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Monday, February 5, 2024

The Somnambulist

Do you know who Caligari is? You hear the name in the ether. Images of a pale face blankly staring into the night come to you in your deep slumber. You find yourself in a cityscape of crooked angles and wrong shadows. An obsession you have had since childhood. You find these cinematic visions are the only things that represent your life. You can only find meaning, find comfort, in these nighttime visions. You are up late. After a long day at work, you are trying to zone out and watch something. You watch Jason Voorhees slaughtering teenagers at the whim of his murderous mother. A dead mother who still speaks to him. A blank stare coming from his mask he does as his mother wills. You watch Max Renn, programmed and reprogrammed, a subconscious agent for other powers' insidious agenda. Max’s abdominal vagina opening for whoever wants to control him. He fights against it, but he does keep finding himself open and receptive does he not? 

The puppets seethe. The moonlight reflects in their blank eyes. We are all driven by unknown motivations. Hardwired by forces unseen and unknowable. We come into this story halfway through and don’t understand the part we play. But play it we still do. We see the shadow of Caligari in our sexual attractions and our self-destructive behaviors. Like Ceaser, we walk through this life disoriented and confused. Driven by a master who whispers we can not fully understand. We find ourselves mute, unable to express our panic and our fear at the life we are forced to live, the strange passions and desires that consume us. We want to be taken over. Is this the secret voice of art? Art isn't so innocent, it is an invasive thing, insidious. To fill us up, take us over, as empty vessels with someone else's dreams. We don't want to have to live. We want the burden of living in our flesh cages to be lifted, for our lives to be taken over by our most secret and obsessive dreams. 

Kafka wrote about sons turned into bugs, so alienated from themselves they don't even know what species they are. But they do know that they are late for work and they don't want to let their family down. Bellmer made puppets that were unliving victims of his sexual appetites, made to be shaped and molded into whatever form he desired. Ligotti wrote of puppets becoming self-aware, the ultimate horror. All three celebrated the nightmares that infected and corrupted them. The horror genre whispers its secrets to us and few can understand what it is saying. The giving up of control and being submerged in someone else's nightmares, forever. Maybe our deepest secret desire is to be acted upon, to be manipulated and used, a puppet who comes to love their strings. To be lulled, to be drugged, to be mindwashed and controlled. To give in to forces more powerful than us. 

We, some of us, probably more than would be willing to admit, are Ceaser looking for their Caligari, Master of Nightmare. We hand over our puppet strings, our backs bent and our feet heavy. We want to fall into, to drown, in delicious nightmare. We watch Jason Vorhees stalk in the dark woods, an insane unalive thing. We watch Max Renn be penetrated over and over, flesh malleable and giving. We lose ourselves in these visions. The flickering screen whispering to our secret selves. You want this. You want this. You want this. And do we keep going back for ever fresh ever new nightmares, don’t we?

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