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Ominous Music Box Tune
A music box tune that sounds a bit off. It may have an overly cheery or depressing sound to it or the tune just seems to be completely out of place. Either way, the effect is just creepy, and there is something not quite right about it. Something not quite right at all. Shows up in horror movies and TV shows occasionally.

Compare Ironic Nursery Tune, Creepy Circus Music, and Creepy Children Singing, where creepy songs and nursery rhymes are played in the background to add tension and fear to a scene. Similar to the Uncanny Valley, in that the tiny bit that's "off" is what makes it feel very wrong.

For a tune which has the general sound of a music box but isn't actually played on one, see Music Box Intervals.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • Shinigami Death Punch: The ending theme of Shinigami Death Punch! features lyrics set to a very ominous music box tune.
  • Given the eerie nature of the series, a few of the songs Higurashi no Naku Koro ni are like this: Kikai, Henka, Hayashi, Giwaku, Hyoui, Tatari, the main theme (not the opening song), etc.
    • The main theme is accompanied by a very distinctive, creepy, subdued sort of wailing, but it may takes one or two times through the series before you notice it's actually Hanyuu's Verbal Tic, with the morbid creepiness turned Up to Eleven. No, seriously.
    • Its sequel has a few as well. The ones that stick out most are "worldend solo" and "Wingless."
  • Elfen Lied: Heji, Lilium, Uso Sora, Katsubou, and especially Yureai. In fact, there's even a physical music box as part of the plot.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Crime of Innocence, Rei I, M-4 piano, The passage of emptiness, Jesu: Joy of Man's Desiring (which is played in the DVD menu).
  • Kabe no Mukou (The Other Side of the Wall) is played whenever Kaede becomes depressed or slips into insanity, in the anime SHUFFLE!.
  • Vampire Knight: Maria Kurenai's theme.
    • One could also count the music box version of "Still Doll" (the ending song)as well.
  • D.Gray-Man: Road Kamelot's song, which she sings whilst she makes Marshall Yeegar relive his worst memory over and over and over.
  • "Melodie", the musical watch chime from Noir, which is both very creepy (hint: it triggers all kinds of ugly flashbacks for two of the three Noir candidates) and very ripped off from For a Few Dollars More.
  • Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence had an entire sequence set inside a very creepy Mind Screw mansion, all accompanied by the world's biggest music box ("The Doll House" versions 1 and 2). The score composer said in interview that he wanted it to sound like you were inside said music box - and he most certainly succeeded.
    • In the Making Of-extras on the DVD it's shown how they did it: they had a company specializing in music boxes make them a huge one to play the tune, and then took it into some empty mine shaft to record it. Sure, they could have just electronically added the echo, but it just wouldn't have been authentic enough.
  • One can be heard at the beginning and ending of episode 11 of Ghost Stories.
  • Whenever England from Axis Powers Hetalia is either trying magic or talking to his supernatural (and invisible to everyone else) friends, one of these is used.
    • One is used at the beginning of Russia's character song "Winter."
    • One is also used in the anime during Russia and Lithuania's first meeting.
      • Russia's theme from the World Series soundtrack, Vodka on a Snowy Night, uses this too.
  • The "Julia" theme from Cowboy Bebop is very reminiscent of a music box up until the penultimate episode where it's sung briefly.
    • It's even shown being played on a music box in an episode.
  • Suito Kusanagi in The Sky Crawlers has a large stationary music box in her office, that plays the movie's theme tune. It's probably a Shout-Out to the director's previous work, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, mentioned above.
  • Lacie from Pandora Hearts has shades of this. One is also used in episode 10.
  • "Waltz for Strain", the Bootstrapped Theme of Soukou no Strain and the source of many other pieces of BGM in the series (such as Sara's battle theme), has a music box variation, which is probably the most well-known version (it even plays on the official website). It's actually associated with in-story music boxes, too.
  • Averted in Ashita no Nadja, where the music box's Waltz Number 5 melody is actually a cheerful and sweet song.
  • This remix of 'Theme of Puella Magi' from Puella Magi Madoka Magica uses this trope to great effect.
  • D.N.Angel: Occurs at the end of episode 20 here when Mio Hio worriedly watches as Daisuke tries to put his key shaped pendant through Riku's heart shaped pendant so that they'll be bonded forever. Also occurs in episode 26 as Dark and Krad are fighting.
  • In Kaijudo, whenever Razorkinder Puppet is summoned, one of these plays.

    Film 
  • The music from a musical box entrances the killer into a homicidal state of mind in Dario Argento's Deep Red.
  • The Sandman in Hanna.
  • Davey Jones' music box in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It was supposed to be romantic—because of Davy Jones and Calypso/Tia Dalma, but the effect was kind of ruined when they did that crazy-evil organ arrangement while the fish-pirates were scrubbing the deck.
    • This is also an instance of the planet wide cinematic regulation which says that wistful music-box melodies must slow and eventually stop just before the final note.
  • The above Pirates of the Caribbean example seems like an homage to For a Few Dollars More, where El Indio (sexy weed-smoking Mexican baddie) is addicted to a musical pocket watch, which plays Morricone music, and he uses it every time he has a duel, or just kills someone. For the duels, he and his opponent draw when the music ends.
    • As the flashback sequence in throughout the movie keeps extending, showing us more and more of what happened on that rainy night, you realize just how creepy this is, since El Indio got it from a woman whose husband he killed and whom he then raped, driving her to shoot herself. One of the two heroes has a matching version because it turns out the woman was his sister.
  • Major plot point in Tuck Everlasting.
  • The main theme from Ju On: The Grudge.
  • Charlie Clouser - Dead Silence, main theme.
  • Samara's song from The Ring.
  • The song that plays in the opening ballroom scene of the Disney movie The Haunted Mansion. The music box in the movie also has a similar tune.
  • Hedwig's Theme. Even though it is never heard from a music box, the instrumentation is heavily reminiscent of one.
  • The theme from Candyman is this.
  • One Missed Call has this as a cell phone ring tone and a teddy bear that plays it.
  • The arrangement of "Mother" in the movie Pink Floyd The Wall.
  • Danny Elfman uses this in a lot of his works, for example, in the theme from Edward Scissorhands and Jack's Lament
  • As if there wasn't enough horror motifs in the 1999 remake of The Haunting (it already had Creepy Circus Music), there was also a music box tune which Eleanor was humming almost from the beginning of the movie (suggesting even then that she was already being drawn to the house). She later finds the actual music box in the nursery of Hill House. If it isn't too blasphemous to consider, one might wonder if this is meant to be the tune for the song "Journeys End In Lovers Meeting" from the Shirley Jackson novel.
    • Actually, the "song" from the novel is called Carpe Diem, and it's a poem that Shakespeare wrote for his play, "Twelfth Night."
  • In Time After Time, Jack the Ripper has a cameo on a chain that contains, along with a mystery woman's photo, a tiny music box as accompaniment to his activities.
  • The theme song of Dead Friend (aka The Ghost).
  • The Red Queen's theme from Resident Evil was written to sound like a sweet child's waltz. As the movie continues, her theme becomes increasingly dark and menacing as she shows her murderous colors to the group.
  • Throughout The Innocents, Flora's music box plays the tune O Willow Waly, the lyrics of which are sung by Flora at the very beginning of the film.
  • The first few notes of "Do You Know Where Christmas Trees are Grown" (a cheerful song that played in the background earlier) can be heard in a tense scene after 007 is locked in a cable car machine room in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
  • Night of the Living Dead has a scene where Barbra finds a music box and plays it, to this effect.
  • The tune in The Untouchables, first heard as Elliot helps a woman struggling with her baby carriage up the stairs. The second time we hear it is at the end of the bloody shootout immediately afterward.
  • The Lament Configuration in Hellraiser.

    Live Action TV 
  • There was a tune like this in the Are You Afraid of the Dark?? episode "The Tale of the Dark Music" when the Creepy Doll shows up. There were a more tunes like these in other episodes as well.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Survivors," Deanna Troi, The Empath of the crew, happens to hear a music box playing during the Away Team's investigation of an elderly couple's home after a mysterious attack on their colony. Her empathic nature briefly brings her into contact with something very powerful that doesn't want to be discovered - the result is that the music box melody starts playing in her mind over and over again, louder and louder, until even a medically induced coma can't block it out.
  • Used in Doctor Who in "Silence in the Library" as the theme for the library and the alternate world, doubling the WTF factor and giving the episode Moffat's trademark 'dark fairytale' overtone.
  • The final notes of the Dollhouse Instrumental Theme Tune sound like a music box in minor key. Appropriate, given the title.
  • The killer in the Babylon 5 episode "No Compromises" uses one.
  • Criminal Minds makes use of the very haunting "Illabye" to great effect on two separate episodes.
  • Power Rangers RPM features a haunting tune whenever Dillon (Ranger Series Black) has a flashback of his past prior to the series beginning. The dark lighting in those flashbacks don't help, either.
  • The Ominous Music Box Tune is used to a fantastic effect in this advert for EastEnders.
  • In Teen Wolf, season 1 episode 10, Co Captain, near the end, the background music of "Lose Your Soul" by Dead Man's Bones ft. the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children's Choir is heard as various characters interact, all in a creepy, chilling way. The music's sinister tones fits the scenes well.
  • Community uses it in the flashback sequences in the western-themed episode "A Fistful of Paintballs", as a reference to the flashbacks and music in For a Few Dollars More.

    Music 
  • A eerie music box can be heard at the begining of "Mommy's Little Monsters" by Creature Feature
  • The song "Blue" by The Birthday Massacre.
  • "Grisly Reminder" by Midnight Syndicate.
  • "Sćglopur," by Sigur Rňs, manages to combine this and some of the most haunting bowed guitar ever.
    • Sigur Rós uses music boxes quite a lot, actually, especially in Takk and Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do. Most of the time the sound is meant to be pretty rather than ominous, however.
  • "Haunted Music Box," Made By Sirfinix.
  • "Kid A" and "No Surprises" by Radiohead.
  • Gothic Lolita by Emilie Autumn starts with a clanky music box tune that jumps notes when you least expect it.
    • "What If" ends with one of these.
  • Lordi's "Blood Red Sandman" starts with one.
  • "White Russian" by Marillion uses this to chilling effect, even slowing the music box to a halt just before the last note.
  • "Swept Away" by Flyleaf.
  • "Spieluhr" by Rammstein. The title actually means Music Box.
  • Rockabye Baby is a band that does covers of classic rock and alternative songs as instrumental baby music. Their output runs quite a gamut of bands, from the Beach Boys to Bob Marley to Green Day to Tool, so it occasionally runs into this (especially with the covers of Tool, Nirvana, Metallica, Radiohead, and Nine Inch Nails)
  • In The Phantom of the Opera, the music box with the monkey on top plays "Masquerade."
  • "Music Box" by Eminem. As you would expect from Slim Shady, it has some pretty dark lyrics about drug use, satanism, cannibalism and the like.
  • "Return To Innocence Lost" by The Roots uses an eerie music box tune in it's backing music. The effect is meant to be sad rather than scary though; the song is about the child of an abusive drug-addicted father growing up to become an addict himself and eventually dying at a young age from a gunshot wound.
  • "Old" by Starflyer 59 begins with the clicking of a music box being wound. The music box plays for the opening stanza before getting drowned out. It can be heard again at the end, after the other instruments stop.
  • "Jynweythek Ylow"(Cornish for "electronic music machine") by Aphex Twin.
  • "The Box Part 1"(album version) by Orbital.
  • Depeche Mode's "Blasphemous Rumours" has one come up in the middle of the song right before the central character is fatally wounded in a car wreck.
  • Creepy Doll by Jonathan Coulton features one in the opening bars of the song.
  • Featured on the opening of Helloween's "Still We Go."
  • The beginnings of "Bring Me To Life" and "Taking Over Me" by Evanescence.
    • Also "Tourniquet"
  • The ambient musician Colleen is fond of the music box. She has an EP full of them.
  • Steven Wilson's song "Significant Other" has this at the end.
  • Porcupine Tree's "Drawing the Line" has one at the start (it's not actually a music box, but still fits the trope).
  • Thrice's "Music Box" features an actual recording of a music box, which the band had to wind just so in order to sync it with the heavy guitar rock of the song.
  • The Northern Kings' version of the Radiohead song "Creep" uses a music box to make the song sound incredibly...well, creepy. This is especially noticeable at the beginning and end of the song, creating an eerie and spooky atmosphere.
  • Hannah Fury loves this trope. It's featured in a large number of her songs, most notably "Beware The Touch", "My Next Victim", and "Never Look Back".
  • Used in several song outros on Kaizers Orchestra's album Violeta Violeta Volume I.
  • Korn's song "Dead Bodies Everywhere" opens with this.
  • Avenged Sevenfold's "Nightmare"
  • Panic! at the Disco's Ballad of Mona Lisa
  • The Vocaloid song "Music Box of Time"
  • This remix of ZUN's Mary the Magician, from his Touhou supplementary Ghostly Field Club.
  • The song "Mr. Tinkertrain" by Ozzy Osbourne, which is about a sexual predator who preys on children, opens with a creepy music box tune.
  • The band Good Luck Varsity utilizes this at the end of their song "Wretch", which, considering the lyrics, lends some extreme discomfort and creepiness to an already depressing and unsettling song.
  • A sample of a music box version of "Rock-A-Bye Baby" is used near the end of the song "Bosnia", by The Cranberries.
  • Nox Arcana is fond of all ominous musical tropes, including this one. Examples include Living Doll and Pandora's Music Box from the album Carnival of Lost Souls or Music Box from Darklore Manor. Eerie children's laughing usually add to the ominous effect.
  • Subverted by Umphrey's Mcgee in the intro of 'Mantis'. Once the music box intro is complete, a goofily triumphant guitar-and-drum riff abruptly comes in and sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The music box tune is subtly called back six or seven minutes later.
  • Subverted in Taikatalvi by Nightwish. It has a music box motif to it, but it is not particularly ominous.
  • "Drive" by The Suicide Dolls starts with a distorted, somewhat out of tune music box melody - it's actually a sample of "The Swedish Rhapsody", a radio transmission that was captured on The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations
  • The Frozen Autumn's "Chimney's Hiss Song" has this along with church bells.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • A scary musicbox tune has been playing in the background in the VERY creepy WWE promo videos for the former TNA wrestling Awesome Kong, to be known in WWE as "Kharma."

    Video Games 
  • First Encounter Assault Recon: Alma's music box.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess all have this kind of tune: the theme for the Stone Tower Temple, Song of Healing, Twilight Hyrule, etc.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, the music box in the old man's house plays a rather mournful tune and almost certainly belonged to the man's dead wife, who you later meet as a ghost in the forest.
  • In Donkey Kong 64, the tune that plays in Frantic Factory opens with a singularly creepy music-box segment, complete with "winding up," and it returns several times throughout the tune.
  • Just about the entire soundtrack of American McGee's Alice comes off as this.
  • The Game Over music in BlazBlue sounds like a generic, slightly dissonant "better luck next game" tune (mostly "ominous" because the player just lost). Early in Ragna's Story (the first most players are likely to try, since it's at the top of the list), it's revealed to be the song from Saya's music box. Who's Saya, you ask? Figure It Out Yourself.
  • Meteos gives us the theme music for Jeljel.
  • Fable II has the music from the music box from the beginning playing during the breakdown of the "Perfect World" part of the game, including the music becoming more and more disjointed as you run away from the bright, shiny place.
  • "Luigi's Mansion" especially the remix which actually incorporates a few cords from a music box.
  • "Baby Bowser's Lullaby" in Yoshi's Story.
  • Also, before you reach a miniboss in Super Mario Galaxy, a music box version of the Super Mario Bros. Underground theme will start to play.
  • In Ib, the themes for Ib herself and Mary are both music boxes (Ib's theme is generally accepted as the main theme). Ib's is very solemn, bordering on sad, whereas Mary's feels very playful but lonely. You'll see where that goes.
  • The church music box in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
  • The music box in the hotel lobby in Silent Hill 2.
  • In Scratches there is a music box in the attic whose melody starts off rather prettily but quickly turns creepy.
  • In MOTHER, the first of the 8 Melodies is a music box hidden in your sister's formerly possessed naked baby doll.
  • Valkyrie Profile has "Behave Irrationally" which plays whenever someone dies. Naturally, you'll hear it quite often throughout the game.
  • Radical Dreamers has a music-box reprise of "Day of Summer" after each scenario's end credits. It also features during a key scene of the main scenario.
  • Planetarian opens with its Robot Girl lead cheerfully greeting planetarium customers, over a music-box arrangement of the hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" note ... and then, we cut immediately to After the End.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles has a song called Mag Mell, which is the theme of a location filled with sleeping Carbuncles that you can only get to after getting past the unknown element Miasma Stream.
  • The Disgaea games have a "music box" version of Dark Whisper, which plays on the title screen. If nothing else, it's a lot more serene than most of the music one normally hears in the games.
  • In Pokémon Black and White, the BGM for N's Toy Room is this. Whether it's more creepy or sad is up for debate. And Black and White 2 uses a very creepy version.
    • It's both.
    • N's regular overworld Leitmotif comes off as this as well. Subverted in the sequels, where his theme tune begins the same but quickly transitions into something much more upbeat, reflecting the Character Development he underwent in the last games.
    • The theme from Lavender Town in the original Pokémon Red and Blue definitely feels... wrong in some intangible manner. Partly due to the chip-tune sounds used, because the same song with different instruments in Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green doesn't capture the same sensation.
  • The BGM for the Fortune-Teller's room in Shivers.
  • Rise Of Nightmares for XBOX 360 Kinect features a hand-cranked musical lock that plays an appropriately creepy tune. Just don't crank too fast or slow...just don't.
  • Super Paper Mario uses this trope fantastically for its final boss fight with The Ultimate Show, starting off with a slow music box and having the broken music box sound come back throughout the song. As if fighting Luigi forcibly turned into a Villainous Harlequin Eldritch Abomination wasn't creepy enough!
  • One of Amy Rose's levels in Sonic Adventure has her evade Eggman's robots in a theme park. A creepy music-box tune will play when she ducks into the hall of mirrors in a funhouse.
  • In Final Fantasy V, the Music Box song isn't terribly creepy, but the scene that goes with it makes it somewhat depressingly creepy. [1] Here is HC Bailly's moment; the music box starts at 4:25
  • The Rake: Hostel: A music box version of the popular Christmas carol Silent Night begins playing within the first two minutes, stopping right as the Rake makes its first appearance.
  • In Don't Starve, a pair of shadowy hands will reach towards your campfire at night and snuff it out if your Sanity Meter is too low. Said hands are accompanied by spooky music box music.

    Web Comics 
  • In Silent Hill: Promise Vanessa finds a music box on the roof of the hotel that plays a tune she recognizes.
  • "Clockwork Melody" and "Clockwork Sorrow" from the fifth Homestuck album are versions of the "Endless Climb" song played that come across as this. "Clockwork Contrivance," too, to a much lesser extent.

    Western Animation 

Ominous Latin ChantingScore and Music TropesOminous Pipe Organ
Nightmare Fuel Coloring BookSubverted InnocencePleasure Island
Lonely Piano PieceMusic TropesPlaying the Heart Strings
Ominously Open DoorHorror TropesOnce is Not Enough

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