My name is Cameron. Before you start reading this blog post, I want to take you through a thought exercise. Think to the last time you took a picture that may not have turned out the way you wanted it to. Why didn’t it turn out the way you wanted it to? Was the lighting off? Did the picture not take all the way? Did the picture maybe crop in a weird way? Within the realm of photography and art, a glitch can mean anything that causes a product to not turn out the way the artist intended. However glitches don’t work the same way. For the horror genre, and found footage specifically, glitches are primarily used as points of entry for aspects of the unknown realm to enter the known realm.
Before we can define glitches, we must define what constitutes as “the realm of the unknown” and “the realm of the known.” In order to first understand this, it can be helpful to establish a boundary of difference between the two. “The realm of the known” within horror is the realm that houses the fictional world on-screen. While this can be a bit of a hazy definition within horror, this definition can be reasonably diluted to mean the world where the action takes place on-screen. For example, within V/H/S/2’s short “A Ride in the Park,” all of the action that takes place takes place inside a forest with hiking trails and picnic tables. “The realm of the unknown” is the realm that houses anything that is not established as a fact within the fictional world. It is important to note that “the realm of the unknown” is not simply anything that shows up in the fictional world without explanation. Rather, “the realm of the unknown” is the realm of explanations that happen outside of the fictional world. For example, while the audience knows that being bitten by a zombie will turn someone into one in “A Ride in the Park,” the audience does not know what originally started the zombie plague. Thus, the origin of the zombie plague in “A Ride in the Park” belongs to the realm of the unknown. The boundary between “the realm of the known” and “the realm of the unknown” in found footage horror is literally the edge of the camera shot.
Once one understands what constitutes the boundary, it is much easier to define glitches. Glitches are essentially points of entry for things from “the realm of the unknown” to enter “the realm of the known.” If “the realm of the unknown” houses the explanations for things seen on-screen, glitches are where those things enter “the realm of the known.” It is important to note that this definition ignores most technical definitions of glitches in order to allow glitches to better accommodate the horror genre. Continuing with the example from “A Ride in the Park,” glitches in this short are zombie bites. Zombie bites spread the plague from one person to another, working as an explanation within “the realm of the known” for the horror present within the world of “A Ride in the Park.” There is an important distinction between “the realm of the unknown” and glitches, though both work as explanations. The “realm of the unknown” is an explanatory location, while glitches are an explanatory force. Both are provide explanations for different aspects of horror within the horror genre; however, glitches function as essentially a tear in the boundary between “the realm of the known” and “the realm of the unknown” that invites horror on-screen.
In order to better define glitches, it can be helpful to think about how glitches work within V/H/S/2. Glitches within V/H/S/2 work primarily as hauntings and as visual obstacles, best seen within “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” and “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” respectively. In “Phase 1 Clinical Trials,” glitches are established as a literal tear in the boundary between the living and the dead. In this sense, “the realm of the unknown” contains both the realm of the dead and how they are able to return to the realm of the living. “The realm of the known” contains both the realm of the living and, technically, the technology that allows Herman and Clarissa to commune with the dead. “Phase 1 Clinical Trials” is technically the only short within V/H/S/2 to use glitches in the literal sense in this way; however, it is this simplicity that allows glitches to be so easily, cleanly defined. In “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” glitches are much more disorganized. Within this short, glitches are primarily used to obscure visuals of the aliens. While this obscuration does make it difficult to clearly see the aliens, it also draws attention to them, effectively allowing them to enter “the realm of the known” through what the audience can see of them through the glitches. “The realm of the unknown” contains the aliens, and “the realm of the known” contains their intent to kidnap the children, as seen when the glitches obscure both the children and the aliens. Within V/H/S/2, glitches both obscure information and provide hauntings; however, in both cases, glitches allow aspects of the unknown realm to enter “the realm of the known.”