One of the temporal attributes of the horror genre that I have been interested in is the ‘subtle background scare’. As a central action takes place in the foreground, something is visually picked up in the periphery of ones vision. In the corner of an eye, or perceived awry, indirectly, off the eye: a scare imbedded in the background noise of the fabric of a scene. Out of focus and only just visible as the camera pans around a corner; a human figure might stand there among the hanging coats; a hand may rest on the foot of a bed as a toddler is tucked in; faces in the reflection of a subway window; a second shadow added to an unaccompanied protagonist. These apparitions are often placed there in the perhaps-perceived, as a forewarning of a more direct horror to come. The subtle background scare (if you do perceive this dent in the generic defocused backdrop of the main action) is not one of shock or disgust, but rather a rippling scare that fluidly changes your temporal experience of a scene. The subtleness of it indicates that there might have occurred more of these background scares - without our knowing. How long has this presence been here? Was it here all the time? Why didn’t I see it? What else might I have missed? In this way, the subtle background scare has a double function. On the one hand, it allows us to know what the protagonist, does not. This place is ominous, someone’s there with you. On the other, as we are now doubting what else we might have missed, that ominous other might have the upper hand on us, as well. The screen is watching us. For how long has it been watching us like this? Might it still be watching? We shift around in our seat, attentive, alert and distrustful of what we’re seeing, and what that which we see might actually hold back on us. Once this premise of subtle background scares is promised, the background only need to hint at it to trigger the heightened alertness of the viewer. The prop department now busy, hanging hats and coats behind doors; stacking lost items in the attic to tower like human figures; placing gothic mirrors in the dark.

A Dragging Out of the Now of Realisation
The temporal fluidity of the subtle background scare exists in a dragging out of the now of realisation. As the viewer registers the subtle distortion in the veneer of cinematic reality, the sense of a now, is transformed into a sense of this now perhaps having begun earlier or of its possible continuation. Where the classic jump scare certainly calls attention to the now, even arguably stretching this now forward in the sense of shock not easily leaving the body of the viewer, the subtle background scare in contrast makes us doubt whether the now that we just experienced, did really constitute the limited existence of that now. We are somehow eased into the sense of a now, tricked into embodying it. A now that dawns on us. Time stretches here and asks of us to consider when this moment (this dawning) began and whether or not it has truly ended. This condition forms one iteration of the prolonged now. The way in which this temporal encounter speaks to a certain other underlying temporality, that we did not at first realise, may echo an impression of layered temporalities under-towing the tempor(e)ality of our everyday lives. The subtle background scare may remind us that we are merely taken for a ride in a much stronger temporal current. As Norwegian film critic Dag Sødtholt wrote in relation to the ceaseless followers advancing in the background of the group of teenagers caught in the temporal horror of ‘It Follows’ (2014): ‘We live in only one direction, forwards in time. There is only this way to go, but like “It Follows” suggests, it leads nowhere. We can only buy some time, before death overtakes us.’ (2015) But the prolonged now that shapes within the subtle background scare may also function as an escape from the inevitable undertow of chrononormative temporality. A potential for temporal counter-being; against the succession of shocking nows underscoring the detached tempor(e)ality of everyday life lived under absolute capitalism. A temporal lingering inside the oceanic horror of this prolonged now, that counter-acts absolute capitalisms unimaginative dictate, on how we should spend our time; always ultimately aimed towards its running out.

Behind this document, framed by properties boxes, toolbar, menus and scrollbar, an activity is sensed. It makes itself known in the edge of the window, even as I resize it to fullscreen. It resides up in the toolbar of the general interface, keeping me aware about its presence; how it’s searching for internet, how it keeps in contact with my portable speaker through Bluetooth, how it constantly refreshes my dropbox and searches for updates to my adobe creative cloud. Even with these reminders disabled and kept out of sight, the activity is still inescapably felt. It’s not the whirr of the ventilation propellers under my palms, resting on the space grey alu-casing. Nor the tingling phantom buzz of static electricity that my hands sink into, as I type. No not that. It’s something that I sense with every part of my body. All the tasks that run underneath my current task. All these running programs that call for my attention, even as they have no business with me. Somehow always on the surface of an ocean of tasks. Always a call from its deep.

So this activity has become my companion now. Something that stays with me, travels with me, even as I avoid acknowledging its presence; still there even when I occasionally forget it. A daemon – that’s what a process running in the background of another computer process is called. This is the name for it in the industry. Like the mythical black cat is a daemon of the folkloric witch. A companion animal, sitting on your shoulder. At times it digs its nails into your skin, through your layers of fabric, steering you in another direction - have you forgotten your path? In contrast to a demon, whom’s aim it is to take over its companion, a daemon is a fellow traveller, an inspiring force, a background process. The daemon as background processor is at times dormant – until called upon. But even as dormant it is at work – in its readiness.

I sense it. Working behind me and in front of me. Just behind everything I read and write, what I watch, what I plan, what I think about. The background processes piling up. Working with tremendous speed. Always tracking ahead, always building the territory in front of me as I tread along. It brings the landscapes of my travels into the world. And it calls my attention, always all the time; even if I don’t know from where, or for what, it calls.

The Black Lodge Processor
Think of the town of ‘Twin Peaks’. How it displays the working of a normal functioning town. The enterprises pushing on with their usual business; the citizens going by their everyday lives; the traffic lights conducting the traffic; the bars intoxicating their costumers; the band playing for the enjoyment of the crowd. Yet not one thing in the town of Twin Peaks unfolds without an undercurrent of sorts. A massive set of processes running silently and light speed in the background. Every atmosphere and every relation soaked in the intricate networking of an underlying mesh. An entangled web embedded in the soil and the spirit of this township. The Black Lodge. Its locale, a hub for daemons. Processes, interacting and operating in the background. Sometimes dormant, but easily awoken and inserted into a rhizome of movements, transports and configurations. It is as if the characters that inhabit or take temporary residence in the Black Lodge, are only interfaces for so many minuscule enmeshed processes and actions. When these processes materialise in the fictional reality of the Twin peaks township, they most often do so in the guise of subtle background scares. Slow moving, hesitant, present yet almost unnoticed. Correspondingly the visualisation and representation of the Black Lodge completely transformed in correlation with the unfolding of the digital sphere as director David Lynch’s first iteration in 1990 got its reboot in 2017. As if the first iteration of the town of Twin Peaks only worked with so many processes and daemons, while as we returned twenty years later, the process power behind this rural town had increased exponentially. In this newest iteration, an immeasurable number of sub-processes run behind the myriad tasks flowing through the processor of the Black Lodge.

Not surprisingly all these daemons seem to form growing amounts of dread. The temporality of the daemon is godlike, in the way that its background processes, imperceptibly structures the foundation of our tempor(e)ality. The constant company of their background noise - their calling to mind, endless activity - seeps into the unconscious, saturating everyday life with an atmosphere of dread and anxiety. Or as Ben Hammersley expresses it: ‘Dread trembles in my pocket. Dread chirps incessant­ly. Dread flashes, and bounces. Dread summons me a hundred times a day to pay attention to my phone or my laptop and, stiffening the sinews and summoning the blood, to read my email, check my messages, and deal with the incoming. Dread is my email, and email is my dread.’ (2013) Far from being merely a companion, optimising your performance power, the daemon proves differently malignant. Like the background scare it charges the atmosphere with doubt and anxiety. The perfect vehicle, for understanding the form of dread that these background tasks might actually produce in us, is the predator drone. In all its imperceivableness, its presence still goes highly detected. As a non-presence that always promises undetected presence. An anxiety of that which may be above - seeing you, not seeing it. You might hear its faint whirr - just like you might hear that crunch of the processor underneath the plastic keys. ‘The “drone” of the drone […] is not its most significant or important feature, not by a long way, but it is a useful shorthand for the dread evoked by a machine designed to pick its way unseen and un­touched among overwhelmingly civilian populations, a technological prosthesis for a very 21st-century kind of warfare, a very 21st-century kind of network’, (2013) writes James Bridle in ‘Drones and Dread’. He goes on to describe how ‘anticipatory anxiety’ is one of the key effects produced by contemporary conflicts. The visual imperceptibility of the drone invokes a feeling of helplessness and a belief that they could attack at any given time, engendering a pervasive worry about future trauma. He continues: ‘The style of war facilitated and encouraged by the drone is frequently described as remote, distant, morally disengaged.’ (2013) It goes without saying that there is a long way between the dread felt, as one fears for one’s life under the hidden threat of a drone plane, and that felt, as one bends to the overhanging dread of not being productive enough in the capitalist market. One cannot really compare the two, without understating the true terror of living in a situation of war or under violent occupation. But the mechanisms behind this form of anticipatory anxiety as a way of controlling behavioural conduct are related. And as Bridle proposes, this forming of dread, this consistent possibility of a subtle background scare, may be the intended product of the technology of the daemon. ‘Dread is an intended product of certain uses of technology; [..] a technology which is continuous and pervasive, that flows across the surfaces of all the networks that we - civilians on the social web, drone pilots in their satellite trucks, farmers on cellphones in the tribal villages of Pakistan - not only use but inhabit.’ (Bridle, 2013)