The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on January 11th, 2022 | Movie Review | Survival, Classic Horror, Sci-Fi, Medical

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It’s about the existential challenges of endless human diminishing – smaller…smaller … and smaller.

The Incredible Shrinking Man was directed by Jack Arnold (Creature from the Black Lagoon) based on a story by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) and stars Grant Williams (The Monolith Monsters), April Kent (Tammy and the Bachelor), and Randy Stuart (Man from God’s Country).

What is the meaning of shrinking?

The Incredible Shrinking Man Review

When I was six, I lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We had four television channels, one of which was French. One afternoon, I happened across The Incredible Shrinking Man on the French station and sat, rapt, through the movie. It hardly even mattered that I couldn’t decipher the dialogue. The film totally seized me.

After passing through a seemingly benign radioactive cloud while boating, Scott Carey initially feels unaffected. But then he experiences a medical anomaly that has his doctors stumped. He’s shrinking, bit by bit. Eventually, he dwindles to just a few inches tall. And he keeps on lessening. The scale model work and trick black and white photography is convincing in a 1950’s sort of way.

Some pretty horrible things happen to human beings in horror films. Victims are routinely tortured, cut up, and humiliated. It’s sickening.

By comparison, what is happening to Scott Carey is quite mild. He’s just gradually shrinking. It’s not painful. It’s not grotesque. It’s not too humiliating. It’s just gently degrading.

The media attention puts a strain on his marriage as much as the radiation sickness whose only symptom is shrinking. And yet, we sympathize with Scott and vicariously experience the sad loss of self as step-by-step, he loses his some of dignity, eventually moving into a doll house. Then he disappears from sight altogether.

The most famous scenes from the film are spectacular – man vs. cat and man vs. spider in Scott’s basement. It’s not so much the fear of being eaten by a house cat as the fact that he’s now totally unnoticed. By shrinking, he’s become overlooked, even in his own home. And that is a particular kind of dread that few horror films tend to – the horror of reducing in importance; to being forgotten. That is the horror with which The Incredibly Shrinking Man is concerned – the horror of being overlooked.

Worth Watching?

Yes. This is a sensitive and emotionally engaging film.

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