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All in the Eyes

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The Eyes Have It, or so it seems.

The lights dim and the character is thrown into deep shadow (or sometimes even total darkness)—except, for some reason, for a mysterious rectangle highlighting the character's eyes. Sometimes this is used to indicate intense concentration, sometimes it's used to show the character's powerful hypnotic abilities. And sometimes it's just to tell the audience, "This next part is supposed to be creepy!"

Almost never combined with Glowing Eyes of Doom. A form of Hollywood Darkness, and a subtrope of Chiaroscuro.

Not to be confused with By the Lights of Their Eyes.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Used twice in the OVA of Angel Densetsu, when the sunlight reflects from Takahise's knife into Kitano's eyes.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The likely Trope Maker is the 1922 film Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler, which features the eponymous character (a hypnotist/psychiatrist/master-criminal) in several of these sorts of shots.
  • As seen in the picture above, in the 1931 adaptation of Dracula, Bela Lugosi was given this close up with this effect.
    • This kind of shot is used in almost every movie that Lugosi starred in.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has this on Lucius Malfoy near the very end of the film.
  • Gomez and Morticia Addams display this for comic effect in the film adaptations of The Addams Family. Likely as an homage.
  • Le Chiffre, played by none other than Orson Welles in Casino Royale (1967).
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder used this effect in his mostly orange-lit 1982 film adaptation of Genet'sQuerelle de Brest, where actors' eyes often get a rectangular blue spotlight.
  • This happens every time Lamont Cranston uses his mental powers on someone in the 1994 movie version of The Shadow with Alec Baldwin.
  • The slits in the window blinds at the police station create this effect on Christine Collins' face, in order to see the emotion in her eyes (and quite possibly take attention away from her lips) in the 2008 film Changeling.
  • The 2008 film The Haunting in Connecticut, did this to the kid in the dumbwaiter.
  • True Lies: Harry eyes are the only thing lit during the hotel scene. At the very end the lighting is adjusted so that Helen's eyes are highlighted like this when she gets the "Boris and Doris" phone call.
  • Buffords Beach Bunnies has the Incredible Foreskin and his hypnotic abilities.
  • Harold Oxley has a beam of light appear around his eyes when the Soviets have Indy stare into the Crystal Skull in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
  • Light encompasses Jack Slater's eyes right before he flashes back to his son's death in Last Action Hero.
  • In Highlander the camera zooms across Madison Square Garden, over the heads of the crowd, until finally settling onto MacLeod's eyes, which are lit in this fashion.
  • In The Blues Brothers, the eyes of Henry Gibson's Neo-Nazi leader are lit like this while he's standing in front of Wrigley Field declaring war on Jake and Elwood.
  • The movie version of Sin City does this, though it's not really for "spooky" reasons, but as a way of reproducing the original comic's visual look of having a character only be visible as a silhouette with only their eyes really visible.
    • 300 does something similar with the Persian ambassador, until the last thing we see of him are his eyes.
  • Happens to Paul McGann's character in Alien³ at one point, probably for spookiness. Hilarious in Hindsight given the Doctor Who TV Movie example four years later (see Live Action TV examples.)
  • In Citizen Kane, Kane's eyes are lit at the opera house during Susan's disastrous debut. It shows his monomania and disconnection from the audience reaction.
  • In the two The Addams Family films, Angelica Huston's Morticia is very frequently lit like this, seemingly just for Rule of Cool.
    • Also Gomez, briefly, when he sees Fester again for the first time in years.
  • In Cinderella, when Lady Tremaine figures out that Cinderella was the mystery girl at the ball, there is a closeup of her face as the screen darkens while her squinting eyes remain lit.

  • Inverted in The Mysterious Mr. Quin, where the titular Mr. Quin is always introduced with the descriptor of a bar of shadow over his eyes, giving the impression of a Harlequin mask. It's very, very heavily implied he isn't quite human.

    Live Action TV 

    Music Videos 
  • In the music video for Shakira's "Objection (Tango)", there is a sequence where Shakira is in the car looking for her wayward lover. Her eyes are illuminated by the reflection from her rear-view mirror.
  • Done several times in Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Peek-a-Boo".

    Video Games 
  • In the intro cutscene of BloodRayne 2, Rayne appears eyes-first in the backseat of a car.
  • Chrono Cross gives the player a fine balance between blatant and ambiguous in cutscene transitioning the first act of the game into the second, when Big Bad - Lynx uses the MacGuffin on protagonist, Serge, and after an initial apparent headache, Serge stops thrashing and seemingly peacefully arises, whatever whammy involved clearly passed... except right before the a screenplay ends, Serges’ eye expression changes rapidly quickly accenting his unchanged smile from peaceful to sinister. First time through it is highly uncertain what has just happened, but clearly something has happened. When the player regains control and Lynx starts responding to controls instead of “Serge”, it is horrifically apparent what has just happened.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in Moonbeam City with Da Chief of police Pizzazz Miller, who gets shaded like she's watching from behind Venetian blinds everytime she gets particularly intense. This turns out to be a family trait, as all her sisters get similar shading during standoffs.