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When a scene of absolute tidiness and polish is portrayed as unnerving. Possibly also related to the creepiness of sterile settings, like hospitals, laboratories, or all those white, sterile, futuristic/sci-fi corridors. The reasons may vary. It can be relied to the fear of dehumanization, or germophobia
if you feel that something rotten is hiding behind that smooth surface. If played well, it might lead to Mind Screw
Can be related to a Neat Freak
, especially if Affably Evil
, or to a Depraved Dentist
. May happen if Cthulhu invites you to have tea with him
and you find out its lair is actually too clean
Sister trope of Room Full of Crazy
and Straight Edge Evil
. See also Spring Cleaning Fever
and Ascetic Aesthetic
when this is a building or even setting
- The replacements for women in The Stepford Wives, have an unhealthy obsession with being the perfect housewife and making sure their homes and gardens are pristine and perfect.
- American Beauty: Ricky's disturbed mother apologizes for the state of her spotless home.
- Some of Stanley Kubrick's movies contain unsettling scenes set in futuristic, aseptic spaces.
- Also the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho could fit this trope.
- The whole Paris/Tativille from Jacques Tati's 1967 movie Playtime. It doesn't create fear, but a great sense of distress.
- The alienating yet spotless scenery of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
- Nazi architecture shown in Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, mainly because it is Harsher in Hindsight.
- The protagonist's apartment in Nanni Moretti's Bianca is a good example. Especially if you consider that he has sterilized the sink, the toilet and the bathtub by setting little fires into them.
- Dr. Alan Feinstone's study in both The Dentist and its sequel. The opening credits are a great example.
- Star Wars: The Empire's ships are always spotless and shiny, emphasizing their coldness and sterility. The Alliance's are always used and lived-in. (George Lucas had fights with the unionized cleaning staff, who kept trying to clean the Alliance sets up for contractual reasons after he had them deliberately dirtied.)
- Sticking with Lucas, THX 1138.
- The totalitarian architecture in Equilibrium (which borrows much from the Third Reich).
- Stanley Uris's bath in the 1990 movie version of IT is perfectly clean. So clean you can easily guess what is going to happen.
- In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman's apartment is stark white and spotlessly clean, which goes towards displaying Bateman's psychotic fixation on appearance and utter shallowness.
- The watchmaker in Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time has a characteristic watchmaker's love of precision but is the sadder lonelier counterpart.
- Mr. Duffy's room in Dubliners is dominated by order, cleanliness and symmetry, however it becomes creepier as you keep on reading. It stands for the protagonist's paralysis, as well as the sterility of his own life.
- Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger novel The Day Of The Dissonance. An extremely neat and clean orphanage appears to be on the up and up until Mudge points out that with so many orphans present it should be more dirty. The protagonists investigate and discover that the operators are puritanical religious fanatics who regularly beat the orphans.
- Neuter them, too. Just to make them more docile and less likely to make messes.
- In G. K. Chesterton's The Ball and the Cross, much of the inherent wrongness of the protagonists' prison cells in connected with the fact that they are kept antiseptically clean by periodic automated cleansing.
- Applies to Margaret's house in Stephen King's novel Carrie.
- Used in Flowers for Algernon, where clean, stark settings are associated with the dehumanizing scientists, while Faye, the artist character who is in touch with her emotions, lives in a disorderly apartment.
- In Letting Ana Go, the main character begins acting obsessive-compulsively cleanly while she succumbs to anorexia. As her anorexia gets worse, her cleanliness also gets worse.
- The beginning of the Criminal Minds episode "The Big Wheel" depicts the Super OCD-afflicted killer going through his eerily over-sanitized morning routine, including wearing different slippers in different parts of the house to avoid cross-contamination. It's very, very effective.
- Bree and Orson Hodge's house in Desperate Housewives is always neat and clean. However, Bree cried her heart out after polishing the silverware when she found out her first husband Rex had passed away and, in her spotless bathroom, she was almost killed by Gloria Hodge, who had already murdered Orson's father that way. So, does it still look so welcoming?
- And don't forget Orson is an expert in removing stains, probably because he had to wash away his mistress's blood after his mother had murdered her.
- As a child, Bree cleaned the blood of her mother up (when she was hit by a drunk driver and was rushed of to the hospital) off the drive.
- Superhoodie's lair on Misfits is the most spotlessly sterile Room Full of Crazy ever. Not surprising, as he is revealed to be Simon, who has learned to harness his creepily obsessive and stalkerish tendencies in order to become a pretty efficient superhero.
- On a flashback episode of The Odd Couple, little Felix is so neat that his grandfather (played by Tony Randall) tells him: "There are two things people don't like - a dirty old man and a clean young boy!"
- One evil Nazi scientist NPC in Delta Green is described as keeping his lab exceptionally clean. Lampshaded, in that the book points out this is usually the sign of a proportionally unclean mind.
- Vampire: The Requiem has the Melissiadae bloodline, who are known for keeping everything so clean that you can smell the cleaning fluids. As their sanity (and Humanity) decays, they slowly act more and more like insects, starting with this OCD-like behavior. The "something rotten" is the large number of mind-wiped slave "drones" they keep around.
- Fallout 3 hits you with this when you visit Vault 112 in the course of the main plot - compared to most of the other abandoned and dilapidated locations you've been to, the Vault seems almost too pristine and well maintained, and seems more like a tomb than a shelter. You do get to experience the "something rotten" before long, though.
- Mirrors Edge, a dystopia where even the rooftops are kept clean and shining.
- The first part of Portal could be considered this, making the "rat man"'s dens a sharp contrast. You eventually get to personally see the "something rotten" hiding behind the smooth surface when you go Off the Rails later in the game.
- The ruined test chambers at the start of Portal2 might be considered a deconstruction of these.
- The Lost Cathedral in Soul Calibur III
- Among the various obsessions associated with OCD (and obsessive compulsive personality disorder, on a lesser degree), germophobia is one of the most common. The compulsion to wash themselves repeatedly and to keep their settings in absolute order and cleanliness usually cause uneasiness to other people. But they have no idea what creepiness goes on inside the sufferer's mind.