[W]hen you get past the age where you’re capable of believing there’s something carnivorous and hairy under the bed, you don't then lose your capacity for fear. The monsters go, and in their place, lucky you, you get to start imagining real calamities: losing your parents in a car wreck, becoming destitute, having someone you love turn on you, or doing something so shocking that the community ostracizes you.
Right off the bat in the first episode. The characters live happily in their walled off village in peace to hide from Eldritch Abominations trying to wipe out their race, then one day they have said abominations finally break in.
Eren's mother Carla. Watching her son and adopted daughter desperately trying to save her when she's trapped under the remains of their house, legs crushed and unable to run. Then having to force them to flee with them, only to regret it in the fearful realization that she is about to die. She wants them to come back. And Carla then covers her mouth, so she won't say it openly before kicking it. How Eren must have felt; watching poor Carla be eaten right in front of him because he couldn't save her, and realizing the last thing he did before all this was have a huge fight with her...
The soldiers spend all their time boozing because the wall protects everyone and they're convinced they can handle things if the Titans did come in, only for the emergency they've been trained for to occur and they realize they're not only unprepared, but scared out of their mind at the thought of actually fighting the Titans.
Mikasa'sBackstory. She was enjoying a normal morning with family, only for strange men to show up and kill her father, and intend to harm her and her mother. And it's all from her perspective
Deliberately invoked by Dot Pixis during the Battle of Trost where soldiers want to desert and spend their final moments with their loved ones. He told them they could leave, if they wanted their loved ones to experience the same kind of fear the Titans gave them. A father just about to leave imagines his beloved daughter screaming as a Titan picks her up. He and other would-be deserters return and go back into the fight.
Kotoura-san: Haruka's Backstory includes having her mother callously abandon her in front of her Grandfather and saying she wished she never gave birth to her. It's utterly heartbreaking.
Here's one courtesy of Death Note: What if a new serial killer arose, more prolific than any killer before him... and that killer turned out to be your son? Doubling up on the Adult Fear: On top of all of that, it's the parent's responsibility now to capture this serial killer so that he can be put to death. Poor Soichiro...
Played with in an episode of Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu where Sōsuke is shown to be fearless, as he grew up in a war zone so simple things like haunted hospitals, ghosts, horrific screams, and spooky children with hammers don't faze him, yet he is afraid when he thinks that his charge, Kaname, died falling through the floor.
Grave of the Fireflies: Protagonist kids Seita and Setsuko are orphaned during wartime and have heart-wrenching difficulty in surviving afterwards, especially after they run away from their aunt who doesn't really care. Things like sucking on little stones and imagining they are food.
Bitter Virgin features the rarely brought up topic of miscarriage. It also features the life of a girl whose stepfather raped her while her mother was in complete denial when told about it (to the point of thinking her daughter was lying to cover up who she was sleeping with), until the poor girl got pregnant for the second time.
Brook. In a rare case of a main character who was middle-aged in his flashback, instead of the usual childhood traumas we got the story of a parent/authority figure losing friends and loved ones to tragedy and bad decisions, finally ending up old and alone.
Shanks, possibly the most easygoing character in the series, outright panics when Luffy is stolen out of his sight by a lowlife.
What happened to Boa Hancock and her sisters in their past. They were the youngest members of a Kuja ship's crew, and once their older shipmates and caretakers simply took their eyes off the three little girls for mere minutes... they were kidnapped and then sold into slavery. It took them years to come back home, and they remain scarred, both physically and mentally, by the experience right up to the present day.
Luffy, Ace, and Dragon turning into pirates despite trying to raise them as marines could be a parental failure fear for Garp. Even worse when Ace actually dies, and Garp has to ask Sengoku to pin him down so he won't go straight towards his killer to get revenge.
The Punk Hazard arc may have the worst case of this. Parents on the islands near Punk Hazard are told by a Mole in the Marines that their children suddenly died in accidents while they were out playing. In reality, they are subjected to something that could probably be considered worse than a quick, painless death: They are kidnapped by a Mad Scientist and experimented on with growth hormones to see whether it is possible to make humans grow to giant size. To make them stay put in the laboratory, they are fed stimulants disguised as candy. After a short while, they get addicted to the stimulant and go crazy from withdrawal symptoms when they are denied it. So essentially, young children are drugged all the time, but because the stimulant is poisonous, and because the experiments take a toll on their bodies, they are not going to live very old. So yeah, as if the parents aren't terrified enough by getting told that their children have died quickly and painlessly, it will get even worse when they get to know that the children are dying slowly and painfully. Fortunately, when the arc ends, they go with a competent bunch of Marines and will probably be treated for the side effects of the stimulant.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Done in the fifth arc, with all of the Ushiromiya children except for Battler being killed off on the First Twilight. And then Battler in the sixth arc. Poor Rudolf.
Game X Rush: The deep backstories. Abandonment of a child, severe and prolonged physical abuse by foster parents, near-insane idolization of a psychotic "mother" who uses said child as an excuse to kill... And that's just one of the main characters. The other involves severe and prolonged domestic abuse, accidental arson, murder of one parent in front of the child's eyes.
Franken Fran Chapter 29. Terrible, terrible Body Horror things happening to people, sometimes for no good reason, which is creepy. Terrible, horrible things happening to babies... NO!
Bokurano can be boiled down to Adult Fear. A young child is going to die and there is nothing their parent can do to stop it.
Genya Nakajima's elder daughter, Ginga, gets kidnapped by the cyborgs during the attack on Riot Force 6, and his younger daughter Subaru gets hospitalized. In the third Sound Stage of the series, he approaches her and recommends that she withdraw from the case, emphasizing how hard it is on her, but is willing to accept her decision to continue. When you consider that his wife was killed in the line of duty, it's easy to see that he fears losing Subaru too.
Hayate's plight in A's is another; she has been sick for a long time, and seemingly wonders if she'll die soon, but doesn't fear it because she's always been alone. And Graham believes that sealing her away with the Book of Darkness is regrettable, but in that case, few will miss her.
Kotetsu/Wild Tiger is a Hot Dad in canon and therefore he really hates the mere idea of children being in any kind of danger. Worse still, in the second episode his daughter Kaede ends up in danger, and Tiger is not quite quick enough to rescue her. Fortunately, Barnaby saves her life in the nick of time.
Episode 15 brings a new Adult Fear for Kotetsu. Namely, the possibility of having a rare, progressive condition that will force him to give up what he loves most.
Ivan is a teenager, but he still has to face the fear of not having been able to help his friend when he needed him the most. Now said friend, Edward, is a supervillain.
Barnaby has to face a huge Adult Fear: his parents' real murderer was... Maverick, his former Parental Substitute. So during a good part of his life, he has been raised by the guy who killed his mom and dad, and a good part of his whole identity is based onlies.
The moment where Maverick pats Kaede's head. The simple idea of what he could do to her gave the fanbase itself a major freak out.
All friends and colleagues suddenly forgetting who he is and then trying to terminate him for a crime he didn't commit is gutwrenching. It's one of the many reasons that Maverick is pure evil.
The way he lost his mother as a child left Ichigo unable to handle being powerless to protect those in danger. Villains often use this against him, culminating in one Arc Villain's mind-bending assault on his family leading Ichigo into an Heroic BSOD. Also, the Bigger Bad's henchman traps him in a gaol of darkness where he's forced to listen to the dying screams of Soul Society, knowing he's unable to save them.
Having made two separate vows to always protect his dead wife's sister and always uphold the law, Byakuya's left dumbfounded when Rukia's execution brings the two vows into conflict. Although he's forced to support the execution, his worst fear is eventually confirmed to be Rukia dying. As Nodt's supernatural Emotion Bomb forces Byakuya to hallucinate Rukia's melting corpse, driving him into a frenzy that almost kills him.
Being trapped in unending isolation and eternal darkness is the kind of existence few people want to contemplate. It's the existence both Ulquiorra and Starrk suffered prior to being saved from it by the Arrancar transformation. Ulquiorra was trapped in a shell of a body that could neither talk nor had any functional sensory perception except for sight, and Starrk was so powerful he was incapable of being in anyone's presence without instantly killing them.
In Project ARMS, even though the ARMS teens are all actually raised by foster parents, they still are treated like the parents' own children. These parents then get to watch their children be attacked, nearly killed, and then get told "Hey, we have to leave for awhile and may not live, but we love you!"
The Chapel children. They were all the result of a group of women being given, without their knowledge, drugs that enhanced the intelligence of their unborn children. Not only that, but the parents are unable to properly care for their children because they're all afraid of them. Worse, though the children take on adult roles in the town they run, it becomes evident that the kids still need the love and support of their parents.
A group of children is gunned down, for the crime of wanting to see the outside world. And the order was given by the guy who was the closest they had to a father.
In Fairy Tail, it's revealed that Ur had been told by some researchers that her Ill Girl daughter Ultear had died, when in reality, they kidnapped and experimented on the girl because of her magical power. Ultear is one of the villains, and for worse, she hates her mother Ur because she has been led to believe that she hated and abandoned her.
Makarov, guildmaster of Fairy Tail, was forced to exile both his son, Ivan, and his grandson, Laxus, from his guild. Later on, he finds out that Ivan is planning to lure Laxus to his own guild so he can steal the dragon lachryma in his body, and it's heavily implied that doing so might kill Laxus. Seeing as how Ivan only wants the lachryma for money and doesn't care what removing it will do to his son, it's not hard to see why Makarov looked so horrified upon finding out about this plan.
Jude Heartfilia may count as well. A few weeks after he reconciles with his estranged daughter, Lucy, and manages to get over the sudden death of his wife Laylea, who Lucy is the spitting image of, she and her friends are attacked by a monster and seemingly killed. Even worse when Lucy returns and finds out that he's been sending her birthday presents every year since her disappearance... and then died a month before her return.
In Ashita no Nadja, Colette Preminger experiences a terrible dose of this when she wakes up from an illness-induced coma, only to be told by her retainers that her baby daughter Nadja had died of the same sickness that almost killed Colette herself. (Complete with a heartbreaking scene where Colette rushes to Nadja's wooden crib and finds it empty, collapsing in tears). In reality, Nadja had been sent away to an English orphanage to trick Colette into coming back home to her clan. And both mother and daughter only learn of the whole deal thirteen years later.
The climax of My Neighbor Totoro has little Mei run away from home and get lost. The panic of her older sister Satsuki and the villagers is completely identifiable to any audience, especially when they find a little girl's sandal in the pond and believe that she's drowned.
Vampire Princess Miyu has Miyu's mother, the Guardian, fearing the day when her child will be old enough to take her place. Specially considering that the ones who'll demand such a thing are the Shinma... who are mercilesss Eldritch Abominations.
Many of the victims of the Shinma are either children or teenagers. Same goes to many of the people whom Miyu exchanges blood with - almost always after they're subjected to this trope.
In Rurouni Kenshin: Ishin Shishi e no Requiem, Yahiko runs away to join the rebels that were trying to overthrow the Meiji government, since his father was an ex-samurai who died in a similar rebellion years ago.. Kaoru, having no idea where Yahiko had disappeared to, is frantic. When Yahiko is ultimately left behind by the rebels and comes back to the dojo, poor Kaoru greets him with a slap to the face and then proceeds to sob into him. Kenshin immediately tells Yahiko that, had Kaoru not slapped him, he would've done that himself.
The Jinchuu arc is a horrifyingly well-done attempt by Enishi to use this on Kenshin. So Kenshin wasn't able to protect his first wife Tomoe and the mere possibility of losing his girlfriend Kaoru terrifies him? Now Tomoe's vengeful brother deliberately exploits this fear to make Kenshin believe Kaoru has been bloodily murdered by him, thus making him revive these horrible memories. And Kenshin almost crosses the Despair Event Horizon after that.
The Psychological Horror implications of Saitou going to the Kamiya dojo behind Kenshin's back brings out the Adult Fear card with incredible strength. Think about it: he could've killed everyone there easily if he wanted to, and Kenshin wouldn't have been able to do anything. When Kenshin put two and two together, he almost had an Heroic BSOD.
Played horrifyingly straight in Anji Yukyuzan's backstory. The moment he left his old temple to meditate under a waterfall... it was the moment when he was beaten bloody by the local townspeople and said temple was burned to the ground. With Anji's adopted children inside. The terrible psychological consequences lead him to his Face-Heel Turn.
Chapter 501 of Naruto has Tobi threatening a newly born Naruto as an ultimatum to Minato and Kushina.
And later, we have this: Your eldest son, whom you love and raised/trained? He's commissioned with killing you and your spouse. And everyone else in your family. And when he comes for you, you clearly know it, as well as how said son is suffering for it. Your only option is to tell him "well, our deal suck, but go ahead and kill us if that's what you truly have to do. We love you no matter what".
And yet another example, pulled from a pre-Five Great Nations flashback: Back in the old days, the war meant that everyone fought. The series was already known for having Child Soldiers running around willy-nilly, but at least they're trained for combat and start out as civil servants/citizen soldiers—in the bad old days, this kind of thing amounted to seven-year-olds being declared shinobi, stuffed in armor and sent to the front lines. It's exemplified by how, when Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha's fathers met on the battlefield with their sons in tow, each adult's reaction was toimmediatelygo for the other's kids. Morality? What's that?
In Zombie Loan, minor character Sougiya is a single father trying to pay off his contract to the Z-Loan. He knows that if he isn't able to keep his end of the contract, he will die and then no one will be left to take care of his young daughter.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica. One girl has gone missing, another girl found dead, and their friend is very troubled by all that- but refuses any help from anyone. The mother of the latter is seen in the 11th episode, and doesn't cry because she tries to assure herself that the girl can probably handle the stress given enough time. Her mother must have felt powerless and desperate, seeing her once cheerful and gentle daughter grow so distant and detached.
Say, has your (insert: daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, student, neighbor, friend, friend's sister, classmate, etc.) been acting distant or evasive? Coming and going at all hours? Well, you'll never know it, but your precious little girl has made a Faustian pact with a stranger and now has to fight weird monsters. And that one day she never comes home, when you call police but her body was never found? She was either horribly killed by said creature orshe's become one of them herself!
As discussed by Homura, if someone dies inside a witch's barrier, they are, to the outside world, considered missing. Because their body never shows up, unless someone else picks up the body and gets out, nobody knows whether they're alive or dead. Such a fate befalls Mami Tomoe after just three episodes. Sure Madoka, Sayaka, and Homura know what happened to her, but who's gonna believe them? And even if they did, would her loved ones want to know that she died by having her head violently chomped off? Consider that she has such a small circle of friends, and she lives alone. Besides those friends, nobody will remember her or acknowledge that she's gone missing.
In Cardcaptor Sakura, if Sakura loses to Yue at the Final Judgment, everyone will lose their memories and the relationships they've built. It almost happens, too. Luckily, Kaho Mizuki comes to the rescue with her Shrine Bell, giving Sakura a second chance.
In the anime, there's the episode in which, while catching a Clow Card, Sakura accidentally destroys her dad's laptop in which he had stored all the research he had being working for days without sleep. The whole scene is played in an actual heartbreaking way, as she realizes this is something she can't fix with magic.
Sakura and Shaoran also get faced with this when the Clow Card search involves the safety and maybe the lives of their relatives and school friends. In example: Rika is Brainwashed and Crazy when The Sword takes control of her, Meiling finds The Shot thinking it's a love spell and releases it by mistake, Touya is seriously injured while interacting with The Mirror, Tomoyo has her voice stolen by The Sound and later is captured by The Shadow...
And in the Grand Finale, Eriol invokes this deliberately when he puts a sleeping spell over the whole Tomoeda ward, and if Sakura and her guardians lose to him, everyone in their surroundings would almost surely be rendered into a magical sleep forever.
In Higanbana No Saku Yoru Ni, Marie is sexually abused and blackmailed by her teacher, who tells her that no one would believe her if she told. And then said teacher murders her when she finally threatens to tell someone.
Invoked in a flashback in Fruits Basket. Tohru's mother Kyouko comes from an abusive household where her parents heavily neglected her and kicked her out of home right before her then-counselor and later-husband Katsuya came to ask them for marriage approval, so once she finds out she's carrying a baby, she has a Heroic BSOD due to being terrified that her relationship with Tohru would go the way of hers with her own mother.
For a double-hitter, while Kyoko is a good mother to Tohru, she dies not long before the series starts. Her last thoughts, as she lies bleeding to death in the road, are complete panic at the idea that her daughter will be left all alone and uncared for. This carries over to Hanajima and Uotani (who are Tohru's friends, but also act as surrogate parents at times), who are shocked to learn that while they thought Tohru was living with relatives, she'd spent a week living in a tent. Specially considering that Tohru's only relatives come from Kazuya's side... and save for her grandfather, they all hate her. (And when she has to stay with them for a while, they treat her like absolute shit.)
There's also the massive amounts of child abuse in general, both physical and psychological. Most of the characters are able to escape or overcome it by the end of the series, but it's still horrifying, especially considering how well most of it is covered up. And it's made even worse when the biggest of the abusers... turns out to have been one of the most abused victims. For a really selfish and petty reason, too.
Lots of the episodes in Ghost Hunt qualify for this trope, but the one that most frightened this troper was "The Doll House" File. It turns out that the ghost haunting the house was a distraught mother who committed suicide after her daughter was abducted, and continues to search for her in death, causing the deaths of other children living in the home. It is implied that the abductor may have killed the child, but it is never actually confirmed. Also, the little girl currently living in the home is feared to have drowned, but luckily nothing bad ever happened.
Even though Berserk is littered with this, one particular case pops up: that your closest friends and loved ones will backstab you for their own goals and dreams (and it's even worse when it's done on the Cosmic Horror Story level, which would be the Eclipse ceremony that marks the birth of a new Godhand). The backstabbing is enforced, since the person chosen to become a new demon has to sacrifice somebody that they love or care about. And you know what? It's all up to them. Remember that even though the Godhand are card-carryinggods of evil, they explicitly said at the beginning of the Eclipse where Griffith was chosen to become the new Godhand that they weren't going to force those chosen into making their Face-Heel Turn: they had to decide in the end , in Griffith's case, there was a bit of "persuasion" on Ubik's part. That tells you something when you're playing the devil's advocate for a group of devils!
Being backstabbed on the normal level is scary enough as it is, and the theme of rape is prevalent enough as it is in this series, but when it happens to you because your own adoptive father sells you to a pedophile for three silver coins?'
This actually becomes somewhat of a plot point during the Lost Children Arc. Children have been going missing around a village that Guts passes through, so naturally when a still not-captured girl named Jill tries to help the now-infamous Guts to fight the Apostle behind it, the adults are not very happy. The fact that when Guts kills said Apostle's monster Mooks they revert back to their original form — the children — does not help as he essentially leaves behind a trail of slaughtered kids. Including said Apostle, the local Dark Magical Girl Rosine... who once was a normal child and Jill's best friend.
Detective Conan has several things involving Conan or other children being in danger. Conan has been held at gunpoint or knifepoint by a murderer or taken hostage several times, and more than once said murderer would have no problem silencing Conan or another child for being witnesses.
Many cases have children as either victims of murder/injury/etc., or as witnesses of murder/injury/etc.. In the first case types, someone whom they loved will kill to attempt to kill the Asshole Victims as punishment; in the second ones, the now grown-up victims will exact revenge themselves.
The Non-Serial MoviePhantom of Baker Street has the computer Noah's Ark taking fifty children participating in a virtual game system as hostages (where at least one child out of the fifty needs to Win to Exit or else, all of them die in real life) while forcing parents to watch as the capsule containing their child turns grey, signalling a "game over" for that child.
The 15th movie has Conan being Buried Alive under an avalanche and everyone rushing to find him before he runs out of air. And said movie has the attempts on the life of an amnesiac fifteen-year-old boy as one of the biggest plot points.
Also there's the fourth movie, Captured In Her Eyes, where Ran, the one who always takes care of Conanand Kogoro, is struck with Trauma-Induced Amnesia and can barely handle herself. Seeing someone who has always been there for you need help desperately, but you can barely do anything for them... ack.
There's the Murdered Stage Magician case. The victim's six-year-old daughter, whom the killer sort-of used to make the victim surrender to him so they could kill him? The little girl has disappeared. And the murderer is the one who has her. It's a BIG relief when said killer brings her back unharmed.
The premise of the series in general is this. You're in a place that should be very public and friendly, only to be attacked and nearly killed. You cheerfully go off somewhere alone and promise to meet your best friend later, only to all but vanish for who-knows-how-long. Against all odds you manage to survive something that should have been fatal, only to find that you can't go back to your old life. Instead, you have to watch as your friends cry and wonder where you are, while you can't say a thing to them. Because if you do, they will be targeted by the same evil group that did this shit to you.
Fantastic Children: A 5-year-old child just disappeared without a trace and 6 years later his/her corpse was found amongst other children's. There have been many parents who had to experience this throughout history since the 15th century. In one of the cases of missing children the police refuse to pursue the case further and conclude that the child left on his own, using his then 3-year-old sister's words for their convenience.
It gets worse thinking about Sara in the end. She may be trying to show the kids of this hellscape that there's always some glimmer of hope out there...but as far as her parents back home know, she was probably kidnapped, murdered, and disposed in some remote location.
Not touched upon often, in-series at least, but Wandering Son has a few examples. A child 9 - 12 year old is out late, lying to their parents about where they've been, and being friends with adult strangers who you know little about. There's also the notion of children being depressed and uncomfortable with their body but you knowing nothing of what to do.
Interestingly enough, Pokémon Special has this fear belong to one of the main villains, Giovanni - his son was abducted by the Mask of Ice, and at least one of his villainous schemes even stems from his desire to find him. It also briefly plays on the fear that, after you've been separated from your child for so long, they might not like you or want anything to do with you now that you've re-entered their life - because while he eventually comes around and accepts his father, deciding to involve him in his life, Silver initially rants about how unfair it is that he'll never have a perfect family and that he can't possibly accept that his father is such a renown criminal (while Giovanni is in the same room, in perfect hearing distance, though unconscious).
Spirited Away has one scene where Yubaba frantically searches her son's room while believing he's been kidnapped.
What about the humans? A ten-year-old girl gets trapped in a strange world, has her parents get turned into pigs and therefore be unable to help her, and then willingly sells herself into slavery for the chance to rescue them. Perhaps it's a good thing her parents never found out what really happened...
Ryuunosuke and Caster in Fate Zero are serial child murderers who like to give their victims a Hope Spot before brutally killing them. In one episode, you even see a memorial service for one of the victims, who happens to be one of the young Rin's classmates. It's just a single photo frame, and you hear someone mention that they coundn't do a proper burial because the body was too mangled. It gets so bad that, in-universe, a reward is offered to whoever can kill Caster first, and the entire Holy Grail War is put on hold until then. Cue nearly everyone doing an Enemy Mine to take these two down.
In Kodomo no Jikan, despite allReiji'sfaults, when Rin is in any danger, real or imaginary, he really freaks out. On the other hand, Reiji himself is no small cause of nightmares, with his disturbing and unhealthy interest in Rin.
While it's generally Played for Laughs, it's heavily implied in Axis Powers Hetalia that the nations have no choice but to obey their bosses, meaning that the characters all live in a world where their best friends or even family members could turn on them in an instant. When the series was in its webcomic format, it was played very seriously in the story of China and Japan. China raises Japan and considers him a little brother, only for Japan to show up in the middle of the night and attack China with a katana. China has no idea at all this is coming, and is inviting Japan inside for some food when the blade is drawn.
And on the anime side: after a disastrous mission, a very pregnant Aya comes home to an empty apartment. Her boyfriend Toya's shoes are by the door, his toothbrush is in a cup by the sink, his mug is on the counter, but he's not there, and he'll never be again. That's gotta be pretty high up the list of Adult Fears for most of us—having to come home to all the memories alone.
High School Of The Dead - the first couple episodes are particularly brutal. Scores of underage teenagers are simply massacred in some of the most horrific ways imaginable with no pathos whatsoever. An adult survivor of whatever zombie attack hit an office, you're able to get home and you learn that you 15-year-old daughters' high school was ravaged. Your worst fears are confirmed when you learn she died slowly in agonizing pain, and not only did she come back to murder others, she was killed AGAIN by friends who knew her since grade school; shedding not one tear or giving not even the slightest shit about killing her again. Yeah. Kids in the first couple episodes are livestock.
Welcome to the NHK presents its viewers the consequences of being a hikkikomori for the rest of your life: Growing old, ugly, still living with your parents until they die and eventually homelessness.
On Yamazaki's side, it's the fear that your dreams and aspirations are futile and you shouldn't even bother because, like it or not, your life has already been decided.
With Hitomi, it's the fear that there is nothing to look forward to in life other than work, work and more work. With Megumi, it's constantly being exploited by con artists and desperately searching ways to make income to support yourself and a parasitic relative.
Life is just full of this. The manga centers around bullying and self-harm. After her friend betrays her in a jealous rage Ayumu begins to cut herself. Once she enters high school she meets a girl who acts like her friend but turns out to be a bully in disguise. None of her family members know about her turmoils. To make matters worse, the teachers try their best to downplay the bullying and make it seem like nothing is wrong.
In Digimon each season has one or more adult fear aspects to it especially in Adventure, Tamers, and Savers.
Digimon Adventure: Your child disappears, going to a strange place with monsters, and you know they're risking their lives and nearly dying on several occasions, and then they have to fight an Eldritch Abomination. And all you can do is stay at home, far away from them, and pray for the best.
Digimon Adventure 02: Your oldest son dies in a car accident at the age of 7 and then his younger brother starts getting a lot better at school and sports, similar to how his brother was, and while years later he is considered a teen celebrity because of his talents he isn't quite himself anymore and he has been getting more and more distant lately. Then one day he dissappears after leaving a note that almost sounds like he may be attempting suicide and when he finally does come home weeks later from who knows where he has no idea who you are anymore. Later on lonely little children start being approached by strange looking adults and when they come home they seem different and more violent then they used to be.
Digimon Tamers: Not only is there a lot of property destruction (including entire homes being destroyed—hello, homelessness and shelters!), but the kids go on yet another journey far-away to face monsters and an Eldritch Abomination...only this time the Eldritch Abomination has kidnapped one of the children, planted a convincing fake that makes you believe your daughter has lost her mind from the ordeal while the real one is psychologically-tortured for weeks.
In the Street Fighter IV OAV The Ties that Bind, Ken and to a lesser extent Guile are slapped to the face with this when Ken's wife/Guile's sister in law Eliza disappears. It's worse when it turns out she was kidnapped. By Crimson Viper. Who, at the start, had posed as a Hot Scoop who had just spoken to Ken himself. Moreso, Eliza has just found out that she's pregnant. The imaginery of Kent speaking to Viper on the phone while the camera pans to a couch that has Eliza's knitting stuff on it and to a small doll that sits on the fireplace is pretty powerful.
It's also not helped by how Ken's best friend Ryu is dealing with a massive fear of his own: how his Superpowered Evil Side, Evil Ryu, is comin more and more to the surface... and then it's revealed that this is the center a massive Evil Plan by the Big Bad Seth.
Elfen Lied. Well, too many things to list, so lets just go with bloody Unknown Man. He's sadist, a rapist, a murderer, and a child molester, and he nearly has his way with a rape victim name Mayu.
Mayu's stepfather, who molested her repeatedly, and her mother did nothing to stop him. Result is she runs away with nobody to care about her till she runs into Kouta and Yuka.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex's movie sequel Solid State Society has Big Bad The Puppeteer, who's MO is to kidnap children and wipe their parents' memory of them. By the end of the movie, it takes over Togusa's body and tries to force him to personally deliver his daughter to it in one of the tensest scenes in the series.
The first episode has a rapist actually rape someone on-screen.
Another episode has a man who has been the Butt Monkey for years at his job finally snap and go on a killing spree at work.
One arc has an all women's college, where parents and students alike become terrified of a Serial Killer turning the students into deranged plastic art (and yes, the process of turning a person into plastic kills them). Turns out the Serial Killer was under everyone's noses the whole time, it was Rikako, one of the students; leaving almost everyone who knew her feeling betrayed and scared.
Many characters are "latent criminals", who have been judged by the Sibyl System to be unstable individuals who could either commit crime or hurt society. Most of these characters either become Enforcers, who can only hunt criminals and be isolated from society in a Gilded Cage, or are killed by government police. Some are simply locked in an asylum far away from society for the rest of their lives. Although these characters legitmately do have psychological issues and are unstable (at least sometimes), they often get no chance for redemption or to fix their problems.
In Episode 11, one character watches one of their closest friends get their throat slit. To make it worse, they could have shot the person who was going to kill their friend but to do so, would have to reject the Sibyl System and in a way, the morals of their society that they fully believed in at that point. This is shown through the person trying to shoot their Dominator, a gun that only can shoot at criminals judged by the Sibyl System, or simply picking up a shotgun which could kill the person holding their friend hostage. After losing Yuki, all Akane can do at the end of the episode is speak a Madness Mantra, "I sat by and watched Yuki die" over and over, and then say that Makishima can't be judged by the Sibyl System or the Dominators.
Episode 12 has Yayoi finding out someone she loved was rebelling against society through music and Molotov Cocktails. The person in question was also implicated in murder.
Even worse in that episode is the first real insight into the conditions the asylums operate under. Yayoi, in her cell, is locked away without access to the outside world, or anything to do to entertain herself, especially her beloved guitar. When she shows even the slightest bit of distress over what amount to her imprisonment, the room is gassed and the tannoy tells her to start calming down, and that doctors would be on their way to help her. The final situation is a place where you are sent to, if you show any free will that goes against the Sybil System, to be stripped of your free will and be drugged into submission with cold, clinical efficiency if you show any more free will.
Episode 13 has Akane dealing with the fallout of losing a friend, and then having to repeatedly relive the memories of watching a close friend die.
One of the main characters is revealed to have had his father go insane with grief about his society and shame his family. The character is Ginoza and his father is Masaoka, who now works under Ginoza.
A death of a Posthumous Character turned Shinya from an idealistic and law-abiding citizen to a despairing Blood Knight who is despised by society and is wracked with grief due to his friend dying.
Episode 15 plays on many Adult Fear scenarios; like those who feel wronged by society violently attacking those who society has favoured, crime sprees, people losing faith in society and law, mass riots and ultimately the threat of societal breakdown.
Another Wham Episode, Episode 16 shows what it would be like for your life to be potentially saved by someone you trusted and respected, just for them to then kill you.Poor Shusei.
Yet another Wham Episode, Episode 18 shows what it would be like to find out the police department and the government is not only highly corrupt, but will try to have you killed when they find out you know too much or even if they think you could be detrimental to their plans.
Episode 21 shows how a father can try to save his son who he has a bad relationship with, and then die in front of said son trying to prove he loves his son...and how he can die before his son can even acknowledge him as his Dad. The relationship between Masaoka and Ginoza was mostly professional, but Masaoka's last words show how he wished it was father and son. Ginoza afterwards seems to feel the same.
The finale, Episode 22, has Shinya killing Makishima, and due to the Sibyl System wanting Makishima brought in alive, he is forced to leave the society he cares about and wanted to change, forever. Akane witnesses Shinya kill Makishima, but is powerless to stop him, making her idealism about people wanting to follow the law ring hollow...leaving her to cry. To top that off, the Sibyl System coldly rejects Akane's idealism and outright laughs at her as well as informing her that they are going to do everything they can to break her idealism about people and convince her that humanity needs to be ruled over, in this case, by the Sibyl System. The Sibyl System also tells Akane that when they break her idealism and faith in people, they will use what they did to her to allow to break the rest of society so they can easily control them.
Watching your children or other relatives die while you are powerless to stop it;
Having your family members threatened;
Being rejected by everybody and dying completely alone;
Having your friends and family turn on you, or having to turn on them;
Dying horrifically and pointlessly owing to circumstances beyond your control;
Losing everyone and everything you know and love;
The idea that people, no matter how nice or friendly they may seem, will commit unspeakable acts of violence and depravity, if the chips are down
In Xam'd: Lost Memories, there's quite a bit of this. The clearest example is in how the teenage lead characters, for one reason or another, all end up having to leave their families behind to participate in the war effort. Their parents know that they are in danger and could get killed, but there's nothing they can do to stop it.
Yuno, who stalks and obsesses over Yukiteru to the point of creeping him out. Mind you, real-life stalking and possessive lovers are NOT fun things to deal with.
Tsubaki's backstory can hit too close for comfort for victims of rape.
Then she tries to inflict the same gang-rape to Yuno. Yes, she may be an Ax-Crazy yandere, but even she doesn't deserve that! Imagine being in Yukiteru's shoes, especually when he hears Yuno's terrified screams, and especially in the anime where she's stripped down to her underwear while resisting and screaming—poor Yukki has to witness the sight of that, but thankfully savers her in the nick of time.
School Days will make you groan if you've ever had someone cheat on you, or had the fear of your romantic partner cheating on you. In one particular Wham Episode, Kotonoha scrambles to the school roof, excited to see her recently-hooked-up-with boyfriend Makoto, only to find out he's getting particularly dirty with Sekai. She has a very justifiably horrified face when she catches the two of them.
In Dragon Ball Z in the Saiyan Saga, Chi-Chi having no idea where Gohan was for a long period of time and having no way to contact him.
Also, Goku and the others (Krillin, Bulma, and Master Roshi) watching Gohan (as a 4 year old) getting kidnapped by Raditz.
Gohan gets his own when he grows up. After a traumatizing childhood where his mistakes have gotten people killed, Battle of the Gods has him getting drunk and making a mistake that nearly gets his wife and daughter killed. He's Immune to Bullets, but instead of catching them when he's shot at, he deflects them, only for the ricochet to hit Videl, who can be injured by bullets and who also happens to be, unbeknownst to Gohan, pregnant.
Although he rarely expresses anything outside of arrogance and anger, Seto Kaiba himself has one. Whenever his brother's life is at stake, he's terrified he will lose him. Being orphaned at a young age and a Parental Substitute to Mokuba are good reasons why he'd be scared to lose the family he has.
The Amory Wars: Coheed and Cambria are forced to kill three of their four children early on, with the youngest (the twins, Matthew and Maria) getting poisoned and the oldest (Josephine, who had gotten engaged, and shortly after, gang raped while her fiancé is beaten) getting beaten to death with a hammer. The second oldest, Claudio, was out with his girlfriend when it happened, and when he gets home he finds Josie dead on the kitchen floor.
52: The Question is suffering from terminal lung cancer exacerbated by years of smoking as his body and mind gradually waste away. Despite his history of fighting alien menaces and international conspiracies there is nothing he can do to stop his cancer from metastasizing.
The kids from Runaways fight vampires, aliens, and evil robots, but the only reason they have to deal with these things in the first place is that their own parents turn out to be evil. For most of them, this comes as a shock; for Chase, not so much. Then they all start living in underground hideaways and putting themselves in danger to keep LA safe from the power vacuum created by their parents, resulting in even more physical and emotional trauma and, in Gertrude aka Gert's case, death.
In one of the earlier chapters, Frank Dean attacks other members of the Pride and completely freaks out when Karolina disappears.
When the kids accidentally travel to the past and run into the Yorks (before they died), the Yorks are quite panicked and ask straight away if their daughter is with them. When they learn that Gertrude is dead, they immediately plan to return to her and make sure she's safe. Then they bring over a futuristic bomb to get revenge on the kids for letting Gert die in any timeline.
In the Age of Ultron alternate universe Victor Mancha is the caretaker of a bunch of orphans, and the last of the original Runaways alive. The Ao U Mancha has two simple fears, less glamorous but scarier than his past ones: he fears to be unable to protect his protegees, and he fears the day he'll start forgetting about the past and the happy moments he shared with his now absent friends.
Hey, remember those "terrorist organizations" that used to show up in Saturdaymorningcartoons? Wearing identical uniforms and commanded by hamfisted martinettes with delusions of grandeur? Well, then take a look at the JSA vs Kobra minseries, in which a chess-playing former analyst takes control of one such organization, and proceeds to turn it into, well, a terrorist organization - members who could be anyone, improvised explosive devices - but with all the reach and potential resources of a Fantasy Kitchen Sink universe. Ever wondered what a terrorist organization would do mind control magic and bargain basement enhancile tech?
The Marvel Comics event Fear Itself is ultimately driven by Odin's fear of losing his son Thor and the desperate, insane measures he takes to prevent it from coming to pass. He fails.
Scott Lang entire tenure as Ant-Man. He became a petty thief due to his inability to support his own daughter, and faced jail time for that. Freed, he was forced again to steal, this time the Ant-Man duds and Pym Particles because it was the only way to get a doctor able to cure his daughter's failing heart. Ultimately, dad and daughter were able to enjoy a few years of happiness: just for Scott Lang to see Cassie brutally killed in front of his eyes. Ouch.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) kicks off with the Cutie Mark Crusaders up to their usual adorable shenanigans, trying to get their cutie marks in Fluttershy's backyard... and then they get attacked by animals.
In issue five, the main cast is plagued with nightmares that are disturbingly mundane and realistic: Twilight dreams about being rejected by her mentor, Applejack dreams about not being able to provide for her family, Rainbow Dash dreams about her wings being broken, etc. All of them are things that more terrifying due to the fact that they could actually happen.
In the very first issue of Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters, a pair of kids are killed when Godzilla makes his arrival. And it doesn't stop there. Another kid gets swallowed alive by Rodan, a girl loses her parents and brother to Godzilla and she gets a concussion during a fight between [MechaGodzilla] and Anguirus. The sequel series has the main character Boxer lose two girls, one being a girl he was a bodyguard for and the other was his daughter who was killed during Godzilla's landfall in Los Angeles.
Gangsters and Goliaths, what sets Makoto Sato off on Takahashi is the latter threatening his sons.
Godzilla Legends has a young psychic boy getting kidnapped by shapeshifting aliens who want to use him for his psychic connection with Titanosaurus to aide in their conquest of Earth.
In Clara...de noche (aka Betty by night or Betty by the hour) Adult Fear is one of the drives behind Betty's decision to keep being an hooker. She began whoring herself some years before the birth of her son to support her deadbeat father at first, then herself. Then, her son happened, and she keeps selling herself to grant him the lifestyle they grew accustomed to, knowing that, in time, she'll lose her livelihood along with her beauty. She also tried more menial jobs: her livelihood was so severely reduced that she was quickly forced to return to her main and more lucrative profession.
Played for Laughs, due to the comedical nature of the series, but really much the primal Adult Fear: Betty is really competent at her job. But she loathes it, and, furthermore even her son, when he's not appreciating their nice home, his fancy new toys and having the happy childhood her mother lacked, seems ashamed to have a Single Mom Stripper as a single parent. However, she can't leave her work without having her son potentially fall into the same hardships and misery that brought her on the streets beforehand, but, also, she's painfully aware that her biological clock is ticking, and someday she'll be just too old to keep on with their lifestyle.
Batman villain Scarecrow's main schtick of using fear gas usually produces horrifying but improbable hallucintions, like being covered in spiders or suffering some kind of Body Horror, but some of his victims cry out in fear for loved ones or memories of past abuse. Batman, for one, is forced to relive the murder of his sidekick and adopted son, Jason Todd when exposed to fear toxin.
Your ex shows up, demanding the return of the child you two share, who she'd previously placed large bounty on, and threatens to destroy your whole city if she doesn't get her way. You try to fight it, but your allies keep falling, and in the end you have watch as your son is murdered by one of your ex's minions. Yeah, there's a reason Batman is progressively losing it in the Batman and Robin title.
Better Angels drives the nail home that Shane Walsh, who has survived his battle with Rick, is a sociopath who would murder his best friend in cold blood. While consoling his dead friend's son, he knows he has to make his cover story convincing by being emotional, but can't bring out any real tears over his dead friend. Instead, he envisions his friend's wife, who he also has deep feelings for, being eaten alive by her reanimated newborn during childbirth.
Blind gives us this scenario. It's the night Hinata's 3rd bithday and everyone is asleep. Cue Hinata's mother (Hinati) hearing a 3 year old Naruto (adopted son) screaming. Hiashi chuckles and says it's just Naruto being Naruto. Hinati says she's going to check on both Naruto and Hinata. She comes back crying saying they're missing. Oh but it gets worse. Hinati immediately chases after Naruto's screams and eventually catches up to the kids in the forest. What she sees is Hinata lying in a pool of blood with empty eye sockets. She turns about to throw up only to see Naruto pinned to a tree by kunai, 1 of which is through his heart. You guess her reaction.
A Lord of the Rings fic Elladan's Trials For Estel deals with a young Aragorn (who was adopted and raised by Elrond) being kidnapped from Elrond's bedroom and Buried Alive. One chapter writes from the perspective of the kidnapper and it turns out the kidnapper worked and lived in Rivendell. It didn't help when the kidnapper mentioned there were some nights where he would stand over a sleeping Aragorn, thinking how easy it would be to kill the boy while no one would know.
Delw Yomenie Deadly Encounter has Elrond and his warriors going to rescue the kidnapped Aragorn and during the ambush Elrond released an arrow to kill just as the kidnapper shoved Aragorn to the frontline. That split second when he realized his hand would kill his adopted son, Elrond was torn between denial and horror. Fortunately the arrow hit a non-lethal area.
In The Roots of Evil, Elrond helplessly watches as his sons Aragorn, Elrohir and Elladan are slowly dying from a poison to which there is no antidote.
Elladan: "I do not fear the poison, ada."
Elrond: "But I do, ion nin, I do."
Aragorn feels guilty because he had indirectly caused his brothers to be poisoned when a madman wanted to get his revenge on him and his brothers were simply there. Elrohir comforts him, even though they both know they may not survive the poison.
And with that, Elrohir drew his brother into a hug, holding him tightly, wishing that the things would be as easy as they once used to be, when Aragorn's hurts could have been cured with a smile, a kiss and a hug.
In Final Section, a Supernatural fic, five-year-old Sam Winchester was taken by a man who preys upon children in a school's playground when John happened to be preoccupied, despite attentively watching Sam. The detail that the assailant had already kidnapped several other children by luring them away from their watchful parents (and being gleeful about his successes) was disturbing.
In Harvester Of Eyes, John Winchester is pitted against The Corinthian. The fact that he's hunting a possibly-human monster who preys on young boys, while having to keep track of his two young sons on the road, aside... Sam and Dean get lost in the Dreaming on their own. Dean obviously knows enough about pedophiles, creeps and "stranger danger" to be on high alert regarding anyone who might hurt Sam, he can't get it across to him that sometimes the really dangerous people can look perfectly normal. Even cool and fun to hang out with.
Past Sins has one marking the point where everything goes down the tubes...namely, a child being forcibly taken away from their guardian, who can do nothing to stop it. And then said child believing their guardian wanted to give them away.
In Progress, Sundance and every other pregnant mare in Equestria are worried for their unborn foals after the Discord incident.
In Detective Conan fic When Pandoras Box Is Opened, when Conan was kidnapped by Vermouth and everyone panics. Those who know the kidnapper have even more reason to fear because the Black Organization has no problem indoctrinating young children into complete loyalty to the organization. Jodie has a brief vision of an older, ruthless Conan preparing to kill a victim and is appropriately horrified.
There is a scene during The Tamers Forever Series where the pregnant Mimi Tachigawa is kidnapped and taken to a laboratory where her unborn child is forcibly extracted from her. She is then left to wander the wilderness as her grief slowly drives her insane.
In Streets Of Rage Saga, based on the Streets of Rage beat-em-up game series, two incidents are related in the back-story some twenty years before the story's modern-day timeline, both of them involving children: an infant was snatched when his parents looked away for just a moment and he was later murdered, and some time after that a girl wandered away from her parents along a beach and was attacked by the same perpetrator moments later. What makes it even more horrifying is the common nature of both incidents—both were committed by a feral child.
The Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Power Shift has this example: Tino or Berwald, or even Francis'. They fear their child has seemingly disappeared into thin air. You feel as though something bad can and will happen to him. And in Tino and Berwald's case, it turns out they're right.
There's also the fate of Estonia, especially the chapter describing what happened leading up to it. It really plays on the fear of a family member being abducted and having something horrible happening to them.
In another Hetalia fic, Human Curiosity, nearly all of the world's nations disappear. They just vanish, leaving their friends and family panicked and traumatized. This goes on for a century, leading to most of the remaining nations to assume that their loved ones are never coming back. And then, they learn that not only were the nations kidnapped and tortured for that entire century, but a lot of them were horrifically murdered and frozen in blocks of ice. There's a bit where America, Germany, and Japan get to explore the kidnappers' base, while being terrified and trying to guess who was and wasn't killed. Oh, and the surviving nations were all completely insane when they were found, to the point where they couldn't even recognize their rescuers as people.
Raven's Tears: Native America is forced to watch as she slowly loses control of her own land. Then, she realizes that the shift in ownership of the land is represented through her sons, who morph from being Native American children to having blond hair, blue eyes, and being only able to speak French and English. And after all of this, Native America has no choice but to give them to the nations invading her, because she can't communicate with her own children.
Feverish starts with the basic premise of Canada getting sick with something. Not so bad at first, with him getting a fever and feeling nauseous. Then, he starts hallucinating, passing out, and suffering increasingly dangerous side effects. All of this goes on while America, France, and England are trying to take care of him and make him better. There's one chapter where Canada gets a nose bleed so bad that England thinks someone was attacked in the room. He attempts to stop the bleeding, only for Canada to go into respiratory arrest. Throughout this, no one knows exactly what Canada is sick with, which means they have no clue as to how to heal him. And on Canada's side, it turns out his government is forgetting about him. So there's the fear of being completely forgotten and neglected going on.
Awakening has two big hitters. The first is on France and England's side. Imagine your younger brothers go off to fight in a war and disappear for a long while, only to show back up dead, mutilated, and infected with disease. America and Canada get better, but still France and England have to go through it all. The second is what happens to the other children, most of whom never survived, despite America and Canada's best efforts.
The Weakest Link: America, England, Norway, Denmark, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Poland, and Lithuania are Forced to Watch as sociopathic scientists torture Sealand, Estonia, Latvia, and Iceland in the name of 'science'. Made worse as Fletcher's almost pedophiliacal obsession with Latvia forces the adults to worry that he might end up being raped and the others will be forced to watch.
In the Sherlockian Deliver Us From Evil Series, Inspector Lestrade fears for the safety of the young Baker Street Irregulars. Considering that he's friends with at least one, has another among his constables, and has a nephew in their ranks, he's very close to them and has every right to feel a parental horror at the boys putting themselves In Harm's Way.
Later on, Dr. Watsondisbands the Irregulars when one of the very young ones is nearly killed.
Silent Hill 2 fic Coming Home is a cornucopia of this; with James's father Frank Sunderland having to watch his son spiral into depression and starts acting erratically after his wife's death. Frank find out that James is being stalked by a powerful force that is obsessed with him after he didn't believe his son's fears that something was out to get him. Frank finds it would do anything to possess him and outright threatens sexual violence on James to Frank. After his son goes Silent Hill, Frank never sees his son again.
In Marie D Suesse And The Mystery New Pirate Age, toward the end, it is revealed that the tragic events that occurred for the last 20 years in the One Piece world can be undone, but if Madelyn never ate her Devil Fruit, she would never have made the mistake of causing Luffy's execution, fled to the "real world," changed her name to Blake, met Garreth and had Marie. Not only are Garreth and Madelyn/Blake aware that they'll never see each other or their daughter again, but Marie realizes that she'll be erased from existence entirely, and feels as though her existence was a mistake.
In Cosmic Warriors shortly after Naru is raped the man appears in Usagi's school and is later spotted chatting with Makoto. Nothing like having your children attend a school with a rapist on the grounds.
In Kyon Big Damn Hero, Akane was taking care of a feverish Nonoko, her daughter, who was hit by a cold and left her alone in her room for a few minutes and upon her return Nonoko was nowhere to be found. When phone called later she was told that the girl was in fact kidnapped, but thankfully she was already rescued by her brother. This also applies to her husband Yuuto who was left in an Heroic BSOD by the news of his daughter missing until he was informed Nonoko was safe.
In Symbiosis, Professor Oak relied on his former reputation to keep Pallet Town safe. Instead his student, Delia and her family were murdered in the middle of the night of a criminal organization and their corpses had to be identified by their DNA.
In Pokemon False Red, Red's mother has to deal with her son's disappearance when he went training and receives no closure on whether or not her son's dead.
In Turnabout Nephew, the young son of Ema and Klavier ends up meeting Kristoph Gavin in solitary confinement, after getting lost from his mother. While Kristoph shows no inclination to hurt the boy, given what he already tried to do to people in the game (including to a little girl), it's easy to see why Ema and Klavier are so scared when they find out.
Street Sharks Redux was basically the original series rewritten to be Darker and Edgier and make more prominent the Fridge Horror of the show. As a result, the story doesn't shy away from creepiness like one's family member vanishing, finding oneself forced to hide from the community, living in fear of being kidnapped and hurt, and so on.
The final story of Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, "Black Rain", has Socrates almost being kidnapped by a strange man in a masknote heavily implied to be Masky from Marble Hornets, which makes sense given that Slender Man himself is in the storywho'd invaded his mansion. Things only get worse when it's revealed he had a knife the whole time and is still in his house. Then Socrates points out that he could still be around when Elliot (his owner, a young boy) and his family return...
Film - Animation
The Secret of Kells' third act. Because the young protagonist Brendan has once disobeyed his uncle's (the abbot of Kells) strict curfews, he locks him and another monk who helped Brendan in the scriptorium, i.e. to keep them out of reach of the invading northmen. In the ensuing slaughter, the abbot has a very sudden and positive character change when he is horrified to see all his schemes and preventive measures against an invasion going up in smoke. He himself is wounded repeatedly and badly, and passes out. The scriptorium is set on fire. Unbeknownst to him, Brendan and the other monk managed to escape beforehand. They, in return, see the abbot lying in the snow and leave him for dead. Now, Brendan believes the abbot, the only parent and relative he had ever known, is dead, while the abbot thinks that Brendan, his only surviving relative whose own life he risked to save him as a baby, has burned to death because he himself had locked him there in the first place. The movie ends very much with a very dark Bitter Sweet Ending as this misunderstanding is cleared up decades later. But still, the fears of an adult authority to fail in really really trying to protect his community and his nephew's life are fully and conveniently exploited in this film.
The Lion King has an exchange between Simba and Mufasa, in which the latter admits that despite looking like the most badass father in animation history, he was still scared beyond belief at the possibility losing his son to the hyenas.
Despicable Me: seeing your children, whether adopted or not, being kidnapped. It's also just as bad to see them returning back to the orphanage after bonding with them.
The baby Rapunzel was kidnapped from her parents' room where she should have been the safest. Making it worse is that her parents wake up just in time to see Gothel escaping out the window with their baby daughter.
She's routinely emotionally abused by the woman she was raised to think of as her mother, to the point at which setting foot outside of the tower once makes her briefly angst about how she's a terrible daughter. This is sadly not only a fear for adults, but "Mother Knows Best" is horrifically dark for an otherwise fairly cheerful, encouraging movie, if you consider that Gothel doesn't use magic to keep Rapunzel locked up. She preys on her innocence, affection and vulnerability, like a real-life abusive parent.
"Abi Sutherland: Plenty of Disney films have wicked stepmothers; they’re quite ordinary villains in the genre. They do things like banish the heroine to the kitchen or send her out into the forest to be murdered. There may be rags and neglect involved. But Tangleds Mother Gothel is much worse than that. She uses love like a poisoned apple or a witch’s curse, as a tool to achieve her own ends. And she’s clearly written by someone who knows, bone deep, how that works."
The scene where Gothel returns to the tower and finds that Rapunzel is missing is eerily similar to how any parent would freak out if their child disappeared without their knowledge and they don't know where their kid was, even though we know that Gothel is the Big Bad.
Where young boys were turned into donkeys, shipped off and forced into labor, the parents not knowing what happened to their sons and if they did find them, they wouldn't have recognized their own kid, seeing how they are now stuck as donkeys.
And a subtler example from the same includes the moment when Gepetto puts on his coat to go out in the pouring rain to look for Pinocchio who never returned home from school. Hearing the agony in his voice as he paces around his kitchen is enough to make parents whose children like to play hide-and-seek in department store racks flashback a little.
Gepetto: What could have happened to him? Where could he be at this hour? I better go out again and look for him...
King Triton had to deal with the aftermath of his youngest daughter Ariel running away after having a huge and violent argument with her. His words "What have I done?" certainly brings the trope home.
Even worse in hindsight. After the third movie of the series we're made aware that King Triton not only believes humans are a threat to mermaids and mermen, but he holds them responsible for the death of Ariel's mother: his own wife. And while he was just trying to keep his youngest daughter safe, he throw her in the hands of his worst enemy and the kind of people he despises most with a single stroke.
Mulan's parents found out their daughter ran away to join the army. They are not able to save their child from the horrors of war and possible gruesome death, since any attempt would reveal her gender and sentence her to execution. The reason why Mulan ran away in the first place was save her father's life; he was too infirm to go to war and survive. Their fear would have been compounded with the most extreme guilt imaginable. Not helping that guilt is how Mulan had gotten into a brief argument with her dad right before deciding to run away.
The Incredibles: The entire freakin' movie was full to the brim'' with Adult Fear.
The scene where Elastigirl realizes that the missiles are going to hit the plane and she frantically yells into the radio "Abort! Abort! There are children aboard!" Then she runs back into the back of the plane last minute, fully prepared to die with her kids, like any mother would.
Mr. Incredible is lead to believe both his wife and children were actually killed during that same scene, not realizing they got out safely. His horrified expression, and the revenge he almost takes, say it all. This combines the classic "fear for child" with the less-commonly depicted "fear for spouse" variety. Brilliantly demonstrated by Mr Incredible's "not strong enough" comment near the end.
A deleted scene from the original version of the movie would fit. Syndrome (a minor villain and not the Big Bad) breaks into the Incredibles' home at the beginning and freezes them with a freeze ray. In the middle of taunting them, he hears young Violet crying down the hall. He proceeds to drag the two with him as he goes after their daughter.
Near the end of the movie, when Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible hear the babysitter's voicemail thanking them for calling a replacement sitter for Jack-Jack, Elastigirl frantically exclaims that she never called a replacement. It's a short moment, but no less terrifying for the parents in the audience.
Penny was kidnapped from the orphanage, taken to a dangerous swamp with two callous adults (even Snoops doesn't care much for her). She's clearly there against her will, and can't escape because well, it's a dangerous swamp, that and the alligators will catch her. Later on when she's in the pirate's cave, she's at risk of drowning or being sucked out to sea.
Down Under gives us Cody. While not suffering from Parental Abandonment, viciously deconstructs Free-Range Children when he manages to walk right on in to a poacher who kidnaps him with intents of finding an endangered eagle. Said Poacher Would Hurt a Child. What makes it even worse is that there is a scene where it shows Cody's house with his mother shouting, "Cody! Cody!"
In Hercules, Zeus and Hera awake from their room to find that their infant son was kidnapped. When they did find him, he was mortal and couldn't return to Olympus with them. So they could only watch as their son is raised by another couple - by this point though, this trope is thankfully averted, as Alcmene and Amphitrion were Good Parents (if they weren't, Zeus would have just killed them), thus Herc ended up being Happily Adopted.
The threat of Lilo being taken away from her older sister and caretaker Nani's side by social services casts a long shadow over the entire film. The moment when it actually happens is utterly horrific. Many a parent watching it in the theatres gripped the seats when Nani saw a fire truck and prayed, "Don't turn left" in the direction their house was.
She watches a giant alien kidnapping Lilo. When she asks the other aliens to help her get Lilo back, they're forced to tell her that there's no way that can happen. (Fortunately, Stitch convinces them otherwise)
Astro Boy (2009). Toby's death, leads to manic-depressive behavior by his father.
An American Tail is full of this, particularly after Fievel sneaks onto the deck of a ship in a raging storm and his father watches helplessly as he's washed overboard. The tragedy compounds throughout the film as Fievel and his family are constantly in the same place but keep just missing each other.
In the The Secret Of NIMH, it's scary enough for the single mother Mrs. Brisby having to deal with her critically ill son, but during the climax when her children are stuck in their cement block house and it's sinking into the mud the fear is amped up ten-fold.
The kidnapping of the puppies in 101 Dalmatians was this for Pongo and Perdita, as well as their human masters Roger and Anita, who react as if their own children had been taken.
Maurice has to watch as Belle arranges to be kept prisoner in his stead, all while he cries for her to just escape and leave him to his fate. He spends the rest of the movie trying to rescue her.
Once Belle and Maurice are reunited? Belle faces the fear of having her father taken away from her, as Gaston blackmails her into either becoming his puppet-wife or getting him thrown in the local asylum. She takes a third option and proves her father is telling the truth... but they're imprisoned and the townspeople go Storming the Castle.
Tarzan plays on the same parental fear of losing a child as many of the other Disney movies listed here. A little before they find baby Tarzan, Kala and Kerchak lose track of their infant gorilla son in the jungle while the deadly Sabor is on the prowl. Unlike other Disney movies, the parents and child are never reunited since Sabor kills and eats the baby gorilla. With the added "bonus" of knowing Sabor was also able to get into the house Tarzan's parents made and kill them, then stuck around, probably intending to go after the child while he was alone. If Sabor had left, if Kala had not adopted him, Tarzan would almost certainly have starved to death in his crib.
How to Train Your Dragon has Stoick believing his son was dead after the fight with the Green Death. And this was due to Stoick's own misguided actions that led to the above event. His "I did this" was downright heartbreaking.
This is the parental fear scenario presented in Help! I'm a Fish. The character is babysitting their niece and nephew for the evening, with their son there as well, and they accidentally fall asleep. When they wake up, they find a darkened house, with all three kids gone. When the parents return, they all go down to the beach to search, and find one of the skates used by the kids with no sign of them...
In Finding Nemo, Marlin's happy future together with his beloved wife is all torn apart one day, when he can't protect them from a barracuda. Only Nemo survives, with a disability, just in case Marlin was going to be anything less than terribly protective. Terrified that Nemo will be hurt, Marlin almost smothers his son, which drives Nemo to rebel, telling his dad "I hate you" and then swimming out into open water — where a giant, horrible thing beyond comprehension takes Nemo away as Marlin watches.
Nemo screaming "Daddy! Help me!" as this is happening makes it a hundred times worse.
And then there's the scene directly after it, where Marlin is rushing around the ocean and trying to look above the surface to try and get any clue of where Nemo was taken, all the time yelling his name and growing more and more desperate.
The original Ice Age film is certainly more serious than the sequels. Manny's Troubled Back Story Flashback reveals that his family were killed by human hunters with him unable to protect them. The tigers attacked the human settlement in the beginning with the sole purpose of kidnapping and eating a baby. The baby's father tries to protect his family and fails, and is seen throughout the movie desperately trying to find them.
One happens right in the beginning of the movie. Fergus was having a nice picnic with his wife and small daughter when a bear comes out of nowhere and goes after his wife and daughter.
Where Merida runs into the forest after a fight with her mother. When she comes back, it was clear that Elinor had been scared and gone out to look for her.
It has a scene where Merida is trapped in a castle with Mor'du. This is horrific enough from her perspective, but watching from above is her mother, who is helpless to do anything as her daughter is pursued by a twelve-foot-tall bear intent on eating her alive.
Fergus finds Elinor's room trashed and her clothing torn, coming to the realization that a bear was there. Then he finds what is likely the same bear attacking his daughter. Fergus likely didn't come into her room, see that and think "A bear has attacked my wife". He would have come in, see the trashed bed and ripped clothes and think "Someone has attacked and raped my wife". Only after looking closer at the evidence would he realize it was a bear.
The moment Elinor realizes that she accidentally hurt Merida when her mind lapsed into acting like a real bear. And especially when she realizes she accidentally hurt her husband as well.
ParaNorman: Centuries ago, the town put an accused witch to death. The accused was an innocent little girl whose only "crime" was acting in a way they couldn't understand, since they assumed her natural born gift to see the dead was the result of witchcraft. In short she was accused of being a witch for talking to the only people in the entire town who didn't treat her like a freak. Not only was this sort over-reaction towards people who were "different" common in Real Life. The whole community is against them—they bully them, ostracize them, and perhaps someone decides to kill them... and there was nothing to do to save them. To make matters worse her family could never leave the town that killed her since they had to make a ritual in order to keep her vengeful ghost asleep so that she wouldn't take revenge or have to watch how the town twisted the story of her death into a tourist attraction. This means they had to watch it happen instead so they are not only unable to stop the defilement of her memory they know she may never be able to truly rest in peace because of what happened to her.
This comes up in both The Prince of Egypt and Joseph King Of Dreams. The first movie opens with the abduction and killing of the Jewish babies and, while the actual deaths aren't shown, we do see the Egyptian soldiers bringing weapons into homes and grabbing the kids, while the parents scream. Then, there's the part where Moses runs into the desert, while Ramses tries desperately to get him to go home. He never sees his parents again, and his brother was clearly worried about him when he came back. Finally, there's the killing of the Egyptian firstborns including Ramses's own son. The second movie is centered around the idea that your brothers can be jealous enough of you to sell you into slavery and lie about your fate to your parents. Joseph latter turns the tables on them by threatening to the same thing to Benjamin.
Joseph: But why? Why should you care if I lock him up, beat him, make him a slave?
In Wreck-It Ralph, King Candy tells Ralph that if Vanellope races and her glitching is seen by the players, the plug on their game may be pulled and Vanellope as a glitch cannot escape the game like the other characters, leaving her trapped inside the game. When the Cy-Bug invasion happens, Ralph panics that he will fail to get one little girl out of the game to save her from the gruesome death of being eaten alive.
In Rise Of The Guardians, two children went out to ice skate and the brother (none other than Jack when he was a human) drowned to save his sister.
In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po discovers that he's adopted and spends most of the film fearing that his real parents abandoned him, a very real fear for anyone who's adopted.
The opening of Escape 2 Africa, the sequel to Madagascar. All of it. While his father Zuba is distracted for a minute, cub!Alex wanders off and is kidnapped by poachers. When Zuba realizes what's happened, he chases after the poachers' truck, desperately trying to save his son. Alex's crate is knocked off the truck and into the river, where it ends up floating to New York. Zuba, however, doesn't notice, and continues to chase the truck. Until a grown Alex winds up back in Africa and reunited with them, Zuba and his wife believed their son was dead. Zuba must have felt very guilty for all those years, thinking that it was his fault his child was dead because he failed to protect him.
Film - Live Action
Little Sweetheart: The protagonist's daughter has been associating with strangers, who turn out to be criminals. Now she's missing, her clothing is on the beach and a gun is wrapped in it. That's for Elizabeth. For Thelma, you have the fear that your child will become a criminal, and at age 9, Thelma is easily an Enfante Terrible.
A Clockwork Orange: The "Singing in the Rain" scene is designed to send chills down the spine of any adult. The themes of absolute evil and of a manipulative government attempting to rob people of free will and using the cover of mental health to silence dissidents are pretty chilling on a more subtle level as well, and were surely even more so during the Cold War era in which the film (and novel) were made.
Aunt May stays up night after night, waiting for her nephew, who is possibly the last of her family, to come home from his nighttime activities (and left wondering what kind of activities they are), always with bruises and claw marks.
Peter invokes Adult Fear when he convinces Captain Stacy to let him leave after being captured the police. He tells him that his daughter Gwen is alone in Oscorp Tower and the Lizard is on his way there.
An American Crime is the worst fear of every parent who has had to leave their child with another person, especially if that person is just an acquaintance. It really doesn't help that the story really happened.
Batman Returns: The Penguin is made on this. His masterplan consists of taking Gotham's children into the sewers and killing them. He gleefully gloats about it, claiming that it's the parents' fault for having left them unprotected at home in order to attend to Max Schrek's ball.
Ten guys are waiting for The Hero to be at his most vulnerable (alone in a public bathroom) to beat him up. NO ONE would have noticed it either as it was happening.
Cloud's great grandmother was raped by three men when she was picking flowers for her wedding.
Mr. Tipping's methods for helping speed up a housing application apparently involve molesting young women.
The Blob: In the 1988 remake, the cheerleader Meg Penny learns from her parents that her brother Kevin and his friend are missing while the town is under quarantine, thinking they snuck out to see a slasher movie. What makes this terrifying was the fact that Meg's little brother is now in danger of being eaten by the titular monster now getting bigger by eating anyone that gets too close. She arrives to find the theatre is in a state of panic with Kevin and his friend desperately trying to use the emergency exit and while she does save them, they wind up having to evade the Blob in the sewer. The Blob follows them down there and Kevin's friend then gets pulled underwater. Meg tries to save him only to later see him rise up from the water half-eaten; imagine dying by drowning and being eaten/dissolved alive at the same time. What makes this all the more horrifying was the fact Kevin's friend has an older brother that let them both into the movie and we saw his mother hoping he was going to come home safe. At least Meg and her brother survived...The guilt the kid's older brother is going to feel for the rest of his life knowing that his little brother would still be alive if he hadn't helped him sneak into the movie.
Bubba Ho Tep: growing old and weak and finding yourself left to die in a care home, with your children "too busy" to come and see you.
Changeling is all about a woman leaving for work, coming home to find that her child is gone, and then receiving no help at all from the authorities about it. And then comes Act 2, and we find out that there's been a serial killer kidnapping children, and that Christine's son isn't the first cover-up the police have done. Also, her son is never found.
The Changeling, a 1980 horror film starring George C Scott, has the protagonist lose his wife and only child in an accident. The rest of the film, he is haunted by the the ghost of another child who was brutally murdered by his father for his money. Infant mortality seems like a recurring theme in his life.
Batman Begins shows the obvious example of Bruce seeing his parents die, but also includes seeing your home burned to the ground, what it is like to live in a fairly realistic city so filled with crime that even the police belong to the mob and murder is a common occurence and what it is like to be betrayed by a Parental Substitute that helped you overcome your flaws twice, actually.
The Dark Knight: Two-Face and the Joker were frightening enough on their own, but the part that was also creepy was the fact that, even after faking his own death, Commissioner Gordon still can't protect his own children—and Mrs. Gordon's response to the ploy!.
Aside from the business of a child having to grow up in a Hellhole Prison and Gotham City being held hostage and thrown into anarchy, The Dark Knight Rises also deals with the topic of a loved one turning out to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and plotting against you the entire time. To be more specific, Miranda Tate is revealed to be the actual Big Bad Talia al Ghul, who proceeds to backstab Bruce in more ways than one.
A major metropolis is seized by a terrorist organization and held hostage for five months. The poor citizens are forced to eke it out, with the very possibility of being gunned down by terrorist goons at any minute. The police are trapped udnerground, cut off from the citizens that need their protection, and outside intervention, especially by military forces, and leaving the area is impossible due to the terrorist leader threatening to blow up the entire city if any of those things happen. Oh, and some of the people trapped? They were fans of a visiting football team, forced away from their loved ones with no way to contact them and inform them that they're at least alive.
The Duchess: Your husband can take your children away from you, and there's nothing you can do about it because you're a woman and he has law on his side. The same fear is brought about by Iron Jawed Angels.
Also Dear Zachary. Your children could be taken away from you and given to their abuser by the court, which finds it OK because she's their mother.
Also, in Seduction in a Small Town: some Manipulative Bitch can perfectly convince others that both you and your husband are horrible child abusers and not only have your kids taken away, but send you guys to jail for that. Twice.
Chinatown: Got evidence of corruption in the government? The rich and powerful will just cover it up. Not fair? Too bad; you're a nobody.
Elysium: Frey's daughter is dying of cancer, and there's nothing she can do to save her.
Eraserhead: If giving birth to a creature so horrible that no sentient being would want to touch it with a 10-foot pole isn't every soon-to-be parent's worst nightmare, then the fact that it makes your spouse leave you and force you to raise it by yourself certainly is. Loathing one's own baby to the point that stabbing it through the lung (if you can even define it as a "lung") with scissors becomes a viable option is something no adult wishes to experience. Oh, and the fact that everything else in this movie is filled to the brim with the regular kinds of fears doesn't exactly help.
Eye For An Eye: This 1996 drama starts with Karen McCann talking with her home alone teenage daughter over the phone when the slime bucket Robert Doob breaks into the house and all Karen can do is listen as Doob (non-graphically) rapes her daughter before killing her. Oh yeah, and a minor technicalityprevents him from being prosecuted and thus punished for what he's done.
Fatal Attraction: Alex kidnapping ex-fling Dan's daughter Ellen. It's not just every parent's worst nightmare, but all the elements surrounding it—that your child could go off with a stranger just because he/she seemed nice, that other adults who should have protected your child would instead let them go, that someone could have been watching and stalking your child, just waiting for the right moment to snatch them. Though Ellen is returned safely, the cold hard fact is that Alex could have harmed her if she wanted to. Dan's demeanor in the police station afterwards demonstrates how really and truly terrified he now is.
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle: How about unwittingly hiring a Nanny that is bent on taking revenge on you for inadvertently causing her sleazebag husband's suicide and subsequent miscarriage as a result of the stress it brounght on.
One of the nanny's methods for taking said revenge involves breastfeeding the baby!
The thought that your doctor, someone you're supposed to be able to have the utmost trust in, could instead take advantage of that trust and assault you. Though Claire and other women come forward, leading to the doctor's downfall, this happens far too often in Real Life—often with no one coming forward, thus enabling these perverts to continue their behavior.
Discussed in Home Alone, where Kevin talks with Mr. Marley about how being an adult doesn't mean that you're not afraid of anything.
In Hook not only does Captain Hook kidnap Peter's children and threaten to do the same to his descendants, he tries to brainwash them into loving him instead. It almost works with Jack (who was already distressed), but utterly fails with Maggie.
It's not much better when he kills a 15-year-old boy, Rufio, in front of Peter and all of the new Lost Boys.
In the beginning of the film, Peter, his wife and Wendy returned home after a dinner to find that their home was broken in and desperately searched their children's empty rooms before realizing they were kidnapped.
Inception. The protagnist is forced to flee his home and his country, leaving his very young children behind, possibly forever. There's also the horrific situation when he has to watch his beloved spouse succumb to mental illness and suicide - and realize it was his mistake and that he was responsible.
Jurassic Park has the scene where the two kids, Lex and Tim, are trapped under the windshield of the park jeep with the T-Rex trying to break it to get to them and kill them. For a little while, there's nothing the adults can do, and the kids are screaming at the top of their lungs the whole time. This troper's mother still has not finished the movie because she can't watch that scene.
Kill Bill: The scene in which the Bride fights Vernita Green and Vernita's little daughter Nikki steps in perfectly shows the terror that a mother can feel when she realizes that not only has her Dark and Troubled Pasthas caught up with her, but that her child is about to be utterly traumatised.
The French film L'Argent de Poche gives us a comedic, though not tasteless example when the mother of the infant Grégory leaves him alone in the apartment on one of the higher floor with the windows open while she searches for her wallet. Grégory inevitably ends up hanging from the sill above a crowd of terrified onlookers before falling and landing in a hedge, unharmed. Suffice to say, the mother, upon seeing her child in the hedge, promptly passes out. As this film is more or less a social commentary about the world children inhabit that adults often fail to see, the Adult Fear is played completely straight.
Law Abiding Citizen. Having your home being invaded is bad, and crippling you is worse, but the ultimate nightmare is when he rapes and murders your wife and daughter in front of you. Then, a killer gets off with a light sentence just to make sure that the justice department can get the other guy.
The beginning of Return of the King has Sméagol kill Déagol over the Ring. Well, what if the friend you trusted most easily turned on you over one little trinket?
In Two Towers, Théoden buried his son after being under a spell from Saruman for a long time and was so trapped by the spell that he wasn't aware about his son dying until afterwards.
Théoden: No parent should have to bury their child.
Although the hobbits aren't children, their small size and innocence invoke feelings of protect similar to children, and the members of the Fellowship clearly think of them as their charges. Boromir's anguished "They took the little ones!" as he is dying is particularly heartbreaking.
M: Mrs. Beckmann's increasingly desperate cries as she calls for her daughter, who was kidnapped and murdered while walking home from school, is enough to strike terror into the heart of any parent. And that's just how the film starts.
Mean Girls: Regina's mother watches her daughter get hit by a school bus.
The film gives us the three precogs, who spend all of their time being heavily sedated and floating in a pool, getting endless future visions of murders. And then we find out that the precogs were all just the children of drug addicts, taken from their families. Oh, and there used to be more, but all but those three died. And then we find out that when one of the mothers kicked her drug habit and demanded her daughter back, she was murdered because the precog system couldn't work without her. The entire plot is driven by Agatha's desire for her mother's death to be avenged.
Our protagonist, Anderton grieves the loss of his son. When we get to see how it happens, it's horrifying. They are at a public pool, playing a game of who can hold their breath the longest. Anderton dives under the surface and more and more notices how something is off. He gets up, sees his sons cyclops floating in the water and gets up screaming his name, but he is nowhere to be found. The scary part is that the pool and area around is full of people, who all must have seen it, but not noticing. Part of the premise is that Anderton is himself implicated as an upcoming murderer, whose victim is someone he's never yet heard of. Anderton tracks him down to prove his own innocence, and walks into a Room Full of Crazy. Upon seeing photos of his dead son among piles of others, Anderton quietly accepts that he is going to kill the man after all. Made worse because it's an obvious frame-up.
Anderton's intended victim willingly agrees to be murdered and poses as a child molester and killer. He did it for unexplained reasons, implied to be trying to provide for his family through allowing his own death at Anderton's hands — a whole other kind of Adult Fear.
It has one utterly chilling scene for adults, when Sean's father sees Dracula and realizes the supernatural things his son has been so scared of all day are real. And then Dracula tells him "I will have your son" before turning into a bat and leaving.
The very premise of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a nightmare to any parent — the possibility of your own child being horribly assaulted and murdered by a psychopath in a manner that you have absolutely no way of protecting them from. And worse, this psychopath is supposed to be dead, because you and other parents took the law into your own hands after his string of child murders went unpunished due to a technicality.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare may even have more adult fear to it than the other entries, as a major focus is Heather trying to protect her son Dylan, who is significantly younger than Freddy's usual teenage victims.
And it's not just him acting alone but a congregation of his followers. A priest drowns a baby at baptism. A nurse murders the infants under her care. Even a couple of children deliberately throw a ball so that it pushes a stroller into the path of traffic.
The Canadian film Obsessed/Hitting Home has two examples of this going on. The first involves a single mother losing her only child in a bloody hit an run. The second involves that single mother menacing the children of the driver responsible for the hit and run - including kidnapping his young son.
Orphan: having your children in danger, your spouse turn against you, and being thought insane when in reality you are the only one who knows what is really happening. Then the terror of having it be even worse than you already thought.
The premise for El Orfanato (The Orphanage) went along the lines of "You remember Peter Pan and Never Never Land? How it was such fun for the kids? Now think of how their parents had to feel in that situation!"
Paranormal Activity 2: An invisible supernatural force is trying to kidnap your one-year-old son because one of your ancestors made a pact with a demon. An in the end, it succeeds.
Discussed in Parenthood. Kevin suffers severe anxiety issues as a gradeschooler, in part, because he "was first" and his parents frantically over-protected him as a child.
Pirates of the Caribbean: In the first film, a toddler is shown wandering alone, screaming for his mother during the ransacking of Port Royale. He's just barely saved by a passing woman before being crushed by a burning building. Thinking of one's own child alone, terrified, and screaming for you during a disaster can certainly send a stab of fear through any parent.
Poltergeist: In the new home the Freelings have recently moved into, both of their young children are attacked by supernatural forces, with the daughter being taken from them by spirits. They can communicate with her over television static, but there's absolutely nothing they can personally do to bring her back to safety amid her terrified screams.
Prisoners: The two families experience this when both of their young daughters are kidnapped.
The Purge: The Sandin parents have a lot to be worried about, because they're trying to set a good example for their kids by doing nothing bad during The Purge. That doesn't even touch on the fact that one of their kids lets in a stranger because he looked like he needed help or that a psychopathic gang is quite willing to launch a home invasion and kill everyone in it....
The Pursuit of Happyness depicts a father trying really, really hard to provide for his kid, and failing. There's no zombie apocalypse, no external mustache-twirling villain, just the inexorable facts of the matter and a string of bad luck. He ends up with his son in a subway-station closet, hiding from the elements and hoping they'll be able to stay there overnight. If you've ever been responsible for providing for another human being, this is terrifying.
Red Dawn's entire concept is built around this, especially for Americans whom the idea of being invaded by a foreign power seems distant. Summary executions of family members, neighbors turning into The Quisling for the occupation forces, being forced into fighting against an overwhelmingly powerful hostile military by hiding out in the woods, hunted like animals.
In The Ring, the protagonist is fairly collected at first in the face of imminent death. It's the imminent death of her son that panics her, and ultimately drives her to desperate measures. This theme is inverted in the Japanese sequel Rasen: Andou has already lost his son, and he ends up making an extreme moral compromise because Sadako can bring him back.
The Shining: A supernatural force exploits your previous vices and drives you to murder your beloved wife and son. This is scary enough, but it goes deeper: to what extent would this have happened anyway? The supernatural forces may have given it a kick-start, but the darkness was already present. The fear becomes the more realistic fear of being unable to overcome one's own secret darkness.
Star Wars: Anakin falls to the Dark Side because of the fear of losing Padme after already witnessing his mother die.
Sophie's Choice. Having to choose which of your children to send to an inevitable death.
Taken features this as a driving point in the plot, where two teenaged girls are kidnapped and sold into an underground prostitution ring. Unfortunately for the criminals, the father of one of these girls is an ex-CIA Papa Wolf, who has a very special set of skills. Though he manages to rescue only one of them, his daughter. Her best friend dies.
For all the city-destruction and visible skeletons in Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, the scariest bit comes when Laserbeak transforms into a pink, kid-sized version of Bumblebee to trick a little girl into letting him in so that he can kill her father. Up to that point, Laserbeak had been an extremely efficient killer, able to hide as a number of innocuous objects, but that's pure psychological torture, and if he let the girl live. Her guilt must have been immense...
In Revenge of the Fallen, Sam's parents are kidnapped by the Decepticons in order to lure him into a trap. Once Sam and Bumblebee have foiled the trap and freed his parents, his dad takes charge and declares that they need to stay together and escape. Only for Sam to insist that he has to go back to the fight and do what needs to be done. And then his parents later watch helplessly as Sam is killed by Megatron. Even though Sam gets better, his father's cries of That's my son! when the soldiers push him back so the Medic can do his work are heartbreaking.
In Unbreakable, there is a scene where the protagonist's son steals his gun and tries to get his father to admit to being invincible, by threatening to shoot him. It is genuinely terrifying to watch him try to talk his son down from doing it.
The Untouchables opens up with a couple of Al Capone's bootleggers trying to persuade a guy to sell their booze at his store. He refuses because it's terrible booze. They seem to accept his answer and "accidentally" drop a bag when they leave the store. A little girl who was in the store at the time picks it up and tries to return it to them. Said bag is a bomb which promptly explodes. Later in the movie, the mother of the dead girl visits Elliot Ness and reassures him that he is doing the right thing in opposing people like her daughter's killers.
Where The Heart Is has Ashley Judd as a single mom who comes early home from work and finds her current boyfriend molesting two of her children.
And Novalee coming home from picking out a Christmas tree after realizing that her baby is five months old note 5 is an unlucky number for her to find out that her baby's been kidnapped by two religious fanatics from Midnight, Mississippi.
X-Men: First Class: The Holocaust. The death of a parent, and the medicalized torture of an innocent child. All within the first 20 minutes. Then, for Erik, knowing that the people that killed your family and millions of others will go free unless you personally devote your life to hunting them down. A bit of a foregone conclusion, but Charles and Erik's "beach divorce", even though it's only a metaphorical divorce, (metaphorical) children having to decide which parent they're siding with in said metaphorical divorce, having a loved one be permanently disabled because of something you did.
For both Charles and Erik, seeing the friend that you loved like a brother become your enemy.
A Beautiful Mind: The main character is a genius whose mind is the most important possession he azy. He goes crazy... His wife see him succumb to their own inner demons against which you are powerless to help them.
Danika is the story of a genuinely desperate housewife, whose main fear is to lose one of her children or the three of them. This obsession of overprotecting her kids, turns out to be the result of a traumatic childhood experience, in which poor little Danika loses her brother in a road accident.
Stoker runs on some standard middle-tier adult and coming-of-age fears: losing a spouse or a parent in a car accident and finding out that they were keeping things from you, realizing you're getting older and being afraid no man will ever love you again, realizing you're getting older and you're not a kid any more, worrying your child might prefer their other parent to you and that it's too late to win their love again, seeing a parent descend into depression and alcoholism, anxieties about what family means and what it means to have a house to come home to. But what takes the cake is something completely horrifying. The plot hinges on the death of a four-year-old boy by being buried alive while playing, by an only slightly older sibling. Jonathan's toys and the decorations for the sandcastle he was making are strewn around him, and the perpetrator lies there numbly, unbothered. The kid responsible is taken away to be institutionalized, noncomprehending, but becoming frightened and resistant when he's pulled out of the back seat of the car. This is juxtaposed with the same child, now an adult man, sitting in the front seat of a car terrified and furious that he's going to be abandoned again while his big brother is faced with the impossible choice of forgiving his clearly disturbed little brother for what he did (on purpose? on accident?) and for the way it tore the family apart, or keeping him far, far away from his own wife and child.
Poltergeist. Something is bent on taking your youngest child and will readily do everything in its power to stop you from getting her back.
Early in the film, a father in London will do anything to save his child from a terminal illness. Even suicide-bomb a Starfleet records office when John Harrison offers to save his daughter in exchange.
It has the death of Pike and is in obvious pain and fear. Spock tries to comfort the former in their final moments but fails.
Kirk's death.Spock could only helplessly watch and do nothing to save or comfort his best friend.
In Jack the Giant Slayer, King Brahmwell fears for his daughter's life, but is forced to have the beanstalk cut down before she can make it down safely, to prevent the giants from climbing down to Earth. When Jack saves her life and reunites her with her father, Brahmwell is visibly relieved. What he says to Jack as he gives him a bag of gold for his efforts shows how much his daughter means to him:
"As a king, I can offer much in reward. As a father, I can never reward you enough."
A ten-year-old girl got lost in an unfamiliar, deserted city lying in ruins, her parents are probably dead and then she's chased by a Giant Enemy Crab who wants to eat you because its masters genetically programmed it to hunt down and kill every last human it can find.
Raleigh witnessed his brother's death from inside his brother's head and was completely helpless to stop or do anything about it.
Herc's reaction as he says goodbye to Chuck and when he listens to Chuck's last words before his Heroic Sacrifice because he should have been there fighting right next to his son but due to circumstances, he wasn't. Outliving your child is every parent's worst nightmare.
In the first three films in the Die Hard franchise, this is the drive behind most of our hero's actions. The first film sees our hero getting caught in the middle of a terrorist take-over of a high-rise building, with no way out, holding dozens of hostages with his wife among them and the police offers arriving to save the day being no help at all. The second is much of the same, except with entire plane-loads of people coming in for the holidays. The third film has a major subplot about a terrorist bomb in an elementary school.
The Superman films have plenty of this, but the Darker and Edgier reboot Man of Steel thrives on it. There is the fact that sending Kal-El away from a dying Krypton is never an easy thing to watch; but the film takes it further by playing up the elements of Clark being an outcast because of his background, bullied by many and his loved ones often not knowing what to do. There's the whole scene where the bus crashes into the river and Clark has to make a critical decision whether or not to let his classmates die or risk exposing his secret. There's Johnathan Kent not knowing how society will react to Clark once he comes of age and ultimately sacrifices himself to protect his secrets. There's General Zod being depicted as an unrepentant mass murderer. There's the element of Clark being a drifter and having to keep a low profile through most of the movie. Once Clark finally becomes Superman, he has to deal with the US government deciding whether to risk trusting an alien from the same planet as Zod to stop him; and the rest of the film's highly realistic treatment of alien warlords causing destruction in a major city. The film even has Superman ultimately having to kill Zod to prevent any further harm towards humanity; and Superman's reaction when he does so clearly says he did not want it to come to this.
Nineteen Eighty-Four, which became even scarier with the passing of the Patriot Act, and every store these days is full of security cameras, or the kinds of private information available to the people who run social networking sites, or that employers have figured out how to access said information.
In the first book of The Thrawn Trilogy, from the Star WarsExpanded Universe, Leia is pregnant. She spends some time brooding about whether the twins will turn out like her father, and whether evil skips a generation. More explicitly, Thrawn's Nohgri commandos pursue her all over the galaxy, seeking to capture her without the use of Stun Guns. Stun guns would make these things simpler, but they can induce miscarriage. Meaning that they want to catch her and her unborn children. No matter where she goes, the Nohgri find her, and her escapes get narrower each time. At one point she realizes that Chewbacca and her other defenders would probably be killed, but not her. She'd be taken before Grand Admiral Thrawn, who would smile, and speak politely, and take her children away.
When Leia has her third child, the reborn Emperor Palpatine chases after her and the baby so he can replace its soul and take over the infant's body. He doesn't want to kill the baby — he wants to replace it.
Coraline. For children, it has fairly standard Aesops about being careful what you wish for and being wary of strangers. For adults, it's about how failing to pay attention to a child can result in the child's kidnapping and death. Word Of God states that this was intentional, and indeed, was Gaiman's primary reason for authoring the story — namely, scaring the pants off parents while leaving kids merely a little creeped out.
In the movie, it becomes a sobering moment for children (even teenagers) when Coraline can't find her parents. The first time staying alone in your house can be a scary thing. In Coraline's case, she doesn't know where her parents are, if they're even coming back, or what will happen to her. The scene with the pillows in the bed is both heartbreaking and oddly terrifying.
Occurs in, of all places, Goosebumps. Specifically the Night of the Living Dummy series. As several people, along with the blogger himself, pointed out on the snarky Goosebumps blog, the Night of the Living Dummy series may be creepy as a child, but as an adult, a completely different layer of creepy reveals itself. The living dummy in question is obsessed with making preteen girls (and it's always girls, never boys in these books) into his slaves. When they refuse, he punches and slaps them - a rare act of physical violence for this series - and knocks one girl unconscious. In Bride of the Living Dummy, he goes further, demanding a 12 year old girl as his bride (instead of the female dummy), and calling his violence against her a "love tap". From adult eyes, it takes on a whole new meaning that flew over our heads when we were kids, with some really disturbing subtext...
In the TV adaptation of Night of the Living Dummy III, it is shown that Slappy has demonically possessed or at least is using his powers on a young pre-teen boy. The effect is no less creepy than it was with the girls.
Stephen King draws on this a lot. The Shining, for example, deals with Jack Torrance's fear of hurting his wife and son, of failing as a writer, of becoming crazy and/or an alcoholic, etc.
The image for this page comes from The Film of the Book of King's Pet Sematary which is, as heart, a prolonged riff on the very adult fear of the death of a child. In fact, what gives the book its emotional gut-punch is the knowledge that everything goes to hell just because Lewis Creed loves his little boy... a bit too much.
A Clockwork Orange: In addition to the aforementioned elements shared by the movie, the book features, among other things, a chapter in which Alex rapes a pair of young girls, and graphic descriptions of the World War II footage he is forced to watch as part of his "treatment".
Two Weeks with the Queen is told from the perspective of the young Colin, who takes a long time to understand what's going on. However, the focus on the book is still a very adult fear: living knowing you are going to lose your brother (Colin), your child (his parents), or your life partner (Ted).
The Harry Potter series, despite being aimed at children, has plenty of moments that scare the parents more than the kids, and a lot of them have to do with child abuse, Parental Abandonment, and not being able to protect or take care of your own children. Most of this probably came from Rowling's own fears as a mother (and especially as a single mother, having broken off an abusive marriage).
In the very beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsPart One, when Hermione has to erase all of her parents' memories of herself so Voldemort can't torture them for information. It gives a parent a sense of failure to protect their child, that they're weak and powerless.
It's very easy to see why Molly Weasley goes full Mama Bear during the Battle of Hogwarts. "Not my daughter, you BITCH!", indeed. After all, we saw her boggart in the fifth book — her family dead. She lost her two brothers in the last war, one of the Weasley twins has just died, and the daughter she so desperately wanted after having several sons is apparently the next one...
Fenrir Greyback. In the book he just manages to edge out Bellatrix in the bone-deep creepiness category. In the movie he's downright disturbing, especially with Hermione. This was entirely intentional on Rowling's part.
In the first part of the final film installment, Fenrir's part is downplayed... but they play up the character of Scabior, one of the snatchers. To children in the audience, Scabior is frightening because he's feral-looking, gross, cruel, and hunting down the main trio. To slightly older viewers, particularly women, he is... a lot more frightening because he's threatening to rape Hermione.
The flashbacks to the night Lily and James were killed. The two died in total fear, but doing their best to protect their infant son. In the end, they weren't able to hold back the guy who broke into their house at all. If it weren't for The Power of Love and Lily's Mama BearDying Moment of Awesome, they would have had no way to protect baby Harry at all.
When you're a kid, the scene in the first novel with Harry seeing his family in the mirror is interesting and sort of sad. When you're older it kind of makes you want to cry.
Xenophilius Lovegood is a whole lot more tragic in Deathly Hallows because of this. "They took my Luna, and I don't know if I'll get her back!" The poor guy nearly blows up his house trying to catch the trio, but not out of ill will towards them... but only so he can save his poor daughter from being imprisoned by Death Eaters.
Narcissa Malfoy's most prominent and sympathetic role in the story comes from her attempts to save Draco from the power of Voldemort. So much that she managed to lie to the face of Voldemort so Draco would live.
In the fourth book, Harry is trapped in a room with someone he thought he could trust, a teacher no less. Only for said person to try to murder him.
Order of the Phoenix: there's a catastrophe looming in the horizon but the government is too scared/incompetent to do anything about so it just decides to pretend it doesn't exist, manipulate the media into discrediting those trying to warn people about it, send bureaucrats to force institutions to leave people less prepared for the catastrophe and finally just start arresting people who keep insisting.
From Chamber of Secrets, imagine what Molly Weasley must have felt when, in the middle of the night, she found three of her sons gone, with no note or anything explaining where they went or why, and the family car gone as well. Granted, they did have a good reason for sneaking out, but her anger at them for doing so is completely justified.
Harry gets to see no less than two people he knows well get murdered before his very eyes: his Fire Forged Friend Cedric in Goblet of Fire and his mentor Dumbledore in The Half-Blood Prince. While the former was done by the Big Bad, the latter was by one of Harry's teachers, which made Harry so furious that he tried to assault him in revenge.
In Terry Pratchett's Hogfather the entire reason the Boogeyman, the living embodiment of the "monster under the bed" type scare, became the Tooth Fairy was to protect children from real monsters like Teatime.
Even more so in Thud!. Sam Vimes has a son, and he's going to be home at six o'clock no matter what to read Where's My Cow? to Young Sam. He has nightmares about not making it. He also has nightmares about coming home to an empty crib because of the enemies a police chief makes. In this book, he makes some more.
Many of Bentley Little's novels deal with these sort of themes, including the nullification of personal identity (The Ignored) and the destructive power of consumerism (The Store).
The premise of The Lovely Bones is based on the worst possible outcome of the "Oh, shit. My kid was supposed to be home hours ago; what if they're dead?" fear.
The Anita Blake series has an example of this in the first book, Guilty Pleasures. Anita is hopping through, having a genuine Worthy Opponent moment with Jean-Claude, who can actually roll her, if briefly. Then she meets Nikolaos. Nikolaos doesn't try to convince Anita that she's seeing something she isn't. She tries to convince Anita that she is someone she isn't. And Anita is conscious enough to realize what's happening, but not quite enough to stop it on her own. It's a boogeyman doing bad things, yeah...it's also someone putting you in a position where even someone who was as calm as Anita was incapable of fighting back, and has no reason to expect help. Oh, and Nikolaos looks like a child, and was springing between innocent and B-Movie villain before that.
Battle Royale (and by extension, Survival of the Fittest and any other works based off of it). The plot revolves around a highschool class being sent on a deserted island and forced to kill each other. And there's nothing you could really do about it, as well; two of the adult characters protested against it in the book and manga, resulting in one getting brutally killed and the other getting raped to silence her. Yikes.
A Little Princess is about a young girl named Sarah who is forced into a life of servitude after her father dies and leaves her apparently penniless and with no other living relatives. And his closest and most trusted friend and business partner believes it's his fault that he supposedly lost the fortune and drove his friend to die. He wants to find his friend's daughter (Sarah) and take care of her because he feels he owes her father that much, and is worried for her safety. But he has no idea where she even is, or even if she's within the country! His search for her lasts years. It's even worse in Cuaron's movie version, where her father is alive and living next door, but due to his injuries and trauma he's suffering from memory loss. When Sarah is running from the police and hides in the house, she recognizes him and starts crying and trying to get him to remember her as she's dragged away to be arrested. He remembers her at the last minute, but still!
Although Joffrey Baratheon in A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the most hated characters in the series, his death in the books is uncomfortable for many parents because of the very realistic desperation and grief of his Smug Snake of a mother, Cersei, neatly triggering the fear of one's children dying and eliciting sympathy for both. In the following book she sees her son Tommen choke on a little wine at his wedding feast and nearly breaks down in tears as she relives Joffrey's death. For one horrifying moment she thought her second son had been poisoned as well.
How Catelyn's husband is executed, her oldest daughter is forcibly married to the enemy, her youngest daughter disappears off the face of the earth, her younger sons are killed and their bodies are hung from the wall of her castle (Which isn't true, but doesn't exactly help her situation), and it ends with her seeing her eldest son Robb being horrifyingly killed in front of her. And then she also gets killed off. No wonder she Came Back Wrong.
Poor Sansa is every brother/father-figure's worst nightmare of "What would happen to you if I'm gone?" After Ned gets executed in front of her, Sansa almost gets raped multiple times, is beaten and stripped in front of a court that's too terrified of Joffrey to help her, and nearly gets framed for treason after Joffrey gets poisoned. Luckily, she escapes the vast corruption of King's Landing... to the home of the man who openly pined for her mother, and Sansa is stated to look just like Catelyn. Luckily, her older brother Robb is going to save her from... oh fuck, did he and Catelyn just get killed at her uncle's wedding?
Another terrifying point is that the whole is Based on a True Story. It was a lightning in reality making it even more tragic. One minute that little girl is happily playing on a beach, the next there is a corpse...
In The Stones of Green Knowe, the protagonist, Roger, at one point sees what he thinks is his own village being massacred, with his family slaughtered. Despite the fact that Roger is only a child in the story, this would have been a very realistic fear for anyone at the time the novel takes place (the twelfth century), as well as in parts of the world today.
Die Wolke ("The Cloud") by Gudrun Pausewang describes what would happen to a country if a nuclear plant would go fully caboom.
Pausewang is very fond of this trope. Compare also: Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn (The Last Children of Schewenborn), which describes the aftermath of an implied nuclear war with all its horrors (the protagonist's family save his father dies one after another while suicides, murders, radiation sickness and starvation deaths happen all around him), and Der Schlund (The Abyss), which is set in a Germany that falls pray to another fascist regime a la Third Reich. The protagonist here loses her entire family to the regime and essentially commits suicide-by-proxy at the end.
The Hunger Games centres around Katniss who takes on a motherly role for her young sister prematurely due to her father dying in a mining accident and her mother's ensuing depression. To feed the family she breaks the law and increases her odds of being picked for the deadly games. But because this is a Crapsack World, the sister is picked for the Games anyway, so Katniss volunteers as sacrifice, knowing she'll never win and her family will be left without a provider. Harrowing enough but then her younger sister dies in the revolution Katniss starts - likely at the hands of Katniss' best friend.
Just the thought of it being your kid chosen for the Deadly Game...
Outside of the Games themselves, there's the fear of mental illness making you unable to care for your children. Recovering, and knowing that your kids nearly starved to death while you watched and did nothing, knowing that your daughter doesn't even trust you anymore. The horrible guilt- and unlike the Games, it actually happens.
A torture method that takes your most treasured memories and poisons them, making you fear the people you used to love to the extent that you want them dead. Oh, and there's no known cure.
For Katniss herself this trope is a big part of forming her personality and her outlook on life. She doesn't ever want to fall in love because she's seen what it did to her mother to lose her father. She's even more adamant to never have children because they might get reaped. Even after the Games are over and the rule of Snow has been overthrown it takes fifteen years for her to get over that fear and start a family. She also spends a long time ignoring/denying her feelings for Peeta.
Three Days by Donna Jo Napoli focuses on an eleven-year-old girl visiting in Italy with her father. All is well until he suffers a heart attack while driving and passes out...and then the girl ends up being kidnapped. So now in addition to watching her father get a heart attack and probably die while they were driving and she was right next to him, she's trapped in a stranger's home, surrounded by people who don't speak any English, in a strange country that she doesn't even know her way around.
The Knight and Rogue Series has a woman who collects mentally handicapped children to experiment on, since the law is more likely to miss perfectly normal kids or adults.
Warrior Cats deals with this a couple times. The forest is dangerous, so it's always frightening to the characters when a young cat disappears... one mother has to deal with the fact that her daughter's hindlegs are paralyzed so she'll never live a normal life and might die early... another mother's kits go missing, and she's forced to realize that her mate may have kidnapped them to live with him.
Those That Wake had everyone forgetting about teenage Laura, even her parents. And at the end of the book, they still don't remember.
School Crossing, by Francis King, is about a child-hating headmaster bitter after being sacked from the school where he worked. Whenever he drives anywhere near the school, he begins seeing the ghosts of children on the crossing outside. After being told by a doctor that he is hallucinating and should drive at the ghosts to prove they're not real, he does - only to run over and kill several children. The "ghosts" were a premonition. This is a fear instantly understandable to anyone with kids or who drives anywhere near places where children gather. The author has stated that he began having nightmares about it after acquiring a large, powerful car that he found difficult to handle.
The doctor who gave him the advice presumably didn't handle the outcome very well, either.
House of Leaves has many scary things going on, most noticably the Nothing Is Scarier aspects. But perhaps the most insidious facet of the book's creepiness is the fact that these terrible things are all going on in a family home. And then the children start changing. And also the claustrophobia, and the steadily escalating insanity that's probably the only thing of these that's actually happening.
Fay Woolf's short stories "Slowly" (about a child being trapped beneath a fairground ride - engineers try to free him but then discover the machine sliced him into a pile of body parts, which rain down upon the rescuers) and "Sideshow" (about a boy suffocating to death during a party game at a school fair.) The events of both stories are described in such a way as to hold off the full horror until the end, and they are reasonably unlikely to happen - but still perfectly plausible and possible. Not fun for any parents reading.
Słony from Kroniki Drugiego Kręgu has to hide his daughter on a remote island — and be very careful with any visitor he has — in order to keep her safe from an organization that would otherwise kidnap and experiment upon her. The organization finds out anyway and forces him to spy on a bunch of people or they will kidnap, rape, and force her to give birth to children they will further experiment on. No wonder the guy spends his night obsessively checking if all of his children are alive in their beds.
Galaxy of Fear mostly serves up Goosebumps-style horrors, but not entirely. Tash and Zak Arranda are kid survivors of Alderaan and lost everyone there. In Eaten Alive Tash is shown to have some degree of separation anxiety/abandonment issues, half believing that if she's parted from her one surviving family member, he'll die too. After Alderaan she sank in despair, only deciding to engage with the world because her brother was there and needed someone to watch his back. The book skims over her reaction to everyone, including Zak, disappearing later. City of the Dead has Zak going off by himself and apparently dying; he wakes up at his own funeral and hears her crying, but can't move or speak himself. This book mostly has him as the viewpoint character and he's more concerned with paralysis and being Buried Alive, so again Tash's reaction isn't given any focus... but it's pretty awful to think about.
In The Nightmare Machine, Zak has to face a number of fears thanks to the titular horror, and it takes his worst fear to escape it.
The Emigrants is full of this thanks to it's near-documentary depiction of a group of people who emigrate from Sweden to America during the mid-19th century. The fear of not being able to feed or clothe your children, your children dying from hunger or disease, sailing across an ocean knowing that some of the passangers will die during the journey, fear of being a stranger in a strange land and not speaking the language so you can't communicate even if your life depends on it... The list is very, very long.
Imagine going away on a business trip, leaving your lover behind. Then, while you're there, your best friend shows up without warning, to tell you that your lover was just murdered. Then you find out that it was an enemy of yours, the same man who tried to rape you once, but you didn't tell anyone about. In other words, the love of your life is dead, and you're responsible.
Worse than that. The Harringtons knew that when their little girl joined the Navy she may one day be killed in battle—but having her captured by the enemy and watching her execution on TV is one of the most heartrending passages in the entire series—even though, by this point, the reader already knows it's completely fake.
A Shadow Girl's Summer of Love and Madness has Eliza being kidnapped by someone her mother, Kala just invited into their home. Kala is killed by the kidnapper and dies not knowing if her baby will be taken to safety.
The Bell Jar contains a Young Adult Fear, when Esther realises that while she is intelligent, she doesn't have any idea what to do for a career and fears that life is passing her by. This will hit close to home for many teenagers and twenty-somethings.
Ivanhoe: Being part of a subjugated race. Check. Having arrogant aristocrats able and willing to do whatever they want to do to you with the approval of the law. Having a Corrupt Church tell you that you are supposed to be subjugated. Check. Being mocked because your ancestors lost a battle. Check. Having ones loved one kidnapped by a would-be rapist. Check.
In the Aunt Dimity series, once Lori becomes a parent, these sorts of fears start to figure into her reactions. This gets a humourous treatment when she's an overprotective new mom, but it also drives her more serious investigation of the possible pedophile in Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter''.
A Long Way from Chicago touches on things like losing one's house or become penniless and destitute. It doesn't help that the second book is set during The Great Depression. The second book also has a frightening chapter where Mary Alice has her first encounter with a tornado, and hides in the storm cellar with her grandmother and their pets.
In ''A Macabre Myth of a Moth-Man, Nina spends an entire year missing her boyfriend and wondering why he isn't contacting her and if it's somehow her fault or even if he's dead. The boyfriend was taken advantage of by a pharmaceutical corporation, illegally experimented on, and basically was broken so badly he felt he could never go home again.
The first six books of The Black Company series deal with the Company combating various Evil Sorcerors and following a pair of grand quests. The seventh book, Bleak Seasons, deals with the annalist's personal tragedies while enduring a siege, grappling with famine, disease, and betrayal.
For a sweet, charming series of rhyming books for children, the Madeline series is full of parent fear.
Madeline - The little heroine comes down with a sudden, life-threatening illness that requires emergency surgery.
Madeline's Rescue - She falls into the Seine and nearly drowns.
Madeline and the Bad Hat - A little boy is mauled by a pack of dogs and just barely rescued with serious injuries. (Granted, he brought it on himself by provoking them, but still...)
Madeline and the Gypsies - Two children. Accidentally left behind at a carnival. At the top of the ferris wheel. In the middle of the night. During a thunderstorm. And by the time the adults realize they're missing and (presumably) hurry back to find them, the carnival people have already left, taking the kids with them. Readers know that they're happy and well cared for by the gypsies, but Miss Clavel certainly doesn't.
Madeline in London - A horse runs away with the same two children on its back.
Only Madeline's Christmas, the last book by the original author, avoids this trope.
Sword Art Online spends a good amount of time on this. Practically everything the characters go through is this.
First Arc: Trapped in a Death Game where Zero hit points means real death...and on the other end, there are all those friends and family members incapable of helping you. Because the first 213 victims came from their family or friends trying to remove the NerveGear...which then fried their brains.
Second Arc: Asuna is trapped in a virtual world by her fiance who acts nice in front of her family while Kirito struggles to reach her...and when he does reach her said fiance tortures him and nearly rapes Asuna in both the game and real life. Specifically her 'comatose body.
Third Arc: There is a guy running around who has apparently figured out how to kill people in game and in real life. And he has just targeted you.
Fourth Arc: You are trapped in a virtual world project that you last were working on...but you don't know if you are the real person or just an AI. And apparently things have gotten really crappy in this world.
And it just keeps on coming, even in side stories. Morning Dew Girl is a big example.
Tien in Vorkosigan Saga awakens adult fear. It is hard for most people to imagine being a real vilain. It is way easier to imagine being a weak and incompetant spouse. And to be hated by one's partner after one's death is a horrible thought.
Live Action TV
Supernatural: A moment that could fill any parent with terror was in the first season, when a toddler is tempted into climbing inside a fridge which then closes. Cue mother looking for child, and taking a looong time to find that child. (The child survives, but still...)
Later seasons get less and less quick to enforce Infant Immortality, and children are more often either possessed, hurt, used, or more than one of the above. Several episodes have dealt with what happens when the child itself is a danger, such as with the need to kill or scar one's soul for life. Why? Because the universe doesn't care about age.
The series is built on this from the first episode. Imagine walking into your infant's room late at night and seeing a man standing over his crib. You assume it's your significant other, only to walk away and realise that your husband is downstairs and you have no idea who is in the room behind you or what they're doing with your baby. If that wasn't bad enough, when you run back into your child's room you are pinned to the ceiling and forced to watch as this unknown assailant corrupts your child before slowly killing you and burning you alive... all as you can't help but stare straight down at the baby you were unable to protect.
Dean is terrified of turning out like his abusive father. He ends up striking his honorary son Ben during his brush with imminent vampirism, which was the last nail in the coffin for his and Lisa's relationship.
The season 3 episode "The Kids Are Alright" revolves around this concept as children are kidnapped by creatures known as Changelings and replaced by them to feed on their parents while the actual kids are held by the Changeling Mother. This comes to head when a mother realizes the change in her daughter and practically drives the car into the lake with the creature taking her child's form inside.
In "Something Wicked" there was an outbreak of incurable pneumonia only affecting children, which turned out to actually be a monster disguised as a pediatrician who sucked the life out of children after sneaking into their bedrooms at night. The victims all fall into comas they won't wake up from and the "illness" spreads to all the children of a family, starting with the youngest.
In the Doctor Who episode "Turn Left", Great Britain devolves into a police state and things get increasingly bleak with economic depression. It turns out it was a parallel universe, a nightmare realm, and Donna manages to return history to its old, proper course. But still.
It's made all the worse by the obvious Holocaust parallels at one point. The government sends foreigners away to "labour camps" as they're unable to simply deport them. Donna, while agitated, clearly doesn't grasp the situation in full. Her grandfather, Wilfred, lived through WWII and cries as he watches history repeat itself.
Not just the holocaust - there was a very disturbing 9/11 parallel as well, with the mushroom cloud rising above London, while people look to the distance and can't quite believe what is happening.
Plot holes aside, "Gridlock" becomes very disturbing, in a peculiar fashion, if you start thinking about being stuck in an inescapable traffic jam that will never, ever end (maybe you have to drive into to work to appreciate it).
In the episode "The Eleventh Hour", the then-seven-years-old Amelia Pond is clearly frightened of a crack in her bedroom wall, which she can hear voices out of. When the Doctor meets her, he even notes that she's quite brave and that the crack must be extraordinarily strange to scare her so much. It's also shown that Amelia's aunt - her only guardian - not only doesn't believe there's anything wrong with the crack, but is often not home to care for her. It turns out that the "crack" is an opening to a parallel dimension, which an alien prisoner escaped from. Because the Doctor jumps through time 12 years instead of 5 minutes, Amelia unknowingly spends most of her life living with an alien criminal hiding in her house, creating a mental link with her to steal her form. While this obviously plays off of a child's fear of things like the bogeyman and seemingly mundane details, there's also the parental fear of danger coming to a child because of not taking their worries seriously.
It gets worse at the end of the season. Remember how the crack erases people from existence? It got Amelia's parents. They are removed from reality itself. Their own daughter won't remember that you ever existed.
"A Good Man Goes To War" has an even worse one for Amy and Rory. Not only does their baby get kidnapped, when it seems like they've saved her it turns out that the bad guys swapped her with a flesh copy that literally dissolves in Amy's arms And it gets worse; Amy & Rory don't see their child again until she is already an adult; an adult deliberately raised to be a sociopath and Laser Guided Tykebomb.
"The God Complex" also has a bit of this; alongside the Demonic Dummies and Monster Clown, the rooms also show such fears as social anxiety and disappointing your parents.
The Doctor The Widow and the Wardrobe pretty much invokes this - your children are lost in the wilderness, with a very strange man you don't trust, and now people are telling you that the whole area is about to become horrifically dangerous and anyone within is doomed. When Madge pulls a gun on them, the workers don't believe for a second that she'd use it. Until she says the words "I'm looking for my children". Then they know she is very serious.
Episode eight of season one of Orphan Black - in which Sarah realizes her daughter has been kidnapped, and then watches her get hit by a car.
In Teen Wolf, Sheriff Stilinski's reaction and horror at Stiles' kidnapping is a very accurate portrayal of every parent's worst nightmare of losing their children.
The Torchwood five-part story Children of Earth features the kidnap of children to send to the 456, at the approval of the government. At the conclusion, one child is sacrificed horribly to avert this. That child is Jack Harkness' grandson. And Jack had to use the machine to kill him. With vibrations. Over the course of several agonizing minutes. All while listening to his daughter screaming for her son
And this is just after Jack's lover, Ianto, was killed due to Jack's mistake in confronting the 456 without any real plan or safety precautions
It posits the very, very real fear that your children could be targeted by a variety of threats, including rapist pirates and the government - which also brings up hefty fears of government repression and regulation.
There's the fact that the Tam siblings are forced to become outlaws because their own parents would turn them back to the Alliance, despite the clear evidence that the Academy was doing horrible things to River. This plays off of the fear of child abuse and children being unable to rely on their parents for sufficient protection.
River had been recruited by a prestigious school because she was gifted. Why? So she could be abused, tortured, and experimented on. It gets worse... she was regularly sending back perfectly innocent and happy letters in her own handwriting so all this happens without you ever suspecting a thing.
In CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, two boys went missing and the main suspect is a pedophile. It didn't help when the team had to enlist his help to try to find the boys and he began to describe in detail to Grissom how he would lure a child to him by gaining their trust. Another suspect was one of the boys' abusive grandfather. Imagine you were the father of that man, forced to leave your son with him because the grandfather was the only one available to look after your son. And failed.
Space Sheriff Shaider. Be careful of your children. A cult might brainwash them into committing unspeakable acts.
The 1988 TV movie God Bless the Child provides a very depressing scenario: a woman is deserted by her husband, and evicted from her apartment. She and her daughter are homeless and have to go on welfare. She is unable to get a job because she is homeless, and has limited experience, having been a homemaker. Although the state agency finds her some low-income housing, it is infected with rats; when she complains to the health department, the landlord evicts her in retaliation. Eventually, her daughter gets an infection, and, while she recovers, her mother sees no other option but to turn her over to foster care.
Jam relied heavily on this. The "Plumber Baby" sketch is possibly the best-known example, with other sketches focusing on paedophilia, child murder, sexual assault, Out with a Bang ("Gush") and more.
Ghost Writer has a story arc where people, including one of the team, are getting sick seemingly randomly; the culprit turns out to be toxic waste dumped in the community garden. It's horrible enough for kids, but even worse from an older perspective; being a parent of one of those kids, finding out that the community garden that was thought could only be a good thing is actually poisoning their children. The member who was a victim was Gabby, at the time the youngest team member. Seeing the normally high-energy Gabby being unable to do more than weakly protest being forced to eat soup, while her older brother is obviously petrified to the point of treating her like a china doll, is heartwrenching.
Being Human uses this in one episode, when Annie sees her mother for the first time after dying. There are two points that stand out in particular. The first is when Annie is too shocked to say anything, and the medium who is speaking on her behalf has to tell Mrs. Sawyer that there isn't anything he's being told. Mrs. Sawyer says that she hopes he's lying, because she can't stand the thought that her daughter could communicate through him freely, but can't speak to her own mother. The other is when Mrs. Sawyer breaks down and confesses that she feels she failed her daughter and that if she was a better mother, she would have known that her child was unhappy and alone.
The Twilight Zone was full of this in addition to more supernatural threats. The episode "In Praise of Pip" shows a bookie receiving news that his son Pip has been seriously wounded in The Vietnam War and is possibly dying. The rest of the episode revolves around the man hallucinating(?) that Pip is a ten year old boy again while he is dying of a gunshot wound. In what is a massively sad scene, he begs his son not to die and apologizes for not being a better father and role model to him while promising to do better even though he realizes it may be too late for both of them.
Rescue 911. Usually about Once an Episode they'd feature a true story about a kid getting wounded in some horrible way or another.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit centers on Ripped from the Headlines plots, doesn't hesitate to whip out the truly alarming statistics on domestic abuse, sexual assault, incest, and child molestation. In one particularly upsetting-for-grownups episode, a little boy goes missing at a birthday party and is found dead shortly afterward. The security tape from the party shows him holding a balloon as he walks out of the camera's viewpoint— only for the balloon to roll by it without the boy only seconds later. The big kicker? He was killed by another child. An adult might have a healthy suspicion of other adults around their kids, but who would ever question another kid at a birthday party?
The season 1 finale of LOST has Michael's son Walt stolen right out of his hands and abducted by the Others for unknown purposes, before they torch the raft to ensure they can't be followed.
The pilot, Regina's adopted child seeks out his biological mother who he claims is his real mom and who he immediately loves and prefers over you. Most of the first season is driven by Ragina's paranoia that Emma is trying to take Henry from her.
Near the end of Season 1, Emma's son, Henry, makes a Heroic Sacrifice for her by eating the turnover that Regina has made from the poisoned apple, leaving him in a coma-like state. Emma's reaction when Henry collapses onto the floor after eating the turnover, and when she finally realizes that Henry was right about the curse in Storybrooke, makes this a pretty good example.
Regina, who happens to be Henry's foster mother and whom she truthfully loves despite what Henry thinks, when she realizes that he ate the turnover instead of Emma.
When Regina reveals that magic is unpredictable in Storybrooke and that there is a possibility that Henry can actually die from eating the turnover.
There's Rumplestiltskin whose son, Baelfire, was about to be drafted into a war. He was all Rumple and was so desperate to save him that he became the new Dark One.
Bae runs away after Rumple breaks his word to give up his power. Rumple's agony over losing his son is palpable
Jefferson remembers his past life with his daughter, yet has to watch her be raised by another family. She is Happily Adopted so Jefferson can't bring himself to destroy her world.
In the season 2 episode "Welcome to Storybrooke", Regina becomes fixated on a child who stumbles across town with his father just after the curse is unleashed, and tries to force them to stay with her, even using her mind control against Graham to keep them in Storybrooke, having Kurt arrested and forced to be sepearated from his son, making him an orphan.
"The Body". Buffy comes home to find her mother dead on the couch. Buffy, a girl who fights vampires and demons, is reduced to a near catatonic state clearly wondering how long Joyce had been in the house and if she could have been saved. It gets worse several episodes later when, despite the Scoobies' best efforts, her sister Dawn is still captured.
BUFFY: No, actually, I really don't think that you have. It's just ... it's been kind of, kind of a, a bad time.
MS. KROGER: It's been a bad time now for a while, hasn't it, Ms. Summers? [...]
BUFFY: But there—there are good reasons.
MS. KROGER: Oh, I'm sure there are. But my interest is in Dawn's welfare. And the stability of her home life, something I'm just not convinced that an unemployed young woman like yourself can provide.
BUFFY: I can. I, I do!
MS. KROGER: Well, we'll just have to see about that then, won't we? Oh, and I'm, uh, going to recommend immediate probation in my report.
BUFFY: What does that mean?
MS. KROGER: It means that I'll be monitoring you very closely, Ms. Summers. And if I don't see that things are improving, well, I'll be forced to recommend that you be stripped of your sister's guardianship.
BUFFY: You can't do that.
MS. KROGER: I do what is in Dawn's best interest ... as should you. Have a nice day.
Angel does a pretty good job of this as well: it's bad enough when people are trying to get at your child before he's even born; it gets worse when he ends up in the hands of the enemy after being kidnapped (albeit with the best intentions) by one of your best friends. And when he finally comes back, you've missed his entire childhood and he's now a certifiable psychopath conditioned to kill you.
In episode "Nobody's Child", pregnant Harriet Sims accidentally gets to see crime scene photos of the corpse of a brutally murdered girl and freaks out. A few episodes later in "The Adversaries" she sees the dead girls identical twin sister and gets flashbacks of the photos.
During the show's last two seasons, Harm became the legal guardian for a teenage girl named Maddie, who was abandoned by her father, who was driving when her mother died in a car accident(it was later revealed that her father was sober behind the wheel at the time). During the show's final season, Maddie was badly injured in a bi-plane crash and faced paralysis. Although Harm was being reassigned to London during the show's finale, he promised that he and Maddie would be together and that he would help her rehabilitate from her injuries.
JAG spinoff series NCIS has Gibbs, whose wife and daughter were killed by a Mexican drug cartel while he was serving as a Marine sniper. Their deaths still haunt him to this day.
A season 4 episode has a pack of prehistoric creatures loose in a school during Saturday detention. A parent who sent their child off to do detention in an empty school and find out that there is some kind of wild animal or dangerous person on the loose. To make matters worse, the teacher is the first to die leaving the students alone. To make matters even worse one of the children wanders off and gets eaten before the team can save her.
A season 2 episode has a little girl and her dog disappearing through an anomaly. The girl in question had lost both her parents and was being taken care of by her neglectful older brother. And she was outside and found the anomaly because he wouldn't play with her. Imagine having someone in your care lost somewhere where they can't get back as a result of you neglecting them.
Most of the events of Fringe occur because scientist father Walter Bishop watched his only son die of a childhood illness and couldn't bring himself to let it happen again in the parallel universe.
One episode had a baby trapped in a room with an armed hostage taker, causing everyone in Team One to worry.
A young girl is kidnapped from a playground despite her mother attentively watching. To make things worse, there was a recently paroled sex offender taking pictures of little girls in that playground from his car.
In Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves Rasmus' parents are more than a little worried that their son might contract AIDS. For the main characters AIDS is a brutal, unmerciful disease that takes them one by one and they don't know what causes it. The title of the series comes from how the medical personnel were so afraid of falling sick themselves that they didn't even dare to dry their patients' tears without wearing gloves. It may seem harsh given what we know today but in the eighties nobody knew how the disease was spread so it's hard to blame them for being scared.
One episode in Elementary deals with children being mysteriously abducted and their bodies would be later found. The latest victim was a little girl who was taken from her own bedroom.
"Oubliette" features a child molester who kidnaps little pre-teen and teen girls and keeps them locked in a creepy basement. Amy, his victim, tried to escape but he caught her and dragged her back, and then denied her even water as punishment. She cried and begged him to let her go home to her mother. Oh god... Finally, when he realized he couldn't have her, he tried to drown her in a river.
"Home" was a very scary episode:
The Family That Slays Together might have been a bit exaggerated, but otherwise, such a nasty family of people who keep to themselves might exist. Abuse, incest, pain, filth, murder... For them, it represents their strength and unity.
There was a horribly deformed baby with every genetic defect imaginable. Agent Scully expressed her own uneasiness and anxiety over the issue.
"Imagine all a woman's hopes and dreams for her child and then nature turns so cruel. What must a mother go through?"
The episode "Paper Hearts" featured a Serial Killer fascinated with Alice in Wonderland, fancying himself to be a Mad Hatter. He was a salesman and was very skilled in gaining people's trust. He took and murdered 16 little girls and kept twisted souvenirs in the form of hearts cut from their pajamas.
"Sein und Zeit" had a Serial Killer who was taking children from their beds, but tormenting their parents and the police with notes about what he's done, which all end with "NOBODY MESSES WITH SANTA CLAUS!" He also made the parents themselves be suspected of the crime.
All terminally ill children would fall here, but one of them stands out as particularly scary. Dr. Napur meets a young family in a coffee place and she compliments the parents that they have a cute baby girl. She's two months old and keeps smiling and almost laughing all the time. When the parents tell Dr. Napur that she's always this happy, she knows that something is very wrong and sends them to hospital immediately. It turns out that Chloe has a tumour in the vital part of her brain, and surgery on a baby this young is extremely risky.
A couple loses their child — a teenage daughter — during minor surgery to remove some scar tissue behind the ear. What was supposed to be a simple operation went sour when the nurse accidentally mixed a lethal dose of adrenalin (it should have been far smaller) with the anaesthetics, which went unnoticed by both the anaesthesiologist and the surgeon. This happened at very fancy hospital with stellar reputation.
In 'Hard Time', the level-headed, down-to-earth Chief Engineer O'Brien is Mind Raped into experiencing a two-decade prison sentence in a matter of hours, leaving him with a severe case of PTSD that leads to his life gradually falling apart. Eventually, after a domestic dispute in which he almost hits his daughter, he walks into an empty cargo hold and places a fully-charged phaser to his head. His best friend Dr. Bashir talks him down, but it's a very close-run thing.
In 'The Assignment', O'Brien's wife Keiko gets a bad case of Demonic Possession from an ancient being called a Pah-Wraith. The Wraith demands he make certain modifications to the station, or it will kill Keiko via a massive stroke... and it's quite happy to cripple her if he starts looking disloyal. Perhaps the creepiest scene in the episode is when the Wraith calls O'Brien to remind him of his rapidly-approaching deadline, whilst combing their daughter's hair just roughly enough to make its point without raising undue suspicion.
Castle faced Adult Fear in the two-parter "Target" and "Hunt", when his daughter Alexis was kidnapped. Any parent could relate to the terror Castle felt; even Captain Gates, Castle's most vocal critic among the precinct, put aside her dislike of Castle during this case and told Beckett, "Do whatever it takes to get his little girl back."
Castle experienced great fear during "Setup and "Countdown" when a terrorist group threatened to detonate a dirty nuke in downtown Manhattan. Castle ends up having Alexis join his mother Martha on a spiritual retreat that Martha was planning, despite Alexis begging her dad to get her out of it at the beginning of the story. He couldn't even tell his mother and daughter why he was afraid for their lives.
One case involved a kidnapped child, whose father came only a few minutes late to pick him up from soccer practice, only to find out he wasn't there. The father didn't even realize he had been kidnapped right away, assuming he decided to walk home on his own. Castle feels uncomfortable about it because the child is not much younger than Alexis. He also reveals that when Alexis was a child, he turned away for a couple of seconds while out shopping, and she was gone. Fortunately, she had just been playing around in a rack of clothes and had fallen asleep.
Twin Peaks, the disappearance and murder of Laura Palmer, and the subsequent disintegration of her parents' lives.
Crossing Lines Det. Major Louis Daniel and his wife Rebecca Daniel are living this. Louis's backstory and possible motivation for setting up the unit is the murder of his son. The covert side investigation into the boy's death is one of at least 2 arcs in the first season. He has learned the Russian may have planted the bomb that killed his son. The Russian is also running the crew in the 2nd episode.
Sonsof Anarchy season 6 periodically follows a young kid walking around without saying a word. He's seen writing in his notebook, kissing his mother goodbye, and just touring the town. Then he goes back to his school and pulls up his sleeves. We see he has a cutting problem before he writes something down in his notebook, then reaches into his backpack and pulls out a KG-9 with an extra clip. As he walks into his school, we get a glimpse of his book, filled with disturbing images and notes such as "God doesn't like bullies." We hear gunfire and screaming as blood spatters the window. Cut to the police, the ambulance, and students and teachers broken down and traumatized by what just happened. The ringer, we see the boys mother worryingly staring at her clock, probably wondering where her son is.
Breaking Bad- in 'Ozymandias', we have Skyler pulling a knife on Walt after finding out he killed Hank (one of the few crimes Walt was actually not guilty of, which he had no way to prove, itself a bit chilling), which escalates into a full out fight between the couple as Junior watches helplessly and Holly cries in the background, culminating in Junior wrestling his father off his mother, and calling the police on him with one hand while the other is flung protectively in front of Skyler. Then, Walt steals Holly from her crib and drives off with her, with Skyler running after the car screaming.
An even more chilling example comes right on the next episode: Skyler, completely alone at home but under police surveillance, enters Holly's room and is surrendered by a masked man while two others watch over Holly's crib. Turns out it's Todd and his gang, threatening her not to say a word about Lydia's involvement in the Heisenberg case. Under Lydia's orders, even.
One arc has the family return from a trip only to find that their house has been broken into. Calvin is pacified immediately after finding Hobbes, whom they had accidentally left behind when they went on the trip. His parents, however, are notably shaken, and the realization that they aren't as safe as they thought they were lingers with them for the rest of the arc. Calvin's dad in particular has to come to terms with the fact that being a parent doesn't automatically equip you to deal with any problem, contrary to what he thought after idolizing his father when he was younger. Parents are people too, and what makes them seem invincible is the fact that they put on a brave face for the sake of their children, which he learns to do.
There's the story arc in which Calvin finds the dying raccoon. He brings his mother to help him save it, telling Hobbes: "You don't get to be Mom if you can't fix everything just right.". His mom admits though that there really is very little they can do to save the raccoon and it inevitably dies. This brings up the fact that parents can't always save the day and aren't always going to be able to protect their children from experiencing loss and death.
Adult fears are also treated humorously with Calvin using them as ideas for his Halloween costumes: a barrel of toxic waste, and nothing (just a child; think of what he and his generation receiving questionable influences will have grown up into when the adults he's trick-or-treating are old and weak).
In one series of strips, Calvin wanted the garage to himself, so he pushed the car out. It accidentally kept going and crossed the road, crashing into a ditch. Calvin, scared of being punished, ran away into the forest. His mom caught up with him, and while Calvin didn't really understand, any parent reading the strip definitely will—his mom wasn't mad, she was just terrified that he had been hurt. He didn't get in trouble because she was just glad he was okay.
When Calvin gets sick, his mother mentions that he won't be missing any school since it's the weekend. Calvin responds "I know" without making any fuss...and his mother runs to the phone to call the doctor.
Several times in FoxTrot. One arc had Roger coming home from work to find Andy and Jason gone. Paige tells him they're at the hospital, and that Jason was hit by a car. She meant to say it was a toy car (Jason had gotten hit on the chin with one and needed stitches), but Roger doesn't know that and promptly tears outta there to see Jason at the hospital. Then there's the arc where Peter goads Jason into going onto the roof, Jason loses footing and falls off, hitting his head and having to go to the hospital for supervision; Paige and Jason finding a needle at the beach (they throw it out, which freaks Andy out because she fears they accidentally pricked themselves when they did); Paige going to the dance with a lecherous date who clearly wants to have his way with her...
Another time, Paige babysits Ms. O'Mally's preschool daughter Katie, then falls asleep watching her. Katie starts playing with scissors. Paige manages to wake up in panic and saves Katie from hurting herself, but is at a loss to explain what happened to Katie's understandably angry mother. (Exactly why she continued to hire Paige after that boggles the mind; the only punishment Paige seemed to get was having to pay for Katie's dress that she ruined.)
Peanuts: Charlie Brown dealt with quite a lot of adult fears for an eight-year-old — one arc in particular had him lying, alone, in a hospital bed worrying that he was going to die and that the doctors weren't even going to tell him.
The cartoonist Quino, uses it in several strips, like this one◊. For those who don't understand Spanish: It's about a teenager who rebels against having to study Greek Mythology by saying that "he has nothing to do with it", and instead asks for permission to drive his father's car to a party, his father reluctantly agrees and when he leaves... his father starts reading the studies book and the story of Phaëton. The man's face in the third-to-last panel says it all.
Jewish male babies being abandoned or killed via Pharaoh orders.
Imagine what it must have been like for Mary, seeing her firstborn Son being beaten, humiliated, murdered in the most torturous and degrading way the Romans could devise - and this is after being told by an angel that God had a special plan for Him. Even if she knew about him rising again in three days, it's hard to keep something like that in focus when your own flesh-and-blood child is crucified and dying in front of you.
On that note, we're told how difficult it was for his disciples to deal with the inevitability of His sacrifice - Peter even pulls out a sword and starts hacking at people in Jesus' defense. Remember, Jesus was more to them than their God or teacher - he was also their friend, with whom they had traveled and did life for the past three years. Imagine if your best friend one day tells you "okay, now it's time for me to go die - don't try to stop it."
Greek Mythology: Daedalus and Icarus. They were close to escaping their terrible situation, a father with his only child. Poor Daedalus has to helplessly watch him die due to something he specifically warned him against.
Celtic Mythology has a lot of this. "The Fate of the Children Of Lir" has four of Lir's five children die after their stepmother's curse on them is broken by a priest.
"The Fosterage Of The Two Pails" is even worse: Aengus' foster-daughter Enya becomes unable to eat after a Jerkass insults her (and somehow turns her Christian?), so Aengus has to search for the Dun Cow in India and bring it home. After a while of subsisting on nothing but milk, she suddenly gets teleported out of her home to a random spot in Ireland, and wanders around lost until she meets a priest. She gets baptized and starts eating again. Months later, Aengus finally finds her after searching for her since she disappeared, and asks her to come back home. But since Aengus is a pagan god and she's now Christian, she can't. So Aengus sings a lament for his lost daughter before he leaves, at which Enya dies of heartbreak.
For that matter, having your family shun you because of difference in religious belief.
Fridge Horror sets in when you realize that while the Celts strongly believe in reincarnation, Lir's children and Enya die permanently from their conversion to Christianity. Their families are immortal, but they can't see their childrenever again. Considering many of the people who wrote the mythology down were Christianized monks themselves, the focus on both parties' anguish at being separated, and the distinct lack of triumphant conversion to Christianity, one wonders if this wasn't a cultural Take That at being forced to give up their beliefs.
In Dino Attack RPG, both Sarah Bishop and Helen Rutherford were worried sick about their children being out on the battlefield. Unfortunately, Kate Bishop is abused by Rotor while Bob Rutherford is killed by Ata.
Even Pentex gets into the game with their Avalon Toys subsidiary, which subtly broadcast messages to kids about the importance of violence, the necessity of staying thin and pretty to remain popular, and the fun of "playing" veterinarian with stray animals. Such messages leave kids attuned to the memetics of the Wyrm and thus ripe for possession by Bane spirits. So even if you're out fighting tooth and claw against the forces of evil, there's still a chance they can get to your kid when you're not around...
Little Fears is a roleplaying game that plays on this just as much as it does childhood fears. Your children stand risk of being killed - or worse - by an enemy that's ever-hungering, comes in many forms, and is completely invisible to you. It may have even gone after you, too; you just forgot all about it when you reached puberty.
The original Black & White begins like this with a couple desperately crying out for divine intervention after their child ran off into shark-infested waters.
The sequel begins with you saving a handful of villagers while their city is being invaded and burned, everyone they know is killed, and even the once-familiar landscape is rent asunder by "natural" disasters.
Planescape: Torment runs on nearly every dark trope ever, and this one is no exception. Listing every character that plays on an adult fear would take a page of its own, so sticking to party members:
In a very long fantasy metaphor for abusive personalities, the Nameless One destroys everything he touches and hurts everyone he cares about. No matter how much some of his incarnations might want to, he will never be able to stop. He finally does stop...by committing suicide.
Dak'kon has sworn a vow of absolute obedience to someone who is frequently a complete monster, resulting in plentiful on-screen psychological abuse if the player has the stomach for it. And that's not even touching on lost faith or having lived through a genocide. Ignus and Vhailor have lost their basic humanity to traumatic experiences and zealotry. Annah's relationship with her father figure isn't exactly a healthy one, and she promptly finds herself drawn towards an equally unhealthy relationship with a much (much, much) older man. Fall-From-Grace was sold into slavery by her mother. Morte was physically abused but stuck around out of the conviction that it was somehow his fault and he deserved it, and Nordom is the very picture of childlike innocence lost.
Deionarra is a literal Love Martyr, but what sends this into Adult Fear territory is that her relationship isn't some Fantastic Aesop — she's simply so enthralled with romance she doesn't realize her lover's true nature until it's too late... rather like many real world people in abusive relationships.
Lady Kerri (Hubert and Asbel's mom) from Tales of Graces. Let's see: Your kids love you but are either afraid (Hubert) or slightly resentful (Asbel) of your husband. Your husband isn't helping matters any due to him generally being emotionally constipated mixed with a short temper triggered by Asbel almost daily, so in short she's the Only Sane Man. One day, you have to then ship of one of your children to another country and explain it to his older brother but before you can said oldest runs of somewhere. You then get news that both of your sons were almost killed but can only see one of them since the other has already been sent away. Your child then decides to run away from home and disappears for 7 years. Your husband then dies causing your sons to come back home. Only when they get back, they are at each others throats, the youngest son hates you and the oldest is exiled from the village. It's really surprising she didn't go into an Angst Coma.
In Heavy Rain, the very beginning of the game gives you the pleasure of playing as a parent who loses his child when he gets run over. The entire game focuses around catching a serial killer who drowns children in rainwater, and the worst part is nobody really has a clue who he or she is.
In Silent Hill 1, you get to play a parent who is desperately searching a dangerous city for his missing child. You get to spend a lot of time in the dark where monsters are lurking.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the (very liberal) remake of the original game, takes this even further, as the game actually focuses on a veritable cornucopia of Adult Fears - loss of family, social alienation, substance addiction, deterioration of love, sexual insecurities, death, the works - even more than monsters, and the occult theme is axed entirely from the plot.
Silent Hill 2 is about a man who has been deeply changed by his wife's early death. The fact that James killed her is another Adult Fear: the fear of failing a loved one and of selfishness. James's guilt is overwhelming, hence his punishment. Due to his wife's long sickness James is also sexually frustrated, and angry and guilty enough about it that the town creates a physical manifestation of his dark impulses toward sexual violence.
Silent Hill Downpour deals with Murphy Pendelton and the guilt he has over not being able to save his son from their neighbor, Napier, who kidnapped, raped, and murdered poor little Charlie.
Live A Live: One spoilered word:Oersted. By the end of the relevant chapter, everyone in the kingdom believes him to be an evil monster after he's manipulated into murdering his king, the only people who believed in him are dead, he's killed his own childhood friend after finding out that said friend had masterminded the above manipulation, simply out of sheer jealousy of Oersted's fame and success. To cap it all off, the woman he loved had just declared her love for said dead friend and given Oersted a rather misplaced bitching out for not being a better friend to the poor unappreciated guy, and then offs herself. After such an emotional roller coaster, he snaps, so veryspectacularly. The Adult Fear sets in when you sympathize with him through the whole thing, and then realize that, if you went through the experience of having everyone you care about either die for your sake, or viciously turn against you and declare you to be a murderous monster like that, you could very well end up in the same boat. His last words say it all: "With hatred, anyone can become a demon."
Gears of War has this in spades. All of the named characters have had family and friends, and some of them had children - and they all lost a great many of them on E-Day and during the war that followed.
Dom's life, especially, is practically made of this trope - after losing his brother and kids, the only thing that kept him going was the possibility of finding his missing wife, Maria. In 2, he does find her - after she had suffered years of torture, malnutrition, and lobotomization that drove her into irreversible insanity. The only way to save her is via Mercy Kill, which Dom has to personally deliver. Imagine crusading for years to find someone dear to you in the midst of a global warzone, only to be forced to kill them immediately afterward.
Metal Gear Solid 2's final act, if you get past the True Art Is Incomprehensible part. The US is controlled by AI programs and the point of the plot is revealed: They figured out they can make anyone into what they want, given the right set of circumstances. Oh and the main character's love interest? Set up by them. It even makes you question whether she actually exists. Let's see: Fear of loved ones having ulterior motives? Check. Fear of not knowing what's actually real? Check. Fear of having no control in your life? Big check.
Likewise, Metal Gear Solid 4. First: Snake facing his declining health and dealing with a terminal illness. Part of Otacon's emotional arc is about coping with the long-term illness of his close friend and partner. There is also the question of children growing up — and possibly outgrowing you. ("It's okay if you want to live outside now.") Hideo Kojima said in interviews prior to the game's release that he hoped the story and emotions would resonate with older players, ones who had been following the series for some time, and did they ever.
The adventure horror game Sanitarium has a strong theme running throughout it of child endangerment. One of the first chapters takes place in an abandoned town where all of the adults have disappeared and left the children alone, who are slowly being turned into deformed abominations. That same chapter features the story of a young girl who was killed by her abusive father while the townspeople turned a blind eye. Another chapter has you play as a young girl in a Circus of Fear, and other chapters feature things like alien babies being thrown into a furnace. As the game progresses and you learn more about the main character, you find out that he and his wife had been searching for a cure for their unborn child, who is suffering from a fatal disease. This is compounded by the fact that the protagonist was severely traumatized by the death of his little sister when he was a boy.
Killer7, already a pretty disturbing game, has this scene (warning: NSFW), the sum of all Adult Fears wrapped up into just under two pants-crappingly horrific minutes.
For those of you that can't watch it: Curtis Blackburn confronts his former partner Pedro (who has turned against him) and reveals that he killed (and probably raped) Pedro's wife - in front of his son - before killing his son as well. At the same time he mocks them, commenting on his wife's "unique" mole and calling his son a "sissy" for not trying to save his mother. When Pedro babbles his daughter's name, Curtis tosses him his daughter's head. Curtis then kills Pedro, but by that point the man probably welcomed it.
It's later shown that Curtis kidnaps and rapes young girls. And then makes hauntingly creepy taxidermy dolls out of them.
And Susie, who seemed to have had a decent life but killed her own mother just because she wanted her to go to school. A reminder than no matter how good a parent you are, sometimes your kid can turn into an Enfante Terrible.
In BioShock, You might find some audio diaries belonging to a Mrs. Lutz. Her daughter has been kidnapped and for the longest time she and her husband don’t know where she is. One day she finds her little Masha. Masha has been transformed into a little sister, harvesting the plasmid-strewn blood of a corpse. She neither recognizes nor acknowledges her parents. The Lutzes are later found in a hotel room, they committed suicide out of grief, their daughter’s picture is found near their bodies.
You can also find a family in Mercury Suites. A mother, father, and three little girls. All dead.
The introduction scene to BioShock 2. Super effective against anyone immersing themselves in the perspective. Double that for male parents.
When you set the Little Sister in your care down to gather ADAM from a corpse, you usually can concentrate fully on the hordes of crazy lunatics charging at you since there is only very little chance that she will take any real damage. But when she screams for help, you will stop whatever you are doing or dealing with and instantly charge back to smash a giant drill through someones brain.
Imagine you were given the task of taking care of a group of small children while they're on a trip to an amusement park for a sleepover, to give their parents a reprieve while they celebrate the New Year. Now imagine that suddenly you hear mass fighting and explosions that are happening throughout the city, so much so that you and your children are accidentally locked in the amusement park with dwindling food and water for longer and longer periods of time - long enough that you are faced with the very real prospect of watching those children die of starvation while you suffer the same fate. This is what befell Nina Carnegie, and you find her audio diaries in Ryan Amusements, which tell you that she starved herself to death so the kids she was looking after would have more food.
The mere existence of Ryan Amusements. It's pretty grim to be anyone of any age down in Rapture, just short of being Andrew Ryan himself, but the "entertainment" there invokes the shadow of real-world attempts to indoctrinate children with adult political ideologies — or to foster fear and mistrust of the outside world to quash any will to escape. Even if they were cruelly duped, many of the adults in Rapture chose to come there; the children of Rapture made no such choice. (The Journey to the Surface ride plays on adult fears itself in-game, as well as scaring children; the threats posed by the "parasite" include a nightmarish version of the draft where young children are torn from their parents and sent off to war.)
The excellent Daylight Horror level Sanctuary in Mass Effect 3 is one of the creepiest places in the whole series. There are no monsters, no jump scares and not even a lot of corpses. Just a huge and well lit reception terminal that appears way to fancy for a refugee camp that was opened just two months ago, and it's entirely deserted. However the PA is still working and there are lots of notes on the many receptionists' desks, informing newcomers that they have to hand over their personal possessions until they are cleared to move from the reception area to the main habitats, and security is heavily screening for any unallowed communication devices inside the compound. Also, refugees can gain better accomodations in the habitat complex if they volunteer as receptionist while they are waiting to be cleared. And the administration staff refers to it not as the reception area, but as Processing. It's either a cult center or a concentration camp, and the place is massive. The truth is that it is actually much worse than either of those, with the refugees being used as test subjects for Reaper technology by Cerberus.
You don't have to go much farther than the very first mission of the game, where Shepard tries to rescue a terrified young boy during the Reaper invasion of Earth. At the very end of the mission, Shepard sees the boy climbing onto an evacuation shuttle which is then blown to pieces by a Reaper.
From Mass Effect 2, Morinth. She's a mutant asari called an Ardat-Yakshi that experiences an extreme high whenever she takes part in sexual intercourse with another being, and anyone taking part in it with her experiences a brain hemorrhage and dies. She is very crafty, having been alive for centuries, very good at avoiding capture and detection. She targets individuals that have some form of creativity that intrigues her, feigns becoming their friend before eventually bringing them into wherever she's residing in, and then murders them. In short, she's a space-born serial killer. To add to this, on Omega, you meet the mother of one of her victims, who just one day found her daughter dead from Morinth's handiwork. The bitch is creepy.
It goes the other way as well. With Morinth, Samara goes through two of the worst nightmares a parent can face; her daughter is a vicious sociopathic killer and developed an incurable genetic condition passed down from her parents. Both can often leave a parent feeling that they failed in their duties as such, even though it is through no fault of their own. As if that was not enough, she dedicated her life (which for an asari is hundreds of years) to killing her. Bad enough that your kid is a serial killer... now imagine you have to be the one to execute them.
For those who are lonely and/or prone to depression, there's probably nothing scarier than the ending of Yume Nikki. In a nutshell, Madotsuki finally kills herself, and the only ones who mourn her are the monsters from her dreams.
"No Russian", where the squad you're with commences a terrorist attack on an airport. That airport may very well be your local airport.
Also, Modern Warfare had a wonderful Fridge Horror scene that qualifies as Adult Fear: "Death From Above". You play as an AC-130 gunner, and it becomes terrifying as you begin to feel the detachment from killing that such a one-sided conflict presents.
Modern Warfare 3 had the level where you played a father on vacation in London with his family, videotaping his daughter running around enjoying herself right before a truck bomb blows up next to her.
A trailer for the game Dead Island, has a man desperately trying to save his wife and young daughter from the zombies. None of them survive. Watch it here.
During the Church missions, Sinnamoi radioes to the player that there is an unseen 10-year old at the lifeguard tower who is delirious and possibly infected. Some of the survivors want to isolate and/or kill her. After a few more missions, the update is that she died. HOW she died is not said...
Ryder White's campaign plays an even harder fear, especially for those that serve in the military. It's bad enough that your wife is caught in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse, but what if you're ordered by a superior to eliminate her?
Persona 4: The last victim of the kidnapper is your little cousin Nanako. Her father Ryotaro Dojima goes through absolute hell, alongside you.
You know how in Real Life, serial killers tend to be people the victims know, right? Well, the guy pulling the strings here is none other than Tooru Adachi, Dojima's partner. He's visited the Dojima residence on at least two occasions as a seemingly-trustworthy guy, and knows Nanako very well...
Even more so: if you want to give in and punish her kidnapper? You will get the Bad Ending and Nanako will die. It's a really easy option and one that many newbies are likely to take, and then BAM. Kid is 100% dead, and you'll lose the chance to get her "fixed". And this is amped up in Persona 4 The Golden: [[spoiler: Adachi is actually one of your Social Links. So make the wrong decisions while following said link — and Adachi not only gets a Karma Houdini, but he mocks you over it even when you're leaving Inaba.
Namatame also had it very rough. Not only his whole life was destroyed because of his affair, he also had to sit and watch two people, including his lover, dying right in front of him, helpless to do anything. And then, right after that, he was tricked into almost murdering several innocent people. No wonder everyone thought he was mentally unstable at the end of the game.
Rule of Rose does a reversal of this trope, showing how serious and poignant child's fears can be: abandonment, loss of parents, rejection, bullying, betrayal... Notably the game only implies, but refuses to show the genuine adult fears, like child abuse and murder.
The Ace Attorney games can raise fears about, "what if the person you either love or are starting to love is actually a much worse person than you think they are?" It obviously gets taken to ridiculous extremes in a series of murder mysteries.
In Ace Attorney Investigations, Lauren's father gets killed by her boyfriend. It's further implied that the boyfriend had figured out the father's identity, and was blackmailing him into helping with his staged kidnapping by threatening her safety.
In Justice for All, Celeste Inpax gets burned by two different people because of this and kills herself over it, and Juan would have found out that Adrian was just using him if he hadn't gotten killed (though plenty would argue that he was worse than her.
It's sort of averted when you find out that Regina getting Bat "killed" was an accident.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All, Case 4. So I heard you like defending a client who is clearly evil and having your dear friend and assistant's life depend on his acquittal.
Just ask real attorneys, who will most likely find themselves defending a guy like Matt. The scary and sad part comes when the miracle most likely won't ever happen for them.
In the first game, there's the set-up for the DL-6 Incident. Gregory Edgeworth and his son Miles, who at the time was nine, are trapped in an elevator, in the dark, and with the oxygen supply running out. And then the other person in the elevator, who has a gun in his possession, starts panicking and acting violently.
The first game has Dee Vasquez, who has ties to The Mafia. Towards the end of the last investigation day, when Phoenix and Maya uncover some critical evidence, Vasquez summons her Mafia goons and orders them "erased"—a cruel reminder of how terrifying organized crime can be. Only a Big Damn Heroes moment by Gumshoe prevents a premature end to Phoenix's and Maya's lives.
The third game has Furio Tigre who is also a gangster and also, almost erased Phoenix (again saved only by an opportunistic entrance of Gumshoe).
In Trials and Tribulations, Doug, Phoenix, and Terryall suffer when they fail to spot the major Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Viola is far from a saint, but she also has to go through the pain of realizing that all the bad things done to help [ Furio Tigre were for a very sincere, yet fully unrequited love. Desiree has to find out that her husband Ron, who saved her from criminals, is a criminal himself, something she generally despises. Family members of Dahlia and Morgan also have to go through this for a different sort of love, with the biggest example being Dahlia's twin sister Iris and Morgan's youngest daughter/Dahlia and Iris's baby half-sister Pearlie.
Apollo Justice has Kristoph Gavin trying to kill a 12-year-old girl, Vera. The method? So utterly sneaky and "innocent": since the girl has the bad habit of biting on her nails, he'll just put poison in her nail polish bottles, so she'll ingest it while seeking solace for her Shrinking Violet nature. Not only it's sneaky, but like a punch in the gut since it involves attacking a shy little girl when she's at her most vulnerable - and not exactly easy to discover.
It also invokes the fear of losing your career and reputation over something you didn't even do which is what happened to Phoenix.
In the last trial, Klavier Gavin has to face that his older brother Kristoph, who he seems to respect very much, is a psychopath who murdered someone, tried to murder another person, and used Klavier himself as an Unwitting Pawn to get Phoenix disbarred. It's obvious the idea that he wrongly accused Phoenix has been tormenting him for years, and his own brother was behind it.
Mother 3. Imagine your spouse being killed by a creature acting against its own will. Frightening enough. Now imagine your child, only about 7-9 years old, going to avenge their parent's death, and going missing. Imagine never finding him. Then, imagine said child getting captured and reconstructed into a soulless fighting machine, being used to help destroy the world. Not done yet, the shock is so terrible that you spend years trying to find him, and become withdrawn and distant from the twin who is still with you. Finally, as you have to witness said child attempt to kill you and your other child, eventually coming out of the haze only to decide to commit suicide in front of the other child. They don't call it "heartrending" for nothing.
It's prequel, EarthBound, gave us an interesting case with its final boss, Giygas. He's meant to represent the moment that Ness loses his childhood innocence, and does so by being very, very... different from the other game's bosses, or the rest of the game in general for that matter. To elaborate: Every other evil creature Ness has to defeat in order to find the strength to defeat Giygas, are all things little kids are afraid of: giant rats, zombies, ghosts, human-sized bugs, angry dogs, stereotypical aliens, and the like. Once he has done so, he enters his Magicant, where he has a one-on-one fight with his inner demons, which, to him, looks like one of the Mani Mani statues Giygas has been using to rally all those creatures to fight him. Once he wins, him and his friends confront Giygas, after going back in time, knowing full well they may never come back. Giygas's lair, called "the devil machine", looks like something H.R Geiger would come up with during a really bad fever dream, already a massive contrast to the rest of the game, then we meet Giygas. He's a horrifying, indescribable, ethereal Eldritch Abomination, babbling out things like "It hurts, it hurts!" and "I feel...G O O D...", and he attacks Ness in ways that aren't understandable to the human brain. Oh, and did we mention that he symbolizes murder, rape and abortion?note Some fans believe he's literally an abortion Yeah, we're definitely not fighting monsters under our beds anymore. This idea is further strengthened when you read where the creator got the idea for him.
Lots of the NPCs are dealing with very adult issues, and Link gets to see both sides of these things from different NPCs. A father is grieving for the loss of a son who is missing and presumed dead, while a toddler is raging because of the death of his father. A newlywed is about to die and laments that he will never be able to see the his children born, while a child is about to lose her father to a illness. One man can't show his face to his fiancee because he broke a promise, while another has been imprisoned because his lover's family thinks he is responsible for her disappearance. A woman about to be wed fears that her fiancee left because he no longer loves her, while a wife can't work and can barely function because of her husband's disappearance and the deteriorating health of her children (and there is nothing she can do about it.) Guards are torn between doing their job and fleeing for their lives, while soldiers obey orders for a war that has already ended.
The soldier who is wounded and invisible to everyone, so that no one rescues him; another adult lost and injured while her sibling, who has the power to help her, is unaware of her sister's predicament. There's also the robbery of an elderly woman and a young woman forced to grow up too soon by the death of her father, who must run the family business that's being threatened by a rival business, who THEN has her little sister and the family's source of income both disappear one night—an event about which the little sister warned her, but the older sister did not believe—followed by the little sister's return: completely traumatized to the point of being catatonic.
Wind Waker and Twilight Princess have this too. In the former, Ganondorf has various young girls kidnapped because they share a couple physical similarities to Princess Zelda, among these is Link's child sister. The parents of these lost kids are appropriately freaked out. In the latter, the children of Link's hometown are stolen by Bulblins and much of the first half of the game is about Link tracking down and rescuing all of them.
In Skyward Sword, Link has to deal with the kidnapping of his best friend, as well as a number of instances where she was helpless and would have been brutally killed by a demon if he hadn't intervened. Also, at one point in the game, Link has to outright tell Zelda's father that his daughter is not coming back. Also, Kukiel's mom is shown to be completely terrified when Kukiel suddenly disappeared. She went out to play and never came home. When you ask around, all people can tell you was that she was last seen playing with a strange man. And from all evidence, he took her to his house. Turns out the guy is harmless and sends her home the next morning, but still!
A primary theme in NieR. The world around you is dying, and your daughter/little sister is terminally ill. Then some monster steals her from you. Are you prepared to get her back, regardless of the horrible, irreparable consequences?
New Game+ flips this on its head. You're on the verge of saving the world. You've waited an eternity, but you've finally been reunited with your daughter/little sister. Then some monster starts slaughtering his way through your friends and allies, the innocent and the guilty, to try and take her away from you again. What are you prepared to do to keep your loved one?
An old one for video games, but has to be said. King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human has Graham paralyzed by grief. His son was kidnapped from his cradle and enslaved by his enemies somewhere, his kingdom has been burnt to cinders by a dragon that his best efforts cannot defeat with innocents suffering and dying on his watch...and then his only remaining child offers herself up as a Human Sacrifice. The canonical game doesn't play it up, but the Fan Remake games and Fan SequelThe Silver Lining don't make an attempt to downplay it.
Fire Emblem Akaneia has a main villain, Lang, who not only massacres whole villages if one person rebels, but kills boys and rapes girls. You can imagine how well that was taken by Marth and his group. It's also invoked in the backstory of Lena's pupil Maillesia (which involved her going into hiding and having to pretend she's much younger than she truly is to avoid him or his troops) and in Yubello and Yumina's (as the fallen heirs of Ludvick, Lang and others kill their guardian and then use them as pawns)
There's also Princess Maria, whose own brother Michalis uses as a hostage to force their sister Minerva to fight for him. As a result, Maria spends a long part of her life as a hostage, and Minerva can't do anything but fight on the evil Michalis's orders to ensure she won't die.
The Fire Emblem Jugdral games bring up the "child hunts". A horrifying project in which boys and girls from all the Jugdral continent are kidnapped, brought to different cities, and then are forced to fight until they die. The few who survive will end up as nobles of the empire, which will be few more that puppets for the Lopto Sect. The parents are more often than not killed when they try to oppose to this. The heroes, several of them being very young teenagers not much older than these kids, have to fight themselves to save these poor kids (and in Thracia, more than one chara who joins the troupe actually does so specifically either to thanks them for saving the children, or to make up for having been in the side of the Empire); meanwhile, more than one villain in the game is troubled by the existence of such deals, and those who aren't are very cruel.
Even worse for Emperor Alvis, whose teenaged son Julius is the leader of the child hunts. In fact, the boy is actually the vessel for the Lopto God, and has stripped Alvis of his authority so he can't do almost anything about it.
Mareeta's backstory involves a lot of these. She was an innocent girl living in hiding with her fallen prince father, who did what he could to keep her safe and next to him. They were doing fine as travellers, but once Galzus was distracted for a mere second - BAM! Young Mareeta was kidnapped by slave traders and taken into a slave market. Thank God Eyvel was there for her, but if she didn't... This is invoked again at the beginning, when Mareeta and Eyvel's other daughter Nanna get caught by the enemy, and you have to fight a Brainwashed and Crazy Mareeta who's under the influence of an Evil Weapon...
King Trabant is Genre Savvy enough to exploit adult fears, and does so twice. In the first part, the whole Yied Massacre happens when Trabant attacks Ethlyn, Quan and their troops and, after killing Ethlyn, he stages a cruel Sadistic Choice to Quan: either he drops his powerful Gaebolg lance or his three year old daughter and heiress Altena dies; as a result, Cuan drops the Gaebolg... only for Travant to kill him anyway and take both little girl and sacred weapon to his kingdom. In the second part he forces a powerful general named Hannibal to fight Seliph's group via taking his adoptive son (Sylvia's son Corple, or his expy Sharlow if she died childless) as a hostage; either Hannibal wipes out the rebels, or his child dies. So you first have to find and release the kid, then send him out to talk to Hannibal so he can join Seliph's troops too. Otherwise, you lose two recruitable characters. (And if Corple's dad is either Lewyn or Claud, you will also lose a valious Sacred Weapon: either the Holsety tome or the Valkyrie Staff)
Ares is also brutally slapped to the face with one of these, when his prospect love interest and companion Leen (or her expy Laylea) is incarcerated by their boss Bramsel, who is a known Dirty Old Man. As Ares finds out, he LOSES it and rushes back to the castle, despite his leader Jabarro's warnings. It's strongly implied that, while he finds Leen/Laylea mostly unharmed, she has already been molested or downright raped by Bramsel.
In Fire Emblem Awakening... Think of it. You're an amnesiac young man/woman taken in by a kind Prince's troops. You're rebuilding your life, fighting by your companions, making friends, and maybe even getting a girlfriend/boyfriend of your own if you're lucky. And then you and your True Companions find out that... you are not just the son/daughter of a Evil Sorceror, but you are to become the Soul Jar to an Evil God. And kill your Prince (who may or may not be your female self's husband). And doom your world to a Bad Future, where all your newfound friends are dead and their children (including your kid/kids, if you're married) are fighting a hopeless war. WOOOOOOOW.
Let's not forget that said Evil Sorceror had another daughter, the local Dark Action Girl. A woman who believes him to be her savior, who took her into after saving her life. And then it turns out that she was kidnapped, experimented on, and brainwashed by him... therefore her whole adult life has been a massive lie. Discovering such shit must be devastating for anyone, and it does hit her really damn hard.
Pokemon Black And White gives us N's upbringing by Ghetsis, locked in a room with meaningless toys, socially isolated, and emotionally abused, so that he will become a Tykebomb for Ghetsis to take over Unova. Implications are strong that when this is done, Ghetsis plans to dispose of N. To rub salt in that, one of the Plasma agents mentions that N might not actually be Ghetsis's son, and might have been kidnapped from another family to be raised in a psychologically-abusive, socially-maladjusted environment as a disposable figurehead for Team Plasma.
Preceded in Pokemon Platinum by a post-game encounter with an elderly man who laments that he knew his grandson was living in an emotionally unhealthy home (whether it was abusive or just that severely neglectful is left to speculation), but didn't do anything to help until it was already too late to save him. It's heavily implied that his grandson is Cyrus, the Big Bad of the game. Imagine living with the guilt of knowing you could have prevented that and didn't.
In Deus Ex the player has the option to read the emails of a cyborg government agent. In one email he expresses fears about new innovation's in cybernetics that will render him obsolete and useless thus forcing the government to fire him and leaving him without specialist care he requires to function.
One of the central conflicts in Deus Ex: Human Revolution are the consequences of augmenting. Those who do augment get better paying jobs and an edge on their non-augmented competition, but also face scorn and discrimination in their communities, face feelings of disconnection with the rest of the human race and have to pay for an insanely expensive drug for the rest of their lives. Those who don't meanwhile are getting gradually rendered obsolete, largely in their chosen careers and being forced to accept degrading and often dangerous alternatives.
Milla Vodello from Psychonauts isn't just a bubbly party animal. Before becoming a psychonaut she worked at an orphanage and formed very close bonds with the children there. The orphanage started burning while she was getting groceries, and she returned just in time to telepathically hear their last agonising screams The memory can be found in a hidden room that also locks nightmares away from the rest of Milla's mind.
Another example concerning Raz's father: Trying to protect your son by training him only to find out he's run away because you pushed him too hard. Though at the very least that training has helped save Raz's life and by extension, the world.
On day 3, Vincent unexpectedly finding out that Katherine is pregnant. This sort of revelation hits him like a truck, and it would with any other couple if they weren't planning on having kids (just yet).
Picture this: You've been going out with your girlfriend for the past five years, and she's been talking about getting married and making things permanent. It hasn't been the most exciting of relationships, but for the most part you're content with it. One day, you hit up the local bar, and the next thing you remember, aside from a nightmare that you barely even remember, is that you've woken up next to a random beautiful woman, and it's implied that the two of you did...things the night before. Still not freaking out? Not only does this woman not know you already have a girlfriend, but she threatens to kill you if she finds out you're seeing someone else. It certainly doesn't help that this Yandere girl does have everything you could ever want in a girlfriend, which now throws you into deciding between your longtime lover and this new girl. And just when you're contemplating how to get yourself out of this mess, you find yourself in several situations where these two women nearly find out about each other. Welcome to the life of VincentBrooks!
Katherine ends up accidentally murdering Catherine during a struggle. She reacts accordingly when she sees what happened. It's quickly revealed to just be a dream, but still.
The entire premise of the Max Payne series, which not only has his wife and baby daughter killed, but later leads to him being framed for getting too close to the truth, leaving him all alone in a Crapsack World with no-one to trust. Despite seemingly tying up all loose ends in the first game, it gets worse (hence the sequel).
For all the Narm you might expect in a JRPG, Final Fantasy XIII does explore the feelings of a single father whose only son is taken away from him by The Government, as well as those of a woman who loses her younger sister and of a man who loses his fiancée (same person) to a fate even worse.
What about Hope's father? His wife and son go away together for a nice little holiday, then suddenly they've been boarded on a train to Pulse (hell on earth or so the Fal'Cie would have you think); the train has crashed, and all escapees are being killed/rounded up for execution. Think about how he must have felt when he found all of this out. Oh - and when you do finally go see him, he has about two minutes to digest the fact that his wife's dead before the army attacks and his son is forced to flee.
For a series known for its young and unrealistically pretty boys, Final Fantasy franchise has its share of Adult Fear:
Final Fantasy VI: Cyan losing his family when Doma is poisoned. Imagine, you, one of the finest knight in the realm, having no power to save your beloved ones. It gets so bad that later in the World of Ruins, an evil spirit grow powerful by feeding on his agony.
Strago completely lost his mind after the world come to its end and he become separated from his only family, his grand-daughter Relm. Shadow probably is like this too, if the WMG that he's Relm's father is proven true.
Final Fantasy VIII: Edea is the adoptive mother of all of player characters except Rinoa. Imagine, you're possessed by an all-powerful Sorceress from the future who force you to kill your children and unravel all that you built. The trauma is so bad that Edea can no longer act like a mother toward Squall and co.
Katawa Shoujo. Think about this... how horrifying would it be if you can hear one of your friends in distress... but you can't see them, have no way of finding them, and don't know how serious the problem is? Congratulations, you now know what Lilly Satou (who is blind) feels when Hisao suffers a heart attack during their holiday vacation and their other companion Hanako panics, so she can't tell her what's happening. And it happens in Lilly's own route, so it takes place when she is developing feelings for Hisao.
Kingdom Hearts. Imagine this: It's stormy outside - really stormy. Your child has been in his room all evening. You go upstairs to call him in for dinner... the window's open, he's gone, and so are his two friends and their boats. He doesn't come back for years - during which you have no idea where he is, or if he's safe, or if he can ever come back. (The parents of the main characters never get more than a shadow in a doorway...) On the other hand, Word Of God states that a world remains frozen in time once it is swallowed by the darkness. Also, due to events of Chain of Memories, the parents forget about their son until Namine restored Sora's memories, which means that they only started worrying at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II. Which might make it worse for them once they realise they completely forgot of their missing son's existence.
Very little of World of Warcraft is particularly scary for most people, because it's not that kind of game, but amidst all the Money Spiders and Eldritch AbominationLoot Pinatas, there's at least one storyline where one questgiver is the ghost of a little girl who doesn't understand that she's dead and her hometown is in ruins. You wind up helping her find her doll, among other things, because she's lonely.
Along the same lines, Guild Wars 2 has a cemetery near the human capital of Divinity's Reach. Some of the inscriptions are hilarious, but there are some very sad ones, mainly any of the children burried there. (The youngest apparently died at the age of one.)
In the Dead Rising series, survivors will not hesitate to mention when loved ones have been brutally, savagely killed. In the first game alone, one of the very first encounters is a distraught mother who is distraught to the point of near-suicide, because she had to listen as her young daughter was eaten alive. One of the Psychopaths is a war veteran who is suffering a war flashback from the trauma of seeing his entire family getting eaten by zombies. The sequel, Dead Rising 2 gives players their own little bundle of adorable Adult Fear to worry over; Chuck Greene's daughter Katey. If she does not get her daily dose of medication, she not only dies, but turns into a zombie.
In Team Fortress 2 we learn of their world’s version of Santa, “Old Nick” an old Australian who kidnaps bad children and forces them to work in his munitions factory. Given the nature of this game, it’s considered humorous. Fast foreword one year after he was introduced. BLU Spy, Scout and Soldier are forced to work as shopping mall santas when Old nick shows up to steal the kids. These three spring into action to save the children of Tuefort, even if the only weapons they have available are an icicle, a roll of wrapping paper and some christmas ornaments.
The Indie Steam game Home is based entirely around Adult Fears, with no supernatural elements.
You have found a way to fix the world, only to see the means to do so undone. Twice.
You find three other survivors of the Calamity. One has to go and take on the entire world alone alone, one attempts to kill you and destroys all rebuilding efforts and one is seemingly kidnapped by your mortal enemies.
The "Kid" note who is between 14 and 24 :
A school dropout who worked as a soldier on more than one five-year tour of duty in a position so emotionally exhausting that no-one has ever done more that a single tour of duty.
Returning from that tour to find that your mother is dead and all the money that you sent back home to her for the past five years has been stolen.
Waking up to discover that the whole world as you knew it is gone, and you have nothing left of the world as it was than the clothes on your back and your hammer.
For the Ura: After years of peace, you wake up one day to find that your entire civilization has been uprooted and thrown into the sky, as part of a plan to wipe you out. Worse, one of the leading members of the project that caused that disaster is still alive, and gathering power sources for some other mysterious super-weapon, and there's nothing that you can do to stop his followers.
For Ven: Your daughter brings a young man into your home with a man who insults you and belittles your culture; she then runs off with that man, who sets her up to be executed for treason for selling secrets, entirely based on her race. You are able to get them to spare her, but only in return for building a doomsday weapon that is designed for genocide against your people.
Having your home and everything you built over last 10 years destroyed and then watch one of your children die protecting you.
It's clear that one of Leandra's biggest fears is to have her children and husband taken away because they are mages. She has already seen her cousin going through the same thing and then Bethany is taken by Cullen, specifically because she insisted on leaving her out of the Deep Roads Expedition. And this happens after she already lost one of her children.
Situation when Leandra is kidnapped is bone-chilling, mostly because how it's played out. You first find out she is missing from panicked Gamlen and go looking for her following a trail of fresh blood. When you finally find her she is not quit dead, turn into a zombie.
In Virtue's Last Reward, Quark, a boy ten or so years old, tries to kill himself in practically every timeline thanks to the mind-altering disease Radical-6, a scene many players find difficult to watch.
In a flashback, Quark and Tenmyouji once got into a fight causing the former to run away. Tenmyouji went to search for him and nearly got himself killed due to a fever; had he died, Quark would become an orphan again.
Here is the plot of the first Art of Fighting game. A talented martial artist and dojo owner has a young adult son (whom he has trained in martial arts) and a teenage daughter. A high-class crime lord takes an interest in him, forces him to work with him, and ultimately stages a cruel Hostage Situation in which he must kidnap his own daughter, lock her away, lead a group of goons keeping the girl hostage, and then fight to the death against either his own young adult son or his equally young adult best friend, who don't know his true identity. Thank God the daughter managed to escape, explained the whole situation to her brother and friend, and things got better from then on.
It's even worse if you believe/apply the once very spread fanon belief that the death of the martial artist's wife, which took place quite a while before the story started, may have not been an accident.
One of the darker zones in Kingdom of Loathing comes from using a psychoanalytic jar to explore the psychoses of the Crackpot Mystic, an old man who lives in a shack and gives players access to the 8-Bit Realm, a low-level zone full of references to old-school video games. The game's trademark Hurricane of Puns and smarmy pop-culture references largely goes out the window in favor of a sidequest to fight embodiments of the Mystic's Anger, Fear, Doubt, and Regret, which have apparently overwhelmed him. Said embodiments take the form of pixellated monsters and power-ups which will taunt you repeatedly as you fight them.
Asura's Wrath, despite its fantastic, over-the-top combat and larger-than-life Buddhist Cyborg Warriors, has a very mundane and terrifyingly legitimate reason for Asura's titular wrath: He is betrayed by his comrades-in-arms, unable to protect his wife from being murdered while he was out defending civilization, and framed for the murder of his king. Furthermore, his daughter is taken from him and made to suffer. You'd be really upset too, if it happened to you.
Devil Survivor shows what happens when a block of a major metropolitan area is sealed off by military forces and forced to tough it out with no electricity or means of communicating with the outside world and food and other vital supplies arriving at a very limited basis. People go mad and fight over food rations, and some of the police show themselves for who they really are; granted, they use demons, but using guns wouldn't have made their cruelty any less worse.
For a more specific example, salaryman Honda wants to see his critically-wounded son undergo surgery, but said son is on the other side of the Yamanote loop, leaving Honda unable to stand by his son's side for the operation. In Yuzu's ending, Honda's son dies, plunging him past the Despair Event Horizon.
This is heavily implied to be why Tiger became a superhero and Spinnerette's mentor. His wife demanded he give up crime-fighting out of fear of him dying. He complies... until a gunman opens fire at his daughters' school. His daughters were fine, but the news traveled slowly.
The Korean webtoonTrace is unique among other X-man-esque spin-offs in the fact that it follows the journey of a middle aged business man as he develops mutant powers, rather than the usual gang of high school teenagers. Since this a Crapsack World he lives in, his wife and daughter are taken away by the government under the pretense of normal screening and testing, when really they are used for human experimentation. The protagonist doesn't realize this until he breaks into the facility, where he is greeted by the sight of his wife's head floating in a vat. Talk about preying on a typical father's worst feelings of helplessness.
In the "Just Today" story arc of Something Positive, Davan's father Fred has to deal with being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He asks his wife Faye to take the day off from work to spend time with him so he can tell her. In the end, he can't bring himself to tell her and they just spend a peaceful day together. As they go to bed for the night, she thanks him for spending the day with her and they share a goodnight kiss (the caption for this strip is "Sometimes it's about life...". The next morning, Fred realizes that Faye died in her sleep (the caption here: "Sometimes, it's about fear").
Homestuck: Poor Jane's dad. It's hard enough that there have been attempts on his teenage daughter's life, but then he had to watch her get blown up by a letter bomb...
The "bishounen virus" storyline of Manly Guys Doing Manly Things has Commander Badass getting rejected by his children because the virus has rendered him unrecognizable and scary to them. Word Of God is that this was based on an incident when she was a little kid and her dad shaved off his beard; a lot of readers turned out to have similar stories.
In Yosh, Kate's father explain that he searched her for months, following any lead he could find, including obituaries.
Fans!: Alysin's parents dealt with the helplessness of watching as their daughter suffered from a rare and deadly disease, to say nothing of the severe personality changes that resulted. Will's father murdered his mother, and Will lived in fear that he would turn out like his dad. Shanna reined in her imaginative impulses, fearing that she would end up like her insane mother.
Jae Gu of Girls Of The Wild has been raising his younger siblings for years, after the death of their father and abandonment of their mother. He absolutely freak out when they get food poisoning from spoiled sushi, carries them to the hospital barefoot, crying the entire way. By the time he makes it to the hospital, his feet are so cut up he is leaving large bloody footprints wherever he goes and still is more concerned with his siblings then getting his feet bandaged.
The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, "Mistake" - Ep. 3: Jane left her mobile phone on the bus, which is a very stressful situation in itself. Moreover, she's on her way to start a new job that she found on Craigslist. She doesn't have a family or close friends, therefore nobody knows where she went. The person who was supposed to give her a lift from the bus stop didn't show up, and she only wrote the contact information in her mobile, so she can't phone them. It's nearly midnight and the bus terminal is in the middle of nowhere with no people around. She beats herself up emotionally for not being cleverer about the whole situation, and she starts suspecting that she's in the wrong place. Then she but half-expects that she will get mugged or worse... There was just time arrival mix-up. It was resolved only in the video description, which makes it all the more disturbing.
<JasonRene> living long enough to become isolated from anyone who cares about me, and then dying alone.
<JasonRene> You asked ;)
<Chelly> I know
<Chelly> I was expecting something like spiders.
Demo Reel: The root of Donnie DuPre's damage. His mother committed suicide when he was away on a shoot, making him give his worst performance and resulting in years of abuse.
Rebecca was sent away on camping trips with her sexually abusive uncle because her parents just didn't want her around.
Elcenia: In Silver of the Elcenia series, Ehail and Gyre start adopting shren children—essentially, these children have a disability which is very much looked down upon, which is why the children's parents left them. When the disability becomes curable, many parents want their children, and so Ehail and Gyre end up losing their children to their birth-parents.
In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a large part of the story revolves around the Bennets' financial troubles and fears of losing their house. After Wickham announces he intends to release a tape of him having sex with Lydia, the sisters have to tell their father about what's been happening. Lizzie's account of it is heartbreaking. They somehow chose not to involve police and it's implied that they can't afford legal action and take it to the court.
Potter Puppet Pals parodies the whole concept of Adult Fear in "Harry's Nightmares", where, nestled in among the bizarre and occasionally juvenile ("In one dream, I was middle aged! Yuck!") traumas that haunt his noggin, was the dream he had where he gave birth to Ron, and raised him from infancy, but one day, he misplaced him, and that terrified him, because it meant he had failed as a parent.
The Dexters Laboratory episode "Misplaced in Space" has Dexter trapped in an alien prison where nobody speaks his language and he has no idea how to get home.
Madeline may have Tasted Like Diabetes at times, but the movie Madeline: Lost in Paris made great use of this when Madeline is supposedly adopted by a man claiming to be her uncle, only for it to turn out that he's a serial kidnapper, has kidnapped multiple girls this same way, and now all of them are forced to do hard labor in a lace factory—and one is horribly ill. Child labor is/was extremely common, and the idea of someone claiming to be family taking away one's child never to be seen again hit waaaay too close to home for many parents. The original book was about the title character almost dying of appendicitis, however, which many would find even worse.
Rugrats almost deserves a category to itself, as the titular babies repeatedly wander off and go on adventures while their inattentive, some would say negelctful, parents are non the wiser. The Darkerand Edgierfilm is probably the biggest example, as the babies get lost in a forest full of escaped monkeys and a super-persistent wolf.
Episode "Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily", where due to several misunderstandings, child welfare accused Homer and Marge of negligence and their children are taken away from them. It was particularly heartbreaking when Homer and Marge wander in their house to each of their kids' empty bedrooms. And when Marge and Homer heard Bart's signature ring, they rushed down to the front door, faces joyful, only to see nobody was there.
There was the episode where Homer's mother Mona dies. Homer has been reunited with his mother for the first time in a while, after being abandoned by her again, and he's genuinely angry at that. So he tells her that he doesn't want to forgive her, and goes away... only to find, later that night when he comes down to apologize to her, that poor Mona died in her sleep. For many adults, the realization that they are highly likely to see their parents die, and the idea of a parent (or any loved one really) dying after an argument is... sobering.
The episode where Lisa finds a beached whale and tries desperately to save it hits us with the "not every life can be saved and parents can't solve everything" message, made even more painful by Lisa's Hope Spot dream where Bumbling Dad Homer of all people rescues the whale by organizing a ton of different people for the sole purpose of making Lisa happy
In "5000 Keys", Maggie is locked alone in the car. She's smart enough to get out on her own, but it's still pretty scary.
Parodied when Lisa tricks Homer into letting her go downtown by herself on the bus. He casually tells Lenny and Carl this, and they're horrified. Cue Homer making up a story about how Lisa is so smart she overloaded a computer, which Lenny and Carl don't fall for, and Homer finally running off to save Lisa.
"Alone Again, Natura-Diddly" — Ned and Maude Flanders go to a racetrack and Maude, naturally offended by Homer's inevitable antics, gets up to go get her family some hot dogs. They look away, and Maude dies in a freak accident moments later.
"Bart vs. Thanksgiving" — Homer and Marge look back with regret when Bart runs away because of their rather harsh punishment of him. Topped off with Homer lamenting "Will we ever see him again?".
Codename: Kids Next Door: Operation: W.H.I.T.E.H.O.U.S.E.. A young idealistic rebel wakes up one day and discovers that he has grown old and respectable and abandoned his ideals. His old comrades have become corrupt supporters of The Man, he is married to a shrew who used to be his girlfriend (though she was a shrew when she was his girlfriend so nothing changed there), his son despises him, his best friend has been driven insane by his betrayal and he is faced with the choice of crossing the Moral Event Horizon or be destroyed.
In Ducktales episode "Nothing to Fear", Magica DeSpell used real-life images of Uncle Scrooge & co.'s worst fears to descend upon them. For Uncle Scrooge, this took the form of being told by Huey, Dewey and Louie that they secretly couldn't stand him and they only wanted his money, for HD&L it was that unca Scrooge never loved them.
The same episode also previously has Scrooge facing the fear of being penniless and having custody of the nephews removed from him as a result.
In Lilo & Stitch: The Series, the Halloween episode featured an experiment that could transform into a person's worst fear. For Nani it turned into Social Services Agent Cobra Bubbles telling her that he had to take Lilo away because she was an unsuitable guardian, a very notable event from the original movie.
In the two-part pilot of Young Justice, the Justice League are angry that Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash ran off on their own to investigate Cadmus without telling them. But when we find out that after capturing them, the Light's original plan was to clone them and send them off to the League as moles, killing off the originals, we can see why the League (particularly the mentors like Batman) acted the way they did. Then in the season 1 finale we find out this already happened to Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy. The "Roy" seen in the series is actually a clone of the original Roy created three years ago.
Then the guilt about it is compounded when Artemis fakes her death but everyone save Kid Flash, Nightwing and Aqualad are in the dark about it.
The Young Justice episode "Misplaced" explores the terror of parents being separated from their children on both sides. Sportsmaster deliberately invokes this by inciting a mob to lay siege to STAR labs on adult world accusing them of making their children vanish as a distraction to steal a piece of Starro. On kid world, there are a quite a few scenes of children being endangered by the sudden disappearance of their parents. Near the very end, Zatara is faced by a parent's ultimate nightmare: a powerful force kidnaps his daughter and refuses to let her go. Then Zatanna has to live with the fact that her father sacrificed himself to save her from her own decision.
In the above episode, one of the worst moments for me was when Billy Batson (AKA Captain Marvel) looks out of his apartment and sees 2 kids who look around 4-6. One of them (a little boy) has apparently just asked the other (a little girl) if she's alright (one of her legs appears to be broken and we never find out whether it is or not) and instead of answering, she screams "Never mind that! What happened to Mommy?!!"
Another chilling moment is explored from both ends. In one scene we see a baby boy trapped in a car wreck until Superboy rescues him. In another scene in adult dimension we see the boy's father wrecking his car in his panic over seeing his son vanishing before his eyes.
While the audience is aware in "Satisfaction" that Artemis is Faking the Dead, Paula Crock's situation is absolutely heartbreaking. It wasn't enough that she was disabled, spent time in prison (and thus has the record of being an ex-con), and couldn't stop her older daughter from entering a life of crime. No, she had to outlive her younger daughter too. No parent should have to visit their own child's grave.
Bart Allen/Impulse is practically a walking Adult Fear. Let's see. From a world where the Reach took over and enslaved humanity, likely is the only surviving member of his family and is WAY too happy-go-lucky because he's actually horrifically depressed. Brr...
EVERYTHING the Reach did and was planning to do their captives in "Darkest Before Dawn". Particularly the scene where they are shown electrocuting Beast Boy and Impulse. Also the discussion about how to "repair" the Scarab which would either mind-wipe Jamie or just brainwash him. Add in the discussion of how removing the Scarab would cripple him and then Impulse telling him about the future and scaring him. This fear is shown really well with Jamie's frantic "I'm still me!" after his fight with Black Beetle.
Aqualad's fakeFace-Heel Turn since mentors in Young Justice act as father figures whether they are legally the fathers of their sidekicks or not.
The Batman: The Animated Series episode "See No Evil" is about a woman dealing with her ex-con ex-husband who proceeds to befriend his daughter (who doesn't know it's her father due to his invisibility suit) and ends up kidnapping her.
In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, it turns out that Fred Jones Sr. kidnapped Fred as a child, taking him away from his real parents and feeding lie after lie to him, bringing the issue of parents not just lying to you, but not really owning you and treating you that way.
The first My Little Pony special involved a girl who couldn't be older than fourteen essentially being kidnapped by a talking pony and almost murdered. You wonder what her parents thought when she was gone.. The second special involved the antagonist nearly murdering a filly.
An episode where Rarity has to spend a week with her much younger sister Sweetie Belle, with her essentially taking a parent role for in every scene they have together. They get on each other's nerves until they declare that they don't want to be sisters anymore, and Sweetie Belle runs away. Rarity soon has a My God, What Have I Done? moment and heads out to find her, and while the next scene has her doing just that, the fact that her epiphany happened in the daytime and the next scene is at night indicates that she's spent quite a long time desperately searching everywhere in town, worried about what might have happened to her baby sister.
Then there's season one episode "The Stare Master". The Cutie Mark Crusaders venture into the Everfree Forest, in the middle of the night, to find a missing chicken. Fluttershy, who was entrusted with their care, goes after them and bumps into a petrified Twilight Sparkle; she then realizes that a Cockatrice, a very dangerous chicken-shaped monster, is near...
The "Baby Cakes" episode featured a scene that's every parent's and babysitter's nightmare. Pinkie turns her back on the babies she's taking care of, and when she checks on them again, the babies have disappeared. To emphasize the Adult Fear, the following tense minutes where she's looking for them are even shot like something straight out of a horror movie.
"Dragon Quest" has Spike falling in with the wrong crowd. There's also a recurring theme of an adopted child rejecting his foster parents as not his "real" family.
Spike's not the only one to get a dose of this trope in the episode. He finally realizes that his fellow adolescent dragons are "the wrong crowd" when he finds out that they make a regular activity out of stealing phoenix eggs from their parents' nests and smashing them, purely because they find it fun. If that revelation doesn't push them over the Moral Event Horizon, their willingness to take the newborn babies after they hatch definitely does.
"The Cutie Pox" has Apple Bloom contracting a life-threatening illness with no known cure. Also, in the Cold Open, a throwaway Shout Out to The Big Lebowski has Fridge Horror to the effect that polerasts (the equine equivalent of pederasts) are canon.
"Castle Mane-ia" has Fluttershy getting separated from Angel and going over all the terrible things that could happen to him in the castle. Then she watches a pillar fall on the silhouette of what she thinks is Angel (it's just two leaves and a rock)...
In the Darkwing Duck pilot episode, Darkwing gets captured by cops while Taurus Bulba kidnaps Gosalyn for the arming code he thinks she has. Seeing Darkwing helplessly screaming out her name is pretty chilling for a children's afternoon cartoon show.
Avatar The Last Airbender features all sorts of adult fear: the danger of having your family die, the inescapable life of a refugee, inability to keep your loved ones safe....
...A foreign nation invading your homeland, an oppressive government controlling every facet of society, being rejected and betrayed by your loved ones, being forced to choose between your loved ones because they have taken up opposite sides of a conflict, and losing control of yourself and causing someone else to be hurt or killed. When Avatar plays for Emotional Torque, it plays for keeps.
The Legend Of Korra brings this with Tenzin, when he has his home invaded and his family attacked while he is going to work in the city. Then his family (including two daughters under 10 years old, a son under 5, and a minutes old newborn son) must flee their home from the attacking Equalists. And that all turns out to be in vain. Tenzin and his family end up captured by the Equalists and he and his children are going to be publically stripped of their bending by Amon. You can see Tenzin's fear and helplessness as he looks at Jinora, Ikki and Mello, who are bound and gagged with him.
How about those Equalists? A group of extremists who are are willing to kidnap you, attack you, and deprive you of your abilities, whether you did anything to them or not. All that aside from trying to make enough money to support you and your orphaned sibling while working for a predatory agent who is clearly out to keep you under his thumb as long as possible. Or being press-ganged into going after the Equalists before you've even had a chance to finish your training, or finish growing up.
And from the Equalists' perspective: People of all sorts, from politicians to showmen to con artists to criminals might have superpowers that make them easily able to kill and subdue anyone who doesn't have those powers. Yeah, sure there are laws against it, but cremation is an easy way to dispose of a body…
Ikki disappears in Civil Wars part 1 after Jinora and Meelo tease her, so Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi try to find her. But when nightfall comes...she's still missing.
A New Spiritual Age is even worse Jinora watches as one of her spirit friends becomes corrupted and captures her, Korra is forced into a Sadistic Choice and when she wakes up back in the material world, Jinora's soul is still trapped in the spirit world, Tenzin perfectly exemplifies this trope when he asks Korra what happened to his little girl
It has a major adult fear as the Ice King's backstory: slowly and against your will going violently insane, driving loved ones away in fear and hate, aware the entire time of the slow degradation.
Season 4 in general. While the show in general is becoming darker as it progresses, Season 4 deals with Finn's changing perspective and feelings. There's something horrifying about watching him unable to process how he feels, as well as his rejections from various girls. Special mention goes to the episode "Hug Wolves", which is either about rape or sex; either way, it's about being unable to have a proper outlet for your pent up emotions and how it affects your relationships with those around you.
Lady Rainicorn almost being killed by Ricardio while pregnant. Knowing that she knows she's pregnant and just wanting to save the father of her child is a special adult fear, that not only will the person who she loves die, but also that they won't get to love their own children. The possibility that some, if not all, her children could now be miscarriages or deformed from being crushed in the knot.
The fantasy parallel dementia is later made worse (and more explicitly paralleling dementia) when an episode reveals that, in the wake of the apocalypse and growing ever more insane, the relevant person became a surrogate parent to someone suffering from Parental Neglect, only to eventually say something hurtful. By the present day, he's become a burden on the surrogate child, bothering and making life difficult and painful without a trace of memory as to the previous emotional relationship or awareness of what he's doing.
Played for Laughs in "Jake the Dad", where Jake and Lady Rainicorn have kids, and Jake starts worrying about them to the point of paranoia.
"Too Old" is chilling in its depictions of domestic violence and child abuse. Lemongrab hits, disfigures, starves, and eventually cannibalizes his partner, Lemongrab 2. Lemongrab abuses the lemon children as well, forcing them to carry out violent performances and depriving them of food. He reserved special hatred for Lemonhope, forcing the boy to live in the bathroom and destroying his musical instrument.
Princess Bubblegum has to deal with a lot of male characters who think they're entitled to her sexually. The fact that she deals with them awesomely (see Ricardio) doesn't lessen this problem.
One episode of the cartoon featured monsters from The Realm kidnapping children on Earth by dragging them through portals under their beds. The episode opens up with a boy being taken while his father desperately and futilely tries to save him.
In another, Hank (who is 15 year old) is kidnapped alongside Bobby (as much 8). Then Venger blackmails Hank into betraying his friends (including Sheila, Bobby's older sister) under the threat of torturing or killing Bobby. Considering that Hank is the Team Dad and often responsible for the team's safety, and that Sheila is a borderline mother figure to Bobby ever since being spirited away...
Last Illusion. Varla's parents love her unconditionally even when she's the local Master of Illusion, but since Venger wants her and their neighbors fear her to death, they cannot do anything to save their poor 12-year-old daughter from him. Even worse, Varla's powers are such a strain on her that they're apparently killing her.
In "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted", Candace experiences this when she discovers that her brothers got sent to a Military School where they and many other children are being taught that imagination is wrong and tortured into slack-jawed obedience. Thank God that was All Just a Dream.
As goofy as it was, Street Sharks has the pretty freaky premise that at some point, your co-worker could turn on you, steal everything you've ever done, perform an extremely painful procedure on you, and turn the entire town against you, completely ruining your life. And when he's done with that, he'll do it to your kids.
In the episode "Crisscross", MECH and Airachnid find (and later kidnap) June through the internet. And how, precisely?
Silas: Ah, the mother lode.
Airachnid: Government database?
Silas: Social networking page.
At the beginning of the second season, June Darby has to let her son go on a mission of unknown length and danger in a former war zone, where the atmosphere itself is toxic. At the end of the second season, June sees the Autobot base get destroyed, without knowing that Jack and his friends had managed to escape. Though he survived, her son has to go into hiding from an army. Finally, June's entire town had to be evacuated because it is right next to the enemy stronghold, meaning that she can't even go home.
Angels Friends When Kabiria and Urie get injured by creatures of limbo, Temptel is visibly frightened for them.
The Rocko's Modern Life episode "From Here to Maternity" has Filburt and Dr. Hutchison go through this when their egg is taken by Easter bunnies.
Parodied in the episode of Family Guy where Brian finds out that he has a 13-year-old (human) son. After hearing a news story, Brian has a rather over-the-top reaction to it, as he could not bear to think of his son in that situation. Peter and his friends find the reaction funny, and take advantage of the situation by asking Brian what he'd do if his son was in various dangerous situations.