How the tragic movie maniacs of The Black Phone and The Menu are all the more terrifying for having a hopeless method to their madness. (This piece contains mild spoilers.)
How much more frightening is the monster for whom you feel a measure of pity? This painting by the Spanish master Francisco Goya (1746-1828) will be familiar to anyone who has so much as flicked through a book on horror history in the last forty years. It was part of a series of private murals daubed on the walls of Goya’s hermitage outside Madrid, towards the end of a life that had rendered the painter deaf, embittered and traumatised by the ravenous horrors of Napoleon’s invasion.
The painting depicts the ancient Greek Titan Cronos (known as ‘Saturn’ in Roman mythology) gnawing on the remains of one of his own children, driven to cannibalism by a prophecy that said his offspring would one day usurp him. Originally untitled, the painting was later canonised by art historians as Saturn Devouring His Children. Goya painted it on the wall of his dining room.
Now, look into those eyes…
There’s no triumph in that stare, no demonic glee, no ‘Bwa-ha-ha-ha!’ Those eyes are helpless. This immortal Titan is an animal caught in Destiny’s trap.
Mexican maestro Guillermo Del Toro has cited this painting as a direct influence on the Pale Man he created for Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and I’m wondering if it had a similar influence on Scott Derrickson’s quietly brilliant horror movie The Black Phone (2021)...
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