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Seeing double: the origins of the ‘evil twin’ in Gothic horror and Hollywood

3 18 20

Twins and doubles have been making unsettling appearances in Gothic novels and horror films for decades. They have a long history that goes back to, at least, The Comedy of Errors. There’s something about twins that gives them great horrific potential. Their extreme similarity, the fact they are virtually indistinguishable and purportedly have deep connections are the kinds of elements that get repeatedly exploited for dramatic purposes.

It is not a coincidence that evil twins in horror and the Gothic tend to be identical (with the odd exception, like 1970’s Goodbye Gemini). The scariest thing about evil twins is, after all, that they embody repetition, and “repetition of the same thing” is one of the elements psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud identified as being connected to the effects of the “uncanny” in his influential 1919 essay of the same name.

Xavier Reyes features in the June episode of The Anthill podcast, on twins. Listen here, or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from.

The “unheimlich”, or uncanny, involves the experience of something familiar being rendered unfamiliar or of something new being experienced as strangely familiar. This is the case with identical twins, who tend to populate film more than literary fiction, given the reliance on images in film.

The most memorable example of the........

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