Ominous Visual Glitch

Some works intentionally create special effects that resemble real life glitches. The image can be distorted or it can look like it was shorted out. There can be stripes, lines, little squares, rectangles and other geometrical shapes, grains or pixallated images, often combined with freaky colours. It might be be accompanied by sound effects like static sound.

These effects are used to show that something weird, unnatural or paranormal is going on. It can be used to imply that there is something wrong with the character's mind, for example they're hallucinating or they are influenced by Subliminal Seduction. It's also frequently used to show A Glitch in the Matrix. When the person trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine realizes that what they see is not real, the image is distorted and torn down.

This trope is rapidly becoming a staple subgenre of horror movies as the technology it's based on becomes more deeply intrenched in modern society. Also a standard feature of Found Footage Films.

Subtrope of Painting the Medium, and very close to Camera Abuse. It's related to False Camera Effects. In video games, it may overlap with Interface Screw. Spooky Photographs have glitches as well, but they are present on the paper as opposed to screen.

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     Anime and Manga  
  • Il Sole penetra le Illusioni has the screen go all staticky and distorted when a daemonia is nearby.
  • The Bleach anime would show distortion whenever a character with really strong spiritual power showed up.
  • In No Game No Life, towards the end of episode 8, appropriately called "Fake End", the screen and sound occasionally glitch out as if an old TV has a wonky reception. It's especially heavy when Sora is supposed to show up during the Ending Theme, which he doesn't. And just before he had been shown to simply cease to exist.

     Fan Works  

     Film - Animated  
  • Wreck-It Ralph:
    • The character Vanellope Von Schweetz gets pixelated during her glitching fits caused by King Candy rearranging the game's code to make himself the main character instead of her. She also sometimes causes anyone in contact with her to glitch; this is used to create the big reveal that King Candy is actually Turbo.
    • The end title card glitches in a parody of the Pac-Man "kill stage". The same is done with the end of the Bit by Bit making-of documentary on the Blu-Ray.

  • After Jerry gets magnetized in Be Kind Rewind, the images warps momentarily as if the camera itself was being affected by Jerry.
  • In Fight Club, Tyler shows up in a glitchy Freeze-Frame Bonus for Subliminal Seduction before being officially introduced as a character. Tyler can also Break The Fourth Wall and point out "Cigarette Burns" in the film.
  • The Ring:
    • After someone watches the videotape and is marked for death by Samara, any attempt to take their picture results in their face appearing distorted.
    • The cursed video itself often utilizes ominous static screens as scene transitions.
    • Samara, just after crawling out of the TV screen. Her glitchiness allows her to instantaneously appear right in front of Noah, scaring him.
  • While giving an interview via satellite, the title character S1m0ne begins to pixellate because the computer that's generating her is running low on memory and clock cycles. The effect is attributed to a fault in the satellite feed.
  • The video feed goes staticky and skips occasionally in Tape407, especially when the creatures are nearby. Whether this is due to Camera Abuse, an anomalous effect manifested by the creatures, transmission errors, or damage to the media is unstated. Bizarrely enough, the glitches are more along the lines of film artifacts than digital artifacts.
  • V/H/S and its sequel love this trope. In one story, the monster itself is a glitch, only viewable through a camera.
  • In Triangle, in the scene where the heroine listens to the broken record on the Ghost Ship, the screen jitters in sync with the record needle jumping back and forth.
  • In Alien Abduction 2014, the presence of the aliens causes electronic interference an occasional flicker in the display of Riley's In-Universe Camera. This becomes especially relevant at the end, when the camera flickers just as Riley and Jillian think they have found help.
  • Common in The Possession Of Michael King, and unusually, the characters note it when reviewing the footage and don't immediately discount it as "camera glitches".


  • In Book 6 of Kingdom Keepers, Finn notices that the holographic DHI (Disney Host Interactive) copies of a sleeping host can pixellate when seen on a digital camera snapshot, to rather ominous effects.

     Live Action TV  
  • The title sequence of Falling Skies contains digital artifacts. It symbolizes that it's After the End, so getting clean signals through is difficult.
  • Fringe: When Olivia sees something from "the other side", it flickers and shimmers visually. Usually this indicates a serious problem. In this case, it is the audience theoretically seeing what Olivia sees. (When Olivia herself goes to the other side, she doesn't seem to suffer this. Perhaps it's a skill she learns to turn on and off at will.)
  • The Koz Zone, a 1989 local Chicago tv series by the once and future Svengoolie where he would "break in" to the local station's broadcast and pirate-show an old, crappy film. It would have intentional glitches as though he as breaking into the feed.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Future Imperfect": Commander Riker is trapped inside of a Lotus-Eater Machine. Once he realizes the reality is strange and doesn't make sense, he is moved to another "real" world, but the setting has simply changed to a new illusion. The shift between several illusions uses distortion with little squares.
  • The X-Files:
    • In "Duane Barry", the TV at Duane's place goes out and static fills the screen. The room is flooded with light and Duane starts to levitate. There is a flying saucer above his house and he's abducted.
    • In "D.P.O.", Darin Peter Oswald can control lightning and electricity. He changes channels on TV that his mother is watching, and if she tries to change it back, it gets static. At the end of the episode, Mulder and Scully watch institutionalized Darin who stares not quite at a TV in the room. Camera pans over to show the screen, channels changing. There's a shot of deadpan Darin, then the whole screen gets static, and it goes into credits.
    • In "Wetwired", distortions of the picture implied that a person is under influence of subliminal transmission that triggered the person's worst fears and compelled them to kill.
    • In "Demons", Mulder underwent an extreme psycho-treatment to induce his memories of Samantha's abduction. His "memories" (probably hallucinations) were showed in freaky colours with distorted people, and the picture is intentionally grainy.
    • "Kill Switch": Mulder is trapped in a virtual reality simulator. When he realizes that it's not real, the reality from his perspective starts to short out. He sees the glitches and "Scully" dissolves into an image of animated person.
  • Person of Interest:
    • The Machine has "problems" in season 2, which show themself as visual glitches.
    • As of season 3, Root's appearance in the opening credits is glitchy, with color fluctuations and rectangular visual distortions appearing.

  • In the music video for Timelessness by, the camera recording begins to go crazy after the protagonist drinks a glass full of an unknown liquid; different scenes have their p-frames removed, causing heads and scenery to spontaneously start to appear from the walls or people's bodies, along with large amounts of chromatic aberration in the otherwise grayscale recording.

     Video Games  
  • Fez has several glitchy elements to represent the world coming apart.
  • In some Kingdom Hearts games, simulations would cause distortions to show something was going on. Re Coded even had the main character deal with glitches.
  • The spinning squares in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess invoke this kind of feel. And they mostly show up when the twilight realm is growing or shrinking.
  • Metroid Prime
    • The game has the visor fade to noise as you get close to the radiating Phazon, going out completely when you get hit by some attacks.
    • The second game introduces Rezbits, a mechanical enemy that can infect Samus' suit with a virus, causing her visor to become staticky, the framerate to slow to a crawl and the HUD to display garbage text until the player reboots Samus' suit.
  • Taking damage or killing civilians in the Assassin's Creed game series is represented by white lines appearing and disappearing all over the screen, representing Desmond's ancestor's avatar being out of sync with the original's memories. This has the side effect of implying that Desmond's ancestors never took a single hit in all of their lives. They were just that good.
  • A recurring trope in Crysis, where high Ceph activity sometimes makes Nomad's HUD fade blue and go staticky.
  • Nanashi no Game: This, in combination with Ominous Audio Glitches, is used as foreshadowing in the Game Within a Game. As the days progress and the curse worsens, so do the glitches.
  • Super Meat Boy has Glitch Levels, which are unlocked by rescuing a glitchy Bandage Girl. The levels themselves are similar to Retro Levels, except with scrambled text and sprites.
  • Towards the end of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, strange visual glitches start plaguing Adam at certain points in the game. It is eventually revealed that his control chip is faulty and needs to be replaced. Except that's a lie: his and other aug's chips are being remotely sabotaged to force them to replace them with actual faulty chips that can be manipulated by the Illuminati at whim. If you choose to do the chip-replacing sidequest, you gain respite from annoying glitches but make the penultimate boss fight of the game ten times harder—because your augmentations are shut down just before he attacks—and visual glitches become the least of your concerns.
  • Metal Gear:
    • A lot of the stranger effects in the final stages of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty are this - the level name text changing to read nonsense, the Pause menu map showing an aspidochelone, a weird video of a woman playing in the Radar screen, arguably even strange platform of the final level that's covered in Tron Lines and makes strange hexagon glitches when hit. And of course, the Fission Mailed screen.
    • When Snake is low in health in Metal Gear Solid 4, the screen begins to judder with static and digital artefacts when he's hit. Occasionally images of puppet strings attached to him glitch into appearance as he dies.
  • Crypt Worlds uses glitches with complete awareness, in a successful attempt to make the game... Weirder.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has a level designed around glitchy effects. It's a white and black, static-filled sword fighting simulation, that randomly deletes parts of the floor and causes cracks in the wall, and at the end it bursts into flames. It's lampshaded by Tank.
    Tank: Mouse's been messing around in the code again.
  • Half-Life 2: A recycled, and rather disturbing beta image of the G-Man appears between Dr. Breen's broadcasts. First on a malfunctioning screen in the canals, then on the monitor in City 17 while the Rebels are tearing it down. Apparently they don't see him, although one of them did hear some weird music in his appearance before that.
  • In Garry's Mod, there's one almost-normal appearance where the G-Man replaces Dr. Breen in his usual "studio" backdrop... with his lower body missing. A Vortigaunt was powering a TV and watching this happen on-screen, up until Gordon drops in behind him and his human friend.
  • Remember Me could also be relabled Glitch: The Game. Augmented Reality is ubiquitous in the game world and, particularly in the slums, very glitch-prone. On a more personal level, damage is only partially resultant from kicks and punches. The main part of it is enemies trying to hack your neural implants (by kicking and punching) which results in the player's screen glitching. The soundtrack continues this theme on an auditory level.
  • In Resident Evil: Revelations 2, the Glasps cause the screen to get blurry and lose color. See here for an example.
  • Mega Pony's Very Definitely Final Dungeon has scrambled graphics and other weird intentional glitches thanks to Discord.
  • Can happen occasionally in Super Dangan Ronpa 2, though no attention is ever called to them. Nonetheless there IS a reason. The game world is a simulation.
  • Shadow Bonnie, from Five Nights at Freddy's 3. Moving him causes his body to glitch out in weird ways, and the stage he's in occasionally glitches into a previous minigame stage, or at a purple box. However, he actually helps a child's spirit move on.

     Web Comic  
  • Homestuck uses this a lot. Dave Strider, author of the deliberately awful in-universe comic Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, finds a way to manifest objects from SBAHJ in real life, complete with jpeg artifacts. Later, Disc 2 of Homestuck itself gets a nasty scratch, resulting in visual glitches reminiscent of an unreadable DVD. This leads to Doc Scratch taking over the narration while he fixes the disc. This happens again when Homestuck part 3 shows up as a game cartridge and gets clogged with "special fairydust". Entire planets get covered by visual glitches, scenes get skipped over because they're "unplayable" (and the protagonists don't remember anything that happened in these unplayable parts), and text glitches prevent some characters from understanding each other.
  • Questionable Content has Hannelore and the space station A.I. staying up all night tracking a weather pattern. The station burned out a few processor banks trying to trace it back, and its holographic avatar displays this.
  • The aptly named Glitchmaster from Cucumber Quest causes this effect whenever she appears in the comic. Everything around her starts to become pixellated and causes a few areas to become a glitched-up mess. It's how you know that the "Nightmare Knight" that appears in the second interlude isn't actually the real Nightmare Knight.

     Web Video  
  • When "The Entity" was nearing in Atop the Fourth Wall, it was causing glitches in the show.
  • In The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, Jane claims she has an old and broken camera. The glitches it creates in episode 13 look very spooky. Combined with ominous shadows and strange noises, her vlog very effectively captures gloomy elements of the original Gothic novel.
  • Carmilla The Series:
    • In the Christmas Special, this is how the creepy owner of the Styrian bakeshop, a Hansel and Gretel-type cannibal witch, is introduced: an image of her starts flickering on Laura's laptop before she properly makes her entrance (and at which point the cinematography shifts to a more traditional, "disembodied" camera angle).
    • In Season 2, Carmilla's sister Mattie is capable of inflicting a camera distortion with her bloodcurdling screeches.
  • In Marble Hornets, static, visual tear and other distortions occur whenever The Operator is around. Early in the series, Masky used to cause a similar distortion, and characters suffering from "Slendersickness" can also distort the video. Other vlogs from The Slender Man Mythos also use similar techniques to indicate paranormal activity.
  • Welcome To Sanditon has The Friendly Ghost of Sanditon. It's a fan-submitted creation but part of the show's official feed due to extensive Audience Participation. The ghost's apparition is shown as Clara Breton's image gradually changing into a classic bed sheet ghost.
  • The Angry Video Game Nerd once had to deal with the Game Graphic Glitch Gremlin, who likes causing these, and ultimately breaks out to glitch the real world.
  • In one Vine Sauce stream, Vinny was reviewing a bad Shovel Ware RPG game with a disturbingly creepy main character. Suddenly, he stops commenting, the character's face is enlarged on the screen, the visuals distort turning the contrast up to eleven, and an off-tone ocarina starts playing. After some time, the contrast suddenly snaps back to normal, and Vinny resumes commenting as if nothing has happened, saying he just got back from a bathroom break.

     Western Animation  
  • The CGI episode of Adventure Time, "A Glitch is a Glitch", has Ice King installing a virus on the universe's motherboard, causing everything to glitch uncontrollably.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Rose's Room", Steven ends up trapped in his mother's room in the Gem Temple and appears to escape, but the Beach City he finds himself in is nearly deserted and increasingly odd. Steven finds Frybo (who was supposedly destroyed in the episode of the same name) working at Beach Citywalk Fries, and he offers Steven a box of fry bits. Before Steven even picks it up, Frybo puts another, identical basket in the spot the first one was still occupying. It even looks like an animation error with the way the second basket overlaps the first.