Anastasios Gionis was an artist that I recently discovered through a friend’s post. He is already an accomplished CG artist and sculptor and has worked on a wide range of movies and cartoons. I originally saw the post here but I decided to repost only a select few of my favorites. My friend said that his works are reminiscent of Silent Hill’s and Guillermo del Toro’s monsters, and he is absolutely right. I wouldn’t be surprised if he worked on the movies too.
But what makes these creatures so terrifying? Well, one thing these monsters all have in common is their tall, pale visages and disfigured bodies. A good number of the creatures have long sharp teeth too.
Our fear of sharp teeth is a normal evolutionary fear. It’s the fear of being eaten alive, of becoming the prey despite being the world’s top predator. It’s a primal fear, and sharp teeth and claws coupled with a menacing snarl is enough to have us running away screaming. For example, we have the same response when faced with a feral dog.
While the teeth are obvious, why are pale, gaunt humanoid creatures so terrifying to us? I mentioned before that our fear of clowns is probably associated with the Uncanny Valley response, but these creatures here are hardly human to begin with. This kind of extreme distortion is too inhuman for us to associate with mere strangeness. No, the reaction is much more visceral and our collective terror of skinny pale things is linked to another old evolutionary killer: disease.
Pale, pasty skin and a skeletal body have always been associated with disease. Diseased individuals, especially those that carry contagious illnesses are pariahs of society. We don’t want them near us, and we fear being in their general vicinity. Gionis’ creatures look diseased: not only are they pale and skinny, but many of them seem to be missing limbs and other body parts. It’s so easy to lose a limb from certain diseases such as gangrene, and their jaunty, awkward gait reminds us of what would happen to us should we ever succumb to illness. In fact, one of the sketches here show an obvious hospital setting, complete with a monstrous nurse.
Gionis’ monsters aren’t only sick in body, but seem to be sick in mind too. Stretched skin and bound arms and legs are reminiscent of straight jackets found in mental asylums. We associate this with violent lunatics and psychotic serial killers, again reminding us of our own human fragility. These monsters are inside us, ready to spring the moment our bodies and mental foundations crumble.
Finally, many of these creatures lack lack complete faces, especially eyes. We have always been distrustful of people in masks or have hooded faces. They are associated with mystery and dishonesty, because the face, especially the eyes are the windows to the soul. Without the face, it is difficult to have an insight into a person’s intentions. It’s a classic case of Stranger Danger.
However, these monsters play into our fears by being faceless altogether and takes our paranoia to surrealist extremes. Gionis perfectly plays on our fears with his monsters, making him a true master of horror art. True nightmare fuel for our fragile souls.