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Marionette Motion

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This is when a robot, Clockwork Creature, golem, undead, mind-controlled or other human-sized and -shaped entity moves as if it were a puppet on a string. In the process, it defies the laws of anatomy and gravity by bending in unnatural ways and floating... all without strings. Alternately, it might move like a broken animatronic robot, as if its insides had less articulation than a 3-inch G.I. Joe figure.

Usually used for horror stories because it is just (un)naturally creepy. To accentuate the eerie motion, camera tricks like jitters, Slow Motion and speeding up may be used. Ghostly Glide may also be used to suggest invisible strings suspending the figure in question.

Sometimes combined with Demonic Head Shake. Compare Limp and Livid. Contrast Zombie Gait, which while similar is actually more fluid. For the art of rag dolling, see contortionist.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Animation 
  • Linguini on Ratatouille, because he is literally being moved like a marionette. A rat riding inside his chef's hat controls him by tugging on his hair.
  • Jan Švankmajer 's films own this page!
  • Mr. Clipboard from Food Fight! moves like this to such a ridiculous degree that JonTron refused to comment on it during his review out of fear that he might have a disability.
  • In a rare heroic example, both Jack Skellington and Sally Patches from The Nightmare Before Christmas have very spidery, spooky motions. Jack in particular tends to crouch and crawl around a lot.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Among other tricks such as choreography, in the film adaptation of Silent Hill the eerie, jittery movements of the nurses were done by the actresses walking backward. The footage was later reversed.
  • In MirrorMask, the Uncanny Valley box mannequins have this. So very much. And to the tune of "Close to You", no less.
  • When the... thing in Splinter controls bodies, this is how they move.
  • The Boss Battle in Stardust features a very well-done duel with a magically animated dead swordsman who moves this way.
  • The android Ash does this when hit over the head in Alien.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors had this with one of it's victims, who was being controlled as a marionette by Freddy in his dreams.
  • Mama has this with both Mama, and the younger sister Lily.
  • Ultron does this in Avengers: Age of Ultron when he uses the body of a robot of the Iron Legion that was heavily damaged earlier in the film. Also counts as Rule of Symbolism as Ultron sees the Avengers as "puppets tangled in strings".
  • In The remake of House on Haunted Hill (1999), undercranking accompanied by deliberately slow movements resulted in a jerky style for the ghosts (particularly Vannacutt) that plunged them into the Uncanny Valley.
  • In Gamer, the Big Bad leads himself and several mind-controlled mooks in a marionette dance to mock Gerard Butler's character for his lack of autonomy.
  • The zombies in Train to Busan move like this, particularly after they've broken their limbs.
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula
    • Two of the Brides do this briefly after Dracula catches them with Harker. Backing away in a weird jerky motion while growling inhumanly.
    • Likewise Lucy does this after she's turned into a vampire and confronted with a cross. Backing into her coffin in an unnatural movement.
  • Some of the vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter so this in a sped up fashion to showcase their inhuman nature.

  • The War Against the Chtorr. During A Rage For Revenge, McCarthy gets suicidally stoned and wanders into a Chtorran nest where he has a weird dream in which Ted (a male former Love Interest who joined the Telepathy Corp) helps him back to his helicopter where he'll be safe. When McCarthy looks at the camera footage the next day to find out what happened, all he sees is himself doing a Silly Walk like someone else is controlling his body. McCarthy just puts this down to the drugs and doesn't consider the possibility that he's been secretly implanted by the Telepathy Corp.
  • In Pandemonium, the sequel to Fragment, the isolated subterranean ecosystem's most frightening ambush predator is the "ghost octopus": a creature that drops onto its prey from tunnel ceilings. It wraps itself across the victim's back, grapples their appendages with tentacles that manipulate the individual joints, then severs the brain stem to turn the carcass into a pliable "steed". As humans' bipedal gait is difficult for them to replicate, ghost octopus-ridden human corpses move like this trope or on all fours.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Criminal Minds had an unsub make marionettes with human beings in an episode.
  • Angel: Illyria when she first takes control of her new body.
  • The dead astronauts in Doctor Who episode "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead". Likewise in "Oxygen".
  • The Humongous Mecha in older Super Sentai seasons sometimes slipped into this during wirework stunts.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Bloody Mary" (S01, Ep5), the titular character moves this way when she leaves her mirror.
  • Deep Space Nine. Used for Black Comedy when a hostage exchange goes wrong in "The Magnificent Ferengi". The bungling Ferengi accidentally kill their prisoner, implant him with controlling devices and trying walking him towards the Vorta, who seems to think he's been tortured horribly by the evil Federation. "What have they done to you?"
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: When Kuroto Dan uses Dangerous Zombie gashat to transform into Kamen Rider Genm, he jerks and convulses his body like a zombie. It becomes his default when he is low on SAN points.
  • LazyTown: An unconscious Sportacus's movements become this when under the control of the Remote-Controller 6000, which functions similarly to that of puppet strings.
  • Ultraman Z: Victims staggering around in a marionette-like pattern is the first signs of possession by the Puppeteer Parasite villain, Celebro.

    Music Videos 
  • Rihanna's "Disturbia" music video.
  • The "evil clowns" in Pink's music video for "Funhouse".
  • In the Talking Heads music video "Once in a Lifetime", David Byrne's dance is about halfway between a marionette and an epileptic fit.
  • This style of dancing is used by a lot of k-pop artists, but a particularly memorable example can be seen in 2PM's music video for "Heartbeat" in which the members utilize the style of broken-body dancing to show how their hearts are being controlled by a scornful girl and how they are helpless to stop it. At a few points in the dance, they are even shown as being controlled by one of their own.
    • Also, B.A.P's debut single "Warrior" has the members move this way when they are being controlled by Zelo. At the end of the video, they even surround him in Marionette Motion and shoot him dead.
    • Expression Crew's Marionette performance is also a notable example as the crew members wear masks during it, making them seem even more puppet-like. The primary "puppetteers" are also typically dressed in white clothes, making them stand out among the "puppets."
  • The music video for *NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye" featured the boys being manipulated like marionettes by the young woman with whom they are presumably breaking up. The resulting marionette motion is incorporated into their dancing.
  • Ian Curtis of Joy Division was known to dance this way

    Pro Wrestling 
  • In the Lucha Underground promo where Catrina taunted Fenix about the imminent return of Mil Muertes, the Disciples of Death also made their debut- three skull-masked figures perched above Fenix on top of the lockers, moving in this eerie, jerky manner. It produced the distinct impression that not only might these guys not be your average luchadors, they may not even be human!

  • As with traditional animation, the most basic components of computer animation are keyframes: each movement of a character is broken into a series of poses, and the intervening space is filled in with "tween" frames that transition between these poses. The trouble, however, is that computers are very bad at anatomy, and a poorly keyframed movement can find a character momentarily demonstrating any and all of the many jittery, twitching, gravity-defying, limb-flailing forms of Marionette Motion. Amusingly, a newer CGI animation technique known as digital puppeteering can help Defy such accidental trips through Body Horror land: first, the artist defines a collection of simple, fluid animations for basic movement types like walking, getting up from the ground, extending an arm, looking right and left, etc. Then a series of controls are created that allow these to be mixed, matched, and blended on the fly. The exact setup varies from artist to artist; one might use a motion capture system to mimic traditional marionette puppeteering, another might create a hidden control box note , another might script an interface that lets them use a game controller to enter commands. Done properly, it allows the artist to work with the animation intuitively in real time, and creates much more fluid and natural-looking results.

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: The result of Screaming Mantis using her weapon on people.
  • The various nurses in the Silent Hill franchise (and quite a few monsters besides, for that matter).
  • Appropriately enough, the Marionettes in Devil May Cry move this way, and they even still have strings on their limbs.
  • Some of the more humanoid-shaped Nobodies in Kingdom Hearts II move this way.
  • This is briefly encountered in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess during the portion where you must navigate the Lost woods. The Skull Kid unleashes groups of actual man-sized marionettes on you which move in this way to attack you.
  • Possessed Humans act like this in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, coupled with Glowing Eyes of Doom and Ghostly Glide.
  • The ghost of the Artist's dead wife appears as this in Layers of Fear. She ambushes you at certain points if you get too close or ignore warnings on the walls, netting you a nasty Jump Scare. Notes around the house explain that the wife's twitches stem from nerve damage caused by a fire that disfigured her in the past.
  • The lurching of the ghost people in Fallout: New Vegas would qualify. They lurch about as described due to their flesh being fused to their heavily stiffened hazmat suits.
  • Marionette Soldiers in Elden Ring are terrifying on first sight, attacking you by rapid-firing their bows with both pairs of hands or swinging all four of them with swords like a walking blender.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY has the Knuckleavee, a horse-like creature with a humanoid torso attached to its back.
  • Brandon Rogers’ Cut-Out Art Animations: Wonka on Acid, The Tale of Wendylin Wayne, and The Jabberwocky.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation