Created By: KingZeal on August 10, 2011 Last Edited By: KingZeal on January 20, 2013
Troped

The Darkness Gazes Back

A character stares into darkness and finds a sinister pair of eyes staring back.

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Page Type:
Trope
Needs a Better Title

A common Horror Trope. A character is surrounded in darkness, aware that there's something lurking just in the shadows. They stare inquisitively into the abyss...and then a pair of eyes appears and returns the favor.

Usually, this is used for Rule of Scary, but there's many other uses. For example, a comedic effect could be that the entity shrouded in shadow could be invisible except for their eyes.

By the Lights of Their Eyes is a Sister Trope. Compare Glowing Eyes of Doom.

Examples:

Film
  • Suspiria, first murder. Eek.
  • In Iron Man, Pepper Potts and agents of SHIELD are looking for Big Bad Obidiah Stane in his darkly-lit workshop. Pepper notices a suspiciously-large shadow and cautiously stares into it, only for the Iron Monger to power up and two glowing mechanical eyes to stare back at her.
  • In the first Neverending Story, Atreyu stares into a dark corner to find his nemesis, the large wolf beast that had been stalking him the entire story, eyeing him back.
  • Played with in the Doom movie, when one of the soldiers sees a pair of eyes in the darkness. He calls out, thinking it's one of the scientists he's looking for... only to see all the other eyes of the mutated monster opening just before it springs.
  • Nightmare Before Christmas: One of the characters in the opening song "This Is Halloween" is the monster devoted to this "job".
I am the one hiding under your bed
Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red

Literature
  • Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone, short story "The Riddle of the Crypt". This happens twice to Irene Morrow. The first time she sees yellow eyes in the darkness it turns out to be a large owl, which attacks her. The second time it's a vampire that wants to drain her blood.
  • In H2G2.Life The Universe And Everything, Arthur Dent finds himself in a completely dark cave. He turns around several times, convinced that something may be behind him, and the third or so time he sees the compound eyes of a giant fly staring back at him.
  • Frodo keeps seeing Gollum's eyes when he's following the heroes in The Lord of the Rings.

Live-Action TV
  • The X-Files: The ending of "Detour". Luckily, Scully left the room just in time.

Western Animation
  • In a Looney Tunes Sylvester and son cartoon, Sylvester corners the mouse he's chasing into a dark room and sees a pair eyes staring back. Thinking it's the meek rodent, he charges inside to attack--only to get his ass kicked by the boxing kangaroo.
  • This scene from "The Swamp" episode of Avatar: the Last Airbender, as pictured above, when the gang realizes they're NOT alone.
  • Every season of Jackie Chan Adventures had Shendu do this to end the first part of the two-part finale.
Community Feedback Replies: 35
  • August 11, 2011
    Arivne
    Literature
    • Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone, short story "The Riddle of the Crypt". This happens twice to Irene Morrow. The first time she sees yellow eyes in the darkness it turns out to be a large owl, which attacks her. The second time it's a vampire that wants to drain her blood.
  • August 11, 2011
    KingZeal
    Western Animation
    • In a Looney Tunes Sylvester and son cartoon, Sylvester corners the mouse he's chasing into a dark room and sees a pair eyes staring back. Thinking it's the meek rodent, he charges inside to attack--only to get his ass kicked by the boxing kangaroo.

    • In the first Neverending Story, Atreyu stares into a dark corner to find his nemesis, the large wolf beast that had been stalking him the entire story, eyeing him back.
  • August 11, 2011
    MetaFour
    • In H2G2.Life The Universe And Everything, Arthur Dent finds himself in a completely dark cave. He turns around several times, convinced that something may be behind him, and the third or so time he sees the compound eyes of a giant fly staring back at him.
  • August 12, 2011
    Arivne
    By The Lights Of Their Eyes is a Sister Trope (not the same trope, but some overlap and shares some examples).
  • August 12, 2011
    Shnakepup
    Does this include examples where a giant monster eye opens up? Or is that already another trope?
  • August 12, 2011
    alecmyers
    Film
  • August 12, 2011
    KingZeal
    ^^ If it involves eyes shrouded and darkness, yeah, it includes that.
  • August 25, 2011
    KingZeal
    Bump
  • September 18, 2011
    TechUnadept
  • September 20, 2011
    TrustBen
    As a side-point, it shoule be noted that the Trope Namer is a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: "When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back."
  • September 20, 2011
    ladyofprocrastination
    Doesn't Frodo keep seeing Gollum's eyes when he's following the heroes in The Lord Of The Rings? It's been a while since I read it.
  • September 20, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Well, let's hope the tropers who are more familiar with scary movies start chipping in. It'd be kind cool to launch it sometime in October.
  • September 22, 2011
    MiinU

    Western animation

    note: might also make a good page image.
  • September 22, 2011
    SharleeD
    • Played with in the Doom movie, when one of the soldiers sees a pair of eyes in the darkness. He calls out, thinking it's one of the scientists he's looking for... only to see all the other eyes of the mutated monster opening just before it springs.
  • September 22, 2011
    SalFishFin
    Every season of Jackie Chan Adventures had Shendu do this to end the first part of the two-part finale.
  • September 30, 2011
    aurora369
    A common Stirlitz joke: "Stirlitz looked into a hollow of a tree trunk and saw two yellow eyes looking at him from the dark hollow. "A woodpecker" - thought Stirlitz. "No, you're a woodpecker" - thought Muller in the hollow."
  • October 26, 2011
    aurora369
    bump
  • October 27, 2011
    aurora369
  • October 27, 2011
    Chabal2
    Touhou: Yukari's portals contain staring, disembodied eyes.
  • October 27, 2011
    Qmarkthe2nd
    Not to be confused with He Who Fights Monsters.
  • October 30, 2011
    MiinU
    Bump.
  • November 1, 2011
    Earnest
  • November 13, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Launched accidentally/incompletely by Instant Eternity; bumping back to the YKTTW list.

    BTW, I need to request Needs A Better Title status: If Internet searches are to be believed, the original phrase "the abyss gazes back" is a metaphor for He Who Fights Monsters, while this trope is playing the phrase literally. That means the Trope Namer is not an actual example, which may or may not be a problem but either way should be clearly noted.

    Maybe something like this (in your own words, not mine please) ?

    "When Fredreich Neitzche talked about 'gazing into the abyss', he was using it as a metaphor for seeing yourself in the reflection. But when other characters stare into the abyss, this is played more literally, and there will inevitably be something revealed in the abyss gazing back at them."
  • February 6, 2012
    MiinU
    bump.
  • February 6, 2012
    KingZeal
    I was wondering where this had went.

    Anyway, any new title would be fine.
  • February 7, 2012
    Stratadrake
  • February 17, 2012
    TBeholder
    Also, may salvage a few from here:

    Film
    I am the one hiding under your bed
    Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red

    Live Action TV
    • The X Files: The ending of "Detour". Luckily, Scully left the room just in time.
  • February 26, 2012
    TBeholder
    Far being it from me to not support a good quote, but Darkness Gazes Back is somewhat more descriptive
  • February 26, 2012
    KingZeal
  • February 26, 2012
    elwoz
    Animals with a tapetum lucidum can produce this effect in Real Life: if there's a dim light source (like a campfire) behind the person peering into the darkness, it may be bright enough to reflect off the tapetum and reveal the animal's eyes but not bright enough to make the whole animal visible.

    Nearly all nocturnal predators have a tapetum lucidum, because it improves their night vision, including all the ones that you really don't want to have lurking around your campfire...
  • August 24, 2012
    Roy
    Film Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. During the Snow White's run in the forest, the animal's eyes appear from the darkness. 'Cause Snow White's fear and confusion they look like inhuman and demonic. [[Please: don't put this as the main page image of this troper. You know, it's very disturbing.]]
  • August 24, 2012
    HonestGent
    If we're still looking for names, how about The Shadows Stare Back?
  • August 25, 2012
    Arivne
    Western Animation
    • Subverted in the opening title of the original (1973-74) Superfriends. When Wonder Dog looks into the darkness he sees a pair of eyes. However, they're quickly revealed to be a reflection of Wonder Dog's eyes in a mirror.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump; seems done to me.
  • January 20, 2013
    KingZeal
    Cool. Launching tomorrow.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=s12816h061et6ard36q1mp34&trope=TheDarknessGazesBack