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When the protagonist of the work is itself some horrific being that sends people screaming in its wake. They might never have been human, or possibly might have been once
, but now they are some inexplicable creature that has no place in this world. These Horrifying Heroes not only look
frightening, they also have frightening abilities to match, and could just as easily be imagined as a bad guy in nearly any other story. They tend to be an Anti-Hero
, or villains who have had a Heel-Face Turn
, however whether they are true heroes or just a Villain Protagonist
they still get to be the effective hero
of their story.
Characters which qualify as a Horrifying Hero include the Eldritch Abomination
, Humanoid Abominations
, Starfish Aliens
, a Living Shadow
, a Demon
and other such things which by their very nature are normally if not Obviously Evil
, then Obliviously Evil
. Characters which appear human part of the time can
qualify, but only if their alternate form is such a thing, and is consistently described as Nightmare Fuel
, not just weird or ugly in appearance, and they generally need the powers to match. After revealing the character's true nature, a person would have to be a Nightmare Fetishist
and crazy to boot to find the character appealing.
If there is a question of qualification on the basis of the character being scary but not exactly an Eldritch Abomination
, then the character instead may be a Monster Adventurer
. The differences between them can come down to portrayal. The Monster Adventurer is defined by being ugly or scary. The Horrifying Hero might be ugly and/or scary, but often he will also have frightening abilities. You are meant to feel bad for, and relate to, the Monster Adventurer, while the Horrifying Hero is a Bad Ass
, and might be Wish Fulfillment
Subtrope of Creepy Good
, which is when any character on the side of good (not just the hero) is perceived by those around them as creepy.
Tropes which might be associated with a Horrifying Hero include Dark Is Not Evil
, What Measure Is a Non-Human?
, What Measure Is a Non-Cute?
, Hunter of His Own Kind
and Stages of Monster Grief
. This type of hero is probably more likely than any other to induce a Mook Horror Show
As for characters which are scary but don't qualify for this trope, you will likely find them under Reluctant Monster
, Non-Malicious Monster
or Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain
. For characters whose behavior
is horrifying, see Byronic Hero
and Terror Hero
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Anime And Manga
- Vincent Law/Ergo Proxy from Ergo Proxy.
- Alucard from Hellsing can turn into a roiling mass of shadows, hellhounds, eyeballs, Slasher Smiles and some kind of stampede of black knights that kill people on contact.
- Kudou Denji from Tsutomu Nihei's Abara who is a Guana—which is some serious Body Horror and a taste for human flesh.
- Devilman. Anyone who sees him is instantly horrified. Jun, the female counterpart in Devilman Lady fares little better.
- Abel Nightroad from Trinity Blood is secretly a Crusnik, a technologically-augmented monster that can feed on vampires the way vampires feed on humans. He looks human most of the time, but when it's time to get serious...
- Darkrai (a Pokemon that controls nightmares) was actually portrayed as one in the film Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai.
- Franken Fran: Leading lady Madaraki Fran normally resembles a teenaged girl version of Frankenstein's monster, but at times she adopts her multi-armed "Operation Mode." While the precise value of "hero" may come into question, the "horrifying" very much definite.
- Kaiman from Dorohedoro is a man with a Caiman's head who tracks down every magic user (in search of the one who turn his head into a caiman). If they're not, he kills them, brutally. Also there is a guy who lives in his mouth and can tell whether the victim is the responsible or not. And yet he is the hero.
- Kaiman is actually a human who became a brutal magic-user/gang leader (and currently trying to become a devil); fortunately Kaiman is now his own person thanks to magic resurrection while the guy in his mouth is the "Curse" of a seemingly non-magical magic-user "pre-Kaiman" betrayed and murdered (ditto on having his own body back).
- Pretty much every "heroic" character can be fairly horrifying given the setting. That kindly, enthusiastic doctor who's so much like Dr. Newt? He made a magic door out of magic-user body parts (magic-users are indistinguishable from normal humans except for a tiny devil-shaped tumor in their brains).
- Eren becomes this in this Attack on Titan after gaining the ability to transform into a Titan. He may be on their side, but that doesn't stop most people from being terrified the first time around.
- The eponymous character of Spawn, as befits the most iconic Nineties Anti-Hero to survive out of the 90s. First, there's the look; taller than a human and prone to towering ominously over others, with a hugely collared, blood-red, shroud-like tattered cape framing a jet-black bodysuit adorned with Spikes of Villainy and bedecked with writhing chains. Eerie green eyes that glow with hellfire stare out of a blank-featured mask, brooding at all before him, while fingers grow into razor-sharp claws. Then you see how he fights; using Combat Tentacles and bare limbs to tear his opponents apart and rip off limbs, or emotionlessly gunning them down. Then you find out he's a Humanoid Abomination; a walking, rotting, undead corpse with a living demon serving as his (fiercely protective) costume and with enough Black Magic to wipe out armies singlehandedly.
- Also the eponymous character of Ghost Rider; not much scarier than a leather-clad demonic biker with a Flaming Skull head that can kill you with a look.
- Swamp Thing, definitely.
- Marvel's Man-Thing. Provoking fear is an explicit part of Man-Thing's powers: those that fear him burn at his touch.note
- Hellboy is the demon who was supposed to bring about the Apocalypse, and he probably would have become a straight Eldritch Abomination if not for being raised like a human. He's personable enough that he isn't treated like the abomination he is, but underneath it all he was still by his very nature supposed to be evil.
- Although he can pass for human, the aptly-named Doc Horror of the relatively unknown comic Nocturnals probably fits under this trope, being a creature from another dimension who escaped to our world. His teammates definitely qualify, as they include a wraith, a pyrokinetic swordsman, a fish woman, a flesh golem/gunfighter and his daughter, who carries around a collection of possessed toys.
- The Tattered Man from the obscure one-shot comic of the same name is a spirit of vengeance whose body is composed of the tattered clothing worn by Jews who died in a concentration camp. The strands of clothing act as Combat Tentacles that he uses to impale violent criminals.
- Eddie Brock, famous for wearing a carnivorous alien symbiote with Lovecraftian superpowers as a costume, thinks of himself as being one of these. As Anti-Venom, he expresses shock that a Mook is more terrified of the Wraith than of him.
- As a spirit of vengeance who could teach even Ghost Rider a thing or two, The Spectre hunts down evildoers who escaped justice and uses his vast magical powers to inflict nightmarish deaths and worse-than-deaths. Turning a villain's body into cheese but leaving his mind intact and then loosing the villain's trained rats to have dinner? That was in the Lighter and Softer Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon series. When he gets serious, he's even more cruel.
- Aside from facing general hatred just for how they were born, many of the mutants in the Marvel Universe have either powers or an appearance that terrify anyone not on their team (and even some that are). A lot of these end up becoming Morlocks, living in sewers and such, and the go-to targets for the latest "test" of a mutant genocide without wiping out a bunch of beloved main and secondary characters.
- The Thing started off like this, but after a few decades of Character Development, the public have gotten used to an orange, rocky hero, and they love him. In-universe, the Thing is considered the most beloved Marvel hero, hands-down.
Film - Animation
- Jack Skellington, the skeletal Pumpkin King, from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
- James P. "Sulley" Sullivan and Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. are monsters whose job it is to scare children.
- Though not horrifying to the audience, the hulking green ogre Shrek certainly is to the humans he meets. He enjoys acting the stereotype of a foul man-eating monster to scare people, and he does a good job of it. He causes a panic wherever he goes, and nearby human warriors spend a good deal of time trying to slay him like heroes in stories usually do to ogres. His main motive in scaring people away is peace and quiet, and once he starts to come out of his shell, everyone gets to know him and becomes less afraid of him. In fact, one of his frustrations in the fourth movie is that he's undergone Badass Decay: he's a Bumbling Dad and a beloved member of the community, and he longs for the days when everyone used to be afraid of him.
- The eponymous character of Skulduggery Pleasant is a living skeleton. The cover of the American edition of the first book had a picture of him and a blurb saying "And he's the good guy!"
- Shrek, from William Stieg's original picture book Shrek!, may be even more so than he is in The Film of the Book, since he doesn't have a hidden nice-guy side to him and the entire story is about how foul and scary he is.
- When played as heroes, the Abyssal Exalted can exhibit this sort of behavior, due to some being hideous pseudo-undead monstrosities. The (probably more common) darkly beautiful variety aren't such good examples, though their anima still sends mortals fleeing in terror.
- Lunar Exalted, too. Their most common battle tactic is "turn into an 8-foot-tall animalistic monstrosity", after all.
- Infernal Exalted on the other hand are basically turning into Primordials (beings with hundreds of souls and are the creators of the world), and are supposed to be helping their masters bring about the Reclamation.
- Many Infernal powers were directly conceived as being very evil and scary in special effects but not actually mandatory-evil in execution...for a sufficiently lenient definition of "evil" anyway.
- Hell, the Solar Exalted are the targets of a massive smear campaign from the dominant faith and as such, even if they save the day and convince a few people they really aren't so bad, if they want to avoid witch hunts and fate ninjas they tend to move on very quickly.
- If a Raksha decided to play hero it would be most likely the definition of this Trope. As pretty as they are, they're still an Alien Intelligence from the Wyld and all.
- Warhammer 40,000 has a slight lack of personalities who could reasonably be described as heroic. Inasmuch as they're technically "good guys", the Legion of the Damned probably qualify as they are silent warriors whose black armour is adorned with chilling images of bone and fire, and they basically will appear out of nowhere and completely slaughter a losing imperial force's foes and then disappear.
- Mephiston, Lord of Death is generally considered a hero, but he's certainly a bit more... odd looking than the usual appearance of Space Marines.
- From the point of view of the "bad guys", pretty much every Chaotic, Tyrannid or Necron "hero" counts.
- It's a slim chance that anyone can be a truly heroic character in any of The World of Darkness gamelines, but both versions of Werewolves have a form of Weirdness Censor that force normal people to flee in terror when they are, uh, being werewolves.
- Some Player Character races in Dungeons & Dragons are weird enough, although rarely to the point that they can't function socially. But some sourcebooks allow you to either evolve yourself into an Eldritch Abomination, implant Eldritch Abomination flesh into yourself, or just plain be an Eldritch Abomination— one sourcebook has a Good Illithid. Either way, the result is… disturbing. There is the Dragon disciple class which allows you turn yourself into a half dragon. 4e allows you to play as a war golem, living mass of crystals or Minotaur.
- Prototype's Alex Mercer is a living pile of general-purpose biomass sporting a multitude of Shapeshifter Weapons, Combat Tentacles, as well as the ability to perfectly mimic any person and assume their memories and knowledge by eating them. He's also the player character, and the one person who stands a chance at defeating an equally-horrifying personification of a different strain of The Virus.
The same goes for James Heller of Prototype 2. Fits all of the criteria above, along with being a Scary Black Man who can not only summon up tendrils to tether enemies to each other but infest them with a biological bomb of sorts as well as control Elite Mooks to some extent. It's really shown in the finale, where his daughter is too terrified of him to approach him at first.
- Raziel of the Legacy of Kain series is basically the ghost of a vampire. His blue skin, glowing yellow eyes, clawed hands and feet, tattered wings, and lack of a lower jaw leave him looking more like a demon than anything else, although in the first Soul Reaver game he can convince humans that he's on their side by not killing them. His sire Kain may qualify as well, even if he straddles the line between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist. Although he looks mostly human, people's reactions in the first game (when he's not using disguise magic) make it clear that he's recognizable as a vampire on sight.
- Wolf Link from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a wolf with mysterious powers of darkness, ridden by Midna, a creepy imp with strange markings and a Fused Shadow helmet. Wolf Link and Midna aren't really horrifying to the player, but in-game, the two of them cause a general panic wherever they go. (The only people who aren't scared of them are the lady who operates a canoe minigame, and her brother who is more scared of her than he is of Wolf Link and Midna.) But they're definitely on the side of good.
- StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm gives us Sarah Kerrigan, formerly known as the Queen of Blades and the self-proclaimed Queen Bitch of the Universe, as the protagonist. Kerrigan has been a Brainwashed and Crazy Fallen Hero and Omnicidal Maniac for most of StarCraft and all of Brood War, who only got recently turned back to normal in Wings of Liberty. She leads a Horde of Alien Locusts, possess creepy psychic powers and is motivated by a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Over the course of the game, she gets an upgraded but just as creepy version of the powers she had as a villain, basically turning into a Humanoid Abomination Physical God. And yet, while she is on a thin line between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist, she still is a better person than Arcturus Mengsk, the perfectly human Villain with Good Publicity who she wants to make pay. She has also dropped the habit of backstabbing allies and executing rivals, and even goes out of her way to minimize collateral damage; things that Mengsk has done in the past without a shred of remorse.
- Any Nosferatu player character in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.
- The image above comes from Cthulhu Saves the World, where it's Played for Laughs.
- Duane from Unsounded is a sentient skeleton with a zombie's perpetual predatory drive who occasionally grave-robs to replace broken limbs. He's also one of the most noble, lawful, moral characters in the story.
- Skitter, in Worm, is a teenage girl with total control over every insect in a massive radius. She regularly covers herself in insects to give herself the appearance of The Worm That Walks and normal battle tactics involve stuffing insects down people's throats. It's no wonder that the first superhero she runs into thinks that she's a supervillain!
- Cody Giles in Angel Of Death is a lich which, in his universe, entails devouring human souls. He smells like a noxious corpse, and his powers include smelling fear, surrounding himself with a dark shadowy cloud by draining light out of the area, and inflicting any dissease or injury on anyone with a mere touch. He is extremely moral, and is always very concerned about hurting as few people as possible.
- In Revenge of the Island, Dakota becomes this after her mutation. Although Sam likes her better that way.
- From Godzilla: The Series: Godzilla is over 200 feet tall, looks like a cross between an iguana and a Tyrannosaurus rex, and breaths a stream of atomic fire. The citizens of New York are quite justifiably terrified of him.