David Lynch's Mystery Man's place in the horror pantheon

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/04/04/david-lynchs-mystery-mans.html

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#2

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#3

Roger That!

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#4

The background music at the beginning of the scene is a riff from the song “Spooky”

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#5

I’ve always found that scene to be one the purest moments of eeriness in a film. There’s no (obvious) threat - they’re in a safe space and he’s not, even if connected to the surveillance they’re experiencing, actually menacing them directly; he’s seemingly just this odd guy, but there’s a palpable element of the uncanny, of the supernatural; there’s an element of the ridiculous - but as in a nightmare, where in the moment that ridiculousness can’t be acknowledged.

The movie leaves us with an out, that there’s a potentially mundane explanation - that it’s an elaborate put-on, with a different person that sounds like him, but that still involves someone breaking into their house. (And for what purpose? The pointlessness is also unnerving.) But in the dreaminess of the narrative, the mundane explanation also feels like the least plausible. So we’re left, as an explanation, with bilocation - the realm of saints and witches, ghosts and “spooky” quantum effects. Seeing one’s doppelganger is supposed to be a presentiment of death. But he’s his own doppelganger. Is he dead? Is he not real? Then we get into David Lynch and the Bardo, where Lynch’s Bardo is a realm between dream and waking life. The characters are trapped in a nightmare because the nightmare is also ‘real.’ This one character, in one scene, upends reality itself. Creepy.

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#6

My eternal reaction to any image or invocation of The Mystery Man:

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#7

Thank you! It’s always bugged me the way this scene’s music was both hauntingly oldschool yet blandly overproduced and now I know: someone lightly smothered an old song in 1990s sleazetone. Very … Lynchian!

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#8

That’s pretty cool; I’ve more or less stopped noticing stuff like this since so much new music is just loops of stuff I heard over the years, going back to when I was a kid.

#9

I know I’ve seen this movie, but for some reason I can’t remember anything about it. That’s kinda creepy.

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#10

I think Steven King has an essay in which he says that horror arises when the dream world intrudes into the real world.

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#11

Ah, Bill Pullman… such a mild, elegant disaster…

There’s something slightly sad about the loss of cell phones with extendable antennas.

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#12

“You’re watching it right now…”

[and not in the fun @papasan sense]

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#13

That would honestly explain a lot.

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#14

There’s an even “easier” mundane explanation, if you consider the possibility the phone, itself, could be a fake concealing nothing but a direct radio connection to said “different person that sounds like him.” The dial does nothing other than give Fred Madison an excuse to believe he is in control, when clearly he actually is not.

Every bit as unnervingly pointless as your version… and exactly as remote from the point of the scene. LOL

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#15

Happened to me and Inland Empire: I know it was a movie, I know I watched the movie, but I cant remember anything about it… except that there were faces in a lot of it.

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#16

Neat, neat, neat!

#17

I just remember it was way more confusing* than scary or creepy, and that’s about it.

For me, the most disturbing thing about the character is that he was played by a likely killer in real life.

* What Lynch film isn’t, though?

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#18

Scary?

I can see Bugs Bunny playing this trick on Elmer Fudd.

“Go ahead. Cal me, doc.”

#19

Knew a guy like that.

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closed #20

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