Blurred Boundaries

The final concept is the blurring of boundaries. This is at the base of all of the other concepts and has been touched upon throughout the explanations and examples. Freud observes that “an uncanny effect often arises when the boundary between fantasy and reality is blurred, when we are faced with the reality of something that we have until now considered imaginary.”  The boundary between fantasy and reality, between animate and inanimate, between the known and the unknown, coincidence and intention, life and death. This concept references back to Jentsch’s original idea about intellectual uncertainty. We believe we know something, in fact we are quite sure of what is reality, what is life, and what is coincidence, but our conceptions can be called into question, and at this point this is where we feel the sense of frightening that is uncanny.

fran bow

Fig.6 ‘Fran Bow’

From previous research I have found that most practitioners working with concepts of the uncanny choose to exploit the boundary between life and death as the core narrative concept. I have observed in recent forms of digital media that adopt uncanny concepts as narrative and aesthetic conditions that different boundaries are now explored. There are many games that employ supernatural elements, and more that explore the boundary between fantasy and reality. One such game that does this very well is ‘Fran Bow’ by Killmonday Games (2015). In this point and click horror adventure the player takes the role of a ten year old girl, Fran Bow, who has recently witnessed the gruesome murder of her parents. Your journey starts in a psychiatric institution for children, where you receive pills that alter your reality into one of gruesome fantasy, populated by monsters, spirits and anthropomorphic creatures. As the game progresses, and you escape the hospital and venture on your path to try to return home to your aunt, the difference between these two states of reality become less and less distinguished. The normal world is also populated by strange creatures and surreal environments, and the ‘pill world’ only serves as a more gruesome version of what is slowly becoming obscured reality. Eventually, the two worlds are merged in such a way that there is no distinguished fantasy or reality, there is only one world combining elements of both. It is a cleverly constructed narrative that delivers a story of pain, loss and acceptance


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