15 ways to add evil

To make a work of art that truly dis­turbs, says Anthony Scott Wa­ters, you need to ex­am­ine the dark­est as­pects of hu­man na­ture

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hat do you mean by hor­ror? You’ve got to know that be­fore you get rolling. Are we talk­ing HP Love­craft? ScoobyDoo? Twenty-five years in art has taught me that it’s the think­ing that counts the most. It­er­a­tion with­out know­ing where you’re com­ing from first is just spit­balling – you’re just wast­ing time.

I’ve had the plea­sure of cre­at­ing some scary critters for a va­ri­ety of projects and I’m deeply cu­ri­ous about what scares us

Wand why. Hu­mans are wired to recog­nise bi­lat­eral sym­me­try. De­vi­ate from the stan­dard hu­man form in any way and it makes us feel un­com­fort­able, even scared. As a per­son with a de­for­mity, I know the truth of this first hand. Ev­ery­body has an in-built de­sire for se­cu­rity. Take that safety blan­ket away and you’ll have one ter­ri­fied body on your hands.

Keep in mind there’s some sub­jec­tiv­ity here. Our per­cep­tion of what’s scary changes as we grow up. We’re given con­crete rea­sons for some of our fears (di­vorce, in­jury, vi­o­lence). These can be­come tran­scen­dent (child abuse, rape, mur­der) in the way they al­ter our view of the world. Hor­ror’s a kalei­do­scope. In one set­ting it might mean a monster erupt­ing from a cof­fin, but for a par­ent whose child has been ab­ducted, to look upon the body of that child would be more hor­rific still. Con­text gives us the mea­sure of a con­cept and helps us fig­ure out where to go next.

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