Sensory Abuse

"Noisecore is not music insomuch as it is anti-music. It is a recreation of the sounds in our modern technological society through an abrasive form."
Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

This is when the creator defiles the viewer/listener's senses by pummeling them with unpleasant or harsh images, flashing lights, or loud, dissonant noise.

Note: This must be intentional on the part of the creators, otherwise it's just awful. This is not the same as Stylistic Suck. However, they can overlap.

True Artists will also do this, but only if it's symbolic for the futility of modern life, a criticism of mass media, or something along those lines. Dada will sometimes do this just to piss the viewers off. Expect Vulgar Humor for the nastier forms of this.

This can be subverted. Maybe the artist intentionally created ugly, dissonant sights or sounds to beat up the viewer, but the end result is actually pretty cool.

Although there are many more kinds of other Sensory Abuse in Real Life (e.g.: skunks), all media covered in this wiki are limited to sight and sound, so we'll focus on these. The trope will be broken into two sections, with their common tropes listed below them:

Optical Assault

Aural Invasion


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Optical Assault

    Anime and Manga 
  • The infamous seizure-inducing Porygon episode of Pokémon, which was only aired once, and only in Japan.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • A growing problem with widespread adoption of 3-D films and TV sets is that they have a tendency to cause eye strain and even motion sickness in a large minority of viewers.
  • Basically the entirety of Enter the Void; the cinematography is amazing, don't get us wrong, but at times can only be described as an epileptic's fever dream. There are several times throughout the film dedicated to strobing visuals, such as when the camera zooms in on a hexagonal light that just so happens to be flashing red and blue.
  • Word of God says that the whole point of the infamous Sweet Movie was to bombard the viewer with non-stop offensive imagery until they were "reborn".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The outfit worn by the Sixth Doctor in Doctor Who - it's not just that it's brightly-coloured and tacky, but that the pinstripes and checks were specifically chosen to cause Strobing on televisions.

  • Cannibal Corpse, full stop. The cover arts of this famous Death Metal band are just... Wow.
  • The music video for Kanye West's All of the Lights. That epilepsy warning at the start is not kidding.
    • Kanye and Jay-Z's video for "Niggas in Paris" contains a similar warning and both videos share a director: Hype Williams.
    • And a fan-made lyrics video for the Kanye West version of E.T.
  • The works of director Chris Cunningham often has shocking images, Nightmare Fuel, Stroboscopic lights and fast editing, his video for Sheena is a Parasyte by The Horrors was banned in some places because networks feared it could trigger seizures.
  • The music video for SebastiAn's "Total" consists of a hyper-speed montage of random disturbing images plucked from the internet.
  • The music video for Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight."
    • Also the extra stages "The Great Majority" and "The Way of All Flesh".

    Video Games 
  • Hellsinker's final battles are full of this.
  • Hotline Miami is a psychedelic 80's nightmare, with all the copious amounts of blood, gore and ultra-violence mixed in with bright neon colors, the game field constantly swaying as you move, and eventually TV-style flickering that can sometimes obscure your vision.
  • rgb, a Canabalt-like game that obscures information on the screen with its painful colour palette.

    Western Animation 
  • From the show Codename: Kids Next Door there is the episode Operation: A.R.C.H.I.V.E., which details the creation of adults and the war that children and adults fought so that both could get their respective rights. Granted, the thing is controversial since it should be separated from the general continuity of the series in order to get the maximum enjoyment out of it, but that is not what makes it this trope. What makes it this trope comes after the narrator (Numbuh 1) proves that adults and children do not live happily by using a The End... Or Is It? styled motive and showing after it the presence of schools which should let children forget about everything, after which you get disturbing image after disturbing image with narration detailing how gruesomely children are getting brainwashed by them until the teacher for which the speech is given demands that Numbuh 1 stops speaking so that he can give him a triple F minus for all of the ( In-Universe ) alleged lies he taught to those children. The show was already known for its outright gruesome imagery and themes, but this is unbelievably hard to watch even by the standards of the very show.
  • Metalocalypse tends to have moments of rapid flashing and close-up shots of gore.
  • The Problem Solverz. The whole thing has no grasp on the idea of "Dominant Color" and is regularly seizure inducing with its trippy visuals and butt-ugly design. If you have sensitive eyes, or any eyes at all for that matter, you won't after watching this. As Rebel Taxi said in his list of the top ten ugliest cartoons.
    "Your average LCD TV can display over 16 million colors, and by golly The Problem Solverz is going to do just that."
  • South Park likes - nay, loves - to explore all the myriad ways of making its audience's eyes bleed. One example is when Cartman is told to close his eyes to find inspiration, cue a montage of real life footage of Nightmare Fuel, including family unfriendly deaths, gorn, and a lab mouse eating another one's brain There is also random footage of a severely starving African man in a parody commercial for Towely products.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants used to have realistic mantel depictions of its characters (Moars Krabs is the most famous one). Thankfully this kind of Nightmare Face dropped out of favor later on but they were intense.

  • Certain Op Art works fall into this category - for instance, Briget Riley's "Late Morning", a 12ft canvas of red, green and blue stripes that causes nausea, migranes, dizziness and even epilepsy attacks in viewers.
  • Shock Sites
  • Ouch. Epileptics: You are forewarned.
  • Trolls like this, especially on forums that let them post images. The Garbage Post Kid is a subtype of troll devoted to doing exactly this to the exclusion of anything else.
  • Just that. Flashing black and white backgrounds along with a load of absurd ASCII art jiggering around your screen. It's even said it'll become a virus if you visit it a second time.

Aural Invasion

  • Many ID bumps and promotional adverts on modern rock radio stations fit here. A favorite is to announce the station name with tons of sound effects and yelling. e.g.: This THIS THIS is K-K-K-K *explosion* *woman screams* KBBLA *sci-fi laser sound effects* *snippets from Family Guy* in the morning *lower pitch* IN THE MORNING!

    Film - Live-Action 

  • The audiobook version of Eden Green contains a grating scratch sound at the moment when Eden is infected with the alien needle symbiote.


    Video Games 
  • The CrazyBus title theme, which outside sources indicate was constructed using a literal random sound generator.
    • Older Than They Think: A similar random sound generator was included in one of Microsoft's BASIC demo programs that accompanies certain early PC compatibles. They're also taught as part of the syllabus in BASIC programming classes in the 80s.
  • Giygas' well-known theme "music" in EarthBound.
  • Axel-F from the PC port of the Beverly Hills Cop tie-in game. Sure, it's no CrazyBus, but it's still ear rape.
  • Much Silent Hill music.
  • When this trope is applied to video game remixes, you get this.
  • Most music in pirated Nintendo games.
  • Level 3 of Lollipop on Action 52 is an unintentional example, especially when mixed with glitchy sound effects.
  • Shows up twice in Corpse Party Blood Drive, where the game plays music so loud that it actually sounds distorted in the gym and once while wandering Heavenly Host. Considering that it's recommended that you play with headphones to give it a more eerie atmosphere, it will destroy the ear drums of anyone unfortunate enough to actually use them during that moment.
  • While playing SCP - Containment Breach, it's recommended to lower your volume whenever you encounter SCP-066 (Eric's Toy). As mentioned on the SCP article, the damn thing will blare Beethoven at super loud decimals, and the game is no exception to that.

    Western Animation 

  • Pick an executable file on your computer. ANY executable file. Turn it into an audio file like .wav or .ogg. Instant sensory abuse.
  • Similarly, playing a CD's data track in a CD player too old to know better. CDs with both music and data, such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, may have a hidden "track 0" to warn you.
  • Vuvuzelas.
  • The logo for 3-G Home Video is infamous for its extremely loud whooshing sound.
  • In a similar vein is UAV Corporation's Vanity Plate, which isn't nearly as sudden but still ear-shatteringly loud.
  • During Joel of Vinesauce's playthrough of a DOS All Dogs Go to Heaven video game, the title screen has an ear-bleeding loud and clipped version of "You Can't Keep a Good Dog Down" playing, startling both Joel (who literally starts screaming in pain) and his viewers.


    Anime and Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion practically has this down to an art form.
    • Perhaps the most infamous example is in episode 22, when Asuka is Mind Raped by the Angel Arael.
    • Then there's episode 26' (part 2 of The End of Evangelion), which features an entire minute of lightning-fast images from the series and a cacophony of voices and sound effects.
    • Shinji also shares one with the viewer in episode 4 when he is surrounded by the harsh, constant buzzing of cicadas.
    • The previews for episodes 14, 19, 22/22', and 25 feature a lot of rapidly cycling images.
  • Michael Cusack, an animator known for the 'Questions for Ted' series, also has two sub-channels, Flusack, and TedAnimationStudio containing videos that are less Newgrounds-friendly than expected. One classic is "tedshow1", which contains MS-Paint style art, jarring 8-bit music, and horribly, HORRIBLY distorted speech.
  • Devotees of Slaanesh in Warhammer 40,000 will violate all your senses at once (and then the rest of you). Noise Marines in particular use, well, noise, hideously distorted sounds and sirens and turning the volume Up to Eleven (in earlier editions, they used actual electric guitars). The Emperor's Children's senses are so dulled by centuries of excess only the clashiest of colors get their attention (hence their black-and-hot-pink colors).

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Irreversible is never particularly pleasant (what with the Infrasonics in the soundtrack and the at-times assaulting cinematography), but the ending elevates this up to an art form. The last minute or so is the screen flashing rapidly from black to white while a positively sickening sound plays. Even if you aren't epileptic, you will not be feeling great after the ending.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Room 23 from Lost. It's so bad it's designed to literally erase the short term memory of the unlucky victim.

  • Nine Inch Nails has been known for this in both their music and their videos. Most infamously were the "Broken" videos of the early '90s.
  • Dir en grey is very well known for doing this in their music, their lyrics, their music videos, and their lives. Agitated Screams Of Maggots which developed the "I'LL RAPE YOUR DAUGHTER ON YOUR GRAVE!!!" meme, is but only one example.
  • The last few seconds of Lady Gaga's disturbing but watchable video for "Alejandro," in which her face suddenly melts inwards with a loud bubbling/screaming sound. It's supposed to be the "tape" ripping.
  • Many, MANY songs by by Dir en grey. Demons fucking the shit out of geisha women until they bleednote , an animated story drawn in the style of Cannibal Corpse covers (which features a maggot that evolves into an Eldritch Abomination)note , the band playing Death Metal while they slowly rot note , surreal depictions of tentacle rapenote , among others, combined with Scare Chords, Last Note Nightmares, bouts of deafeningly loud banshee screams, and other forms of auditory Mind Screw.
    • Live performances are just as disturbing, maybe even worse; the vocalist sometimes screams out of nowhere while he vomits and bleeds, and speaker volumes are amplified to deafening levels.
  • Sunn O))) live performances. Colored fog, druid robes, Drone of Dread, and volumes Up to Eleven to make your ears ring and bones and internal organs vibrate.
  • During the 1980's, the Butthole Surfers (an already disturbing band) would turn this into an art form. For starters, the band would be playing at absurdly loud volumes, flashing strobe lights at the audience at speeds that would induce nausea and seizures in some members of the audience, and displaying a combination of 16mm films frontman Gibby Haynes had fraudulently obtainednote  of things like male to female sex change operations, autopsy footage, driver's ed gore, medical examinations of people with sexually transmitted diseases, and even "innocent" things like episodes of shows like Charlie's Angels - played upside down in reverse, of course. The band would then compliment this with a series of props/stunts (flaming cymbals, dual-drummers, papier-mache dummies being ripped to shreds, copious amounts of fog, a naked dancer...), and improvised various other stunts on top of that to create a complete hellscape of a live show.

    Tabletop Games 

  • The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky is possibly the earliest example of both auditory and visual Sensory Abuse working together. Made in 1913, when this ballet debuted the discordant music, disturbing jerking motions of the dancers, and bizarrely jarring sets caused the audience to boo within the first 15 minutes, then riot before it was over. This Ballet is only half an hour long.

    Video Games 
  • Acid Couch, a Journey to the Center of the Mind of a character having a bad drug experience.
  • Video games that are deliberately corrupted frequently fall into this territory. Either by messing with graphical/model data which can cause flashing textures or large, spastic polygons. Same can go with sound bytes stored in the game, either distorting horribly or becoming plain (if rather painful) white noise.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

  • Screamers.
  • In Real Life, this can happen accidentally to people who have issues with sensory overload. It often accompanies autism or related disorders and it can affect any of the five senses, not just vision or hearing. While the vast majority of sensory abuse these people undergo is unintentional, a very sadistic person could use it for deliberate torture.
  • Most production logos from the 1970s and early 1980s, particularly those by Viacom ("The V of Doom"), Columbia/Screen Gems ("The S From Hell"), and Paramount ("The Closet Killer" or "The Peak of Fear"). The combination of bombastic synthesized jingles and symbols that seem to charge toward the screen caused no end of distress for young children.

Alternative Title(s): Sensory Rape, Ear Rape, Eye Rape