What makes something creepy? When we get the feeling that something is creepy, it’s generally a warning sign. We’re always looking for small subtle changes in our environment that could lead to danger. We’ll get the creeping feeling that something isn’t quite right. We might not be able to put it into words, but subconsciously we know something’s wrong. This is the essence of “creepy”.
Something is creepy if it’s not quite normal. People can be creepy. Places can be creepy. Just about anything can be creepy as long as it’s just a little off.
People who exhibit one emotional state are creepy. If you look at someone for 5 seconds you might see 10 different emotional states flash across their face. People are constantly changing their emotions and degrees in which they feel those emotions. Even if someone is happy all the time, they’re not the same level of happy all the time.
People who have no self awareness are creepy. We all have some level of self awareness. A lack of it is itself creepy but it also makes other behaviors creepy as well.
For instance: Inappropriate touching. If I touch you inappropriately and I know that it was inappropriate and telegraph that I know that by apologizing, joking, being embarrassed, or making it clear that I was trying to provoke a reaction from you, it’s not creepy. But if I touch you inappropriately and have no awareness that it was inappropriate, it’s creepy.
Another example of this is obsession and “really liking” something. We all “really like” certain things more than the average person. We’ve all been obsessed with things from time to time. But, we are aware of it. We know we like this thing too much. We know we’re obsessed with something. We have perspective on it. We know it’s not normal, so it’s ok. If we don’t show that awareness, if we think our obsession is normal, that’s creepy.
In short, a person is creepy if they exhibit an abnormal behavior or trait while showing no awareness that it is abnormal.
Children often come across as creepy. They’re sort of in a no-win situation. For one thing, they are inherently different than adults. They act differently. They’re proportioned differently and look different. They generally have no self-awareness. If they act like children, we find them creepy because they’re not acting like adults. If they act like adults, we find them creepy because they’re not acting like children.
Locations can also be creepy, if they’re abnormal for no discernible reason, or if they’re abnormal in a dangerous way. Kubrik made the Overlook Hotel in The Shining creepy by deliberately making it spatially impossible. The set was rife with impossible doorways, hallways, and windows. Dark places are creepy because they might contain hidden threats. A room full of cobwebs is creepy, but not for the reasons you might think. Walking through a spider web is scary because you didn’t see it and there’s probably a spider on you now. Cobwebs become cobwebs when a spider abandons the web (by either leaving or dying). A room full of cobwebs is creepy because it implies a lack of living things. For one thing, the spiders are all gone. “Why have all living things left this place?” It must be dangerous. For another thing, nothing has moved through this room recently to knock down any of the cobwebs. “Why has this place been so abandoned?” It must be dangerous.
Objects can be creepy too, especially ones that are meant to look like living things. Dolls almost look human but are always just a little off. Masks can look creepy on their own or can make someone wearing them look creepy because they distort features or hide them. Any object can be creepy if something about it isn’t quite right.
Making the show creepy will do more than just help set the mood. It will put the audience on alert and make them easier to scare.