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Can Only Move the Eyes

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"It was like some different person, some scared person, was looking out of those same eyes."

"Now you are stone... Yet I leave your eyes. I shed no tears for this land... But I cannot deny you yours!"

A Sub-Trope of People Puppets and Taken for Granite.

Even though Puppeteer Parasites frequently claim they have "total control" of someone's body, it's frequently the case that the possessed person retains some degree of control. This ranges from barely perceivable tiny twitches to outright rebellion through sheer willpower. Similarly, someone who is frozen in place somehow retains some small degree of movement.

However, the most common variations are to retain control either of the head or of just the eyes. The eyes are often used to demonstrate that the person is still conscious and aware, but only able to helplessly witness what their body is forced to do. Typically this will involve a totally impassive face... except for the eyes, wide and silently screaming in horror at the situation. These usually result in a case of And I Must Scream.

On the other hand, if the person still has control of their whole head, the situation is frequently played for comedy, most often the juxtaposition of the actions the body is taking with the warnings and apologies from the head that is just along for the ride. When not played for humor, the victim will sometimes plead to be killed to protect people from them and to end their suffering.

Also an example of Truth in Television. Locked-In Syndrome is a condition brought on by hemorrhaging and/or trauma in the brainstem, essentially severing connections between the brain and the muscles of the body, but not the incoming neurofibers. This results in a paralysis where no part of the body is capable of movement, yet it can still feel sensations such as pain or warmth. In a few lucky cases, the muscles of the eyes are still connected to the brain, allowing movement. Locked-In Syndrome is often a case of Nightmare Fuel for those who think about it. A (usually) fully-functional mind, trapped in an immovable body, entirely unable to communicate its plight to anyone around them. It's the closest a human being can get to being Buried Alive. Aside from, you know, actually being buried alive.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • While the Saint's Cradle took control of her body to defend itself, Vivio of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS was still able to speak to Nanoha and beg her to leave her to die since she's just an artificially created weapon. Nanoha, naturally, disagreed with her statement.
  • In One Piece, people being controlled by Doflamingo and that one guy from the second TV-special are still talking, apologizing, shouting out warnings, cursing or begging for mercy. Both villains seems to consider that last bit especially funny.
  • In 07-Ghost, Teito's best friend Mikage gets half his soul destroyed and his body possessed by Ayanami who then tries to capture Teito. Though Ayanami seems to be in complete control, Mikage still manages to shed a few tears as he attacks his friend.
  • In Naruto the Nara Clan's Shadow Possession Jutsu forces the victim to mimic the pose the caster is in, as well as all movements, but victims can still talk, usually expressing surprise about getting caught in it.
  • After she is poisoned, Harusada in Ōoku: The Inner Chambers is incapacitated, only able to moan. The official word is that she suffered a stroke, and while few believe it, she was such a tyrant that few care.

    Comic Books 
  • Jericho of the DCU had the power to take over someone's body, but if the target is conscious, they retain the ability to speak, which means they often start yelping about how they suddenly have lost control of their voluntary motor functions.
  • In Earth X, the Skull is capable of controlling an entire planet's worth of people (though he has to come into closer contact with a person to take them over). He doesn't appear able to make them say what he wants, though, and in one case he uses Iron Maiden's power to shut her up rather than just willing her to stop. Might just have been his sadism, however. Many fights involved begging for help or admonitions to "Dish it out, I can take it".
  • This happened to the son of the inventor of the Sentinels during the short-lived Roy Thomas/Neal Adams run on X-Men. He used his limited locomotion to indicate to his ally how to free the mutants.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): When Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor are hit by Uvo's Kal-C-M Ray and petrified they are still able to move their eyes to watch what's going on around them.

  • Child of the Storm has Cedric Diggory in the sequel, during the First Task, when he's under the Wights' spell. It is unclear whether the other two captured Champions, Fleur or Krum, are similarly capable, but it is probable.
  • In the Tamers Forever Series this happens to Takato when he becomes paralysed due to his brain cells slowly dying.
  • In Human Curiosity, it turns out that the HCS has a drug that completely paralyzes the Nations, except in some rare cases where they can still blink and breathe. Japan and England briefly communicate via blinking Morse Code, but that's about all they can manage.
  • In All Guardsmen Party, Angelica Dominicus is being shipped back to base, but the party worries she'll escape by seducing somebody while they're not watching. As such, the ship doctor installs a spinal shunt which immobilizes her voluntary muscles except for her eyes. Doc decides to teach her how to communicate via blinking code during the voyage; given she has spent most of the time alone with Nubby Nubbs, she keeps asking to be killed.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Aladdin, Genies can't disobey their Master's orders as long it doesn't violate certain rules, but it doesn't mean they have to like it.
  • In The Incredibles, Syndrome's "Zero Point Energy" can freeze a person in place, but they can still look around. Same thing with the cop put on ice by Frozone.
  • In Inside Out, Sadness briefly does this when she and the other emotions get frozen in Headquarters upon Riley getting a brain freeze.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Happens in the horror movie remake House of Wax (2005). Anyone still alive but petrified by the waxing process can only move their eyes and breathe.
  • Arnold can only move his eyes when he is turned in a half-man/half-plant hybrid in Troll 2. He is also able to talk, but only after the bark is peeled off his face. Earlier in the film, Creedence uses a paralysis spell on him, which only leaves him able to move his mouth.
    Arnold: And why... why can't I move, there, there must be some logical reason for all this?
    Creedence: Shut up!
  • In Danger: Diabolik, Diabolik was encased in solid gold, but he could still move his eyes in order to show the audience that he was Not Quite Dead. He even winks at the audience. note 
  • Iron Man 2 had this when Vanko hacked into the War Machine suit with Rhodey inside.
    Rhodey: Whoa, whoa, whoa... (aims his minigun at Tony)
    Tony: Is that you?
    Rhodey: Whoa, I'm not doing that, that's not me! I... I can't move, I'm locked up! I'm locked up! Get out of here, the whole system's been compromised!
  • When the Operative in Serenity uses his version of the Vulcan Neck Pinch, the subject is paralized, but able to move his eyes enough to watch himself fall on the sword the Operative is holding. Not cool, dude.
  • Charlotte passes a few statues, whose gaze follow her, in Mystery of the Wax Museum.
  • Mick paralyzes Liz in Wolf Creek by stabbing her in the spine. He calls this "head on a stick".

  • Pvt Jenkins, in the Halo novel The Flood, retains his consciousness when infected by the flood due to some biological quirk. He retains only minimal control over his body.
  • In the Animorphs series, infestation by Yeerks sometimes works this way: strong-willed or desperate hosts can rebel against their Yeerks (especially when the Yeerk is under duress itself), often leading to arguing with and/or hitting oneself. In a more literal example, Visser One describes a game she used to play with one of her hosts where she would relinquish control of one body part and see how long it took the host to find out; in one case, the body part the host could move was her eye. The host nearly kills them both by closing the one eye on the freeway, thus denying Visser One depth perception.
  • The short story Great Gift of Sleep by Shon Richards has a woman on a spaceship arrange for one of the other women to be partially awoken from suspended animation for the purposes of sex, leaving her unable to move (though very much able to feel) from the neck down.
  • Harry Potter: The Full Body-Bind Curse paralyzes the victim except for their eyes.
  • In Iain M. Banks' SF novel The Player of Games, as a bizarre punishment one incidental character (a high ranking officer too good at his job to be locked away for his crime) is locked into a robotic exoskeleton which prevents him eating anything other than bread and water, makes sure that he's in bed and up by certain times, and totally prevents him enjoying any pleasures of the flesh, but otherwise allows him the freedom to work at his job until his sentenced prison term is served. At one point, someone takes remote control of the exoskeleton in an assassination attempt on a nearby target while its occupant frantically tries to prevent it, struggling against the suit's movements enough to throw off the aim of the ranged weapon he is holding (but unable to talk because he cannot move his jaw). Nobody realizes its the suit and not him until a head-shot kills him (graphically) and the exoskeleton suit is suddenly unhindered, becoming much more dangerous.
  • In Naked Lunch, this happens to a carny worker in one of Benway's most infamous monologues.
  • In The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School and The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School, Palgraive's body has been taken over by a Puppeteer Parasite. To most people, she's just that strange girl who smiles all the time; to people without a Weirdness Censor, she's the girl whose mouth is always smiling but whose eyes are screaming.
  • In The Silmarillion, Morgoth inflicts this on a captured human warrior as punishment for defying him and not submitting to his will. locked in to his body, he then, via Morgoth's magic, gets to watch the terrible fates of his son and daughter played out over a period of years.
  • Played straight in The Count of Monte Cristo with Noirtier de Villefort. And he still manages to save Valentine and write out a will.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Norman Balthus, in the second season of Carnivāle, is afflicted with this when he is kept in a state of complete paralysis by his newly-evil Antichrist of an adopted son, Justin, after suffering a stroke. Made into terror in the episode where Justin uses his mind to pull one of Norman's teeth after Norman got pissed and spit applesauce at him.
  • CSI: NY The pilot, "Blink". See the locked-in syndrome entry in Real Life.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Since-lost William Hartnell episode "The Daleks' Master Plan" has Steven locked in a forcefield. How much movement he had is unclear without surviving footage, but the Doctor used him to hand off a fake plot device to the Daleks, who naturally tried to exterminate him. It turns out a direct hit from a Dalek Death Ray was just what the Doctor ordered to break the forcefield and free him.
    • In the TV special "The Five Doctors", this is what happens to those who wish to be immortal in Rassilon's presence.
    • In "Midnight", this happens to the Doctor. In this case his reaction is shown with the barest minimum to the point where one cannot really point out any distinct facial move or change, yet he still manages to pull off enough fear and anguish to firmly cement the Psychological Horror aspect of the episode. Curse David Tennant and his big brown eyes.
  • A non-parasite example. In the Firefly episode "Trash", Jayne is electrocuted; the shock throws him backwards into Serenity's hull, hard. Simon injects him with a paralytic so he won't injure his spine further when he regains consciousness. The drug leaves him able to talk and move his eyes around.
  • Henry does it to Adam purposely in Forever . He doesn't want to be a killer and wants Adam to stop terrorizing him and people around him. So, he injects Adam with an air-filled syringe to induce it.
  • The Haunting Hour: In the episode "Really You", Lilly's left eye is the last part of her body that she retains control of as she transforms into a doll. Appropriately enough, Lilly D, the Creepy Doll that took Lilly's human form, closes that eye just before the transformation is complete. Later, we see A Single Tear fall from Lilly's left eye as Lilly D has her seated at the kitchen table, having stolen her life and leaving her trapped inside a doll.
  • In Volume 3 of Heroes, this is inflicted upon Angela Petrelli by her husband, Arthur.
  • House. In the episode "Locked In", House is hospitalized after an accident. The patient in the next bed has locked-in syndrome, but his doctors don't recognize it, recommending him for organ donation.
  • The Magicians (2016): The students in the pilot when Time Stands Still.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • The episode "Demons And Angels" had Lister warning his crew that he was being controlled to attack them, and actively helping them defeat him. Gives the quote "Look out, I'm trying to kill you!"
    • In "Psirens", when Kryten is ordered to destroy himself, his body obeys, but his head protests all the way.
  • This happens from time to time on Star Trek: The Original Series. It's amazing how many alien races have paralysis weapons.
  • Smallville: "Forever" features a Monster of the Week whose touch can turn people to wax. They clearly remain conscious during this, though, as the camera shows their eyes still moving.
  • An obscure low-budget show called Terror Vision had an episode where a young woman applies for a modeling job at a small clothing store. As she walks in the mannequin in the window moves its eyes to follow her. You can probably guess the rest.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Carcosa: Weird Science-Fantasy Horror Setting. In hex 0715 there's a small cave with an altar to Hastur. In front of the altar is a Red Man who petrified except for his brain and his eyes. After spending centuries in this state, he is quite insane.

    Video Games 
  • In Kingdom Hearts, when Genie is forced to do Jafar's bidding via lamp, he will shout 'Look out!' or 'Get out of the way!' before attacking.
  • System Shock 2: The zombies speak coherently, apologizing while aiming a shotgun for your head or swinging a lead pipe for your face.
  • When the Collector Swarms of Mass Effect 2 bite a human, it reduces them to this. Makes it all the easier to carry them away and do horrible things to them. Horizon is full of these people.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, Estelle gets this treatment after being repeatedly Mind Raped by Alexei. She gets better, thankfully.
  • Malcolm in The Legend of Kyrandia is fond of turning people to stone, but adds a cruel twist to this when he does it to Kallak by leaving his eyes un-stoned.

    Web Animation 
  • In Pretty Blood, Lilly Is invited to a party by Rinny and accepts It, but Is knocked out by toxins and Is kept alive while everyone else dies. She's then taken to Pretty Blood's lab and Is given an artificial nervous system that lets her body be remote controlled. She cannot move her own body, but she can still move her face. She's let out and the first thing she's forced to do Is kill her own parents.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Puppetmaster" has a possessed Aang and Sokka apologizing as they attack Katara.
    • A straighter example would be when Hama bloodbends Katara and the poor girl can only frantically move her eyes in fear.
    • And when Katara freezes Azula during the finale, she can't move at all except for her eyes.
  • In the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra Tarlok's bloodbending has this effect, though by the looks of it, his grip is so strong he can even prevent people moving their eyes when he's really concentrating.
  • Anyone locked in stasis cuffs in Transformers: Animated can still speak and move their heads, but can't move their limbs or use weapons.
    • And when Dirtboss decides to cerebro-shell Bulkhead, he ends up attacking his friends and apologizing while he does so.
  • Any trap or superpower in the old Superfriends cartoon which could immobilize the heroes would leave them free to look around or converse.
  • An episode of Batman: The Animated Series features a gas that paralyses people in this manner. It's used on a room full of police officers attending a dinner for Commissioner Gordon.
  • One episode of Jackie Chan Adventures had Uncle and Daolon Wong fire petrification spells at one another. They both hit at the same time, and so neither could do anything but move their eyes.
  • In Disney's Hercules: The Animated Series: When King Midas turns one of his men to gold he can still blink and shift his eyes.
  • Yellow Submarine: The frozen citizens of Pepperland are still conscious and can slightly move their heads. They can also weep.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • In "Castle Mane-ia", Twilight's freeze spell causes her friends to be inable to move anything except their eyes and mouthes.
    • In "Power Ponies", the Mane-iac's paralyzing hairspray still allows the Mane Six to move their eyes and talk.
    • In "The Hoofields and the McColts", Twilight again uses her freeze spell on the fighting families while Fluttershy tells the past history of their fight.
    • In part one of "The Cutie Remark", when Twilight and Spike are stuck in Starlight's Crystal Prison, their eyes can still move and follow her.
  • The troll assassin Angor Rot was able to effect a cylindrical stasis zone on Jim in Trollhunters; while he was trapped in it Jim could move his eyes but nothing else, allowing the creature to draw a curse on Jim's face with some serious long-term consequences. Jim was eventually able to turn the tables and use the same trick against Angor Rot, though the spell was disrupted, allowing Angor Rot to escape.
  • Back when the show predominantly used radio-controlled models, every vehicle character in Thomas & Friends had immobile faces, though expressions were changed by switching the entire face. While a number of vehicles had eyes which needed to be prepositioned before shooting a scene, the vast majority of the models for the others (especially the locomotive characters) had radio-controlled eye mechanisms that allowed the pupils to visibly move. This was largely averted once the series transitioned to CGI and later 2D animation for it's reboot, where all of the characters had faces that could emote without a number of strategic camera cuts.
    • Because of shared creators and visual/production styles, the characters in Western Animation/TUGS and Theodore Tugboat feature the exact same eye mechanism methods, though the tugboat characters for TUGS could also swivel their wheelhouses as if they were heads on a neck (and in Top Hat's case, elevate like a piston).

    Real Life 
  • Stephen Hawking: He was in a state of paralysis for decades, but thanks to technology he could communicate through a speech synthesizer that responded to facial movements.
  • Guitar virtuoso Jason Becker, having been diagnosed with ALS since the 90s, now communicates only by moving his eyes, through a special sign language devised by his father.
  • Locked-in syndrome, or ALS.
    • Which was used explicitly in the first episode of CSI: NY, by an insane doctor that kept killing his guinea pigs accidentally until he successfully locked a victim in this state.
    • And in a 5th season episode of House. The first half of the episode is shown by the POV of the Patient of the Week.
    • And on Law & Order once, though they called it "frozen."
    • The novel The Diving Bell And The Butterfly is an auto-biography by Jean-Dominique Bauby, who had a stroke and suffered this. The entire novel was dictated by him indicating which letter he wanted next by blinking. Making this more impressive was that, due to an irrigation problem, his right eye was sewn shut - he wrote an entire book while only able to move one eye. It was adaptated into a film in 2007.
  • In a similar fashion, a person who is lucid dreaming can't move (due to normal sleep paralysis), but can still move their eyes, allowing simple communication in dream experiments.
    • Likewise, those suffering from Sleeep Paralysis become temporarily stuck like this until they are able to fully wake up.
  • Botulism can not only result in the loss of voluntary muscles, it can also result in the loss of breathing and parts of the nervous system.
  • Folklore backed by some medical evidence supports the idea that after decapitation, a human head might retain consciousness for up to two minutes after separation from the body. With no way to communicate and the body gone, slipping into death this way as consciousness fades from the brain must be an excruciating way to go.
  • In a more non-traditional example, there was the case of Jeremiah Denton, an US Navy Commander and pilot who was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese after his plane was shot down. Forced by his captors to participate in a televised press conference in 1966 for propaganda purposes, Denton blinked out the word "torture" in Morse code. This was the first proof that the US military had that the North Vietnamese were torturing American POWs.


Video Example(s):


Twilight's freeze spell

When Twilight casts a spell which freezes her friends, they can still move their eyes and talk.

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Example of:

Main / CanOnlyMoveTheEyes

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