Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Creepy by association, part 1

While watching "Insidious" I started to think of things that aren't creepy or scary on their own but rather due to an association with something else scary.  The clip above provides two excellent examples: metronomes and "Tip-toe Through the Tulips" by Tiny Time.

This seems to happen most often to otherwise innocuous objects and songs. Let's look at a few examples.

Bouncy balls.
Those cute, multi-colored spheres of toddler delight mean nothing by themselves. But when they bounce down the steps and you KNOW there is no one upstairs that could have propelled the ball your direction, it's not fun anymore.
Used in: "The Changling," 1980. (This movie also made old-fashioned wheelchairs creepy. The creep factor for those was raised again in "Red Dragon."

"I Only Have Eyes for You." I didn't really watch "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" until I got married. Then I watched the whole series. In Season 2, Episode 19, the ghost of a former Sunnydale High student re-enacts the murder/suicide he committed in the 1950s, all to the tune of "I Only Have Eyes For You."

Teen love songs from the '50s have a bit of creep to them anyway. When played on record players by ghosts, that creep factor oozes like ectoplasm from your undead girlfriend.

This could be applied to so many songs, it's ridiculous. For me, it's Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," thanks to a made-for-TV spookfest I saw when I was six. I'm sure you have a song that, whether played at noon or midnight, sends chills down your spine.

The episode of "Buffy" is available on Hulu.

The two items listed above could probably be included in this as a general category. Old stuff is scary. Rusted out farm equipment in people's yards. Phonographs. Music boxes. Old-fashioned children's toys such as jack-in-the-box, red metal tricycles. You know what I'm talking about.

These things scare us even more because for many people these days, it's technology we're unfamiliar with. Someday in the future, kids will be afraid of first-generation Nintendo systems in the same was some of us are creeped out by early pinball machines.

Antiques are so scary, there was an entire show devoted to a malevolent collection of them. Remember "Friday the 13th: The Series"? The Jason-less show that ran from 1987-1990? It was all about two cousins who inherited an antique store from their uncle sold everything in the store, then realized Uncle Lewis was keeping certain items, such as the possessed porcelain doll, locked away. Heroes Micki and Ryan spend the series tracking down each antique and dealing with various supernatural forces.

"Friday the 13th: The Series" is available on DVD and recently aired in chronological order on the cable channel Chiller. (I don't own this, so feel free to buy it for me, if you want.

Warning Signs will have more "Creepy by association" later and we're open to suggestions.


  1. Dolls. I loved dolls when I was a little girl, but in the right context, with their dead eyes and messy hair and old-fashioned clothes, they look creepy as hell.

  2. People who collect anything. Doesn't matter who or what. They value things over people and will end up turning people into things. Curious teenagers will venture into the collector's lair and end up as dead bodyparts nailed to a wall.