Lightmare Fuel is when Nightmare Fuel
is Played for Laughs
. It is the perfect combination of the truly scary with the truly funny. This often happens in comedy works, typically Black Comedy
, but can just as often occur in horror stories.
A work of this nature will sit around the center of the Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror
of Mood Dissonance
. Compare Faux Horrific
and Bloody Hilarious
Anime and Manga
- The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Most of the series features a lot of this trope. In the first book, one of their stories features a corpse made from parts of seven different girls who gets vengeance on her killer by telling him a joke. It drives him insane.
- Ghostbusters. The Librarian scene. In the DVD commentary, Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman stated that they achieved the perfect balance in that moment of people in the audience during the first screening of both laughing and screaming at the same time.
- Pee-wee's Big Adventure: The encounter with Large Marge.
- Twilight Zone: The Movie. "You wanna see something really scary?"
- An American Werewolf in London is seemingly made of this in some parts. Griffin Dunne and David Naughton are laughing it up, joking about the superstitious villagers as they walk along the moonlit road one second, and in the next second Dunne's throat is ripped out on-camera and Naughton is slowly bleeding out from a werewolf bite.
- "MacGoogles the Scottish Frog" in Max Keeble's Big Move. He is genuinely creepy-looking... and yet you won't be able to stop laughing.
- In the "musical comedy" version of Little Shop of Horrors, we go from laughing to cringing, especially once Seymour starts feeding Audrey II whole human beings.
- Shaun of the Dead: Once they finally get refuge in the local pub, they are quickly besieged by zombies. As Shaun and the others try to keep the zombies at bay with a rifle, Shaun's mother admits to Liz (Shaun's ex, although his mother isn't aware of the breakup) that she was bitten by a zombie earlier in the movie, dooming her to death and resurrection. She dies in Shaun's arms as he begs her not to leave him. This is followed by a genuinely tense Mexican standoff over what to do with Shaun's mother - David reckons they have to shoot her, Shaun and Ed are hysterically protective - which is punctuated with some of the movie's funniest dialogue.
- In Jaws, the scene where Brody is complaining about having to dump chum (chopped up fish and fish blood) into the ocean begins with the line "Slow ahead. I can go slow ahead. Come on down here and chum some of this shit." and ends with the line "We're gonna need a bigger boat", having gone from funny to scary in a nanosecond when the shark abruptly appears.
- In Sleuth, the story jumps from funny to horrifying within a second. Some scenes you might alternate between smiling and being afraid for the characters' lives several times within one moment. You could even find yourself grinning while thinking "I think something horrible is going to happen any minute".
- The 1989 comedy The Burbs on the surface seems to be a wacky "mistaken identity" comedy about three childish protagonists who suspect that their next-door neighbors are a family of serial killers. The protagonists' wives, of course, think they're just being stupid. Wacky hijinks fill the rest of the movie, until the protagonists discover that the the trunk of the next-door neighbors' car is filled with decomposed human remains. Because the neighbors really are a family of serial killers.
- There are more than a few moments of this in Beetlejuice.
- Gremlins. The little monsters are hilarious... until they start killing people in messy, messy ways...and sometimes still are then.
- Zombieland. The explanation of Rules #1 ("Cardio") and #2 ("Double Tap") are accompanied by a visual of people being graphically attacked and killed by zombies. They are hilarious and tragic and scary all at the same time.
- The various "zombie kills" (especially the "Zombie Kill of the Week").
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, especially the scene involving the Absurdly Ineffective Barricade.
- Brain Dead is a textbook example of this, since the amount of gore and horror is so ludicrous mixed with dumb humor that it's pretty damn funny. A notable example is Lionel finding his mother ate Paquita's dog:
- Sam Raimi films drift back and forth along the Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror, and sometimes folds the scale in half, mashing both ends together. The Evil Dead 1981 started with doses of Lightmare, Evil Dead 2 increased both Horror and Comedy, Army of Darkness slid to slapstick extreme, the Drag Me to Hell snapped to the other extreme but added a few tension-breakers.
Live Action TV
- Any Discworld novel involving the Things From The Dungeon Dimensions, or similar Lovecraft Lite monstrosities, will make it clear they're a serious and disturbing threat and, at the same time, completely ridiculous, often making the point that a creature seemingly made of the bits left over once everything else was created is probably going to fall over a lot.
- Doctor Who has been doing this for longer than most series could dream of. Granted, it also dishes out plenty of outright Comedy (all flavours), Ham and Cheese and high octane Nightmare Fuel, as well. Being able to do all of this at once, though? It's an art: which individual writers occasionally get horribly wrong. But, when it goes right, it goes very right indeed. Douglas Adams' run is still held up as the benchmark for getting Lightmare Fuel right, for all it was going on before he pitched up and has continued since. For just cause, however.
- Being Human constantly whips between wacky sitcom hijinks and extremely gory supernatural horror, which can be more than a little jarring.
- American Horror Story: Murder House has a moment of this. In one episode, Hayden, Ben's former mistress and student, discovers where he lives and threatens to reveal to Ben's pregnant wife that she is pregnant with her and Ben's love child from the affair. When Ben agrees to go someplace with her to discuss the pregnancy, Harvey comes out of the blue and hits her dead in the face with a shovel. Upon realizing that she's not dead, he hits her again.
- Frequently, Supernatural dips into this.
- Red Dwarf wouldn't be what it is without its capacity to make you both laugh and shudder. Often at the same time: the Polymorph, anybody? More Teeth than the Osmond Family... masquerading as a pair of increasingly tight boxers. And, that's just one instance. If the Ending Theme doesn't convince you after that, nothing will.
- Emo Phillips: "They say public speaking is the number-one fear in the country. I would've thought the number-one fear would be being Buried Alive ... with a severed head. And just before your flashlight's battery dies, the eyes open. [Beat] But no, apparently it's the public speaking thing."
- Stand Still. Stay Silent: This comes packed with hilarious, top-quality character interplay... that just happens to have a threat or two skulking quietly undercover if you pause to think. We know for certain the utterly gorgeous scenery definitely has oodles of horror just waiting to pounce, even while we're up to our eyeballs in such wonderful things as kitties and sawblade-trains, too. And, when you do see the Nightmare Fuel and frenetic action upfront and in your face, it's timed to knock your socks off, before ducking back undercover. Yup: if this work doesn't count, nothing does.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog is pretty much made of this, being a genuinely creepy cartoon that happens to be a comedy.
- Similarly, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack is prone to bouts of some seriously scary imagery that's played entirely for laughs.
- Adventure Time often falls into this. Given that Pendelton Ward works on Flapjack, it was probably inevitable.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show was all about this, at least up until John K. was kicked out from it. The episodes produced by Games Animations also stepped in the territory of Nightmare Fuel frequently - however, with these, it was unintentional and more prone to be genuinely horrifying rather than just used for comedic effect.
- Sponge Bob Square Pants does this a lot, especially after The Movie.
- The Simpsons' "Treehouse of Horror" episodes basically run on this trope.
- In South Park, pretty much anything that gives the audience Nightmare Fuel will also end up making them laugh at the same time such as Kenny's multiple deaths, and Cartman making Scott Tenorman eat his own parents.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is known to use this trope occasionally. If the show's Nightmare Fuel page is anything to go by, it might be overshooting.
- Peri stalking Entree in the Spliced episode "Stuck Together" is portrayed as this.
- Gravity Falls had traces of this in it's first season, and appears to be going full force in its second.