Something hideous is lurking in the dark, eldritch depths of... your crisper drawer.
Interesting things breed in the depth of the refrigerator. Anyone who has ever had to clean one out can attest to that: foul-smelling, congealed mac 'n' cheese, shrivelled carrots and "furry" meat. The TV fridge, however, is another beast entirely. On TV, when life grows on your food, it is more than just life: it is sentient, multicellular, intelligent life. The back of your average comedy fridge is a breeding ground for all kinds of biological horrors — from oozing green slime to entire sapient races of leftover lasagna people to pasta-tentacledEldritch Abominations. Creatures bred in the depths of an old Tupperware container make excellent Monster of the Week fodder.
Some shows may extend this trope to other flagrant displays of bad housekeeping, creating life from unwashed underwear and the dust under the bed. We honor them here as well. They obey the spirit of It Came from the Fridge, if not the letter. When the filth has conquered entire rooms or even the house itself, you have Trash of the Titans.
Subtrope of Creating Life Is Unforeseen. Not to be confused withFridge Horror.
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Anime and Manga
Cowboy Bebop's episode "Toys In The Attic" features a crawling, slimy fridge monster, born from an old fridge with a rock lobster in it that was left abandoned for so long it managed to breed complex organisms. The fridge was unplugged and in storage. The lesson of the story is probably the most useful ever to come from TV: Don't leave stuff in broken refrigerators, or it will go bad.
Arguably subverted by the end, however, when it's implied that it was All Just a Dream.
The titular moe-blob in Potemayo came from the fridge, and is probably the most benign example of this trope ever written. She's more of a pet than a monster, though. Guchuko, on the other hand, is a force of raw chaos.
Tonjit from One Piece is so happy to have been knocked down from the stilts where he spent the last 10 years that he offers the Straw Hats some milk cheese that was left in the fridge. He then promptly contracts food poisoning when he's the only one brave dumb enough to eat it.
Pagaya from the Skypiea saga also has some rather extremly leftovers in his kitchen.
While it does not produce an actual creature, Riku in Blood+ is traumatized by the state of the contents of the fridge at Omoro's when he, Saya, and Kai finally get back to Okinawa after an extended absence.
Tsukasa once fell upon something like this while looking for octopus-and-wasabi in the fridge. Whatever she found was so horrifying it got censored.
In "It Came from Under the Sink," in Plop! #7 a bachelor named Chuck Stake didn't wash his dishes for a month or so and the scuzz mutated into a sentient yellow slime.
The series of fan fic about Darth Maul, known as The Sith Academy. One of the running jokes/subplots was that use of the Dark Side always results in some visible sign of corruption for the user; for Sidious, it was his appearance, while for Maul it was his surroundings - just living in a room for a day or so could cause it to become a disaster area. There were at least two on-screen mentions (possibly three) where the contents of his fridge not only became alive and developed sentience, but actually developed whole civilizations; it was implied that this ended when he started actually cooking, in an effort to kill Sidious with cholesterol.
There is a Teen Titansfic, "One Thing Leads to Another", where Robin is looking through the fridge: "Let's see, tofu, pudding of uncontainable joy, steak, mustard, gelatinous unidentified objects, a sock-Hey! The remote control!-mold... is that... Silkie?? Later, Alfred comes over (with Batman), and asks "Uh? Master Robin? Do you have any food that hasn't expired two months ago, isn't covered in a strange blue substance, or is an unusually large worm?"
It's a stock trope in Teen Titans fanfic, one had a passing mention of discovering a bronze age civilization of sentient chickpeas in said fridge.
In Peter Chimaera's DIGIMON SAVES THE WROLD!!111, the titular character is ambushed while etnig breffist by the evil digimon, who leaps from the fridge. This is made a bit frightening when you realize that a good few of the things he's eating ought to have come out of the fridge...
In Maybe, Harry and George live together. Their fridge is really disgusting and Hermione makes them promise to do something about it. They end up buying a new fridge and throwing out the old one with all the disgusting things still inside.
In Saying No 12 Grimmauld Place had a Bundimun in the fridge which growled at anybody who opened the door.
The Naked Gun did a gag about this, with Lt. Drebin briefly keeling over after sniffing some three-year-old Chinese food from his fridge. If you look very closely at the very end of that scene, as the camera zooms in on Lt. Drebin's face, you can see a steak on top of the fridge ... crawling on its own.
It wasn't caused by poor housekeeping, but Ghostbusters had a demon god and hell dimension hidden in Sigourney Weaver's fridge. There are no cold cuts, only ZUUL!!
Of course, when Venkman inspects her fridge later on, he does tease her about her eating habits.
Victor : I have some Fig Newtons, Hershey bars, some cough drops...
Carol: You have any tuna fish?
Victor : I have some salmon salad left...
Carol: What do you mean 'left', when did you make it?
Victor: In April, but if you smother it with pepper it's fine.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child has a scene like this. After Greta has been force-fed to death in her dream, we cut to Alice going to fetch her father a drink in the fridge. When she opens it, the food rots in front of her eyes (and an eyeball even shows up on them) before her dead friend suddenly bursts out of the fridge, only to be dragged back inside by Freddy Krueger. The fridge closes, is opened again, and everything is back to normal.
In the 2011 The Muppets film the Swedish Chef takes a flamethrower to the mold-encrusted and talking contents of his fridge that hadn't been used in years.
The 2012 Philippine movie Pridyidir, features a haunted refrigerator that drags its unsuspecting victims inside with large nigh indestructible tentacles. As it turns out, the former owner cursed it using a blood sacrifice to store people inside due to having lost her mind to loneliness (with a little demonic possession mixed in), and to seal the deal, she committed suicide by freezing herself to death in it.
In Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, the group cleans out the Black house, finding all sorts of crazy creatures in the house, including a boggart in a wardrobe that turns into the corpses of Harry and the Weasley family.
The entire story maintains a subplot of Gently playing a game a chicken with his maid, both trying to trick each other into opening the fridge first. Gently leaves classic "door left unopened" clues such as a hair stuck in the door while his maid messes with those to pretend she did open it so he would open it and check if anything was moved around.
In somewhat of a subversion, in a later The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy sequel, Arthur Dent eats the least hairy things in his fridge after returning to Earth after a long expedition in space, thus killing a disease which would have otherwise wiped out half a hemisphere.
In Hogfather, Susan Sto-Helit conducts a forensic examination of the contents of a bag left hanging outside the window in winter (Discworld's low-tech, cut-rate version of refrigeration - also surprisingly popular with British university students). "Now look at this. Leathery bacon, green bread, and a piece of cheese you could shave. She hasn't been here in some time, believe me."
As with so many other tropes, this one is represented multiple times in Discworld. For instance, in Witches Abroad, Granny Weatherwax visits a neglected old granny (not a witch) and finds some milk in her kitchen that "ought to be allowed to vote."
Om made a similar comment about milk served in a Philosopher's bar.
Live Action TV
The first episode of the 1983 British sketch show Alfresco has a song about a couple who are so lazy they haven't cleaned the house for decades and there are alien lifeforms in possession of the fridge and kitchen. Never mind - the house is on fire so all they have to do is wait and their problems will all be over.
Several points in The Young Ones reference dirty laundry or unwashed dishes acting sentient. The line that sums it up best is "Guys! Guys! One of Vyvyan's socks has escaped!"
Also: "What's Domestos?"note For the non-British or otherwise uninformed, it’s a brand of toilet bowl cleaner. After witnessing the spectacularly filthy toilet come to life and eat a rubber plunger, Mike mutters that he’d better get some Domestos, and the toilet makes the above reply.
At one point, the spoiled foods in the fridge have a bit scene of their own, complete with a solo song by a moldy tomato.
Subverted in Good Eats; recent episodes sometimes feature the lovely "Lady of the Refrigerator", who dispenses nutritional information about the featured food. That said, he does occasionally get into arguments with his foodstuffs.
Bottom: Yoghurt that needs a shave, a sausage that's already been digested, solid milk...
There is the "curry monster," created from some old vindaloo.
In the novelization Lister realizes he's actually in a computer simulation when he looks in his fridge and it's not a grotesque chamber of horrors.
When Kryten is first introduced, he cleans up Lister's room in an attempt to do him a favour. Lister is horrified; Kryten has thrown out his pet mould. "His name was Albert! I was tryin' to get 'im two foot high!"
A later novel has him trapped in Cyberhell, where everything is designed to be as unpleasant as possible. When he opens the fridge, there's milk struggling to climb out of the carton, the veg has rotted into greeny-brown slime and the smell is indescribable. He thinks,'By my standards, this is actually pretty tidy'.
On Dinosaurs, the Sinclair children are held hostage by food that has gone bad - that is, food that has rebelled and formed a resistance movement. Since the dinosaurs in the show tend to eat their food alive, this was bound to happen sooner or later.
Upon their defeat and return to the fridge, the leader of the food (General Chow) turns around and warns them: "Old food never dies... It just... goes... bad!"
Even Stevens did this twice, although not really in the fridge for both examples. One was some old food under Louis' bed which mutated badly enough to have to call in a hazmat crew. Another was an old sandwich in his locker which was alive and fierce enough to shred the tennis racket Louis tried to scoop it out with.
In an episode of Married... with Children, metal band Anthrax is snowed in at the Bundy's house. Desperate for food, they eat "Mom's mystery pack", a foil-wrapped substance that apparently not even Al will touch. It's described as moving and hot (despite being in a refrigerator), and causes hallucinations among the band, and later on sings along with Edd "Kookie" Byrnes.
All That had a sketch in a parody of B-Horror movies and crime shows where the "father" went for a midnight snack. cuts to a chalk outline with weird gunk, the police quizzing when the meatloaf was last served (four different answers) while an ambulance wails. When one of the family asked about it, the cop said they didn't call, and went to investigate. Open the closet, and the father is making the sounds - implying that the Meatloaf ate his brain.
On Friends, Joey is cleaning out his broken fridge (which means eating everything in it), which prompts this exchange:
Joey: Hey, what was in that brown jar? Chandler: That's still in there? Joey: Not anymore.
In one episode of Chuck, the entire workforce at the BuyMore watched Morgan eat some brown goo out of a tupperware container from the "Mystery Crisper".
Hoarders - Some Hoarders kept food way after it expired.
Sherlock Holmes is exactly the one who cannot surprise the viewer (or his flatmate) by storing a human head in the refrigerator and eyeballs in the microwave.
Throughout the duration of Malcolm in the Middle, countless times it has been shown that there can be some truly horrid, awful things hiding in the back of the family's fridge. Memorably was a pre-title-sequence clip showing a piece of fruit being placed in the fridge by Lois, who declared the family would be 'eating healthy from now on.' Over time the orange is ignored by all members of the family and slowly decays into a brown lump, no longer recognizable as an orange.... to the point where Hal picks it up and says with delight 'Ooh, a brownie!'
Once more, when Reese and Malcolm are shown having a competition to see who can eat the most expired perishables.
Reese: When was the last time we had egg nog? Malcolm: I think before Dewey was born.
And again, when Francis tricks Dewey into drinking the filthy liquid that has accumulated in the drip tray.
In The Teaser of another episode, Lois is shown serving a "leftover parfait" for dinner, which is made from all the crap she cleans out of the fridge that week that doesn't have something growing on it.
Reese: Did we have spaghetti or Chinese food on Thursday?
Another had Hal and Reese trying to figure out what's causing a horrible smell in the fridge. They go through rotten cheese, bacon, and finally a carton of milk with a dead rat inside, presumably the school rat Dewey was supposed to take care of last summer. Still not it.
Black Books has more than one example. When they call a cleaner (after a scene of Bernard: "I was gonna warm it [a frozen pizza] and eat it later. Everybody does that, that's normal! You are looking for things to complain about!" Manny: "What do you call these?" Bernard: "Wasps!"), he does the trick of putting on a white glove, streaking it across something, and the fingertip comes away black. The thing he chooses to sweep across? The air.
There was a brilliant running gag in one episode of Roseanne involving a carton of milk that's been left in the fridge too long.
Attack of the Show!: In "Wonder Woman's Guide to Office Safety", Cheetah emerges from a refrigerator after being formed from an old lunch containing correct chemical components essential to creating her.
In an episode of The Brady Bunch, Greg and Alice stumble upon some leftovers in the fridge. Greg gets a whiff, asks what it is and Alice says "it's been left over so long I forgot!"
The US version of The Office (US) has an episode in which Kevin is drinking milk that Andy left in the fridge because hey, free milk. The problem is that Andy's been gone for months, and Kevin's drinking just a sip each day. When Andy comes back, Kevin mourns "I guess it's goodbye chunky lemon milk." No one actually comments that the milk is alive, but it definitely contains something living (the souring and clumping are due to organic acids produced by bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus).
The filthy fridge is a staple of bar- and restaurant-based reality shows, including but not limited to Kitchen Nightmares, Bar Rescue and Restaurant Impossible. The establishments routinely have boxes upon boxes of spoiled, moldy food that the appalled host orders thrown out.
Quoted above is "Livin' in the Fridge". The line "It's been there since July!" becomes doubly gross if you're listening to the song in the middle of the year.
"Trash Day" goes quite over-the-top in places, but is not as memorable.
A more hygenic variant is the Barry Louis Polisar song, "When The House Is Dark And Quiet", in which two bratty kids play tricks on their babysitter. One involves stuffing a (live) cat in the fridge when they know the sitter is about to get a snack, so it can jump out at her.
Why I won't get you a beer by Tom Smith. Very vivid description of the fridge's contents, the end reveals that the owner has cleaned out the fridge, but it still smells really, really bad.
Shel Silverstein has a spoken-word recording that invokes the non-fridge version of this trope: "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out". Something bad happens to Sarah as a result, but exactly what (beyond being an "awful fate") is left unspecified.
Using the previous stanzas of the poem about the mounting piles of garbage filling the house as context, she was probably smothered, suffocated, or buried alive.
Garfield has used this trope more than once. Lethal Chef (aside from his Lasagna, of course) Jon must be using some weird ingredients; one of them even held him and Odie at gunpoint.
The Far Side shows what violence can ensue "when potato salad goes bad."
Calvin and Hobbes featured many food based battles. Including the food trying to kill him first and him chasing the food attempting to kill it. (one can only imagine what it was before the horrible cooking attempt)
One of the sample monsters in the Mon sourcebook for Big Eyes, Small Mouth is an ancient jar of mayonnaise that mutated into a sentient, poisonous ooze-monster. Its trainer found it while cleaning out the fridge in his uncle's auto shop.
One of the cards in Star Munchkin is "Discover a New Lifeform: Go Up a Level". The picture is something alive in a filthy fridge.
In The Odd Couple, Oscar, whose refrigerator has been broken for two weeks, offers food to the men playing poker with him:
Murray: What have you got? Oscar: I got brown sandwiches and green sandwiches. Well, what do you say? Murray: What's the green? Oscar: It's either very new cheese or very old meat. Murray: I'll take the brown.
"Once, you bought a pork pie. You left it overnight because you weren't very hungry. You left it for a week because you were busy. You left it for a month because you're lazy. You left it for a year because you were scared."
Eating these things is the primary way to raise your Courage in Persona 4. They are so bad for you they force you to go to bed early, preventing you from doing anything else at night. The only other way beyond a rare dialog option and book is 1 job moderately late in the game.
FunOrb's "Bachelor Fridge" allows players to grow and mutate little food-monsters and make them fight each other.
One of the computers you can hack in Deus Ex: Human Revolution has an angry email from an employee to his coworkers regarding "the experiment in the fridge". He kindly lets them know that it has acheived sentience and has a desire to destroy all life.
A fridge towards the end of Silent Hill 1 contains a tentacle monster that will drag you in if you fail to use a certain item.
The Atari Lynx game Kung Food was based around this trope — the player is a scientist who's been mutated by chemicals in his fridge into a two-inch-tall green humanoid, who must battle past sentient leftovers to escape the refrigerator and return himself back to normal.
This strip from Ctrl+Alt+Del explains the connection between Ethan creating the Winter-een-mas and having a box of cereal colonized by some fungus organized around a democratic government and a free market economy.
General Protection Fault has two characters who are sentient slime molds. Fred achieved sentience as a result of a human character's horrible (lack of) housekeeping, then later produced Persephone.
User Friendly mascot character Dust Puppy was born from a Linux server with less-than-adequate cleaning. His evil counterpart Crud Puppy was born from congealed coffee in a keyboard.
Appears in thisSluggy Freelance strip. Riff correctly realizes that, once the lifeforms developing in your refrigerator have been killed with a flamethrower, they're food again.
The guys ended up using siege explosives to deal with the tentacled monstrosity that spawned from old leftovers.
It happened again when Doc rummaged around in the break room fridge, surprising him. He went to war against it, with him eventually trying to use explosives to kill it. But it surprised him on Halloween Day.
Eventually he installed a device that automatically crushes his fridge and replaces it with an empty one every week.
Fox and Collin of Friendly Hostility once had an actual human-sized demon living in the back of their refrigerator. He moved out eventually and became a recurring cast member. Another example would be the mass of clutter and filth on Fox's desk:
"Fox, it's developed sentience."
"I have not."
"See? Two against one."
College Roomies From Hell had a storyline based around cleaning out the fridge, which involved battling mutant flying bat-winged potatoes (dubbed "batatoes" by the fans) and the multi-tentacled monster known as Mr Friendly.
They had two storylines based around cleaning out the fridge. The time they required liquid nitrogen to stop The Thing That Spawned In Our Fridge, which they then sold as modern art after freezing.
The plot of the first episode of the Sam & Max: Freelance Police cartoon, "The Thing That Wouldn't Stop It", revolves around this trope.
In the Teen Titans episode "Final Exam," the Titans' fridge is full of stuff that's blue and furry (and moving). For some reason, Starfire upset that Mammoth ate it all after the H.I.V.E took over the tower... but, then again, she is an alien with strange tastes in foods.
In "Employee of the Month", an interesting variation of this occurs when Beast Boy imprisons a villain (made out of alien tofu) in the fridge. At the end of the episode, Cyborg accidentally eats him because he was covered in steak sauce.
In the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Ol' Drippy", kitchen filth turns sentient. He's actually quite friendly. So, of course, Shake hates him.
Rockos Modern Life has an archetypal example in the pilot episode, "Trash-O-Madness": This green nondescript blob thing in the fridge doesn't seem too alive, but it sticks to everything, and it expands exponentially and squirts black ink when it absorbs water. Hilarity Ensues as Spunky the Extreme Omnivore pet dog is obsessed with trying to eat it.
Homer, digging around for a lost peanut under the couch in season 5's "Boy-Scoutz N the Hood": "Ow, pointy! Eww, slimy! [Scream]! Moving!"
In "24 Minutes", Homer keeps a pungent container of yogurt in the employee fridge. The stench is so bad, experts in hazmat suits are called.
When Homer plays Every Man and has let himself slip after his personal trainer has left him, he goes to Apu asking for something to make him throw up. Apu promptly says "I think there is some expired milk in the back of the refrigerator. But do not chew the lumps." It was too late. It thankfully cuts away to outside the Kwik-E-Mart...which gives you a perfect view of the windows being coated with some sort of heinous brown sludge, which came out of...one of Homer's orifices as a result of chewing the lumps.
During an Imagine Spot on The Replacements, Riley imagines Buzz's science project to be "What Happens to Pizza Left Under a Bed for Six Months". The answer? It comes alive and starts attacking people.
In a sketch from The Mr. Men Show episode "Chores," Mr. Persnickety turns down Miss Scary's invitation to see a movie to clean his refrigerator, so she warns him, "Things grow in refrigerators. Things that could take over the Earth!" Mr. Persnickety isn't worried, until he notices the blue cheese in the back has turned moldy and it starts trying to escape the fridge. A hazmat team (Mr. Tickle and Miss Calamity) arrives to get rid of the cheese as Mr. Persnickety laments, "I don't understand how this happened! I rotate my vegetables! I toss leftovers at once." Miss Calamity consoles him with, "It's not your fault. Blue cheese has a will of its own."
In the 1st episode of Total Drama Island, Gwen said that her hamburger just moved. Twenty seconds later you would see some sloppy joesnote A sloppy joe is an American dish of ground beef, onions, sweetened tomato sauce or ketchup and other seasonings, served on a hamburger bun across the floor.
In The Secret Files of The Spy Dogs Ralph rummages through his owners' fridge disposing of all the bad products they are too lazy to throw away. When he encounters a can of jelly that had already evolved into a small blob monster, he decides that "it'll do for a little longer" and puts it back into the fridge.
One episode of The Critic has Jay looking for something to eat in the fridge and exclaiming, "What's that sulfur smell coming from the egg bin? Ah, it must mean the eggs have ripened. Wait a minute! Eggs don't ripen! Eggs don't ripen!" At which point some vicious little lizards/velociraptors burst out and try to break through the door as he slams it shut. He goes to eat at his parents' house.
Spongebob Squarepants has two examples. One is in "Welcome to the Chum Bucket"; when SpongeBob is trying to cook a patty in an unfamiliar stove, the burger grows a hand and starts crawling towards him. A later episode had "The Appetizer" from "Squilliam Returns", which Mr. Krabs had to fight off with a chair.
Ed from Ed, Edd n Eddy has seagulls living in the trash mound under his bed, although it's unclear if they evolved there or just moved in.
This office fridge sat for a few months unplugged and stuffed full of leftovers; when someone finally opened it and started cleaning it out, the food reacted with cleaning agents creating poisonous fumes that sickened twenty-eight people and sent seven to the hospital. They had to call in a hazmat team to finish the job.
Danish stand-up comedian Thomas Wivel once joked that when he was a bachelor he only opened the fridge to feed the cheese.
After Hurricane Katrina, many people returned home weeks or months later and, if they were cautious or forewarned, duct-taped their fridges shut without opening them and put them on the curb to be picked up. The other wiki's article on the topic says that the contents of the fridges could be toxic enough to melt plastic and corrode metal. At least one book of photos has been published of (thankfully just the exteriors of) Katrina fridges, since many of them became temporary graffiti attractors and items of folk art.
In the New Orleans episode of No Reservations, there's footage of someone cleaning out a walk in freezer after returning from Katrina. Imagine the above, but room sized.
According to Roma folk legends, watermelons and pumpkins become vampires after being kept for a certain period of time.
A garden full of vampire squash shows up in Digger; Ursula Vernon specifically cites this legend when they're first introduced.
Travis Willingham once reached into his fridge and pulled out some pudding, stuck a spoon in it, and tried eating it. It was crunchy, so he turned on the light to see why, since he didn't recall buying tapioca pudding. It wasn't tapioca; once upon a time it was chocolate. Travis now checks his pudding before he eats it.
Historic example from the days before fridges: an entire American village once decided to pool milk from all the cows in town to make a giant wheel of cheese for Thomas Jefferson. The resulting cheese took weeks to transport, and reportedly by the time it arrived, it was "strong enough to walk there by itself."
The cheese was said to be quite good though and lasted over a year.
Kefir, a dairy product derived from granular lumps like those of cottage cheese, contains a diverse assortment of bacterial and fungal life. Left to ferment in milk, kefir grains will grow, then divide like living cells, of their own accord.
The MythBusters fridges don't get this bad (if Jamie has anything to say about it), but as with the CSI example above they have to label their refrigerators as "experiments" and "human food".
It's not this trope, but there is a type of cheese where the final stage of making it is to leave it out in the open air so that flies lay eggs on it and the maggots eat the cheese. And then you eat the maggots AND the cheesy goop of maggot poo they produce. If one of these gets to be in your fridge it was put there deliberately. Eww.