One of the scariest things you can see on film is something you know is not
alive acting as if it is; statues move, eyes of dolls pop open, parts of the architecture animating of their own accord. This can happen as someone is watching it, or out of the corner of the eye, ceasing as soon as the character looks right at it. It doesn't matter, it is more than enough to send some unstable souls over the edge into madness (followed quite often by death).
Note that this trope is particularly effective and chilling when the audience never knows if what they're seeing is real, or all in the character's head
. And while such occurrences usually result in the demise of the witness, it's not required that they literally keel over due to fear. Quite often, the imagery of the moving/living inanimate implies a guilty conscience, if not outright stated.
Subtrope of Malevolent Architecture
. Almost always produces Nightmare
. (Although if done badly, this leads to Narm
.) Often related to Your Mind Makes It Real
and Clap Your Hands If You Believe
Despite the trope name, it doesn't always have to be eyes. And while a particularly visceral, textual description is possible, this trope almost always appears in visual media.
Compare Uncanny Valley
. Related to Demonic Dummy
, Perverse Puppet
, Portrait Painting Peephole
and Living Toys
. Sometimes overlaps with Eye Awaken
, though that trope usually only applies to living (or at least sentient) creatures.
Not to be confused with the Charmed
episode of the same name, which made use of Eye Scream
rather than this trope. Or the Criminal Minds
episode, also with the same name, which also
makes use of Eye Scream
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- In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, a room of Strangework mantics is absolutely still, except for eyes following LeFel and Mr. Shunt.
- Similarly, Stephen King's Rose Red featured a scene where a statue of Ellen Rimbauer in the mansion garden ripped off her own face, the eyes of which then opened. The poor witness died of a heart attack soon after.
- Doctor Who example: "The Awakening". A stone carving in a church starts blinking and later belching smoke due to the alien imprisoned behind it.
- Another Doctor Who example: The statues in Blink. The way they move between the strobes of light, caught in new and more hideous poses as the sequence progresses so you can see they're alive but you can't see they're alive, well... It's not nice.
- In fact, the Trope Name comes from the Doctor commenting on the eyes in the walls of a hallway in The Almost People.
- Call of Cthulhu adventure "The Auction". When the Brazen Head is activated, its metal eyelids open, revealing living eyes inside the sockets.
- The stalking menace in Barrow Hill turns out to be a mobile stone from an ancient ring of Celtic monoliths.
- When you grab the Morph Ball at the start of Super Metroid, the scowling eyes and mouths of the nearby statues glow... and then as you leave they turn to look at you.
- In Condemned: Criminal Origins, there is a level that takes place in an abandoned department store, with lots of plaster mannequins standing about, modeling old cloths. Wait, what was that motion in the darkness over there... ?
- Parodied in a Homestar Runner Halloween cartoon, where the eyes of a painting literally follow the Homestar Runner across the room. He notices, and takes down the painting, revealing that it has holes in the eyes, behind which are "a pair of weird, one-eyed crows."
- Non-horror example: in the Disney adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, after taking the life of Quasimodo's mother and taken on the mother of all guilt trips by the Archdeacon, Judge Claude Frollo sees the eyes of every statue on the cathedral facade, most especially those of the Virgin Mary, glaring at him in righteous condemnation. Amazingly, however, he's able to shrug this off and dump the foundling on the churchman instead. At the end of the film, one of the gargoyles comes alive to roar a fiery wrath right in his face. This time he's not so lucky.