"If you're peering out from one of those it's a safe bet that meddling kids will soon cause you not to get away with something."While visiting a Haunted House, someone sees the eyes of a creepy portrait painting seem to follow them. The other members of the party blame it on nerves, when in fact, the villain really is spying on our heroes through peepholes in the eyes of the portrait. There also exists a variation on this trope where a good character ends up spying on the villains through an opening or openings in a wall that turns out to be an eyehole or eyeholes on a portrait from the other side of the wall. See also Stand-In Portrait.
— Mike J. Nelson RiffTrax of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Runaways: Alex looks into Nico's room this way in issue seven.
- In Excalibur, Kitty Pryde pulls this off once by phasing her head through a painting so that her face appears where the face on the painting should be.
- Simpsons Comics
- Issue #121. After revealing that he and Smithers were eavesdropping on Homer behind motivational posters, Mr. Burns states "I wanted one of those old paintings with the eyes missing, but Smithers thought it was too Scooby-Doo!"
- An earlier issue shows Groundskeeper Willie has installed these all through Springfield Elementary, for his own purposes. Two TV execs manage to talk him into allowing them to use them in exchange for gold.
- The hero of Ruse, the Sherlock Holmes-like detective Simon Archard, has one of these in his own office. (The subject of the painting is never identified, but bears a striking resemblance to Arthur Conan Doyle.)
- Happens with a statue in Big Trouble in Little China—except when the heroes look behind it, what they find is not a person watching them, but the Yeti monster, resulting in quite the Jump Scare.
- Thrice in Neil Simon's Murder by Death: first with a portrait of a baby, then with one of a dog, and once more not through a portrait, but in the eyes of a stuffed moose head.
- Monsters, Inc. Randall (who has chameleon powers) blends into a painting, with the eyes lined up with his own.
- Randy Rides Alone (Starring John Wayne) uses this trope during its opening scene. The Portrait is of Ulysses S. Grant.
- Variation used in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while in the Akator temple, a pair of eyes move in a skull relief on the wall.
- Done a few times in The Three Stooges shorts, usually in the spookier themed episodes. They'd often have a painting replaced with a person or villain dressed and posed like the portrait they'd just cut away from behind the wall.
- Shanghai Knights
- Chon notices the eyes in a portrait move, but Roy dismisses it as paranoia and insisted that it's a trick of the painting.
- Roy later freaks out when he sees the eyes move in the portrait.
- In Dark and Stormy Night, two different people using different portraits to spy on others end up noticing the other.
- Rob and Kit find a painting in their room with moving eyes in April Fools' Day. It turns out that there's just a clock (shaped like a cat, with its eyes moving back and forth) behind it. The same painting later turns up in the basement, with severed head behind it.
- An interesting variant: in The Goonies, Mouth uses a rip in the painting of a naked woman (conveniently placed at the mouth), to stick his tongue through for a quick laugh.
Mouth: (In a silly, falsetto voice) Mike-eey! Come here and make me feel like a woman. Come on, give me a nice, wet lickery kiss. Mwah!
- A similarly silly variant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit: When Eddie and Roger are hiding from Judge Doom and the Toon Patrol, they hit the bar where Dolores works and hide in the rotgut room. Roger quickly finds the peepholes and peers out them - by sticking his elongated eyeballs four feet through the holes, knocking over a bewildered man's drink.
- In the 1939 version of The Cat and the Canary, there's one of these in the library, and the bad guy uses it to spy on Joyce.
- Nothing but Trouble: A painting of a fat lady in Chris and Diane's guest room at the mansion has cut-out eyes that are used by Eldona to spy on them.
- In an early script of Labyrinth, Jareth's spies on Sarah this way.
- Some paintings in the Patrician's palace have eyeholes for spying, but it's stated in Jingo that Vetinari doesn't use them, they are just a relic from a previous ruler's tenure, like the Ho-ho (like a ha-ha only deeper - it's a landscape gardening thing).
- References are made to paintings in which other body parts (e.g. a ferret's nose) seem to follow you around the room.
- Stephen King's The Eyes of The Dragon. The King kills a dragon in a hunt, and hangs its head on a wall in his castle. The dragon's eyes are replaced with glass ones, and the Evil Chancellor puts a secret room behind the head so he can look out through them and spy on the King. This later turns out to be one of the keys to Flagg's downfall.
- Parodied in Beyond The Blue Moon, where an inept ghost makes a pair of eyeballs literally pop out of a painting's eyeholes and follow intruders around.
- In Raymond Chandler's Nero Wolfe there is such a painting in Wolfe's study.
- In Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy novel "Too Many Magicians", that universe's Wolfe-expy, the Marquis de Londres, has a similar painting in his study.
- In The Midnight Folk, the protagonist Kay finds one in the manor house where the evil coven is meeting, and uses it to spy on the meeting.
Live Action TV
- The Two Ronnies. The heroine sees the eyes of a portrait moving as she is undressing for bed and flings a mug of cocoa at it. The next morning one of the male characters is seen with an eyepatch on one eye. A few moments later, another male character enters with an eyepatch on the other eye.
- The Monkees when they visit a creepy house to play a gig.
- The Andy Griffith Show "Haunted House" A con man uses a haunted house as a cover for his still, he scares off Andy and Barney using the peepholes in a portrait to move the eyes. Upon discovering this Andy looks through the peepholes to spook the con right back.
- Gilligan's Island "The Friendly Physician" While in the mansion of the mad scientist, Gilligan tells the Skipper that he's have trouble following the eyes in the hall portrait. The Skipper tells him he's just imagining it. Presumably they were being watched this way.
- Highlander: The Series "Unusual Suspects". Fitz is spying on a room of people with one of these. Fitz was killed early in the episode and is hiding in the shadows, trying to solve his own murder. Duncan notices and comments how the eyes seem to move before poking Fitz.
- In The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, Ozzy Osborne has one that lets him spy on his neighbours, Slade.
- In a Kenan & Kel TV movie, Kel stares at a painting with eyes looking at him through the peepholes. He whispered to Kenan to come look at it while the peephole closes. However, Kel only noticed how the man in the portrait looks ugly.
Kel: Oohhh, you're the ugly dude!
- Doctor Who: "Marco Polo" The First Doctor and Susan enter "The Cave of Five Hundred Eyes" which has walls painted with two hundred and fifty men. Susan sees one set of eyes moving and screams.
- Get Smart. In "Weekend Vampire", Maxwell Smart decides to block the portrait's eyes with tape to prevent this happening. Cue the mouth opening instead so the villain can peek out there. Then Max accidentally activates the hidden switch to rotate the wall to reveal the villain standing with his face pressed to the hole.
- Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons features this in "The Trap" a painting in the main hall of an old Scottish castle hid a Mysteron agent and a machine gun.
Stand Up Comedy
- One of Dane Cook's comedy routines contains a bit about his 'dream house' and he spends several minutes talking about painting peepholes. And getting poked in the eye through the peepholes.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Two variations in module I6 Ravenloft. Inside
Dracula'sStrahd's castle is a portrait with eyes that shift to look at the characters. It's actually magical and can attack the PC's. In another part of the castle are statues whose eyes seem to watch the characters. However, it's just an optical illusion.
- In the classic module The Keep on the Borderlands, an orc spies on the characters from behind a wall made of skulls.
- Two variations in module I6 Ravenloft. Inside
- There's one of these in almost every room in the first Laura Bow game, and Laura herself can use them to spy on the other guests and gather clues.
- There's a variant in The Curse of Monkey Island, where Guybrush looks through the blank eyeholes of a painting and manages to convince the hotel landlord that he's a distant relative because he has the same eyes as the guy in the painting.
- In Haunting Ground, while Fiona is putting on clothes in the mansion, she's creeped out by a portrait that looks like it's staring at her naked body. It turns out that someone was watching her from behind the portrait - her disgusting, creepy grandfather Lorenzo who has incestuous interest in her. Ugh.
- One of the paintings in Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak is like this in Boo Manor, though you never find out why the eyes are moving.
- Used in Nancy Drew Message In A Haunted Mansion, where a secret room allows covert observation of a suspect. An inversion, in that Nancy finds the hidden room first, then uses its peepholes herself; she never actually catches the painting's "eyes" watching her.
- RuneScape. Subverted with the examine text for a "creepy painting" in Melzar's Maze: "Disturbingly, its eyes look everywhere in the room but at you." Also played straight (albeit as a mundane optical illusion) with the painting itself, whose eyes appear to follow the camera. The camera that's almost always positioned somewhere other than the player character's line of sight...
- The Interactive Fiction game Anchorhead allows the protagonist character to look through the eyes of a Spooky Painting to spy on her possessed husband. Fridge Horror and Paranoia Fuel kick in if you recall that, when in the same room as the painting, it sometimes seems to look directly at the protagonist.
- In Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure, one stage is set in Barbaros's art collection. One painting is of his butler, whose eyes will always follow Zack around the room. No one is behind the painting though—the painting really is sentient and animate, and he will pull the nearby rope on a Trap Door should Zack walk across it. Zack needs to grab the broom from another painting and smear it in a puddle of black ink left on the floor after draining the water from the fish painting. Then, Zack can smear the butler's eyes with the blank ink, blinding him and allowing Zack to safely walk across the trap door without him triggering it.
- Paintings of the Heavy King in Mirage Saloon in Sonic Mania will follow Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles as they pass on by. There's no explanation on why they're like that.
- Homestar Runner episode "That A Ghost" has homestar seeing a suspicious portrait in a haunted house, but removes it to see a pair of one-eyed crows.
- Played with in Problem Sleuth. The clown picture has two small holes to see through, but they're too close together to look through properly. But you're looking into the painting, into the other room where the eyeholes are also hidden in a portrait, but in a pig's nostrils.
- It was common for Scooby-Doo to feature a scene of the characters moving past a portrait with moving eyes. A Cartoon Network ad promoting the show once had the characters lampshading the trope and Fred jokingly asking why weren't there any haunted houses with landscape paintings.
- The Simpsons
- Mister Burns used this to spy on Homer and Marge. It even has peepholes for the dog in the picture so Smithers could look too.
- In the episode "Goo Goo Gai Pan" there's a large portrait of Mao Zedong with peepholes in the nostrils.
- On the Looney Tunes short "Hair-Raising Hare", Bugs Bunny catches one of these being used by the orange monster and gives it a good eye poke. The monster then sees Bugs in another painting and tries to poke his eyes too, but Bugs eye pokes him again.
- A variation occurs in the Wallace & Gromit short "The Wrong Trousers". Gromit is shadowing the villain in a box, he cuts some eyeholes from the inside and (by a lucky coincidence) they happen to be cut out of exactly the right spot of the box's exterior (a picture of a dog).
- In Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Ghost of a Chance", a portrait of Sir Colby (and some human) hides Fat Cat, supported by his henchanimals so he can see through the human's eyes. Then they throw him off so they can see the Rescue Rangers themselves, Mepps taking one eye and Wart taking the other. A close-up reveals how weird this looks, as Mepps has a pale yellow sclera with a green iris, and Wart has a green sclera and a brown iris, and because they're looking in different directions. Mole takes a turn, too, and follows Zipper's movements until poked in the eye.
Professor Farnsworth: It has motorized sensors attached to motion detectors.Bender: So does my butt, but I don't frame it and put it on the wall. Although...
- In the episode "The Honking", a painting in the castle of Bender's late uncle Vladimir appears to watch him, but upon closer inspection...
- In the "My Three Suns" episode, an assassin first watches Fry through a portrait and then tries to drink him through a straw that was hidden behind the portrait.
- In Darkwing Duck, DW sneaks into a house and sees such a portrait. "As if I haven't seen this in a million movies!" He quips, removing the portrait and shouting "AH-HA!"... except the eyes gain bat-wings and fly away.
- Super Mario Bros.
- Helsa learns of Heath disinheriting Hildegard by spying through one of Hildegard's many portraits in The Princess and the Pea.
- Occurs in The Flintstones episode where Fred and Barney spend a night in Fred's uncle's haunted house.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Castle Mane-ia" the eye of a painting follows Rainbow Dash and Applejack as they run through the hallway.
- The Fairly Oddparents episode "Meet the OddParents has Timmy's parents hiding behind portraits of themselves to spy on Timmy. They then put the picture on the refrigerator door while they hide inside, and then holding while outside on a tree branch.
- The M.A.S.K. episode "Riddle of the Raven Master" had a scene where Scott Trakker looked through the eyeholes of a portrait from behind a wall.
- The titular character of Jem looked through the eyehole on a portrait of Jean Lafitte in the episode "Mardi Gras".
- The Rupert episode "Rupert and Ottoline" showed a scene where the episode's villain looked through a peephole on a portrait.
- The Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Room with a Feud" had Bloo spy on Peanut Butter through eyeholes on a poster of a basketball player.
- The Quack Pack episode "The Boy Who Cried Ghost" at one point had eyeholes in a portrait being used to spy on the main characters by the vampire and his ghost nephew.
- In the Duckman episode "Haunted Society Plumbers", the titular duck thinks he's being watched by a painting. His partner Cornfed thinks he's just imagining it. As they move away from the painting, the scene shifts to the painting, where hilariously the woman's top is pulled down and a pair of human eyes watches them from her "cleavage".
- The Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi episode "Phantom of Rock" has a brief scene of Ami and Yumi walking past two portraits with moving eyes.
- In The Real Ghostbusters episode "Boo Dunnit", there is a brief scene of a portrait of a woman with moving eyes.
- The OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes episode "Parents' Day" shows some portraits with moving eyes in Enid's house.