A common Horror Trope
. A character is surrounded in darkness, aware that there's something lurking just in the shadows. They stare inquisitively into the abyss... and then a pair of eyes appears and returns the favor.
Usually, this is used for Rule of Scary
, but there's many other uses. For example, a comedic effect
could be that the entity shrouded in shadow could be invisible except
for their eyes.
By the Lights of Their Eyes
is a Sister Trope
. A typical trait of Things That Go Bump in the Night
. Compare Glowing Eyes of Doom
The trope title refers to one of the many philosophies of the eternally quotable Friedrich Nietzsche
, as seen on He Who Fights Monsters
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- Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone short story "The Riddle of the Crypt". This happens twice to Irene Morrow. The first time she sees yellow eyes in the darkness it turns out to be a large owl, which attacks her. The second time it's a vampire that wants to drain her blood.
- In Life The Universe And Everything, Arthur Dent finds himself in a completely dark cave. He turns around several times, convinced that something may be behind him, and the third or so time he sees the compound eyes of a giant fly staring back at him.
- Frodo keeps seeing Gollum's eyes when he's following the heroes in The Lord of the Rings.
- In Words Of Radiance, second book of The Stormlight Archive, the human army can at first only see the Voidbringers by their glowing red eyes.
- The Alchemist by Ken Goddard. Two federal agents are thrown into a dark room and see two eyes looking at them. The eyes then rise up to facial level. Then the Big Bad turns on the lights and they find themselves facing a large deadly snake.
Live Action TV
- The X-Files: The ending of "Detour". Mothman's red eyes stare at the motel. Luckily, Scully left the room just in time.
- In a Looney Tunes Sylvester and son cartoon, Sylvester corners the mouse he's chasing into a dark room and sees a pair eyes staring back. Thinking it's the meek rodent, he charges inside to attack—only to get his ass kicked by the boxing kangaroo.
- This scene pictured above is from "The Swamp" episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, when the gang realizes they're NOT alone.
- Done earlier in the series when Avatar Roku acts through Aang to drive off a large firebending force.
- Every season of Jackie Chan Adventures had Shendu do this to end the first part of the two-part finale.
- Subverted in the opening title of the original (1973-74) Superfriends. When Wonder Dog looks into the darkness he sees a pair of eyes. However, they're quickly revealed to be a reflection of Wonder Dog's eyes in a mirror. Watch it here.
- Overlaps with By the Lights of Their Eyes in The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure Ozzy is trapped under a large pile of rocks, Strut looks down to see a pair of glowing angry eyes staring back at him.
- Animals with a tapetum lucidum can produce this effect in Real Life: if there's a dim light source (like a campfire) behind the person peering into the darkness, it may be bright enough to reflect off the tapetum and reveal the animal's eyes but not bright enough to make the whole animal visible. Nearly all nocturnal predators have a tapetum lucidum, because it improves their night vision, including all the ones that you really don't want to have lurking around your campfire...