7 Films That Got Stuck In The Uncanny Valley

By Jon Gutierrez in Cartoons, Daily Lists, Movies
Monday, March 14, 2011 at 7:59 am
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The concept of "The Uncanny Valley" -- the theory that as artificial humans get closer and closer to looking real, they get creepier and more unsettling -- gets a lot of debate amongst movie and robot fans alike. Some say that it's just an unscientific speculation and that there's nothing to back it up. Others are too busy clawing their eyes out while watching The Polar Express. Either way, there's no denying that some movie "humans," when rendered in CG or by puppets,robots, or other special effects, often end up being too disturbing to completely enjoy without constantly saying to yourself, "There's something on the screen right now that I don't really want to look at." And unfortunately, one creepy non-human can ruin a perfectly good film, let alone some Christmas drivel about a flying train filled with multiple CGI Tom Hankses. Care to see?


7) The Incredible Hulk
Now, we're not talking about the recent Ed Norton Hulk movie, but the 2003 Eric Bana/Ang Lee version. This is the one that featured a Hulk that looked like a giant moving blob of modeling clay. And if that wasn't enough, we also got horrifying Hulk Dogs and computer-generated Nick Nolte, who's disturbing enough to look at in real life.

6) A.I.
Does the uncanny valley apply if the characters aren't supposed to be human? It's hard to say - all we know is that it's the mechanical flesh fair robots that creep us out way more than any of ones played by human actors (although it's worth pointing out that the most robotic thing in the whole film is Haley Joel Osment's normal acting style). Now, I'm sure that Spielberg wanted to disturb us with the Flesh Fair, but he probably wasn't intending for us to be rooting for these horrifying faux people to be destroyed just so we never have to see them again.

5) Beowulf
Oh, Robert Zemeckis. Why do you hate live-action so much? And why would you make a film featuring a naked Angelina Jolie and then make her CGI? That's insanity. I mean sure, the rest of the special effects aren't impressive either, but when you have to film one of the hottest women in the world for motion capture, why not just that footage? That's even more disturbing than the CGI.

4) Son of the Mask
I think we can all agree: Babies are cute. But when you try to make something artificially cute, it's so much easier to go off the rails into nightmare territory. Case in point, the non-Jim-Carry-sequel Son Of The Mask, which featured a "Tex Avery" style baby, which is weird because I don't remember Tex Avery creating things that make us want to wash our eyes out with bleach. Maybe I just didn't watch the right cartoons.

3) The 6th Day
Oh, god. If there's anything creepier than the "realistic" Simpal Cindy doll Arnie buys in this film, I'm sure we'll be meeting it in our nightmares soon. Now, of course, that robot's supposed to be creepy, but remember that in the logic of the film (if you can call it that), people actually want these dolls and pay money for them! So, if they're trying to show something that people can looking at for more than a minute without wanting to smash it with a hammer, then they failed miserably.

2) The Polar Express
Was there ever any doubt that this flick would end up high on the list? There's just something about the creepy dead-eyed people in this film that, while not as horrifying as some of the other abominations on this list, bother your brains even more. Perhaps the most disturbing part is this was a kid's film. Kids are just learning what the world is like... you don't need to be teaching them that it could be filled with CGI zombies who are all traveling to see a CGI zombie Santa Claus. That's how serial killers are born.

1) Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie
Scholars continue to debate exactly why Garbage Pail Kids was one of the worst films of all time. Was it the horrible script? The horrible miscasting? (Why would Anthony Newley, the genius behind the songs of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, choose to end is career with this actual piece of garbage?) Or was basing an entire movie on a series of fart and vomit-themed trading cards just a bad decision? Whatever the reason, you've got to admit that the robotic masks on the dwarves playing the kids are horrific in a way that's actually kind of impressive for 1987. Sometimes CGI just can't compete with the creepy, soul-curdling real thing.

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