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Primal Fear

This page is about the trope. For the film starring Richard Gere and Edward Norton, click here. For the band "Primal Fear", click here.

"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."

A baby rabbit, even one that has never encountered a bird before, will still cower at the sight of a hawk's shadow.

Some fears are universal. The dark, heights, blood, enclosed spaces, snakes, spiders, psychopaths, loud sounds, pain, death, monsters, humiliation, loneliness; these fears have always been with us. They are the dangers our early ancestors faced, and their shadows still haunt our nightmares. Most people are a little nervous about such things - not many people could walk on a glass bridge over the Grand Canyon without any railings, and not feel a little anxious - and full-blown phobias are easily enough induced.

Naturally, writers of Horror fiction like to exploit these.

See also: Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?, Bears Are Bad News, Fangs Are Evil, Eye Scream, And I Must Scream, Enclosed Space (which isn't necessarily this trope), Dark Is Evilnote , and a fair number of Horror Tropes. And of course, Fetish Fuel, for those of you who are Nightmare Fetishists.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Sadism and Squick 
Advertising
  • How about the new car ads that seem to feature scientists kidnapping athletes so they can suspend them in garages and suck the athleticism out of them through thick tubes?

Anime and Manga
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX combines this with Ho Yay Stalker with a Crush: Yubel's profession of love to Judai via mass murder and bloodshed while possessing his almost-love interest Johan gets into an entirely new area of Slash Fic BDSM weird, especially when the possession gives Johan and his monsters a new Fashionable Evil look. And the fact that Yubel is a demonic hermaphrodite... Oh, and did we mention that the dub version has a little girl's voice? Or the fact that, until it got resurrected, it was a disembodied hand that attached itself to its hosts? And this card was supposed to be Judai's favorite card as a kid? Let's face it: Yubel as a whole is the stuff that nightmares are made of.
    • Oh, and as of the end of Season 3, she's part of Judai's soul. If Judai ever starts dating, the results may be far from pretty.
  • The Japan-only Transformers Binaltech Kiss Play sub-line is exceedingly disturbing, what with the constant little girl on Transforming Mecha subtext and mindless, cannibalistic Megatron clones with enormously phallic tongues.
  • The Anti-Spiral in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. You're thinking this of all shows wouldn't count, but the scene where he deconstructs poor Nia Teppelin, which already carries heavy rape-like undertones in the show and is seriously nightmarish, gets even worse in The Movie. "I want to get into that body of yours," indeed. (NSFW)

Film

Live-Action TV
  • Possibly a misguided attempt to go Darker and Edgier, the villains on Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego were much more disturbing than their World equivalents, from Dr. Beljar — a half-man, half-robotic Body Horror, whose voice flipped back and forth from an evil-Jerry-Lewis impersonation to an evil-android — to Jacqueline Hyde — a clearly insane teenager in a schoolgirl outfit who repeatedly switches back and forth from a soft-spoken calm voice, to an angry modulated voice, during which the graphics make her seem on fire.
  • On Top Gear, the presenters have to face their worst fears to get out of Bolivia: heights, insects, and manual labor. While the last two are played for laughs, their efforts to navigate Yungas Road (a terrifying mountain pass nicknamed "Death Road") put them frighteningly close to disaster several times.

Music
  • You wouldn't expect to see LFO here but the video for their song "Freak" features a group of dancing Japanese schoolgirls whose playtime shenanigans rapidly devolve into a vicious schoolyard brawl. The fight culminates in one girl being pushed over, hitting her head and having a fit. The way her violent convulsions are synchronized to the pounding music is particularly unsettling.

Video Games
  • The second half of the first act of Diablo II takes place in the dungeons under the Rogue's Monastery, which has now become the stronghold of the demon queen Andariel. Here the player gets to see what exactly happened to all the Rogues who didn't get corrupted into Andariel's minions, as there are plenty of various torture devices with the corpses of naked, dismembered women all over the dungeons and blood smeared accross the walls. The culmination is Andariel's lair, where the first room has a giant pit in the center which is full of blood and corpses, followed by her throne room with the naked bodies of Rogues impaled on spiked pillars as decorations.
  • Sector Bootes in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. The whole damn place. From the Palace of Pleasure (almost entirely staffed by Mad Scientists who don't have the slightest idea of how a human works - but a lot of guinea pigs and testing subjects just begging to be experimented upon, to the secret labs and the corpses hanging from chains in the upper floors, Bootes revels in this trope.
    • In fact, many demons in the series distinguish themselves for extreme sadism. Bifrons from Devil Survivor 2, Mitra in Strange Journey, Alice in the series as a whole, are just some examples.

Western Animation
  • Rampage from Transformers: Beast Wars was supposed to be scary, but, especially in his debut episode, he might have proven a bit too scary for some younger audiences, coming across as basically Hannibal Lecter as a Transforming Mecha.
    • Tarantulas, from the same series, was also quite creepy. He's The Mad Hatter without the whimsy, and very much a sadist, which is hinted at with this exchange:
      Cheetor: This is a dumb plan, web-face. I don't have any real blood, just mech fluid.
      Tarantulas: Oh, my filters will adjust. It's the act I enjoy more than the nourishment.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: Cousin Fred the barber from the episode "Freaky Fred" is a particularly disturbing example, but still manages to be endearing in some bizarre way, mostly through his cheerful rhyming narration throughout the entire episode. He ends every few verses of his poems with a long, exaggerated "na-aaaaughty..." to describe his own behavior. He is locked in the bathroom with Courage and takes their time together as a chance to shave him, while recounting his life story and his obsession with cutting people's hair off. The scene reaches its utmost creepiest when a haunting chorus of "la-las" starts to accompany the already eerie music.
    • Anything featuring Katz. Normally, in cartoons for children or teens, the homicidal maniac is goofy enough to take Refuge in Audacity. Even The Joker came across as plain funny some of the time. But not Katz. He played homicidal maniac straight, with a sneering Hannibal Lecter voice and viciously evil laugh. When his death traps like giant spiders coming out of small holes, or throwing his victim into a taffy machine fail to kill Courage he decides to simply strangle him.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: The unwavering Stepford Smiler Joo Dee. Add to this that at the end of the episode, after her veneer finally fell, she was replaced with a different woman, who insisted she was the same person.
    • This gets even creepier when they show an entire room full of fixed-smile Joo Dees being brainwashed to repeat cheerful slogans over and over again.
    • Four words: Koh the Face Stealer. Imagine being trapped in the Spirit World, with no eyes, nose, or mouth, for all eternity.

    The Shadow of Death 
Anime
  • The Espada in Bleach all represent various aspects of death. When Barrengan releases his blade, he takes a Grim Reaper like form wearing an elaborate crown. He then goes on to explain that his aspect is "old age", the only kind of death that is utterly unavoidable: No matter how powerful you are, one day you will die and crumble to dust. True to his nature, he is in no hurry to destroy his enemies, moving slowly forward as his entropic powers disintegrate everything around him.
  • Black Paradox, a horror manga by Junji Ito, has a particularly terrifying variation of this. In the story, the protagonists discover mysterious stones that give off massive amounts of energy. The stones are actually the souls of people from the past and that using them up is going to ensure mankind's extinction.
    • One chapter titled "The Strange Tale Of The Pylorus" centers around one of the character's (a man named "Piitan" His name is really "Mr. Houdou") stomach becoming a portal to the afterlife (The Japanese word for "Pylorus" also translates into "Spirit Door"). This results in him barfing up the aforementioned stones. Eventually the stones fill up his stomach faster than he can vomit them out and he ends up exploding.

Film
  • The Wizard of Oz has the sequence where the Wicked Witch shows Dorothy an hourglass, proclaiming "This is how long you have left to be alive!" It doesn't help matters that the Witch never specifies why that hourglass marks what's left of Dorothy's life...
  • The Robin Williams film Jack. No real creepy visuals, but the concept that this boy is physically aging rapidly is quite disconcerting. Particularly at the end, when he's graduating high school and he is physically in his 70s.
  • From The Brave Little Toaster, "Worthless" is a blues song about cars remembering their glory days just before their feeding to a trash compactor. The titular refrain implies that no matter what they did, they ultimately are, no matter who they were, "worthless". A good example about how a Tear Jerker moment can still be scary in a distant sense.
  • The Final Destination film series is built around the fear of being hunted down by the Grim Reaper until he catches up to those who have escaped it and kills them in elaborate, agonizing ways. The inevitability of death is really emphasized because in this series, Death always wins and the protagonists' efforts to cheat it are entirely pointless in the end.

Live-Action TV
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Time of Angels", Amy gets infected with the image of a Weeping Angel that's trying to break out of her, which would kill her in the process. And it makes her count down as it gets stronger. Why? For fun.

Professional Wrestling
  • Back in the days when Hulkamania was running wild and the WWF was directly marketed to kids, the debut of the Undertaker and Paul Bearer (his mortician manager) was fearsome at first. Of course, the concept of a supernatural death-obsessed being soon proved to be more popular than Hogan himself with the teenage crowd, who quickly made sure he got passed the "invincible hero" torch from Hogan.
  • And then there was Papa Shango, the wrestling voodoo shaman. Especially for some of the things he "did" to the Ultimate Warrior.

Real Life
  • Progeria. Imagine it.
  • Really, being told you have any terminal illness would qualify.
  • Death is one of the few certainties of life; you are going to die, no matter what you do. Think about that.

Video Games
  • Super Paper Mario features a Big Bad who wants to destroy all the worlds. It's a standard villain thing, and you usually manage to discover the Plot Coupon in each world before he can destroy it... except one. In the happy ninja world full of honorable men in a cartoony version of medieval Japan, you get delayed... and the world falls apart around you. You re-enter the world and where there was once dozens of people, there's now whiteness. A seemingly infinite expanse of whiteness, with only the occasional pile of dust dotting the landscape.
  • The Save The Dinos game in 3D Dinosaur Adventure. If you failed to save all the dinosaurs in time, the comet would hit. Everything would explode, dinosaurs would scream in horror and pain, and a voice-over would tell you that it was all your fault. It was inexplicably terrifying.
    • Not to mention that as the game progressed, you would often find your progress to the the three Mesozoic periods barred by giant arthropods, including mosquitoes, scorpions, fleas, and pill millipedes. If you approached one, an eerie sound that the creepy crawlie's real-world equivalent makes would fill the air. It was very creepy, considering that most people don't like mosquitoes as it is.
  • When you kill an undead in Fable, a green cloud rises from it accompanied by a tortured scream...
    • Made even creepier by the fact that if you read the headstones in the graveyard, you find that your dead father is buried there, and you could conceivably be destroying him...
    • Admittedly unrelated, but does anyone else think that would have made a great boss fight which you needed to complete in order to rescue your mother?
  • Missile Command. THE END. Even more commonly, the distinctive flash and mushroom cloud animation every time a city is lost... and millions of tiny 8-bit innocent lives along with it.
  • Project Origin has this in full force when you step out of the ruined warehouse into post-nuke Fairport, complete with destroyed landscapes, distant fires, crashing jets, and the still standing, burnt-to ash corpses of civilians caught in the fire of the explosion. Most of them in poses of terror or attempting to flee. And it gets worse later on, when, under Alma's psychic influence, you start seeing apparitions of the people killed in the nuclear explosion, starting with a couple, then a dozen, and then hundreds....
  • The Incarnations of Death in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. Also applicable to all Fiends in the games they appear.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • One episode of Tiny Toon Adventures had Elmyra, an animal lover whose affection was always disastrous for the target animal, mourning her late pets (all of whom she accidentally killed)... whereupon they rose from the dead Zombie Apocalypse-style, drawn as hideous zombies, and came after her. Their being zombified didn't prevent her from lavishing her destructive affections on them, however. One truly scarring moment shows her grabbing a zombie dog and washing it in a sink, only to have nothing in her hands afterwards; this implies the dog fell apart in the sink.
  • The X-Men animated series featured a two-part episode with a "Spirit-drinker" that Lady Deathstrike accidentally released from an alien prison ship. It does exactly what the name suggests. What made it creepy, though, was the way the energy or gas or whatever that it was made of would occasionally take the form of the face of one of its victims, begging for help in faraway, ghostly voices.
  • An especially horrifying episode of The Fairly OddParents, Timmy's pet hamster comes back as a rotted, violent zombie. And at the end of the episode, all his other dead pets rise from the grave, bones showing through sloughing-off skin.

    Dangerous Objects and Substances 

Western Animation
  • Balloon Land, an obscure, albeit cult-classic, 1930s cartoon in which a land of balloon people are terrorized by the evil Pincushion Man, who pulls pins from his own pincushion body to pop the hapless denizens of Balloon Land. Some might remember this from the old, pre-Playhouse Pee-Wee Herman HBO special, or from its cameo appearance in (quite appropriately) Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders. Watch
    • Like the balloon people themselves weren't creepy enough...

    Monsters and Evil Beings 
Anime and Manga
  • The titular character in Tomie. Sure, she looks human, but she has the supernatural ability to cause anyone to fall madly in love with her (or become insanely jealous of her). This eventually causes people to either kill each other for her or simply attempt to kill her themselves in an attempt to break free from her spell. Too bad she can simply regenerate from nearly any injury. This can sometimes result in multiple Tomies, and each one will gladly tear the other (or make whoever is under their spell do so) to pieces. She's strongly implied to be the physical embodiment of lust and all the terrible things that go with it.
  • Gyo. Zombie fish that are able to walk on land thanks to strange walking machines that were clearly not made by human hands (It's strongly implied they were built by either ghosts or by super-intelligent bacteria). Said walking machines are powered by a foul-smelling gas produced by the bacteria that infects said fish. It's already scary enough with the zombified sharks walking around. And then humans become infected by the disease.
  • Parasyte features alien worm-things that invade the earth and infest humans. Most of the people who end up infested by these aliens end up dying since said aliens end up eating the brain and taking over the body functions. Did we mention the aliens can shape-shift their human hosts into various horrific forms and that they have a taste for people?

Film
  • FernGully: The Last Rainforest has a very creepy musical number by the villain Hexxus entitled "Toxic Love". It even has some sexually provocative aspects to it...
  • Creepshow. The Crate. And, more accurately, the thing in it.
  • The Xenomorph from Alien. It's faceless (save for a grinning maw of fangs), tall, unnaturally slender, looks insectoid and skeletal at the same time, has a misshapen and elongated head, long spidery fingers, a tail which is something that a humanoid shouldn't have (which harkens to the idea of atavism which makes it all the more animalistic), it's jet black in colour, is highly intelligent and the fact that people give birth to them. It's basically the personfication of rape.
  • Godzilla. A giant dinosaur mutated by radiation. Even worse is that he's not just some random wild animal that just happens to be smashing buildings out of fear and confusion. Instead, he's deliberately trying to destroy all of humanity as an act of vengeance for creating the nuclear bombs that mutated him in the first place.
    • Destroyah, one of Godzilla's most notorious foes, falls under this. He starts off as a few billion microscopic crab-like creatures before merging together into several human-sized monsters that look like a mix between a crab and a scorpion, which then merges into a giant version of said crab-scorpion mix creature, and then his final form looks like a Kaiju version of Satan. To make matters worse, Destroyah is completely and utterly sadistic taking utter glee in torturing his foes before brutally murdering them.

Literature
  • The Strain's version of vampires. In their early stages, they act and look like simple and basic, if pale, zombies. In later development, they are completely devoid of hair, nails, genitals, and lips. Their teeth are razor sharp, and their eyes black. They don't feed by biting: they shoot out a scorpion-like stinger as long as they are tall and pierce your blood vessels with surgical precision (deploying the stinger means stretching their mouth into a long, mirthless grin and dislocating their jaw like a snake). Their middle finger develops long and clawed. Their skin is pure white, and the worms that course through their body can be seen wiggling under their face. Mentally, the mature ones are at least as intelligent as humans, but the newly-turned ("Revenants") aren't lucky enough to get a Hive Mind. They are bound, body and soul, to serve the will of the ancient they are descended from. Their instincts drive them to find the ones they loved in life and turn them.

Theme Parks
  • "Snow White's Scary Adventures" is a Disney ride that strings all the most horrifying scenes from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs into the space of a few minutes. It used to be named simply "Snow White's Adventures", but the word "Scary" was shoved in after nearly fifteen years to give parents and children a better idea of just what they were in for. They also periodically try to change it so that it isn't as intense. However, given that the Wicked Queen/Witch (who is, by far, the most frightening character in the Disney Animated Canon) still jumps out at you in the dark screaming and laughing maniacally, it is, to say the least, an appropriately-named Disney ride if ever there was one.
    • There is a Pinocchio version in a similar style. Have fun with Monstro.
    • Then there was the "Alien Encounter" attraction. The audience is strapped down in their seats, apparently just to watch a friendly alien ambassador beamed in from another galaxy. However, the machine malfunctions, bringing in an Alien-like monstrosity... and then the lights go out. Pitch darkness. And then the monster escapes! Cue the air hoses and dribbles of water from the back of the chairs the audience was sitting in (simulating the monster's breath and drool), along with vague flapping sounds to simulate the monstrosity right behind you! And then, when the thing gets wrangled back into the teleporter, it explodes, spraying the audience with its guts. Surprising how terrifying a little water and air can be. S.I.R. in the ride was voiced by Tim Curry. That's just begging for creep factor.
      • It's been retooled and the alien is now Stitch, but it's still damn scary with Stitch, seeing as this is Stitch before he met Lilo and became softened up, so children are expecting it to be fun with Stitch, but relatively few of the scares were actually changed. After bad reception, they softened the very worst of the Nightmare Fuel and made it slightly less dark, annoying the actual audience (ie, horror fans)... and still scaring the crap out of little children who got somehow stuck on the ride. On top of all this, the harnesses that riders are strapped into are apparently uncomfortable enough to cause actual injury. One guidebook summed it up best: "The attraction now has the same minimum height requirement as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. As one is a rollercoaster and the other is a perfectly stationary "show", this should give you an idea what you're in for."
  • On their first ride, most people would expect the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland to be a normal coaster ride, that is, UNTIL YOU SPEED PAST THAT GODDAMN YETI.
    • The Everest in Florida does the same thing. It actually stops so the Yeti can roar at you threateningly. TWICE.
  • While we're on the topic of terrifying Yetis who are particularly jarring the first time around, there's always the SkiFree game for Windows...
  • Speaking of Disney Theme Parks and monsters, the Carnosaur of the "Dinosaur" ride in Florida. You're in the dark, passing by some dinosaurs when suddenly this blood-red, incredibly loud, demonic, horned death-dragon starts chasing after you. Oh, and the meteor's coming.
  • As long as we're talking dinosaurs, the Jurassic Park rides at Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando. You're taking a placid raft ride among herbivores when a bump sends you to the staging area... where the raptors have gotten loose, Dilophosauruses pop up to spit at your group, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex wants you for lunch. Then there's the 85-foot-drop in total darkness...
  • The classic Thunder Run roller-coaster at Canada's Wonderland in Ontario runs through the artificial mountain in the centre of the park. The darkness and flashing lights combined with high speed and noise would be scary enough, but they've got a dragon in there!

Video Games

Western Animation
  • The Claymation film The Adventures of Mark Twain featured a series of vignettes based on Mark Twain stories. In the most notorious sequence, Twain's young wards are whisked to a dimension populated only by "The Mysterious Stranger" from the Mark Twain story of the same name — a horrible Devil-being with a comedy/tragedy mask for a face who creates a society of little clay people, watches them bicker amongst one another, and then wipes them out with an earthquake. Enjoy.
    • It's even worse in the book, largely due to Mood Whiplash; it's the last story in a book that, up to that point, had been fairly lighthearted. The Existential Dread does not help.
  • Inque, the shapeshifting saboteur in Batman Beyond has a creepy Venom feel to her, to be sure, but then she goes and pours herself down Terry McGinnis' throat, almost drowning him... and then, he ends up vomiting her out of his lungs. If any fan of the show wasn't creeped out by that scene, at the very least when they first saw it, then they are sick, sick little monkeys... or just into that sort of thing.
    • Darkseid. The guy is a Galactic Conqueror whose home-planet would make a good stand-in for Hell, coming to conquer us and the only one who can stop him is Superman. Whom Darkseid can beat up. A border-line example of the trope since he was definitely intended to be scary.
  • Oddly enough, the same thing happens in Dragon Ball Z with Majin Buu (being more genuinely disgusting than frightening).
    • Probably because, the first time he does it, he then expands his body until the person who he forcefed himself to exploded. And the second time, he tries it on Vegeto who manages to keep Buu localized to one area of his body so he could pound the crap out of him, turning him into huge, outrageous tumor-like lumps traveling across the warrior's skin.

    Snakes 
See also Reptiles Are Abhorrent.

Film

Video Games
  • Mass Effect has the Thresher Maws, which are skyscraper-sized giant worm-snake monsters that pop out of the ground and can kill tanks in a single hit.

Western Animation
  • The Sponge Bob Square Pants episode Ghost Host had the Flying Dutchman sleep in SpongeBob's pineapple after his ghost ship was destroyed in an accident. During his stay, the Flying Dutchman tried several mildly scary things in order to disturb SpongeBob, and when it got to the point where SpongeBob stopped being scared, he appeared as a huge snake which vomited out a grotesque, huge baby's head. Intended to be a parody of an over-the-top horror movie, it nevertheless managed to be incredibly horrible.
  • ''G.I. Joe: The Movie': the Body Horror that the Cobra Commander is forced to go through—which leads to him being turned into a mindless snake just as the audience was developing some sympathy for him.

    Bugs and Spiders 
See also Spiders Are Scary, Scary Scorpions, Creepy Cockroach, and Creepy Centipedes.

Anime and Manga
  • Pokémon. "Carrots, peppers, and bugs"
    Misty: Bugs are one of the three most disgusting things in the world!
    • Defused in this case as the bug Misty is angry at is an adorable, big-eyed little caterpillar.
    • Or maybe not so averted for some people. Cute or not, Caterpie is almost as big as Ash's head.
Film
  • Most scenes involving the scarabs in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. Also, the Plague of Flies scene is pretty effed-up.
  • Creepshow again. The segment "They're Creeping Up On You" features a lot of cockroaches, used to utterly horrific extent, which is made all the more jarring by the goofy, camp tone of the rest of the film.

Literature
  • Tolkien had a whole family of giant spider monsters, or more accurately Eldritch Abominations who had taken the forms of spiders. The first was Ungoliant from The Silmarillion, who emitted an "unlight" that drained the will of those exposed to it, and wanted to devour the world. When she had devoured enough power, she grew powerful enough to challenge and almost kill even Morgoth, Tolkien's equivalent to Satan. In The Lord of the Rings the main characters encountered Ungoliant's daughter, Shelob, and in the earlier book The Hobbit, Bilbo had a nasty run-in with Shelob's spidery spawn. All these spider monsters are said to be based on Tolkien's own fear of spiders and an incident in which he almost died from a spider-bite. Similarly, Gandalf is said to be inspired by the doctor who treated the bite, with a heavy dash of Odin.
    • Peter Jackson, who directed the Lord of the Rings film series, also shares this fear. Naturally, he went out of his way to have Shelob be as scary as possible.
  • In T.A. Barron's The Lost Years of Merlin we have the Grand Elusa. Legend tells that she is always hungry and 'fiercer than a cornered giant'. When Merlin first encounters her, she is in the form of a tiny white spider the size of a thumbnail. She has the power to change size at will, and often adopts a form twice as big as a horse. Oh, and she is always hungry, to the point that it is wise when speaking with her to bring a meal that she can consume (in miniature form) while you talk. Additionally, she has mastered the power of Leaping, and can chew through stone (both of which she uses to save Merlin from the living stones). To summarize, she is a gigantic spider who can eat anything, who is always hungry enough to consider it, and who can appear anywhere on the island at will. All this, and she is among the helpful, benevolent forces in Merlin's journey in Fincayra.

Live-Action TV
  • Doctor Who had the Racnoss, a species of giant, carnivorous spider-things which roam the galaxy eating everything they can find, not to mention the invisible mind-controlling beetles hitching rides on people.
    "There's something on your back!"
  • The X-Files had an episode that opens with agents finding an incredibly disturbing, dessicated corpse in the bathtub of an old dilapidated house. Turns out that there was a man with a parasitic tarantula living in his neck, that would come out and consume people like spiders do.
  • For one of their appearances on David Letterman's Late Show, Penn & Teller performed a trick that culminated with Dave lifting up a top hat... only to have five hundred live cockroaches pour out of it. Letterman, who was not informed of the reveal beforehand, reacted as one would expect.

Real Life
  • The Disney attraction "It's Tough to be a Bug", mentioned below. The show scares a lot of children. For one thing it's loud, and for another you don't really need to be told to be afraid of a giant termite who spits poison at you. At least one guidebook includes the one-line review, "Finally this generation gets its 'Snow White's Scary Adventures.'"

Video Games
  • The giant caterpillar in the Gusty Garden Galaxy of Super Mario Galaxy. The way it's almost realistic in appearance in a game with an intensely cartoony art style creates an effect similar to the Uncanny Valley, and it makes some genuinely disconcerting high-pitched noises. The enormous nose and buck teeth do little to diminish this.
  • Armogohma in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
    • The Aracha from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword are weak enemies, easily dispatched with a single hit. However, there are several areas in the game where a careless player can rush into an empty room and suddenly trigger dozens of Aracha to fall from the ceiling.
  • Drakan, and Drakan: Gate of the Ancients. Those goddamn giant spiders, especially how they can sometimes pop into view and fill the entire screen if you're running 'towards' the screen away from a group and one just so happens to start descending from the ceiling and clip right in...
  • Borderlands - One word: Scythids. Grotesque alien potato-bug creatures which grow to enormous size.
  • In Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen 2, one of the enemies you face in the Eternal Prison are huge spiders roughly the size of large dogs, who spend their days eating the crazed, blinded inmates and covering the walls with their webbing. Similar enemies in the game are giant, bug-like demons that spit acid and have razor-like front legs. In the Canyons, it's shown that they too spin webbing, and encase their human victims in there to save for later. Some of the cocoons are actually moving, and if you get close enough, you can hear struggling and gurgling.
    • Though not actual spiders, in Soul Reaver the spider-like vampire clan of the Zephonim and their master, Zephon, apply. Like the bug demons in Blood Omen 2, the Zephonim encase their victims in webbing too, to the point where the walls of the Silenced Cathedral are covered in cocoons, some moving. Zephon himself isn't much better. He's devolved into a gigantic, spider-like creature whose body has grown onto the wall of the cathedral in which he lives. The first thing he does when he sees you? His face splits apart and he shrieks at you, then threatens to eat you alive. Raziel wasn't lying that Zephon's visage was "an appropriate reflection of [his] soul."
  • The giant spider enemies in Dragon Age.
  • That wretched giant spider in the first major act of Limbo. What's worse? You end up using part of its body as a platform, actively TOUCHING the damn thing, after it gets horrifically mutilated.
  • The Demonic Spiders in Minecraft. The big ones are fast enough to chase you and can leap at you, striking repeatedly. They can jump gaps and climb walls. They mostly come out at night, but unlike the undead, sunlight doesn't hurt them, so you can try hiding in a shelter all night, but they'll probably be lurking on your roof, waiting for you to come out in the morning. The smaller cave spiders can fit into small gaps, and their poisonous bite will leave you weak enough that a short fall could kill you.
  • At one point in Silent Hill 2, you enter a room with nothing but a key needed to progress. As soon as you get it, your flashlight goes out. You replace the battery, and the light comes back on to reveal that the room is now absolutely swarming with bugs.
  • Muncher Marathon in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Part way through the level you awaken a whole swarm of creepy black spiders that end up chasing DK and Diddy Kong all the way to the end of the level, and literally eat them alive if they catch them. The sheer quantity of spiders in the level is disturbing.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2, when helping Emma walk out of Shell 1, you will encounter hundreds of sea lice, which Emma is afraid and disgusted of. In order to clear a path to the elevator, you have to use your coolant spray to spray them away.

Webcomics
  • This strip, "8 Legs of Love", from Oglaf. You're welcome. UTTERLY, TOTALLY NOT SAFE FOR WORK (unless your boss has a giant spider fetish).

Western Animation
  • Billy from "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy" is deathly afraid of insects (including his own spider "son", Jeff.
  • Mike of "Mike, Lu & Og" is afraid of spiders, usually shown when adventuring in the jungles of the island (ex. "Brave Sir Lancelot").
  • As if the notion of a face stealer isn't terrifying enough... Koh the Face Stealer also happens to be a giant centipede.

    Ferocious Animals 
See also Threatening Shark, Bears Are Bad News, Never Smile at a Crocodile, and Savage Wolves.

Anime and Manga
  • Hellsing: Seras tells Anderson that she fear no one anymore after having become a real vampire. Then she meets the Captain. They share a few blows and then the Captain starts to show off his real powers for the first time in the series. Seras freezes in fear when she reveals that he is an anmalistic Eldritch Abomination werewolf, struck by realisation that she has meet the real big bad wolf.

Real Life
  • 80's kids had the relatively benign Universe of Energy, which nonetheless recreated the dinosaur battle from Fantasia.

Religion And Mythology
  • Wolves in Norse Mythology. At Ragnarök the children of Fenrir were supposed to eat the sun, the moon and all of the stars.

Video Games
  • A lot of things in the The Lost World: Jurassic Park arcade games, but especially the giant crocodile that ambushes you while you're crossing a lake (on a rickety floating bridge!)
  • Not really an animal, but the first appearance of those shadowcats in Devil May Cry is a real brick-shitter. Phantom would probably qualify for Spider if this wasn't an action game, as well. (Seriously, just imagine the moth boss in Silent Hill replaced by Phantom with low lighting...)
  • So you're playing Red Dead Redemption, traveling through the mountains slowly on your horse, when suddenly a Cougar shows up...
  • Resident Evil 5. As if being chased by zombies wasn't bad enough, Chapter 3 also forces you to wade through waist-deep water that is swarming with nasty crocodiles that will come out of nowhere and kill you in one chomp.
  • Miasmata starts off with just you on an abandoned island research facility, looking for a cure for your plague. A few hours in, you'll start hearing a heartbeat, and then you'll start hearing growls. If you're lucky, you can find a place to hide and eventually the heartbeats will stop. If not, you'll find yourself face to face with a very smart, very cunning cat-like creature that can kill you with two swipes of its claws. How do you defend yourself? You either hide before it sees you, or wait for the right moment to run for your life.

    Giants 
Anime and Manga

Religion And Mythology
  • Norse Mythology: The giants of Norse mythology look like gigantic humans with strength to match. Then there are the giants of Muspel and Nifel who are elemental Eldritch Abominations.

Video Games
  • Yoshi's Island: There was a wizard who would enlarge small creatures in the boss battles. The transformations were complete with "Time to die!"-esque music.
    • In the final battle, where Baby Bowser, in an eerily designed toy room, attempts to ride (and therefore injure) Yoshi. After he has been defeated, the aforementioned wizard turns him into Big Bowser. Big, meaning the castle he had occupied is completely destroyed by his transformation, and he could probably crush Yoshi with a single finger/claw. The transformation and battle is accompanied by rather horrifying music, and the battle is pretty much Yoshi trying to hit him with large eggs to push him back, while he is slowly coming towards you. When he is hit, he is indeed pushed back, only to then run at full speed towards Yoshi, who is standing on a small ledge (which is being destroyed by the boulders that fly in the air from Bowser's roars). If Bowser comes close enough, his stomach knocks Yoshi off the ledge. This can be extremely scary when one is desperately trying to get him further back, knowing that he will run at full speed afterwards.
  • The King of All Cosmos from Katamari Damacy is an unnervingly odd guy to begin with. But failing a stage results in him becoming a giant looming shadow that shoots lasers out of his eyes while the Prince runs around, scared witless. Not pleasant.
    • In Me and my Katamari, he ties you up and repetitively punches you....Where are the child services?
      • In Katamari Forever, this actually becomes a minigame where you dodge the rocks he's shooting out of his head for as long as possible. You can even earn a trophy for doing it long enough.
  • Although not a living being, the fourth stage boss in that dark dark desert in Omega Boost is downright ominous. Especially the first time you realise he can split apart, and then his huge red cyclops-eyed head starts following you in the darkness illuminating the night with lasers of pure red hate. What's that you say, how can a mech in a shooting game be disconcerting in the least? Just check it out.
  • The moon from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, in a way.
  • Shadow of the Colossus. The first time a player encounters a colossus, they may want to hide behind some rocks for several minutes, heart pounding, hands shaking...

    Being Eaten Alive 
See also Eaten Alive.

Anime
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion's Grand Finale involves Asuka and Unit 02 (ie Asuka's mother being torn apart and eaten by SEELE's Mass Production Evas. And of course, Shinji just has to be the one to find the body...
    • And Zeruel gets eaten alive by Shinji (well, actually a beserk Unit 01) earlier, in an effort to obtain infinite energy instead of battery power. The action makes several of the secondary characters vomit.
    • And in the doujinshi RE-TAKE, Shinji eats Kaworu for the same reason, just it doesn't work that way this time...
  • What happens to Mami at the hands of a monstered-out Witch in the Wham Episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
  • Attack on Titan takes place In a World where humanity is being hunted to near-extinction by a race of Uncanny Valley-esque people-eating giants (see Giants above). Since the manga focuses on the Redshirt Army responsible for defending humanity, characters are constantly getting eaten by the Titans, and the series does not shy from showing us the gory details.

Film
  • Don't anybody bring up Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
    • The scene where poor Nick is about to get eaten with his dad's cereal becomes doubly creepy when you consider that the dad in question (up until Quark bites his leg Just in Time) is completely oblivious to this due to Nick being only a quarter of an inch tall.
    • In the third movie, "Honey We Shrunk Ourselves", Wayne and his brother were almost eaten several times by oblivious teenage girls.
  • The Brothers Grimm, the scene where the little girl plays with a horse that was fed spiders by the woodsman. It sucks her in with a spidery cocoon and sucks her down. You see its shadow swallow her... and the the horse tramples around outside, and you get a very good look into its mouth, to see the little girl sliding down its gullet into darkness.
  • My Favorite Martian, after Lizzie takes the "Veenox 7" nerplex gum turns into a hideous monster and swallows a man whole. Then turns back to normal. Never watching that again.
  • The Sarlaac from Return of the Jedi, which takes it one step further and digests you alive.
  • The 2005 remake of King Kong with the giant leech coming up and swallowing one of them whole...*shudder* No wonder that scene was cut from the 1930's version.
  • The boy-eating tree from Poltergeist.

Literature
  • The occasional book version of Little Red Riding Hood can be absolutely terrifying, depending on how it's drawn.
  • Brienne, from A Song of Ice and Fire, has part of her face bitten off at one point. She's too weak to fight back at the moment, so it's left to the reader's imagination how far this might have gone if someone else hadn't intervened.

Live-Action TV
  • The "cellular peptide cake (with mint frosting)" in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • The X-Files episode "Field Trip." The agents are slowly being digested by a giant mushroom, which drugged them with a hallucinogen and narcotic so they can't escape on their own, so it ends up as one disturbing Mind Screw, where you don't know who's hallucinating what.

Video Games
  • The Big Bass in Super Mario Bros. 3 and especially Super Mario 64, which would snatch you right off the surface and swallow you whole in one gulp, is especially disturbing.
  • Cosmos Cosmic Adventure has a particularly bad version, where the last level of episode 1 (after the Final Boss!) is a big funnel, with a giant mouth at the bottom. All you can do is grab the walls, slowing your descent. You'll still slide down slowly, closer and closer to the waiting jaws. (The beginning of the second episode takes place in the stomach of the monster.)
  • Yoshi's Island: One of the boss battles occurs in a Frog's stomach after Yoshi is shrunken and eaten alive. Aside from that, Piranha Plants and Lunge Fish can swallow Yoshi whole. In some areas, Yoshi will be chased by a giant Chomp.
    • In the final level, there is an optional chase where a large spiked indestructible enemy is chasing Yoshi across a rocky, lava filled area, as the screen ever so slowly moves to allow him more more area to move. It doesn't help that before entering this chase, if the player wants to receive helpful information, all they get is RUN AWAY!!! HURRY!!! in dramatically huge font.
    • For a bit of Nightmare Retardant, or extra fuel, try to look at the game from the perspective of a random Shy Guy.
      • Yoshi himself displays this trope in almost all of his incarnations.
  • In the first Jak and Daxter game, when you swim too far out, you get eaten by the Lurker Shark, accompanied by the most terrifying music this side of Sonic's drowning theme.
  • The Water Dragon. The friggin Water Dragon in Ōkami. Not only does it eat you (but thankfully spits you out) as you escape from the Sunken Ship, but later as you ride on Ocra, it continues to try to do so, leading into some pretty horrifying chases, complete with terrifying music.
  • The Galdon boss fight in Star Fox Adventures, which requires you to get eaten several times by Galdon - an Eldritch Abomination-type creature. Upon being swallowed, you get treated to a "wonderful" view of the creature's insides, all whilst you wade around in some sort of stomach-fluid, pummeling a uvula-type appendage, until you're ejected from it's body. See it here.
  • The Womb Levels in Loco Roco. Dear God, the Womb Levels in Loco Roco. At least you get defecated out at the end of each one, but the last boss... gah.
  • Cubivore is an odd example. Your goal is to survive in a cute little cube-based world, hunting other cube animals for food and mating to produce upgraded offspring. The overarching goal however is to become the apex predator of the area and have the honor of the alpha female selecting you to be eaten alive. You are then reborn as the next species in the evolutionary path.
  • The Bunny Children from Epic Mickey eat Splatters during Mickeyjunk Mountain.
    • Oh, they only try to throw you in the thinner. They don't eat you, if that's what you think. They actually really seem to like their "Uncle Mickey", and you can distract them by turning on the TV's all over the area they're in. It's really cute, actually.
  • Dr. M's giant fish from Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves. You fight it as Dimitri and it has an attack where it tried to suck him into his mouth. Thankfully he spits him back out, but when that's the attack your hit with when Dimitri needs one more hit, your treated to black while the screen cuts back to the beginning of the fight.
  • Alice: Madness Returns has a cutscene at the end of Chapter 4 where it ends with a first-person view of Alice being fed into the grotesque jaws of the Queen Of Hearts.
  • In Rayman 2, there is the terrifying chase with Jano attempting to eat you along with Scare Chords.

    Blood and Guts 
Video Games
  • Joe And Mac is a cartoonish game involving cavemen and dinosaurs, with bright colorful graphics and much silliness, so the last thing players expected was a level which takes place inside the body of a Tyrannosaurus rex. The level features moving villi, large red blood cells visible in the background, and worst of all, a giant beating heart. A realistic beating heart, not a cartoonish one.
  • In F.E.A.R., you get some....rather graphic scenes where Alma and the Replica have gone on rampages, including places where skeletons with the blood and flesh and organs boiled off of them lie in poses of sheer agony, and an elevator shaft piled high with dead bodies. In the sequel, you actually have to crawl through a ventilation shaft where the Abominations have been dragging ATC mercenaries and dismembering them, resulting in errant arms, legs, and hands scattered about.
  • Though it's usually called the Rust World, one of the dimensions of Silent Hill is completely covered in something that blends the appearance of both rust and dried blood.
  • Most of the death animations from Dead Space involve this as every different type of necromorph has a different way of dismembering Isaac in graphic detail.
  • Outlast and it's sequel "Whistleblower" is essentially an incarnation of this trope. The game is practically painted with blood and guts.

Western Animation
  • Captain N: The Game Master. One episode took place inside Kevin's body, with quite nasty looking views of his internals, with the idea that Kevin would die from some foreign virus if he was not saved from the inside. If that's not bad enough, Kevin's "soul" is shown inside his heart, strapped down to a table and being menaced by the anthropomorphized virus.

    Enclosed spaces 
Anime & Manga
  • The Enigma of Amigara Fault. "DRR... DRR... DRR..."
  • The second volume of Trigun Maximum, of all things, hits this in the very first chapter. A group of about 40 officers have their bodies taken control of, and are forced to all squeeze into a box on the back of a truck made to hold one (very large) man. The result of them all squishing themselves together is pretty implied when you see the blood pouring out of the bottom of the truck.

Film
  • Buried is about a man buried alive and he spends the entire film trapped in the wooden coffin waiting for rescue.
  • In Tangled, Rapunzel and Flynn are trapped in a small enclosed mine with no exit — and it's flooding, shrinking all the time. For once, Flynn has no quips.
  • The Descent begins with a group of young women exploring a cave. Pretty soon there's a cave-in behind them, trapping them inside. Things get worse from there.

Literature
  • Beatrix Potter's The Tale of the Roly-Poly Pudding involves Tom Kitten getting trapped behind the walls of his own house and being caught by a pair of rats, who proceed to tie him up with string and roll him into a kitten-roly-poly. Terrifying, even though (or perhaps because) the rats were a quarter of Tom's size.
  • The previous Trope Illustrator: A British children's book, Far Flung Adventures: Corby Flood has a scene where a group of criminals tries to kill 8 year old Corby by rigging her mechanized bedroom in such a way that her bed will fly up against the wall and flatten her, pressing her against the wall and unable to move. The book describes how she could barely breathe, and has to tap on the wall to get her parents' attention so they can free her.
  • The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner has a sequence in which the children are working their way through a long, narrow tunnel deep underground. How narrow? They can just fit with one arm over their head. If it gets any narrower, they'll be stuck. They can't back up because there's two of them and two dwarves (?) all one after the other, and they can't talk to each other, and it's too narrow. They come to a hairpin-bend and have to creep round so they're on their backs. Then they reach a point, shuffling through the pitch black, narrow tunnel on their backs with one arm trapped by their side and one trapped over their head, where they feel the tunnel ahead dip and fill with water...
  • Dreamhunter involves a kind of nightmare that can be forced on you. It involves waking up in a coffin. And it goes on. The dreamer's thrashing, screaming, tearing at their surroundings, their mouth, digging their fingernails in the palms of their hands, mean they wake up hoarse and looking like they've been through a meat grinder. The worst part? After you originally are subjected to the dream, you will relive it in a diluted form every night for the next few. And you can't just wait it out either, generally, especially if you're inflicting the dream. In a kind of built-in Laser-Guided Karma, the dream stays with the inflictors for over a week - the first few nights in all its original gore.
  • In Kingdoms of the Wall by Robert Silverberg, one of the female characters (who had gone through sexual abuse at a relatively young age) tells The Hero that she has had several disturbing dreams of a possible afterlife - namely being trapped in her own corpse, being unnoticed by all, while suffocating, being unable to move, and unable to scream.
  • In Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus novel The Mark of Athena, Percy's memory of being dragged down into a bog has given him a great fear of being engulfed, even though he can breathe underwater and reminds himself of that often.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga book Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, Ivan objects that he does not have claustrophobia; he has an entirely rational dread of being shut in dark enclosed places by people who want to kill him.
  • In Andre Norton's Forerunner Foray, Ziantha is trapped in D'Eyree's mind as she is entombed and killed; only Turan's sacrificing his last strength saves her. Then, as Vintra, she must psychically persuade Zuha to have her buried in a tomb.

Video Games
  • There are a ton of tight, enclosed areas in the First Encounter Assault Recon games, most of which don't actually have any scares or attacks in them....which makes the moments where Alma does jump you even more startling and terrifying.
  • Most of Condemned: Criminal Origins takes place within enclosed tight places, which are not only claustrophobic, but filthy and crawling with insane vagrants. Special mention goes to Appleseed Orchard House...
  • The Absolutely Safe Capsule from Mother 3. Nothing can harm what's inside, but what's inside can't ever get out.
  • In Indigo Prophecy, Carla, one of the detectives on the case of tracking down the main character, is claustrophobic. This comes into play when she has to go down into the dark, cramped basement of the police station to look up an old case file. The player has to manage her breathing while trying to find the file otherwise she will freak out and run outside.

Western Animation
  • The scene in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree where Pooh gets stuck in the hole has probably inspired more than a bit of claustrophobia in young kids. He was later stuck inside a beehive.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender also had a scene where Zuko was underwater and had to melt a hole in the ice that was covering it. One of the people on the DVD Commentary even noted that it was his nightmare because "You would not have firebending to get out".
  • In the Justice League episode "Only a Dream" the Doctor Destiny traps several members of the League in their worst nightmares. Superman loses control of his powers and kills his friends, Green Lantern becomes alienated from his human roots, The Flash becomes trapped in superspeed forever...and Hawkgirl is buried alive in a coffin. Seeing the Bad Ass warrior woman pounding on the coffin walls incoherently shrieking in fear was incredibly disturbing.
    • Especially since, thanks to Foreshadowing, she's the only one who's completely beyond her friends' ability to help.
  • In Barbie In A Mermaid Tale 2, this is one of the fears Eris's nightmare powers preys on.

Real Life
  • A variant on enclosed places: Thor Heyerdahl visited Easter Island, and part of his research involved a lake in a volcanic crater. The lake had become covered with a mat of vegetation thick enough that you could walk on it ... most places. If you stepped on a thin spot, you might fall through into the water. And if you didn't come right back up before the hole closed, you might not be able to find it, and you'd be trapped underwater, running out of air....

    Sudden Sights and Sounds 
Advertising
  • Viacom's dramatic "V of Doom" Vanity Plate from the 70s and 80s was the cause of many a nightmare among kids of the time.
  • Across the pond, Yorkshire Television also had a "V of Doom" ident that terrified generations of children across Britain. Must be something about chevrons.
  • Nothing wets the pants quite like the old Paramount logo. Musician Dominic Frontiere deliberately intended the theme music for this vanity plate to be frightening, even giving it the nickname "Closet Killer." Yes, that's exactly what you want to hear after your favorite television show fades to black... some good 'ol stabbin' music!

Video Games
  • Picture this: You're playing Luigi's Mansion. You enter a dark, quiet room. You forget briefly that ghosts will appear suddenly with a loud noise behind you. You scream and drop the controller when one does. And then it takes a long time for your heart rate to go back down... Just so that it can happen again later.
  • Alma. Most of the time when she appears, it's just to startle you, but she won't attack you. Until Project Origin, where her sudden appearances involve her trying to rape you to death.
  • Creepers in Minecraft are infamous for their habit of sneaking up on you silently, hissing loudly, and exploding (which usually kills you or seriously depletes your health).
    sssssssssssssSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS-*BOOM*
  • The Resident Evil series likes this. In the first game (Gamecube version), there is a hallway lined with windows. The first time you walk through it, you hear a pane of glass crack. Not break, just crack. You make it all the way through and nothing else happens, so you might think it was just creepy ambient noise. The second time through the hallway, you're halfway down when three zombie dogs crash through the windows and maul you with no warning. Holy shit.
  • If the original PlayStation had any critical hardware faults, it may get stuck on the Sony logo. For maybe up to two minutes... And then it'll play one of two sharp error jingles that are guaranteed to horrify you. Sleep well.
  • Metal Gear: You're calmly focused, a little bit tense, and all of a sudden - !

Web Original
  • Screamer videos pretty much run on this: you are instructed to find the "secret" of an unremarkable picture, or to solve a puzzle. However, after a certain amount of time (Or when you do solve the puzzle), something will pop up and... Well, scream at you. Possibly the cause of many a small heart attack.
  • Marble Hornets, and such videos like it, often use sudden bursts of static and video distortion, even during normal conversation and unremarkable events.

Real Life
  • Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages can be utterly terrifying. You're watching TV, enjoying watching your favorite show, maybe even drifting to sleep, when suddenly you hear a blaring honk and a piercing bleep as your TV screen turns black and a digital voice starts rambling about an emergency in your area.

    Existential Dread 
Literature
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: After Alice drinks the potion and begins to shrink, she worries that: "It might end, you know, in my going out like a candle." In Through the Looking-Glass, Alice is shown the sleeping Red King, and has the following conversation with Tweedledee:
    Tweedledee: He's dreaming now. And what do you think he's dreaming about?
    Alice: Nobody can guess that!
    Tweedledee: Why, about you! And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be?
    Alice: Where I am now, of course.
    Tweedledee: Not you! You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream.
    Tweedledum: If that King there was to wake, you'd go out - bang! - like a candle!
  • Neuropath, full stop. You are not what you think you are. You have absolutely no free will and your mind can be manipulated completely.
  • Most of the works by Haruki Murakami. Kafka on the Shore and Wind Up Bird Chronicle in particular. Existential dread + jazz + cat + classical music + pasta + ordinary bored protagonist = essentially every novel of his.
  • This is what H.P. Lovecraft wrote about. In his universe, you are nothing and never will be. The entire human race is gonna be gone soon enough, and will be forgotten. In fact, the human race is nothing more than a mistake. The Elder Things just didn't see us as a nuisance. The only reason we exist is because of apathy. Combined with the fact that total reality failure can come at any second due to Azathoth waking up, it's all the more bleak.
  • Those That Wake has everyone forgetting who you are, starting with your parents and friends.
    • The sequel taps into the loss of identity that goes with losing memories, as Laura feels part of her is empty and has no idea why.

Film
  • In Prometheus, the sight of a room filled with dead Engineers is surprisingly powerful. Not only is all of humanity reduced to a genetic experiment by a race of alien creator-gods (which would be bad enough on its own), and not only is it likely that such an experiment happened for no better reason than because the Engineers could do it, but those same creators, previously worshiped as deities, are shown to be nothing but flesh-and-blood animals like the rest of us, who all died in terror and ignominy when yet another experiment simply got out of hand. A bleakly pointless answer to all of human history.

Video Games

Web Original
  • Odd for a comedy show, The Nostalgia Critic's fears about self-worth and wasting his life will hit hard anyone who's also scared that their life is drifting by without them.

    The Dark 
See also Darkness Equals Death.

Fan Fiction
  • The K'vir a la the Doctor Who example below in the very first episode of Children of Time. Living, malevolent shadows? Well, what about an entire legion of living, malevolent, hyper-intelligent shadows that will possess you? Even the Doctor is afraid.

Literature
  • Night Fall by Isaac Asimov is the story of a planet where night only arrives every 2049 years. The suddenly falling darkness drives people insane and collapses most of the civilization.

Live-Action TV
  • The Vashta Nerada from the Doctor Who two-parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead". The dark itself is trying to kill you, and it can even block out sunlight. You sure that shadow near you was there a moment ago?
    • There's also "Blink", which involves aliens who look like statues. They can't move if someone is looking at them, but travel at amazing speeds as soon as you blink. If they catch you, they will knock you into the past, forcing you to live to death. (Say, where's the nearest statue to you right now?)
      • And in "The Time of Angels", the Weeping Angels aren't content to just zap you into the past anymore - now they snap your neck, rip out your cerebral cortex and use it to talk to anyone left alive. And you can't look them in the eyes, either, because you will turn into one of them.
      • Not only that, but torches and any light source within usable radius won't work because the angels will drain the power. Unless you're being chased outside during the day, you're screwed. And even then, daytime doesn't last forever.
    • Played with in "Listen". The Doctor postulates that the reason everyone has the same exact dream about "the monster under the bed" grabbing their foot is because there is a creature that has perfected hiding to such an extent that it can't be perceived in any way except by that feeling of someone breathing down your neck. It's also the reason why people talk out loud even though there's nobody around to hear them. Perhaps someone is listening. The ending leaves it ambiguous as to whether such a creature even exists. The Doctor's fear is caused by Clara accidentally ending up in his childhood and creating a Stable Time Loop.
  • Black Snow takes this trope to literal extremes by having some sort of ambulatory darkness that tries to smother you to death. It's really a fungus that can't survive in light.

Music
  • Iron Maiden's "Fear of the Dark".

Video Games
  • Zork's "It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue." Note that the game presents it not as a possibility, but as a certainty. Which it is; after a random number of moves in the dark (usually less than 10) you die.
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent works this trope perfectly. So well that players really start to be afraid of dark corners. And they should...
  • Most games? The things in the dark are trying to kill you. Alan Wake? Oh, there's plenty of that. But the darkness itself is also trying to kill you.
  • Closure's main gimmick is that everything is completely dark and only illuminated areas are solid. The mechanic (along with the difficulty makes you very reluctant to venture out without a light, despite needing to do so half the time. Then there are lights that go out when you approach them, leaving you to suddenly fall when you least expect it. The backgrounds also have unsettling images hiding just waiting for you to uncover them, in addition to the already-creepy atmosphere of the game. Now, put yourself in the shoes of the characters, and you'll understand why their idle animation is them flinching in fear.
  • Minecraft has darkness become extremely dangerous. Once the sun goes down, the light level is low enough for monsters to spawn in the field and attack you. Caves are worse, since you don't even have moonlight, so not only do you need to worry about monsters day and night, you may not be able to see clearly enough to run away in time. Torches provide some relief, but they'll only make it easier to see and harder for monsters to spawn, whereas sunlight actually harms the undead. And if you think building a shelter will save you, beware: any point of darkness below light level 7 can be a potential monster spawn point, meaning that every dark corner of the room is potentially dangerous.
  • Pretty much every area in Slender and its spinoffs (such as Slender: The Arrival) is dark. Very dark. It doesn't help that the single most dangerous thing in the game lurks within the shadows... waiting for you...

Webcomics

Western Animation
  • The first book of Franklin, Franklin in the Dark, was about the title character's fear of the dark. This story was also adapted for the first season of the television show.
  • On Peter Rabbit, Peter's sister Cottontail and Benjamin are both afraid of the dark. Peter admits to having been afraid of the dark himself when he was younger.
  • Ord's fear of the dark on Dragon Tales is a major plot point in at least a couple of installments.

    Heights and Falling 

Film
  • At one point in 1408, in order to escape the titular room, John Enslin attempts to climb out a window 13 stories up, stand on a ledge maybe six inches wide, and shimmy twenty feet across to the next room, with plenty of camera angles to show just how high. Twenty-five feet later, he realizes the room is still tormenting him when doesn't encounter a window. The camera zooms out reveal a massive wall completely devoid of anything but the ledge and 1408's windows. While going back, a ghost jumping out the window shocks him, and he only manages to avoid falling to his death by clinging tightly to the ledge. He barely manages to get back in before the window shuts on him.
  • Vertigo.
  • The HALO jump scene from Godzilla (2014) has Ford Brody and the other soldiers jumping out of a plane at such a high altitude that they're practically in space. The jump requires them to dive through a massive, thundering storm cloud all the way down into a ruined San Francisco that the eponymous creature is still marauding through. Some of the soldiers even drop right past Godzilla as they get closer to the ground.

Literature
  • In Companions Quartet, the main character Connie Lionheart is shown to be afraid of heights.
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Silver Chair, There is a part in the first chapter of the book where Jill has Eustace by the arms, trying to pull him up from a cliff's edge, and notices he looks white as a sheet. She looks down and sees why.
    • She says to imagine the highest cliff you know. Now imagine looking to the bottom. Then, imagine the bottom goes down twenty times as far. And there are things way down there that look small enough to be sheep, but they're clouds. Not foggy ones, big fluffy ones as big as mountains.
    • To make it worse than that, imagine you can see through the clouds to the actual bottom, which is much farther below the clouds than you are above them. It's so far down that you can't tell if the bottom is water, woods, rocks, or grass.
  • In Susan Dexter's The True Knight, Titch has a fear of heights. There are several points at which it comes into play, but the big one was climbing down a cliff.

Video Games
  • Games with three-dimensional movement can induce this fear, especially when a glitch causes you to fall through the ground into the eternal abyss beyond.
    • For example, you know that swirling spiral of clouds in World of Warcraft that you see in the sky in ghost form? That's also on the very bottom of the world. You might get to see it yourself next time Blizzard screws up a patch and teleports you to some random position. Just make sure you have a barf bag handy.
      • You can also just jump off of Outland, or swim too far off a coastline.
    • The part in Half-Life 2 where you go under the bridge. You have to carefully walk across the slanted steel beams on its underside, sometimes hopping to a lower beam, and far, far beneath you is the oceanic abyss. Pure terror.
    • In the Distortion World in Pokémon Platinum, you have to walk around on small platforms trying to solve a puzzle en route to facing Cyrus and Giratina. Underneath the platforms is a bottomless abyss.
  • The game Mirror's Edge is particularly good at invoking this reaction, perhaps because of the realistic physics, that the super-traceuse protagonist is still acting within human ability, and that you get to watch the whole fifty-foot fall in first person... with a delightful CRUNCH! at the end.
  • If you are a builder in Second Life, accidental skydives become rather common.
  • Can be an initial feeling for first-time players to games like Prototype with all the high falls. Once one gets used to the fact that Mercer can't suffer falling damage ever, it goes away quickly.
  • Alice: Madness Returns is heavy on platforming over bottomless voids and platforms that are almost invisible without Shrink Sense. At the same time.
  • In FAMOUS when you're climbing Alden's Tower. You've just landed a precarious jump from one girder to another, or you're about to start such a jump, when the whole thing starts to shake slightly with subtle metal grinding sound effects and the like, seeming as though it's all about to come tumbling down. It never does and never will, of course, but it can still be a bit nerve-wracking. Worse is that while normally you don't die from huge falls such as this (and, in fact, you can later jump from the top of the tower with no worries), during the particular mission, the game does count falling as a failure condition, which will make you a bit more paranoid than usual while you're climbing and jumping around.
    • Similarly, when you're climbing around on the outside of the prison. Though not nearly as tall as the tower, the difference here is that when you jump onto a ledge and hear a sudden crumbling sound, that's your cue to get the hell away because the thing you're standing on most definitely is going to fall. And while high falls don't kill Cole, the deep water at the bottom will.
  • Minecraft is full of this even in daylight. Climbing or building high will instantly make you paranoid of falling, especially if you are high level or have a lot of valuables in your inventory. Then there are ravines and the Nether. There is also the maxim to never dig down, because you just might mine into a wide open, dark cavern and fall to your death. Worse though is if you survive the fall, because then you have to face all the horrors of the dark.
  • Adventure games like the good old [[Creator/Sierra]] ones could find ways of invoking this. King's Quest V for instance was one of the first fully voiced games, and taking a wrong step, then hearing Graham's blood-curdling scream as he fell to his Have a Nice Death was incredibly scary. Also counts as Sudden Sights and Sounds.

Web Comics

Real Life
  • Rollercoasters, or anything with a large drop, can be traumatizing even to grown-ups.
    • Of course, rollercoasters play on that primal fear quite intentionally: the draw is that you get to scare yourself silly without actually endangering yourself.
  • The aptly named Tower of Terror ride at Hollywood Studios in Florida is, essentially, a ride that drops you from the inside of a very tall building only to suddenly stop and have windows open up for the briefest of moments, allowing you to think "Gee, maybe it's over", or "Oh Crap we're really fucking high up" for just a second and then you get dropped again. The decorations that convey a decaying hotel and generally creepy atmosphere do not help.
    • The number, speed, and duration of drops is random every time, so you can't even brace yourself properly on repeat rides. And you're technically not even being dropped, either: the "elevator" is on a giant belt so you can theoretically be hurled downwards faster than the acceleration due to gravity.
  • The slingshot bungee rides or bungee jumping in general, or skydiving. Take your pick.
  • Glass balconies, like the one at the Grand Canyon or the Sears Tower Skydeck.
  • One of the top ten scariest airports is located in South America in the mountains, on a patch of horizontal real estate too small to accomodate a standard-length runway. How do they get up to takeoff speed? They essentially throw the plane off a cliff.

    Humiliation 
Film
  • What the mob did to Quasimodo in Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. After crowning him "the ugliest face in Paris" and carrying him about the city, they then tie him to a revolving platform and spin it at high speed while throwing garbage at him. What makes this so utterly horrible is that up until this point, Quasimodo had been so happy that he was crying with joy at being finally accepted.

Literature
  • Similarly to the above "Hunchback" example, in Flowers for Algernon, Charlie Gordon, the mentally challenged protagonist, is repeatedly humiliated by his "friends" without suspecting anything. Until, of course, his intelligence is surgically increased.
  • Ivanhoe: Living in a kingdom where you are told from birth you are an inferior race? Having aristocrats being able to do anything they want (including rape you or your loved ones) and being told it is "disrespectful" if you object. And after all this, having this supported by a Corrupt Church which tells you that it is sinful not to have Happiness in Slavery? Those that say that Ivanhoe romanticised the Middle Ages haven't read it right.

Toys
  • In BIONICLE, a Rahkshi with fear-based powers nearly incapacitates Kopaka by showing him visions of all the people he cares about taunting and laughing at him.

    All of the Above and More 
Anime and Manga
  • For such an innocent-looking show, Pretty Cure has this page pretty well covered... and then some. For instance, do you like the idea that, at a crucial moment, someone who was about to give you the ability to save your friends will suddenly decide you don't deserve it, leaving you to watch helplessly as said friends only barely pull through and the bad guys get away with the MacGuffin? Yeah, neither did Karen.
  • Franken Fran deals mostly in Body Horror, but the creator is trying desperately to cover ALL the bases, already dealing with at least half this list.
  • AKIRA manages to be pretty freaky in many ways. The example that comes most readily to mind encompasses several of the above when, in the anime, Kaori gets trapped inside Tetsuo as he grows into a horrific, giant, mutated... thing. The larger he gets, the tighter Kaori's disgusting prison becomes around her, until it becomes so small, she bursts into a pool of blood. And then you're expected to pay attention to the rest of the ending, instead of staring blankly in horror. Good luck with that.
  • Berserk, while it has its beautiful moments, is nightmare central due to Kentaro Miura's use of pretty much every damned Primal Fear in the book. The Eclipse in particular is a very nasty combination of Monsters and Evil Beings, Being Eaten Alive, Blood and Guts, and quite a lot more, particularly toward the end when Casca is raped by a demonic god who used to be her former commander Griffith, while Guts, the man who loves her, who has just chiseled off his own arm to try to save her, is held down by a mess of monsters and forced to watch it happen without being able to do a thing about it, which utterly exemplifies Sadism and Squick.
  • In Shiki the fears of sadism and squick (the truly horrifying ways the vampires are killed), ferocious animals (Seishirou's dogs), blood and guts, enclosed spaces (the scenes of vampires waking up in their coffins), the dark, and possibly being eaten alive (since the vampires feed on their victims for several days before the victims die, and the audience has to watch them get weaker and weaker) are all well accounted for.
  • Bleach: Äs Nödt's power isn't about explicable fear, it's about fear that goes to the very core of what it means to be alive. It's the kind of fear that runs solely on instinct; it cannot be rationalised and cannot be fought. In short, he weaponises fear into an Emotion Bomb that instantly "nukes" the victim. The form the fear takes can be absolutely anything - from what a person can expect to fear to what they never believed could ever bother them. There is no defence, even Byakuya succumbed. It manifested for Byakuya as an hallucination of Rukia's face rotting to pieces.
  • Evangelion: Giant insectoid space alien abominations come to Earth to merge with the mother of creation and turn everyone into Tang using the thing they love the most to get them to take down their AT field (which stands for absolute terror), which is the only thing holding us together. The backstory is complete with the deaths of loved ones by various methods including suicide and a global catastrophe. There is also gore, ludicrous gibs, alien blood by the lake-full, mind rape, and the saviors of Earth are child soldiers undergoing existential crises who have no choice but to pilot giant humanoid cyborgs because the souls of their dead mothers reside in them. Yeah...

Newspaper Comics
  • While the Far Side has featured almost all of these, the best example would be the strip portraying a psychiatrist's controversial technique of simultaneously confronting fear of heights, snakes, and the dark. A small dark box suspended in the air, full of snakes. His test subject was not enjoying it.

Film
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. "There's no earthly way of knowing / which direction we are going" — this sequence of the boat ride frightens even adults. This was probably intentional; the author of the original book and this version's screenplay, Roald Dahl, was good at intentional Nightmare Fuel.
  • The elevator sequence at the beginning of the first Resident Evil movie. The whole thing. Bonus points because the elevators are actively being used to kill people.
  • The Grey. It's about people stranded in Alaska with the possibility of freezing, starving, etc. There's a horrifying scene involving heights and of course, the wolves.
  • The whole idea behind A Nightmare on Elm Street was to make a film and boogeyman who is a compendium of all the primal fears that are known to be the subject of nightmares for people in every single part of the world (drowning, falling, being chased and finding yourself unable to run away, being eaten alive, being forced to watch helplessly as a friend or loved one is victimized, etc.), and actually uses those nightmares to get to them. The only universal nightmare that seems left out is end of the world dreams. That might be because, as he's tied to the dream world itself, its ending is his primal fear.

Literature
  • What is in Room 101 in Literature/{{1984}} is always the victim's worst fear, whatever that happens to be. The Party do their research on their victims quite thoroughly.
  • Suzanne Collins, seems to be a fan of these. Her books are filled with deadly bugs (sometimes deadly giant bugs), vicious animals, burning/drowning/disembowelment/horrifically cruel deaths, and being eaten alive (often by bugs or vicious animals).
  • The Harry Potter books pull out all the stops on Primal Fears. Snakes, death, giant bugs, parental abandonment, humiliation... Name a fear, Ms. Rowling put it in her books.
    • In-universe, we have the boggart, a creature that always looks like the worst fear of the closest person. The good news is that it can be defeated with the "Riddikulus" spell, which turns it into something funny. The bad news is that depending on your fear, this can be quite difficult. Adult Fears, like the death of loved ones, are quite difficult to make into a joke.
      • So in order to combat the thing that is basically fear incarnate, even if you know the spell, your worst fear must be something capable of being turned into a joke, you have to be able to think of how to turn it into a joke, clearly picture the joke, and be able to think clearly enough to remember all of this in the first place while staring your absolute worst terror in the face. Frankly, it's remarkable a class of 13 year olds was able to pull it off.
  • The Ten Plagues of Egypt in The Bible. Blood, insects, disease, darkness, wild beasts, and, of course, the death of your firstborn child.

Live-Action TV
  • All of these and more were ruthlessly exploited by the reality Game Show Fear Factor. In one memorable couples episode, each team consisted of a man and a woman. The woman needed to put on a skimpy swimsuit and submerge herself in a tub of water full of hungry leeches. She had to stay in long enough for a good number of leeches to attach themselves to her exposed skin. Then she had to climb out, and the man had to remove twenty leeches with his mouth and drop them in a bucket. Then the woman had to chew and swallow five of the leeches. On top of all that, it was a race to see which couple could do the entire thing fastest. And that was just one of the challenges they faced that episode.

Music
  • The song "Yulia" by Wolf Parade, about a cosmonaut shot into space without any means of getting back home.
    "There's nothing out here nothing out here nothing out here nothing out here nothing out—"

Real Life
  • We can't forget "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride", as much as some of us might like to.
    • Depending on which line you get in, the ride ends with you going to Prison or Hell. Yes, that's right. By choosing to stand in the wrong line, Disney damns children to Hell. That's the last time we give you money, Uncle Walt!
  • Panphobia is the fear of everything. We all have something that terrifies us; imagine feeling that fear constantly, from everything.

Tabletop Games
  • In Warhammer 40,000, ANY and ALL of the above can happen to you.
  • Invoking a creature's worst fear is how the D&D spells Phantasmal Killer and Weird cause their victims to die of terror. Presumably, that means they can manifest as any Primal Fear a target can imagine.
  • In Unknown Armies, there are five different sanity meters, one for each type of psychological stress. Every possible scary thing falls into the category of one of five primal fears: Violence, Isolation, Self, Helplessness, and The Unnatural. Even if a character succeeds in not cracking under the stress, the mere experience of being exposed to enough fears will build up "hard marks" and eventually turn him or her into a sociopath.

Toys
  • BIONICLE has multiple examples that encompass each and every kind of fear: the chamber that brings one's worst fear to life; Irnakk, a legendary creature whose power is to subject its targets to their own fears; and Karzahni's Mask of Power, which projects horrible visions of alternate futures into the target's head, mind-raping them into obedience.

Video Games
  • Condemned 2's run through the Black Lake Lodge? Picture an abandoned, decrepit lodge in the middle of winter. You're alone, it's dark, and there's dead bodies, some of them half-gone with their entrails left out. As you explore the lodge, you see through a hole in the wall a bear mauling a guy and biting his face off, after which it moves out of sight. Further on, the bear spots you, and it chases after you. It even follows you up the freaking stairs to the second floor! And all the while, you can hear its rabid panting and the scrabbling of its claws on the wooden floors as it frantically tries to catch you. More than once, it seems as though it's caught you, and you only barely escape through a hole in the wall. At the end of the chase, you're staring down a long hall with this rabid bear charging right at you, ready to tear your freaking face off, and you're holding a shotgun with only one round left in it.
    Downed Man: There's one shot left. Make it count.
  • In Pokémon, Psychic-type pokémons are weak to Bug, Ghost and Dark-type attacks, which are all related to fears. Also, the ability Rattled increases the Speed of the pokémon if it is target by an attack from one of those types.
  • killer7 has an example to some extent from all of these except for snakes, ferocious monsters, and being eaten alive.
  • Dear god, Halo is one of the scariest games in existence when you count them all.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri has the Dream Twister special project, which amplifies the fear-inducing Psychic Powers of your Mind Worms. The cinematic for it presents us a mix of creepiest Stock Footage the developers could find, including snakes, spiders, skulls, and charred human remains, all put together to a creepy tune.

Webcomics

WebOriginal

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