What makes the "weeping angels" in Dr. Who so terrifying?

One of the most terrifying baddies in the Dr. Who series (to me, at least) is the weeping angels.

What is it that makes them so terrifying? I think maybe it’s how well they speak to a primal fear of the unseen so well. However, many villains and threats in fiction have used that angle over the years and none were as scary as the angels.

If you’re not familiar with them, here’s the climactic scene of their appearance* in the Dr. Who reboot series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByPrDPbdRhc

If you don’t want to watch the video, these are enemies that can travel several yards silently when they’re not being directly observed (nobody looking at them, or there’s no light to be seen by). When they “catch” somebody they simply teleport that person to a point decades or more earlier in time. Their appearance is rather frightening, angel-form statues with vampiric fangs and outstretched claws

I think that part of it is the idea that you have to keep you eyes on them, and imagining how much effort it would take to keep from blinking as you tried to get away. There is also the notion that that they could separate you from your family and friends and put you in another world.

Because they’re in a terrific episode. The Angels aren’t scary, as their subsequent appearances prove; Blink is scary. It has a perfect buildup of tension - not to mention David Tennant’s all-time best and most terrifying monologue.

Over the years I’ve come to loathe Steven Moffatt, but even I can admit that *Blink *is a masterpiece.

Yes, the creepiness comes from the idea that you CAN stop them IF you can do something nearly physically impossible: keep from blinking.

If a tiger is after you, that’s purely terrifying; there’s nothing creepy about it. The Weeping Angels were so effective a creation because they combined the terror with the creepiness.

Also, the fact that they’re based on something that can be seen around most large cities–statuary, mainly in cemeteries but elsewhere, too–made this creation of Steven Moffat’s even more compelling.

Of course, you can also just wink alternate eyes. You’d look like a weirdo, but you’d be safe.

Not to mention the whole “the image of an angel becomes an angel” thing.

I’ll agree that the principal thing is that the overall production of that episode was good - good writing, good acting, good direction, good editing. The key is to make everything seem realistic - as in, this how people would genuinely react if they were in such a situation for real.

Later episodes with the Angels were far less notable - particularly the Angels in New York. :rolleyes: The issue isn’t with the Angels themselves, it’s with the presentation.

There’s a good episode of Evangelion where everyone’s inside a bunker and their computer is being hacked. This could have been dealt with as a case of someone saying, “Sir, we’re being hacked!” And then the commander yelling back, “Lock down the network!” And they click some buttons and move on. Instead, they go full U-Boot on the topic and it’s all klaxons and darkness, flashing lights, people crawling on top of giant brains, etc. It’s one of the more tense half hours of TV ever made.

Comparing remakes of movies can easily demonstrate how much the specific amalgamation of people and ideas that went into it can turn the same material from nonsense into something timeless and then back to crap.

That all said, I do think the one thing that the Angels actually have going for them is the impossibility of keeping your eyes open, unblinking. If that’s all that is keeping you from dying, then you’re seriously boned.

The main thing they have going AGAINST them, is that you don’t actually die, you just get put back in time far enough to ensure that you never meet anyone you knew again. Which may well be somewhat horrifying to most people, but we would have to know that character well enough to appreciate the agony of their separation - e.g., Somewhere in Time. Minus that, and particularly if we’re dealing with a bunch of people who have knowingly signed on with The Doctor - thus signalling that they’re ready to face the potential of being lost in space or time - it’s all a bit less momentous for that moment to finally come. And the hell with red shirts that bite it.

Blink worked because they didn’t delve too much into what the Angels do. Once they showed it, it was all a bit…eh. They would have done better to just say that the people are turned into sand or whatever.

I was sitting here doing just that when I read your post. of course if you don’t get the timing just right they will still move.

There’s a trope in Chinese vampire mythology that vampires are blind and deaf. They cannot perceive people by seeing or hearing. But they can sense people’s breath. They can track you down by your breathing and kill you. So you’re undetectable to a vampire and completely safe in their presence - but only as long as you don’t breathe.

It’s the same basic idea; a powerful supernatural being that has a vulnerability. But the defense can only be maintained a short amount of time. This adds a sense of dread to the normal horror.

I always wondered what kept someone from staring at them while they strap a block of C-4 to them. Then stare at them while backing away and waiting to sweep up the rubble.

Wasn’t there something about them being indestructible in their non-mobile form? Otherwise, a sledgehammer would work just as well.

I think a big part of the scare factor comes from never actually seeing them as active monsters. Stephen King once said that the scariest thing is the door with a monster behind it, that you never open - because nothing a movie can show you will ever be as a scary as the monster you imagined might be behind it. It’s the same principle that’s cited as the explanation for Jaws massive success - you almost never actually see the shark, which makes the shark way scarier than any animatronic fish could ever hope to be. With the Angels, you just see still statues - then you blink, and they’re closer, but you never see them move. I think that space where they suddenly become living, breathing creatures, but you can never see it happen, is a big part of the horror factor.

Oh, yeah, Miller, it’s like the trope where the kid sees something potentially scary across the room, hides under the blanket, waits a bit, peeks out, and IT’S RIGHT THERE TWO INCHES AWAY AS SCARY MUSIC BLARES!

I suppose a big part of it is that they are hiding in plain sight and are only dangerous when you are alone and no one is paying attention to them.

It plays to childhood anxieties about what happens when you can no longer see something you saw before. It’s the dark side of the whole “He’s BEHIND you” routine in pantomime.

A few years ago, I watched part of the episode after someone told me how scary it was, and my reaction was that it was kind of silly. Watching that clip now, nothing has changed for me. I think the problem is that they look too much like cheap props to me.

It probably would have been scarier if I had watched the episode without knowing what was in store. A bit scarier, anyways.

You really have to watch it from beginning to end. It’s the perfect SF time travel short story.

(Also, the angels are people in “living statue” costumes).

It seems like a similar scare to me of the topiary animals scene in the novel of The Shining. Jack is outside some distance from the topiary animals, they seem innocuous at first but seem to become more menacing the longer he stares, it’s like he can almost hear them snarling but just no quite enough for it to be a conscious sound. Then he notices something is “off”, something has changed but he can’t quite put his finger on it. He rubs his eyes, blinks and did something move? No it couldn’t be, then he starts to realize every so often when he blinks they move just a little bit, almost imperceptibly at first closer, until they are almost upon him, and then go back to where they started just when he’s approaching madness, it’s that creeping, inevitable terror, quite effective fright in my opinion.

What’s * not * to be terrified of? :eek: The statues themselves are vaguely creepy even before they grow fangs and claws. Add that to the horrifying thought of inanimate objects coming to life and you’ve got some serious nightmare material.

As a non-Who viewer I found them creepy as hell, but the scene links was just a bit much. “Ohh I can’t get the key in the lock!” Fake tension. Very annoying.

And all they do is move you in time? While annoying, not exactly very menacing. They are the politest baddies ever.

Are they vulnerable in their mobile form? Then attach the C4, and simultaneously close your eyes and detonate.

I don’t watch any Who, but that clip is creepy as all get out for the above reasons. Fucking horrifying.