Last week I finished watching the first season of Castle Rock. In case you don’t know, it’s a show based on Stephen King’s characters and settings, that takes place in Castle Rock, Maine. The first season is basically about two characters, The Kid and Henry Deaver, as they try to come to grips with the present situation and the past. We are led to believe that The Kid, played by Bill Skarsgard, may or may not be the Devil.
It’s a really good show. And I was certainly creeped out at a few choice moments. But what really got me was the last scene of the last episode. The camera pans to The Kid and he creepily smiles at the camera. I don’t know what it was about this smile, but I couldn’t sleep for two days afterwards! (Now when I look at images of it, I’m fine btw.)
Creepy smiles are a horror genre trope that really get to me. So after this episode, I got to thinking about why this is. Why are some smiles so very creepy?
I think it’s a mix of the fear of the unkown and the uncanny valley.
Creepy or unnatural smiles indicate something is wrong. That the person smiling is doing so for a sinister reason, and that the person doing so may not even be a person. Perhaps they are the Devil, or a demon, or possessed by them. The creepy/inhuman smile alerts us to this.
The uncanny valley is a term used in robotics for that unsettling feeling we get when looking at humanoid robots or androids. They look like us, but they’re not quite like us. This same feeling could apply to the paranormal and supernatural. In this case, it’s a smile, because there’s something just not quite right about it.
For me, I find small things like this much scarier than monsters or anything overt. And part of Stephen King’s MO is to show us the horror of the everyday.
Anyhoo, those are my thoughts on that!
Ciao for now,