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This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Phartman: I love this trope. Give this one to character who's also a Perpetual Frowner, and you've got something scary indeed.

Were Josh Peck Prince: It works even better if said person doing is also a vampire, were-creature or demon of some kind- or basically any creature with fangs.

Suave IV: here's what I got from the cache, if anyone cares to merge it into the existing article, here ya go...

...I did, however, take the liberty of adding the image back to the main page, per the request on Images We Miss.

Drow Lord: Huh... the descriptions for this and Psychotic Smirk seem to overlap a little. Are there any clearer distinctions?

Fanti Sci: A Slasher Smile is a giant grin with crazy eyes, worn mostly by mentally unhinged and over-the-top characters. A Psychotic Smirk is a small but highly significant smile worn by classy villains and antiheroes. A Psychotic Smirk can go unnoticed: there's no missing a Slasher Smile. To use your Fruits Basket examples, when Akito is talking quietly and menacingly, he's wearing a Psychotic Smirk. When someone thwarts him, or he goes off the deep end and into a vicious rant, the expression changes into a Slasher Smile (look at the eyes — they go crazy). Other than being disturbing smiles, it's rare that you could mistake one for the other. The pictures people have put up for these two entries demonstrate the characteristics of both smiles perfectly.


There's something extremely disconcerting about a smile that doesn't have an ounce of happiness in it. It's downright scary when the smile is in anticipation of pain or death - yours, probably. Somehow, the thought of being attacked by someone who's clearly enjoying it is more terrifying than a faceless assailant, or even by someone who's dark and brooding. Needless to say, the Slasher Smile does not inspire confidence in anyone who sees it.

The Slasher Smile is the evil sibling of the Cheshire Cat Grin. In general, the difference is in the eyes of the character. If the eyes sparkle, or are mischievously wicked, it's a Cheshire Cat Grin. If, however, the eyes are clearly crazy or malevolent, it's a Slasher Smile. If the grinning person is holding a knife or an axe, it's definitely a Slasher Smile.

While the Cheshire Cat Grin is a staple of the Trickster, generally one of the good guys, the Slasher Smile is the staple of the Ax-Crazy, unless said hero is a particularly dark or vicious Anti-Hero. Only expect to see a "nice" hero with a Slasher Smile if they've been possessed or suffered a major Freak Out or if they have been taken over by their Super-Powered Evil Side. Also, a devious Chessmaster or Magnificent Bastard is unlikely to look like this - it's too obviously evil. They prefer the Psychotic Smirk. The Slasher Smile is the premise of The Dragon or the antagonistic Mad Scientist. Killers who are insane as well as evil quite like to use this as well. It isn't exactly the hallmark of a well-balanced, rational mind. Creatures who physically devour their victims (vampires, etc.) also tend to use this... in their case, it means "All the better to eat you with!"

Some characters with a Slasher Smile wear the grin all the time - in fact, it's physically impossible for them to move their face out of it. This has the added worry of meaning that you can never tell what they're thinking, because their face betrays no expression beyond the smile.

May be part of the fear behind the Monster Clown.
Examples:
  • While many horror films use this trope, the "Here's Johnny!" scene from The Shining merits a special mention.
  • The Joker from Batman had this expression glued on his face. His "Joker Venom" induces the expression in those exposed to it.

  • The literary example, The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo, which is commonly cited as inspiration for The Joker, involves a man whose face is surgically altered so that he cannot stop smiling and how his psyche is twisted by this. See the picture at the top of this page for the unbelievably disturbing-looking result.
  • Under the same lines as the The Joker, fellow Monster Clown/ Psychofor Hire Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy 6 wears this smile every time you see him, in battle or not.

  • Literary example: In Robin Jarvis' The Deptford Mice - The Dark Portal, a rat called Smiler had a Slasher Smile on his face all the time...because he'd been rude to his superior as a child, and said superior had cut off his lips.
  • Slightly subverted in American Mc Gee's Alice: The Cheshire Cat had this expression (it's significantly scarier than the Cheshire Cat Grin his other incarnations wore), but he was one of the few allies the player has in the game, and he never attacks Alice. Still, when he appeared and disappeared grin-first, followed by his crazy eyes, it was prime Nightmare Fuel. It was never quite clear whether he was as mad as a box of frogs, or frighteningly sane.
  • Many cartoon sharks grin at their victims as they sneak up from behind. For instance, the Finding Nemo promotional posters featured a blood-crazed Bruce looming over Dory and Marlin.

  • Possibly an example of Truth in Television, or, more accurately, Urban Legend In Television. In the past, some people believed that sharks grinned and winked as they moved in for the kill. In actual fact, sharks' jaws swing down and forward to allow them to bite, and a membrane moves to cover their eyes so that they don't get damaged in the assault. The look certainly gives the appearance of a scary grin, which may go some way to explain why sharks are such demonised predators. Mind you, it seems unlikely that anyone being attacked by a shark would care whether it looked like it was grinning or not.
  • Anti-Hero example: The Midnighter, in The Authority. He loves his job and he isn't afraid to show it in the scariest manner possible.
  • Xellos from The Slayers has this in spades. It's less common to see him not smiling than to see him with a smile (or a convenient Psychotic Smirk) on his lips, but if he's smiling and his eyes are open, you're in serious trouble. Especially exemplified as he's sadistically torturing Valgaav in TRY and a highly amused smile never leaves Xellos' face, backed up by a truly psychotic giggle.

  • Hollow Ichigo from Bleach has a constant psychotic grin when he takes over.
  • As do Zaraki Kenpachi (being a Blood Knight) and Grimmjow Jaggerjagues (being a Psycho for Hire).
  • Anti-Hero example: Revy from Black Lagoon frequently gets this kind of grin when she's busy gunning down bad guys in one of the show's shootouts, in particular the first major shootout at the Yellow Flag against the Extra Order mercenaries in the first episode.

  • Osaka's attempt to "wake up" Yukari in Azumanga Daioh fell into this from a different angle. Osaka always looks a bit blank, and she was half-asleep when she tried it... which just resulted in her standing in the doorway with a blank, empty smile and a large knife. She had no violent intentions, but she sure as hell looked like someone was gonna get stabbed.
  • Both Carcer and Mr. Teatime of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are described as smiling like this all the time. The drawing of Mr. Teatime in The Art of Discworld perfectly illustrates this.

  • Dilandau from Vision of Escaflowne has every kind of slasher expression in the book. Word has it the animators had a running contest as to who could draw Dilandau the most insane...
  • In the opening of Suikoden II, Luca Blight has one of the most frighteningly evil Slasher Smiles imaginable bordering on Nightmare Fuel (a look that he keeps consistent throughout the game) and isn't just holding a knife or an axe; he's holding a...decapitated head.

  • Lucy from Elfen Lied, especially in the manga, seems to only smile whenever she is about to brutally kill somebody.
  • Kuroudo Akabane from Getbackers's happy face.
  • Legato Bluesummers from Trigun has probably the most nonchalant Slasher Smile ever.
  • An episode of Xena: Warrior Princess flashes back to the point in her past where Xena went from ruthless but otherwise sane and rational warlord to utterly psychotic rampager; she has one of these grins on her face when she snaps a Roman soldier's neck, but it's her eyes that are the most disturbing.

  • Just look at the entry picture on Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. There are a couple hundred other examples in the series, too. The real culprit, though, has a perpetually blank appearance, which is even creepier in contrast.
  • A good portion of the characters in Hellsing (especially Alucard and Alexander Anderson) tend to wear psychotic Slasher Smiles a good portion of the time.

  • Ophelia from Claymore was fond of flashing these.
  • This is the only expression worn by Kevin from Sin City.
  • Reality Show example: Sanjaya from American Idol.
  • Literary example: In Ray Russel's Victorian pastiche Sardonicus, the title character takes this name on account of having one of these smiles, the result of having a shock when digging up his father's grave to retrieve a winning lottery ticket from the corpse's pocket.

  • During a lull in his Minor Injury Overreaction, Ysengrin from Gunnerkrigg Court flashes one of these — along with his claws — at Mr. Eglamore.

  • Took out the second entry on The Shining.

Were Josh Peck Prince: I've got a question. How many times has Jack Nicholson used the slasher smile in the movies he's been in?

Twin Bird: Well, Batman, obviously. The porn theatre in The Departed. A few times in As Good As It Gets and Anger Management, although those might have just been particularly scary Cheshire Cat Grins.

  • Edited the first quote to be a more direct translation of the German original, since there's no official English version. Also corrected Bertholt Brecht —> Bertolt (spelling he used most often).
    • Um...I never thought that I'd say this, but the English version from the 1930s is very widely recognized and is the one that all of the covers of the song (including the famous Bobby Darin version) use. While the current quote is MUCH closer to the actual lyrics, the line from the original English translation is more widely recognized and is better illustrative of the trope" "Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear, and it shows 'em pearly whites..." I won't change anything, but I'd just like to render my support of changing the quote to that version.
      • While the current version (7 sept 09) is strictly speaking A correct translation, it isn't necessarily THE correct one, seeing as the song goes: "Und der Haifisch/der hat Zähne/und die trägt er im Gesicht/und Mac Heath der hat ein Messer/doch das Messer sieht man nicht." Which I'd translate as "And the shark's got teeth, and he keeps them in plain sight. And Mac Heath(Mack) has a knife, but that knife one doesn't see". Yes, my translation sucks, mainly because several grammatical structures in the German version don't exist in english. The point I'm trying to make though is: the shark's got nothing to do with the story, it's only there so Mack can be compared to it. Having teeth in your face instead of, say, your left elbow, isn't only trivial but also doesn't really make for a nice contrast with anything else in the sentence. Having teeth in plain sight, however, forms a perfect foil for Mack's hidden knife. I agree with Known Unknown, either stick with the German version or go with the "official" free translation.- Garnasha 7 sept 09 14:55 wondering why signing with ~~~~ doesn't work in this wiki.


  • Known Unknown: I think the Mack the Knife quote should be the one from the English (Jazz) version, as the original version kind of... loses it's intensity when it's directly translated. Unless you want to put it in German, I suggest changing it.
    "Oh the shark has; Pretty teeth dear; And it shows them; Pearly white"

Evil Flying Tiles: Um, I'm not sure if the Yu-Gi-Oh! example (the one for Yami Yuugi, not Yami Marik) belongs here or in Psychotic Smirk. Help?