troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Nightmare Retardant
"I am Ro-Man of the Gorilla Divers Association!"

"I think this video's supposed to be like, freaking us out, but like, I'm unfreaked. In fact, this video is making me feel totally normal."

The polar opposite of Nightmare Fuel: Something meant to be truly terrifying (or at least somewhat frightening or disturbing) which instead comes off as stupid, laughable, cute, or all of them. As with Nightmare Fuel, examples will often be subjective. Often caused by Special Effects Failure or Stock Sound Effects; sometimes, for older titles with now-outdated special effects, it can simply be an example of Seinfeld Is Unfunny. Of course, when used intentionally, it could be an Intended Audience Reaction.

May be caused by, or be the cause of, Villain Decay.

Many B-movie creature features, especially those featured on MST3K, were chock full of this, since most of them had very low budgets and had to rely on puppets and guys wearing carpets over their heads for their creature effects.

Contrast Nothing Is Scarier, which is a possible way to avert this trope by not showing the monster at all and letting the characters — and audience — scare themselves with the fantasy of what it might be.

See also Narm. Compare Fetish Retardant for the Fetish Fuel equivalent.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    General 
  • A monster looking fake or unimpressive to the audience when it is revealed is a prime example of this.
    • One episode of Doug illustrated this trope. Doug and his friends went to see a horror movie called "The Abnormal". Doug covered his eyes when the monster finally came on-screen; it had only been seen in shadow or in disguise until that point, adding to the tension. After suffering recurring nightmares over it, he eventually forced himself to see it one last time without looking away — only to discover the monster was a man in a ridiculous costume with an obvious zipper. When he told his friends about it, they all confessed they had looked away, too.
    • As almost a real-life reenactment of this, this was cited as one of the reasons the movie Signs is profoundly unscary: the aliens are genuinely frightening until we actually see them near the end of the film. The whole "melted by water" thing doesn't help their image either.
    • Stephen King actually identifies this trope in his non-fiction horror study Danse Macabre, and suggests that in some cases it is partly relief on the part of the audience after a build-up of tension. The bit describing this phenomenon features a quote from somebody who puts it (in rough lines) like this: "The heroine opens the door, and is faced by a ten-feet tall cockroach. The audience screams, but this particular scream sounds almost relieved. 'A ten foot tall bug is pretty horrifying,' they think, 'but I can handle that. I was afraid it might be a HUNDRED feet tall!'
    • Clive Barker also identifies this trope and tries to avert it, showing instead of hiding the gruesome. He's had some degrees of success as far back as Rawhead Rex. Nightbreed could be an subversion in that the monsters are much less scary after being exposed to the audience, but they're also the protagonists of the story. In fact, some are downright Gorgeous Gorgons.
  • Any time a gun does not fire correctly/make a sound during a scary piece of theatre, the scene becomes Nightmare Retardant. However, it not firing correctly might be Nightmare Fuel too, as someone might die. Non-firing guns are made MORE Nightmare Retardant when the actor feels compelled to shout "BANG!" in the absence of the real effect.
  • In general, playing music that is completely unfitting to the scene WILL defuse any tension almost instantly. There are many effective exceptions, however, where Soundtrack Dissonance can increase an audience's unease. Or sometimes much, much worse. note 
  • Any 1950s B-Movie featuring a Slurpasaur
  • When a monster becomes well known and ingrains itself in popular culture, it becomes subject to so much parody, Memetic Mutation, and Bowdlerization that eventually it becomes impossible to take it seriously. Good examples include Satan, Cthulhu, and the subjects of the Universal Horror Classics. This can have the unfortunate side effect of killing the horror in older stories.
  • When something genuinely creepy is overused, to the point where the audience just stops being fazed by it.

    Advertising 
  • One advertisement for Traveler's Insurance has a rattlesnake surprising a hare...except that its rattle was a baby rattle. Cue the hare falling over with laughter and other hares coming out and laughing as well. The snake is understandably mortified.

    Anime 
  • As has been noted elsewhere on the wiki, Belial Vamdemon from Digimon Adventure 02 (MaloMyotismon in the dub). In addition to looking completely stupid, he just stands there and gets pummelled like a moron before literally being killed by the power of childrens's dreams.
    • Oh, it gets even better than that. As many people know Digimon names are formed of descriptive words put together and ending with "mon" for monster. The word "myotis" is Latin for bat, ok so far, but then we find that "malo" is the Spanish word simply meaning "bad". That's right, folks, the Big Bad of Digimon 02 is the Bad Bat Monster.
      • And yet, "malo" is the word for "little" in many Slavic languages, which turns Bad Bat Monster into Little Bat Monster.
      • Contrast that to his original name's translation: Vamdemon=Vampire Demon Monster; Belial=the name given to Satan's form that is arisen upon the Earth during Armageddon.
      • In fact, if it weren't for his Cold-Blooded Torture and downright sadistic murder of Arukenimon and Mummymon, he'd be impossible to take seriously.
    • And his Venom Vamdemon form in the first season wasn't much better, acting mainly like a fairly bland and stupid kaijuu wannabe with a supernatural backstory... up until the "crotch monster" came out. Then it divided everyone between freakish dismay and immature giggling.
    • Don't forget Apocalymon. His quips in the dub make him the most pathetic Big Bad in the series until Belial Vamdemon. Still, some of his lines are pure fourth wall breaking awesome.
    Apocalymon: -hysterical laugh- "WAIT, I'M SUPPOSED TO BE DEPRESSED!"
  • Hellsing Ultimate, while awesome in many ways, would probably have been a lot more frightening if it weren't for all the Gratuitous English.
    • The upbeat drums during the Nazis butchering Londoners while the Major er...ate lunch...epically? rather killed the scariness you'd expect of Nazi vampires killing random Londoners and reviving them as cannibal zombies. This display of callous brutality and the deaths of thousands of noncombatants at the hands of vampires was accompanied by a cheerful drum beat and a chorus of "AKUMA STALKING, DO DO DO DO!" Soundtrack Dissonance much?
  • Random Security Guard Guy being squished with Mortal Kombat blood-spray in Patlabor Wasted XIII. It actually won an award in a magazine for being the most hilarious death all year.
  • Gantz is not scary or horrifying at all, in spite of the egregious amounts of gore. This is mainly due to the fact that, first off, the English dub borders on Gag Dub territory, and second off the series is already slightly Black Comedy to begin with. The manga, on the other hand, is A LOT less campy and a lot more disturbing.
  • Mazinger Z: Count Brocken's appearance -a man whose head and body are split apart, and the former constantly hovers around the later, talking, laughing and screaming- was meant be frightening (in the manga he got Kouji reaaaly scared when he showed up for first time; and in the anime Baron Ashura initially thought it a bodyless ghost). Buuuut in the manga Boss managed grabbing his head when he got distracted, and Kouji and his friends played fetch and Brocken Ball (think of it like soccer, but replacing the ball with Brocken's head. And the only rule is everyone win. Except the ball). It was a tad hard taking him seriously after that. That scene did not happen in the anime, but on the other hand you had Brocken's head and body arguing with themselves -and the body punching the head-, or Ashura grabbing his head and instead of bring it back with the body, slapping him around...
  • In Naruto, Pain is very hard to take seriously ever since his true form has been revealed: an emaciated guy in a wheelchair with bright red hair that would make Carrot Top proud. Others can see his appearance as arguably even more scary and disturbing with the Fridge Horror attached.
    • Pain seems to get hit with this fairly often. There's his Motive Rants, which combined with excessive body piercings makes him sound like an Emo Teen...
    • Manga chapter 427, where he gets knocked across the room by twelve-year-old comic relief character Konohamaru.... Of course, he later recovers from the hit and doesn't even need to repair that body.
    • The terrible, terrible animation quality during the Pain arc did not help, of course.
    • And, last but not least, the tropers who insist on spelling his name "Pein", which never stops looking like "Peen". And/or "Pain", which just fully underscores how emo he is.
    • Orochimaru is introduced as a thoroughly creepy character: eating people's faces off and taking on the role of an already creepy woman (?) and first making himself known by picking up a kunai knife with his tongue and talking about bloodlust because he lost some hair... which all comes into perspective after the Internet "outed" him as gay.
      • His otherwise creepy Body Transfer Technique loses its scary appeal entirely when inside it. That tongue. His expression. I can't.
  • The balloon monster from Corpse Princess. Sure, its bizarre marker-drawn face and creepy voice does slightly help it. What doesn't is its theme. Having a invisible balloon lightly wrap its string around its victims neck to turn their happiness into a marshmallow monster doesn't exactly scream scary.
  • Bleach has the creature known as Allon, who is actually genuine Nightmare Fuel for the first few moments of its introduction. That is, until its ridiculous face is revealed (what we had thought was its face was more like a nose, and its eyes and mouth are hidden), and all fear is promptly forgotten.
    • Aizen has been going through some One-Winged Angel phases as of late. Unfortunately for him, these have only gotten sillier and sillier. The first one has garnered Fan Nicknames along the line of "Tube Sock Ninja" and "Condomman" and led to jokes about how Tite Kubo finally let his background artists design a character. The next was essentially him with a mullet, and as long as you focused on his eyes, only mildly Narmful. But then he went and morphed into a pretty butterfly a six-winged seraph with butterfly wings, and his next comment was drowned out by the chorus of laughter from everyone reading. Made even funnier by the fact that his earlier comments about evolving into a superior being had earned him the Fan Nickname Butterflyzen, which was suddenly perfectly appropriate.
    • When Tousen revealed he'd hollowfied, much of the dramatic impact was lost when his transformed version looked like a big ol' sperm.
  • In the manga of Fullmetal Alchemist, Barry the Chopper fails to look disturbing or scary twice. Once with Alphonse Elric, the other with Riza Hawkeye. He later succeeds with some prison guards.
    Barry: *upon revealing himself as an empty suit of armor* Even if you don't know who I am, shouldn't you be at least a little scared? Shouldn't you be going "AAAH!" or "What happened to your body!?"
    *Al removes his helmet to reveal that he's also an empty suit of armor*
  • One Piece had Duval, whose first appearance was him in huge armor that didn't give out any detail whatsoever on who he was. Things were worse when he said that the Straw Hat Crew should know him. His armor is taken off, and he's...! an ugly man who looks like Sanji's wanted poster. After hearing all these theories on who Duval COULD have been, this turned out instead to be a Crowning Moment of Funny.
    • He is arguably worse after Sanji kicks him until he gets a facelift. The winking is terrifying.
    • This trope could probably go to the entire show. The Devil Fruit ability seems completely horrifying. When thought of realistically, it becomes hilarious when you realize the people using them are very different than us. The tool that can wipe an island off the map? A golden snail. A lady that can make any part of her body appear on any solid object? She made wings (and flew) from her arms. The boy that had to reconstruct himself after being hit by a train? Franky.
    • And that's not even getting into Thriller Bark. After watching that arc, you may never look at zombies seriously again. ZOMBIE NIGHT!
  • After watching Mistress of the Tome of the Night Sky Tremendae, you will find it hard to be scared by a certain Break the Cutie scene in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's.
  • Maria's faces in the Anime adaptation of Umineko no Naku Koro ni. The original visual novel succeeded in making Maria creepy through subtle expressions and description. That's not mentioning her head on a plate, that instead of creeping most fans out, inevitably reminded them of Tako Luka, and thus ended up being morbidly cute. The Anime decided to take a different route... (Warning: Link is not an example of this trope.)
  • In the translated version of The Enigma of Amigara Fault, the sound effect DRR DRR DRR doesn't quite read in many people's minds the way the translator intended.
  • The monsters in Mermaid Saga would have been a little ridiculous no matter what, given their ridiculously oversize eyes. The capital mistake, though, was to have the first one in the manga be a still-sentient Woobie with a speech impediment. It's hard to take the later Smash Mooks seriously at all. (To be fair, the primary fear here isn't being killed by one of these freaks, but turning into one of them.)
  • Mimi no Kaidan, illustrated by horror master Junji Ito, features some prime nightmare retardant, particularly on this page. Works best on a small screen and out of context.
    • Quite a few of Junji Ito's works suffer from this because of their sheer absurdity. They would be scary if they weren't so ridiculous and unrealistic.
  • All the Sailor Moon Monsters of the Week after season 3 might fall in this category.
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni much of the horror comes from not knowing what is causing all these horrible occurences to happen and why. As the second season explains more and more, much of the original horror is lost. Perhaps most notably in finding out that the sinister deity Oyashiro-sama is in fact Hanyuu, a Cute Ghost Girl who just wanted to help all along. On a similar note, in both seasons, there are moments where the "crazy faces" kill the horror.
  • Charlotte's One-Winged Angel form in Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a large worm made out of candy with a face that looks like a grinning clown (and not a Slasher Smile at that). It's thus hard to take seriously until it devours Mami.
    • Or you are afraid of clowns.
    • Though one could argue that it's cute appearance made biting Mami's head off a million times worse.
    • The Witches and their labyrinths can turn into this. While the imagery is supposed to give off a feeling of other-worldliness, it's hard to take seriously when it most of the designs look they were lifted from Monty Python's Flying Circus, or at least that they were all made on drugs.
  • Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion was meant to inhabit the Uncanny Valley, and probably does. Suffices to say that she has an entry at the Moe page.
  • There's an example in YuYu Hakusho almost certainly done on purpose. Mysterious old man Onji, who had just effortlessly beaten Kuwabara, rips off his face like a mask...and then, in a puff of cartoonish pink smoke, reveals himself as "The Beautiful Demon Fighter" Suzuki. The horror of both the characters and the audience is instantly replaced with hilarious incredulity.
    • Done again the first time we see Puu. We find out that the egg that Yusuke got when he was dead is about to hatch. Koenma goes on to warn him how even he doesn't know what will come out, or what it will do. Yusuke stands to face whatever is about to appear. The egg hatches, he looks around. The spirit 'beast' is an adorable blue penguin with Yusuke's hairstyle. It is perched on his head.
  • Mentioned in Kara no Kyoukai by Aozaki in Paradox Spiral on how not to make it a monster a Nightmare Retardant, one of those rules being that the monster has to be something that is unknowable.

    Comic Books 
  • An issue of Ambush Bug featured Quantis, the koala that walks like a man who is really Dr Quentin Quantis turned into a giant koala thanks to a serum containing the essence of cuteness. This giant marsupial even has the authorities going "Aaaaaw!" rather than trying to destroy it. It sounds really funny doesn't it? Then there's the fact that it goes "Niknak!".
  • As awesome as the recent Brainiac arc in Action Comics was (which actually contained fairly competent, if mild, nightmare fuel) it also contained spaceships shaped like skulls. No... I don't think so. (Still, skull-shaped ships in a Brainiac storyarc must be due to the Grandfather Clause.)
  • The Red Skull had the same problem in the Silver Age, with his skull-shaped space-station (red, of course). It wasn't as scary as he likely wanted it to be, probably the reason he got rid of such stuff in more modern times.
  • Your view on Christabella from Silent Hill: Dying Inside will probably range somewhere between "scary" and "creepy". But the moment she starts swearing like a sailor, you will most likely zero in on "ridiculous".
  • In a word, M.O.D.O.K., a villain first fought by Iron Man. When A.I.M. first created this guy, a mutated, ugly head with small arms and legs on a high-tech chair with the brain of an Evil Genius, he was pretty intimidating. Unfortunately, Villain Decay made him more and more ridiculous, even more so when they introduced a Distaff Counterpart called "Mrs. M.O.D.O.K.". M.O.D.O.K. has since become an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, whose Crowning Moment of Stupidity was likely challenging Thor to a fight - only to be smashed in one hit.

    Fan Fic 

    Film 
  • The dancing ghost boy in Insidious.
  • The scene in Drag Me to Hell wherein the goat is possessed by the malevolent spirit and the lamia dances. Although, being directed by Sam Raimi, this was probably the goal.
  • All five of the Scary Movie films, along with Stan Helsing, are based entirely on this trope.
  • Narrowly avoided during shooting of the original Predator. The original costume had a bulky space suit with a snake-like head sticking out that bounced around like crazy. It was everything the directors did not want and they demanded a new design after one day.
  • Eight Legged Freaks, though played for Black Humor, starts with -and quickly ruins- a potentially very scary premise: realistic-looking giant spiders are pretty horrifying, but the decision to give the spiders all sorts of "wacky" jabbering noises as they run amok destroys whatever potential horror the movie could have had.
    • It wasn't just the noises. There is a memorable scene where a spider jumps the stuffed head of a moose, only to take a bite and looking visibly annoyed at the taste.
  • The 1931 version of Dracula contains two misguided attempts at symbolism: a close-up shot of a Jerusalem cricket (which looks a lot like a giant bee) crawling out of a coffin and a "giant rat," played by an opossum. In the Spanish version of the film, the "giant rat" falls off of the ledge it is walking on during the shot. And then there's the armadillos and the "terrifying" rubber bats on strings in that and so many other early Dracula films.
    • Lovingly homaged by The Monster Squad, which fills Dracula's lair with rubber bats and armadillos.
  • Nosferatu: in the opening scenes the villagers claim a werewolf roams through the forest at night. The atmosphere is really creepy and the audience wonders what this creature will look like. When the protagonist goes to sleep the camera shows a wolf like creature walking in the forest, but it's clearly not a werewolf, left alone a wolf, but a striped hyena! And it's strange to downright ridiculous that this animal walks around in Transylvania, Romania.
  • The "bat suit" in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Apparently it was added because Gary Oldman didn't feel he could be scary enough for that scene. Ironic, since he was a lot scarier without the dippy rubber suit.
  • The title character from Robot Monster (pictured above) was a guy in a gorilla suit. And a diver's helmet.
  • The MST3K commentary for The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies?! —which definitely definitely fits here— was one of the earliest uses of the term "Nightmare Fuel". The earliest was Santa Claus — which actually was pretty scary, but not in the intended scenes.
  • In Attack of the Prehistoric Women, the women at one point need to defend themselves from a ferocious dinosaur, played by a superimposed iguana.
    • This was very common in prehistoric movies from the 70s and earlier.
  • Night of the Lepus is about giant rampaging killer rabbits... which are played either by cute little bunnies on a scale-model set, or people wearing garish rabbit suits. Yes, it's as hilariously awful as it sounds. Here. The saddest part is that the portions of the movie where the rabbits aren't on screen are actually pretty decent, and the miniature work is, for the most part, very good. It's just that, well, you've seen the clip.
    • To quote one succinct reviewer: 'The basic problem is, an ant magnified a thousand times is a monster, but a bunny magnified twenty times is still a bunny.'
    • One instance of miniature work that isn't good is the down-the-empty street shot... with the 'giant killer stagehand' stepping off to the side.
  • Beginning of the End featured giant mutant grasshoppers played by regular-sized grasshoppers crawling across pictures of the Chicago skyline.
    • Not quite as glaring as most other examples, since most insects do look pretty creepy when filmed up close or magnified.
  • Teenagers from Outer Space used the shadow of a lobster for its giant monster.
  • Werewolf had a monster that changed its look throughout the film. One of which being the producer's own pet dog. Yuri's hair was scarier than the Werewolves.
  • Any character played by Tor Johnson. "Time for go to bed!"
  • A lot of the current SciFi, I mean, Syfy films suffer from this. Hard.
    • Considering that SyFy Original Movies are made exclusively by the infamously Z-quality Asylum Studios, this is hardly suprising.
    • Every now and then, SyFy actually comes up with ideas that sound promising and might be a little scary. Then the monster appears.
  • In a scene near the end of the film version of The Day of the Triffids, the characters shelter at the top of a lighthouse while a triffid's tendril crawls up the stairs towards them. Unfortunately, it's quite obvious that the tendril is a sock puppet. Also, the Triffids themselves were basically giant sunflowers. SUNFLOWERS.
  • While the first movie in the series is pretty good, all of the other films of the Friday the 13th franchise fit this trope to a T. There is something strangely comedic about seeing a guy in a hockey mask wander around the woods like he's lost, machete or no machete.
    • The bits where Mrs. Voorhees assumes the character of Jason and starts saying things like "Kill her, Mommy!"
    • The production team and writers seemed to invoke this trope willingly for Jason X, when he's presented with a hologram of 2 busty, naked co-eds saying that they love partying and having unprotected sex. Hilarity Ensues. After a cut-back to the crew of the ship.
  • The original King Kong was released as a very frightening horror movie and was effective as such for many years. There were people fainting in the audience when it was first shown. Advanced effects have made us jaded. The version from 1976 has aged even worse, mostly because it doesn't even try to have Kong move like anything but a guy shuffling around in a gorilla suit.
  • Spider-Man 3: Venom is pretty much living horror, so it's a little disconcerting to hear Topher Grace's voice coming out of his mouth. And whenever he talks he pulls back the face so Topher Grace's face can be seen; that also doesn't help.
  • There is one part of the video-game-to-film adaptation of Silent Hill in which the Creepy Child bursts into flame and says "Look...I'm burning." Owing to how subjective this trope is, you either were creeped out by it or laughed your head off.
  • Troll 2. The first one was no masterpiece, but this not-really-a-sequel about goblins who turn people into spinach or something is just So Bad, It's Good. "Oh my GAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWD!"
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkeys don't pack the terrifying punch they used to, though they still scare some younger kids.
  • The 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera appeared to have passed the test of time when it comes to this. Although reactions may not be as extreme today, the unmasking scene will still make many people jump in surprise. It even has the ever creepy uplighting technique. Unfortunately, when the Phantom jumps up and points directly at Christine after the unmasking, things that were once considered scary turn hilarious... at least if you're a fan of Family Guy, in which the Phantom's iconic scene was adapted for the Evil Monkey. Otherwise, the Phantom is still pretty damn petrifying.
  • Listen to the noise the parasites in Cloverfield make. It sounds like Donald Duck, for God's sake. Or maybe Yoshi. Fortunately Clover's roar more than made up for the silly parasite chittering.
  • In The Creeping Terror, the eponymous creeping terror was an alien who ate things to study their biology (or something like that), and it was clearly supposed to strike fear in the viewers, but only made them giggle. It resembled a large carpet slug that shuffled along slowly, and its victims, instead of running away like most sensible people would have done, stood there and screamed while the creature ate them. The costume was such that the victims actually had to crawl into the hole in the front that was supposed to be its mouth.
  • Wes Craven's Cursed was a good example of this trope, where the scenes meant to be scary were downright funny, and the scenes meant to be funny were downright cheesy. From the predictable plot, to the bad acting, to the cheesy dialogue, this movie has it all. Strange how a film intended to reinvent the werewolf genre ends up falling back on every single Hollywood werewolf convention. To be fair though, the movie turned out this way in part due to Executive Meddling.
    • Then there's the scene where a werewolf appears above the balcony after Christina Ricci's character taunts its fashion sense, flipping the bird and roaring "fuck you!", before dying in a hail of bullets.
  • The Scare Chords in the otherwise creepy The Descent.
  • The 1989 horror movie Food of the Gods 2 has a scene in which giant rats attack a swimming competition. The cheesy special effects however, kills any shred of horror from the scene. The intercutting shots of panicked people in a normal sized competition pool with shots of ordinary-sized rats walking around and splashing in an obvious miniature pool had no credibility whatsoever.
  • Super Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II was supposed to be scary, but all anyone remembers is that he yelled, pounded a boardwalk above it, got crushed by the damn boardwalk while yelling some more, then died. Doesn't help that Super Shredder was played by Kevin "argh my quad!" Nash either.
  • Bane in Batman & Robin.
  • The 80's horror film House has Sandywitch, a disgusting, nightmarish monster that attacks and tries to kill main hero Roger Cobb. But any pretenses of it being scary quickly fade when it speaks, as it talks in a high-pitched chipmunk voice.
  • The undead Sammi Curr in Trick Or Treat is an electric ghost, whose weakness is water. Fine enough, but when your movie's villain is shown being hurt by having his foot stuck in a toilet, he loses all credibility as a threat.
  • Mary Poppins has a nightmarish sequence when the Banks children flee their father's bank after accidentally throwing it into chaos. In their panic, they wander into the East End slums, dodging various frightening people until it climaxes with them colliding with a dark man seeming about to abduct them. However, when that dark man turns out to be their dear trusted friend, Bert, the whole mood instantly lightens with the audience knowing the children are in safe hands now.
  • The Happening could, at one point, have been a suspenseful horror with a strong mystery element. Poor acting and the ridiculousness of the causes however scuttle any chances of that.

    Literature 
  • An in-story example comes from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Prof. Lupin is describing a boggart, a creature that turns into whatever the person in front of it is most afraid of. A boggart's weakness, however, is trying to scare more than one person at a time. Lupin recounts a time when he saw a boggart try to turn into both a headless corpse and a flesh-eating slug at once: "Turned himself into half a slug. Not remotely frightening."
    • Emphasized in the primary narrative when Neville admits that the thing he is most afraid of is Professor Snape, closely followed by his grandmother. But Professor Snape dressed in grandmother's clothes ... "not remotely frightening".
  • Many, many Goosebumps stories, usually due to either a ridiculous/nonfrightening subject matter or shoddy writing, or both. Given that they're written by a large ensemble of ghost writers, the level of quality varies like you wouldn't believe, with many stories landing this trope pitifully easily, and others ending up being...genuinely terrifying. Sometimes in ways that the author didn't intend.
  • In-universe example: during Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy is separated from the party and forced to break into a magician's study to find a spell. She climbs up the stairs and goes down the long hallway on her own, during which everything is dead silent and creepy masks watch her from the wall—she even gets a minor Jump Scare when she catches a glimpse of her reflection in a 'bearded mirror' (a mirror that makes her look as though she has a beard). However, once she gets the spell, Aslan himself shows up and the magician, Coriakin, turns out to be a Cool Old Guy,
    and Lucy noticed how different the whole top floor looked now that she was no longer afraid of it. The mysterious signs on the doors were still mysterious but now looked as if they had kind and cheerful meanings, and even the bearded mirror now seemed funny rather than frightening.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who, being a show that has relied heavily on monsters since the very first season, has many examples.
    • "The Talons of Weng Chiang" has a subplot about a giant rat in the sewers of nineteenth century London. The effect was achieved by filming an ordinary rat in a scale model of the sewer and intercutting it with reaction shots of the actors in the life-sized sewer set. We're already into Narm and Special Effects Failure territory, but there's more. To complete the illusion, a nearly immobile life-sized giant rat was built. It looks jarringly different from the real rat, and is the exact opposite of threatening. This trope is in fullest effect in the cliffhanger where the camera dramatically zooms in to the cute rat plushie while the tense music reaches a crescendo.
    • The revived Doctor Who has the much-reviled (and much-loved) Abzorbaloff. Imagine a slimy green sumo wrestler...with human faces sprouting from random places on its body. Probably justified as it was conceived by an 8-year old for a contest (although the original Abzorbaloff in the boy's mind was the size of a double-decker bus.) It might have intentionally been played this way by the writers, given that it was the Monster of the Week from possibly the biggest Bizarro Episode in the show's history.
    • "End of the Time Lords" involves an Assimilation Plot where just about every human being on Earth is suddenly and forcefully transformed into The Master. Of course, this includes the women too, and the clothes aren't transformed. Pair that with The Master's Crazy Awesome Large Ham tendencies, and it goes from Nightmare Fuel straight into comedy.
    • Daleks! These things look like moving trashcans with a toilet plumbing device attached to them. They certainly are scary jackasses and very dangerous, but they look simply ridiculous.

    Video Games 
  • In Silent Hill Origins, you are able to control the transition from the fog world to the nightmarish otherworld by touching a mirror. It significantly lessens the power of being transported to a nightmarish industrial Hell if you do it willfully and deliberately (or worse, go back and forth between worlds trying to figure out what to do next).
    • Mind you, that at least feels congruous with the story there. It's not as bad as the Patients from Silent Hill 4: The Room. They could have been scary, but due to the noise they make when hit, well... Nothing like a monster that BELCHES when hit to derail the scary, folks!
  • The Arise flash games. Just try to actually get scared from the randomly appearing Halloween masks and stock horror music. (That or just watch the Retsupuraes.)
  • The introduction to Zero Wing would've been more dramatic had the "All your base are belong to us." part and other bad translations from the game had been scrapped.
  • Horror, another laughably terrible Newgrounds game that has been retsupuraed.
  • In Killer Instinct, there's Fulgore. He's a Badass killer robot with long, sharp claws, glowing red eyes, and some of the goriest Finishing Moves in the game. He also makes elephant noises when you hit him.
  • Half-Life 2 introduced the "fast zombies," truly terrifying monstrosities that looked like flayed, emaciated corpses, moved like wild baboons on speed and howled loudly in blood-curdling screams as they attacked you. Except one of the stock sound clips was taken from the title sequence of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
  • Nightmare Doors is a satirical example of horror filled with this.
  • Nemesis is supposed to be a terrifying Implacable Man who chases the player unceasingly around Raccoon City and can never be stopped for very long. Thing is, while he's frustrating to kill, it's relatively simple to kick his ass every time he shows up. After a while, you almost start to feel sorry for the big old moron.
  • The Imprisoned is a large, menacing monster that haunts Link's nightmares throughout the first part of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. But when you finally face the thing in battle, it may be hard not to crack up at its almost cutesy-looking feet and the fact that it looks like a giant man-eating pinecone.
  • The indie horror game Forest, being similar to Slender does have a general creepy atmosphere but if you get caught by the ghost girl, you see she has the face of the Overly Attached Girlfriend.
  • A rare intentional example - The video game Night Trap was an FMV Game in the 90s. The filmers intentionally tried to invoke this trope. In fact, one of them even admitted that in one of the times you see the characters die, the augers take out a device that's so unrealistic and over the top that there's no way kids would ever try to replicate it. In fact, one of the directors said that there were people laughing on the stage.
  • In Game & Wario's "Gamer" stage, 9-Volt's mom goes all horror movie on her son, doing stuff like punching his windows open, emerging through his TV, and flailing on his bedroom floor to scare him. Much of the mood is caused by the eerily quiet atmosphere until she suddenly bursts in. However, you are also simultaneously playing loud and silly-looking games on the Wii U GamePad involving stuff like flattening dough or picking noses.

    Web Original 
  • Up and sleepless at 3AM because you watched Marble Hornets? No worries.
    • In the similar Marble Bumblebee, Slendy comes off as clumsy, petty, or an attention whore.
    • No wifin in da club, Gimme 20 dollas...
    • When you've seen a few other Alternate Reality Games have the wind taken out of them by people making jokes (such as Slendy just wanting to get buff) or saying "this is all fak y u guys takng so srsly", it becomes clear that this is why MH disabled comments on their videos.
    • Also, on the Marble Hornets DVD; watch the entries with the DVD commentary on. It's hard to take entry #1 seriously ever again while Troy Wagner (i.e. Jay) explains how Joseph DeLage (i.e. Alex) made a promise to go streaking if the video ever reached a million hits on Youtube. And they absolutely RUIN the Totheark videoes in terms of scariness. The boys realise they're too short for proper commentary, so they just put stupid jokes over the top of them. More or less the commentary removes all the scary and replaces it with pure, unadulterated funny.
    • Also, if you're unfamiliar with The Slender Man Mythos, you might mistake Slendy for Jack Skellington. In fact, in Seeking Truth, Zeke even refers to the drawings made by the first victim as ". . . what looked like Jack Skellington with about six extra arms and no eye holes, or any facial features, for that matter."
    • In the radio interview with the two creators, they mention how any attempt to make the Operator's head snap towards the camera in Entry 6 resulted in a A Night At The Roxbury head bop on the Operator. Cue Haddaway!
    • The whole mood is also a bit lost when you realize that, with Slendy spending most of his times watching hidden in the background, most entries on the mythos can be seen as Where's Waldo? 's spooky cousin...
    • For the realization of a similar concept, see this video, courtesy of Retsupurae.
    • There's also "Trenderman", a character created on Tumblr after someone noted that the faceless, featureless clothing store mannequins resemble Slenderman. He generally shows up just to give fashion advice.
    • Any of the shorts on troyhasacamera, and the simple knowledge that these are the same people behind Marble Hornets, is enough to put one's mind at ease just a bit.
    • There's also the fact that the first appearance of Slender Man online was on Something Awful, during one of their regular Photoshop competitions.
  • The Arise Flash Series, especially if the viewer is viewing Retsupurae's Retsuflash of the games.
  • "Suicide Mouse.avi" is a purported lost animation by Walt Disney that supposedly causes insanity and suicide to whoever watches it. That's why kitty0706 was kind enough to provide you with The GMod Suicide Mouse Survival Guide!
  • Encyclopedia Dramatica has a page on creepypasta. However, they also have that page for "Retarded Creepypasta", which were either attempts at creepypastas that fell flat, or silly parodies of creepypastas. (Some of the most infamous being "THEN A SKELETON POPPED OUT" and "THEN WHO WAS PHONE?")
    • Speaking of Creepy Pastas, give Soviet Creepypastas a try if American ones freak you out.
    • "TEH DAY OF ALL THE BLOD" was created by Bogleech as an intentionally So Bad, It's Good creepypasta in all caps about a man who starts bleeding everywhere until everyone gets sick of it and sends him to outer space. And the final twist is that he was YOU (or he was a lady if you are a lady) and you forgot this every happened.
    • It's been pointed out that the fact that Jeff The Killer burnt off his eyelids makes him a crappy villain; if he comes for you, even if he's able to see you despite never being able to blink or sleep, just put your fingers in his eyes and pull out his eyeballs. Also, did you notice that he looks like a bastard child of The Joker and Barney the Dinosaur?
  • VooDooWop pokes fun at paranormal investigating shows in their skit called Haunted Homes.
  • Joke SCPs are a deliberate use of this trope.
    • As for accidental examples, SCPs tend to be much less terrifying if you recognize the decidedly non-anomalous source of the page image. For example, there's one of a large, strange mass of random aircraft parts (I forget the number and description), which is instantly recognizable to anyone who's visited (or even walked past) the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, on account of being a a perfectly ordinary (as ordinary as modern art gets, anyway) and entirely uncontained sculpture on permanent display smack dab in the middle of the main courtyard out front.
  • Exmortis 3 - the third installment of a series of flash games - is considerably less scary than the previous two. Things become a lot less scary when your character becomes a superhuman that has telekinesis and can cause people / evil beings to explode. With his mind. This is especially pronounced when you come to a horror-filled room with a cannibalistic survivor that wants to eat you. Until you immediately pwn him and hold him up in the air with your mind. He practically pisses himself in fear, and the horrific feeling kind of... goes away.
  • This is a natural hazard for horror-themed Play By Post Games, given that they usually have a very crude art style in order to update in a timely manner. Even the better ones only become scary once you've been reading long enough to get sucked in—it's difficult to adequately convey the scariness of a particular section to someone who hasn't been read previous sections.
  • H(a)unting is a blog about three people and their encounters with Slender Man, who is one of the most genuinely creepy mythos creatures out there, particularly considering his origin - with the Rake and a second Slender-creature known as //IT// showing up later - and the Rake is essentially the main character's dog, Slenderman gives her candy for winning a Pokemon tournament and brings her a flashlight during a storm, and can not only be beat up by her, but by her pet chicken too. Oh, and she's conveniently immune to Slendy and the Rake's powers, and is special in almost every way. Mary Sue much? In any case, you simply cannot be afraid of a Slenderman who is afraid of a silkie chicken, brings frightened girls flashlights, and gives people Reeses candy for winning a video game tournament.
  • In Hyperbole And A Half, the main character tried to give her younger sister nightmares with a ghost story about blood, closets, killers, blood, ghosts, and more blood. It didn't work.
  • Anytime Slenderman appears in the works from Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. He is usually calling out "Hey Guys!" in an friendly tone (with demonic distortion), almost always has a smile on his face compared to his usual faceless appearances, and seems like he actually wants to be part of whatever Marik and Bakura are doing at the time, whether it be filming a movie or making appearances in their Let's Plays.
  • The Vaguely Recalling JoJo series turns the horrifying moments of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure into unintentional moments of hilarity.
    • The scene where Steely Dan mostly kills Enya with Dio's buds is ruined by the Biohazard parody.
    • The nightmarish Page is replaced with the gonk Pesci
    • The scene where Telence shows off his doll collection is ruined by the cameos within that collection.

    Western Animation 
  • As an example of Nightmare Retardant within a series, the pilot episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy had the Grim Reaper confused and annoyed that the two children weren't afraid of him, which, along with Mandy's rather sarcastic response that he was "a truly terrifying and horrific creature", set the tone for the entire series to come.
    • Another in-universe example: the Boogeyman. He tries. Really.
  • An episode of The Backyardigans was based around this entire trope. The episode was titled "Scared Of You" and featured Tasha as a mad scientist with Austin playing her assistant, she gives Austin some secret notes and tells him it's a secret (a birthday invite because it's Austin's birthday in this episode) and tells him to find three monsters: A mummy king (Tyrone), a rather cute werewolf (Uniqua) and a vampire (Pablo). When he meets the mummy king at first, the mummy king is terrified of him at first but then says..."You're not scary", the same happens when he meets the werewolf and the vampire, he then points out that none of them are scary. Then at the end they reach the spooky castle where his master lives, the monsters all go and hide while he looks around, then everyone yells out "Surprise!", and a big monster dance party starts.
  • The Simpsons:
    • A non Treehouse of Horror example is the Screamatorium, a very low budget and pathetic ghost ride that features cheap ghosts stuck to the walls, a coffin containing nothing but a spring, and an old woman telling people about the "ravages of age." It then becomes hilarious when there's a skeleton that goes hee haw like a donkey!
    • There is a Treehouse of Horror episode where Flanders attempts to make a "Hell House", a religious alternative to Halloween haunted houses with intent to scare people, in this case, children, into being a good Christian. It starts off as Nightmare Retardant, with a crappy sketch where Skinner gets hit by a cardboard bus after looking at a smutty magazine, punished for thinking the human body is beautiful. The children think it's stupid, and thus fails in converting them, so Flanders prays to God to give him the ability to scare the kids into religion. This trope is subverted: God answers, and Flanders turns into a Satan-looking monster and forces them to sit in a hellish realm, and watch several scenes featuring the consequences of the seven deadly sins. By the end, the children promise to be good Christians.
    • Inverted and played for laughs with The Grumple, a character from an ice-show that looks like a man in a Dr. Suess-ian suit. Later in the episode, Homer knocks it out in a bar fight, and we see it has green blood.
    Homer: What the hell is this thing?
  • One episode of South Park has live-action footage of "giant" guinea pigs terrorizing the town and its citizens.
    It's a guinea mouse!
    No! It's a Guinea Bear!
    • The episode "Cow Days" had another deliberate example of this too, with a haunted house that was decidedly un-scary.
    "So, the Chamber of Farts has another victim, eh? Don't worry; there are no ghouls here. Only... farts!"
  • Invader Zim spoofed this trope a couple of times. Remember the disgusting, horrifying and unspeakably grotesque ROOM WITH THE MOOSE??
    • Ultra Peepi to a lesser extent. His unbearable cuteness sweeps away all the horror he fairly causes among people at first, which makes it a whole lot easier for him to destroy the city (even the military refuses to attack the cute giant hamster). But the point is that Ultra Peepi wasn't actually intended to be horrifying at all. He was supposed to be a genuine Nightmare Retardant, so that people wouldn't pay much attention to the havoc the hamster's creating, therefore letting themselves be gradually killed off.
  • In Ben 10: Omniverse, villain Trumbipulor attempts to invoke Nightmare Fuel by designing his Mecha-Mooks to look like the most horrible, menacing and scary creatures he can think of. The problem is, being an elephant, he is scared of mice. Needless to say, the heroes aren't really impressed seeing robot mice attacking them.
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants: In "Scaredy Pants" SpongeBob tries to frighten trick-or-treaters by putting a sheet over his head and pretending to be a ghost, but the kids just laugh at him and call him "The Haunted Mattress."
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) reimagines Krang as an entire species akin to the Utroms called "The Kraang", who get around using disguises that, even compared to the stylized designs of the show, look very, very fake. They seem like they'd be borderline Paranoia Fuel... But then they start speaking in nothing but redundant, corrupted metaphors or literal-minded phrases, pretty much destroying the fear factor.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force has an in-universe example with Willie Nelson, a monster who lives in the Aqua Teens' attic, but isn't very good at being scary even when Master Shake tries to teach him how to. And then they find out what the attic looks like...
    • There's also the episode with a sinister ventriloquist doll who marks his entrance going "Kill...KILL...KILL!" with a dramatic close-up and ominous music. He quickly turns out to be completely harmless, and more annoying than anything else. Then they find out Carl got a similar doll who says "Die!" instead of "Kill!" and the two hook up.
    • And then the episode where Frylock kills Shake, Meatwad and Carl, who come back as zombies to torment him into a nervous breakdown as his house burns down around him. Then they start getting into a repetitive, overly-long argument and it turns funny again.

    Other 
  • Explored in this article '10 Scenes of Brutal Violence Guaranteed to Make You Laugh'.
  • For many, The End of the World as We Know It falls into this due to people at least annually announcing the end is near. There are even sites dedicated to mocking this phenomenon.
  • Pretty much happens to anything scary if you choose to face your fears directly. Except for guns. Please do not face guns directly. Or hungry dangerous wild animals.
  • Done intentionally in this youtube video. It starts out showing a fairly horrifying soundtrack, and then doing so backwards. Then, it plays Gordon Freeman's soundtrack backwards. Followed by the sound made when a certain enemy dies. When played backwards, you get the song Bananaphone.
  • The entire Monster Clown genre. For those who, as children, never found clowns even slightly scary, it's hard to take such characters seriously, let alone be scared of them. Wonderfully lampshaded in The Tick: "People laugh at Proto-Clown, so Proto-Clown smash!"
  • "Fairies Wear Boots" is this in itself, but it gets worse if you picture said fairies as this.
  • In fact, just take something that you find scary in mind. Take a long hard look about what it is and why you are afraid of it. Examples?
    • Dem Bones - Walking skeletons... technically what you are. (That just became unintentional Fridge Horror, didn't it?)
    • Malevolent Masked Man - The same things trick-or-treaters wear.
    • Giant Spiders - spiders and insects are never bigger than a dinner plate because those're the limits of exoskeletons - sea spiders aside (not that you'll 'ever' see one of those in your life, of course). Furthermore, the bigger a spider is the more harmless it is. Those dinner-plate spiders? Completely harmless, unless you have an allergic reaction to them. Besides, spiders will only ever bite you to defend themselves.
    • Snakes - also mostly harmless, and even if they're not? Knee-high boots. They'll only ever bite you to defend themselves, usually after some sort of prominent threat-display which gives you a chance to back away and not get bitten like an idiot.
    • Elephants and hippopotamuses (hippopotami?). Both are very large animals more than capable of killing you in half a dozen different ways if they feel like it. Both are so incredibly goofy-looking that in fiction they're more or less relegated to the comic relief of the animal world.
    • Dolphins, who are considered ridiculously cute critters., despite the fact that they're known to kill sharks.
    • Also chimpanzees, who are regarded as really funny animals, despite the fact they've been known to kill people.
    • Baboons, as well, even though they have teeth made of scimitars and Ebola, and are one of the few animals that are habitually sadistic, torturing other creatures (especially lion cubs) for fun, which not even humans do (normally).
  • Feathered dinosaurs, especially those that sank into public consciousness as scaly, reptilian monsters (such as raptors) might be viewed as such by people who are oblivious to the more "fearsome" birds of our time, or simply because some illustrations tend to depict them still acting like monsters but looking like brightly colored, overgrown turkeys (akin to a prehistoric Monster Clown), or as harmless-looking, cute feather-balls.



Nightmare FuelAudience ReactionsNo Problem with Licensed Games
Nausea FuelUnexpected Reactions to This IndexOpening a Can of Clones
Robot MonsterImageSource/Live-Action FilmsThe Rock
NarmBad Writing IndexRelationship Writing Fumble

alternative title(s): Nightmare Fail; Nightmare Repellent
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
125606
0