To prevent this Carpenter decided to reinvent the Thing as a fragmentary and shapeless mass of human and animal body parts that can change its shape at all time.5
Today the Thing is regarded as one of the icons of the body horror
sub-genre which other creatures like the Necromorphs reference.
II: The evil can be visualized without having an actual face, but fragments of something facelike.
We conclude this chapter by noticing that the real evil might not have a face after all. Maybe anonymity is what creates its terror in the first place. This unknown, faceless evil manifests itself in the imagination of each person. There it is not bound by anything and can change into the most terrible form a person is able to imagine. In reality there is no face that is as gruesome and as frightening as the face we are able to imagine in our heads. Maybe we are able to take a brief look at the monster in a movie, but the monster needs the chance to hide itself again in the unknown to keep its obscurity intact. To not fall apart when we are allowed to rationalize and understand it. With a mask and a face the evil is just a potential, an assumption with limitations, but the faceless idea of the evil can be anything and it can lurk anywhere to finally get us.
In the next chapter we will draw a final conclusion and compare the face of the good and the face of the evil for a last time while taking into account what we noticed so far. It will be the end of this first essay.
Sources1 — Original: "Wenn aus ängstlichen Gedanken auch noch Angstgefühle entstehen, dann habe ich wahrlich ein Monster erschaffen, welches es zuvor niemals gab."
2 — Slender Man: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slender_…, The Rake: creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The…, The Strider: creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The…
3 — Albert Kümmel does not agree with Luther Link that the mask of the devil is inflexible. Kümmel, Albert: Fratzen. in: Löffler, Petra / Scholz, Leander: Das Gesicht ist eine starke Organisation. Köln 2004, S. 74
4 — Lovecraft, Howard Phillips: Der Flüsterer im Dunkeln. Audiobook, Sprecher: David Nathan, Torsten Michaelis. 2010, Kapitel 1
5 — revokcom: Fear on Film. www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoGIyA… , www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2dKmF…, www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vjjQH…
I — thisismyhorror.wordpress.com/2…
II — Schofield, Glen: Dead Space. Visceral Games, 2008, deadspace.wikia.com/wiki/Categ…
Last updated: November 2015