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A subtrope of People Puppets and Taken for Granite:

Even though Puppeteer Parasite 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.

Examples of Can Only Move the Eyes include:

Alternate Reality Games

  • Played with in the early ARG Majestic; after being captured by The Men in Black, a character makes a post on his vlog where he says that he's safe and being well taken care of in an ordinary hospital, and that his "caretakers" are wholly benevolent. During the post, he surreptitiously gestures in American Sign Language to indicate the name of the facility where he's been imprisoned.

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..

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".

Film -- Animated

  • 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 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.

Film -- Live Action

  • Happens in the poor horror movie remake House of Wax. 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. [1]
  • 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!


  • 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.
  • In Iain M Banks' SF novel The Culture, as a bizarre punishment one incidental character 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. At one point the exoskeleton takes complete control of its occupant as he frantically tries to prevent it performing its programming.
  • In Naked Lunch, this happens to a carny worker in one of Benway's most infamous monologues.

Live Action TV

  • This happens from time to time on Star Trek: The Original Series. It's amazing how many alien races have paralysis weapons.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • The episode "Angels and Demons" 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.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • 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.
    • Since-lost William Hartnell episode "The Dalek's 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.
  • Norman Balthus, in the second season of Carnivale, 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 Nightmare Fuel in the episode where Justin uses his mind to pull one of Norman's teeth after Norman got pissed and spit applesauce at him.
  • In Volume 3 of Heroes, this is inflicted upon Angela Petrelli by her husband, Arthur.
  • CSI: NY The pilot, 'Blink'. See the locked-in syndrome entry in Real Life.

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, [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.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Puppetmaster" has a possessed Aang and Sokka apologizing as they attack Katara.
  • 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.

Real Life

  • 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 and Order once, though they called it "frozen."
  • 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.
  • At the NSFW hypnosis website Hypno Girls, women are sometimes ordered to "freeze". Most of the time, they are still able to move from the neck up.


  1. In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of the movie, Mike laughs at the idea that the movie wants us to believe Diabolik somehow came out on top. Seriously, how the Hell does he expect to get out of that gold?
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