Much of the resonance and tension in director Jack Arnold’s film version of Richard Matheson’s disturbing novel The Shrinking Man comes due to its continual appropriation of Sigmund Freud’s notion of the uncanny. Freud developed this psychoanalytical schematic by drawing on the German term unheimlich, which simply means that which is familiar becoming unfamiliar. By dramatising a human being’s nightmarish struggle with otherwise normal and ordinary things such as a pet cat and a spider, and the subversion of a cellar into a labyrinthine space of peril and death – Matheson and in turn Arnold tapped into a primal source of fear buried deep within us all. It is not so much the shrinkage that is the locus of the horror, but instead the threat from things that are normally safe and contained.
© Shaun Anderson 2010