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A framing trick that makes a character appear to have an unusual body part, such as animal ears or a tail, which is actually just a part of the scenery. This might be used to suggest that the character is more than meets the eye, if not literally inhuman. Expect plenty of symbolism.

Horns are a common target for this trope, usually making the affected character appear subtly (or not-so-subtly) demonic. Wings of any alignment get this treatment often enough to have their own trope.

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Supertrope of "Spread Wings" Frame Shot. Compare Background Halo. See Bunny Ears Picture Prank for a way someone can playfully invoke this, and Scary Shadow Fakeout for when it's the shadow that's altered by the scenery.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

Film - Animation

  • Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: As Lady Tottington suggests dealing with the monster in a humane way, she stands in front of a lectern with a light just above her, making her appear to have angel wings and a halo. But Victor, who would rather shoot it, appears to have devil horns courtesy of a villager's red-tipped pitchfork.
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  • An Extremely Goofy Movie: When Bradley is telling the Gammas of their plan to cheat at the College X-Games, he's standing in front of a roaring fireplace with mounted bull horns above his head, making him look like you-know-who.
  • In A Very Blue Beard, Bluebeard carries a deer over his shoulder, with the horns right behind his head, right as he walks in on his wife cheating on him.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): As King Triton destroys Ariel's grotto with his trident, the lighting of the scene makes him look like a shadowy devil, with the spikes on his crown serving as the "horns".

Film - Live-Action

Literature

  • In the defictionalized Where is my Cow? (a picture book tie in to Thud!), all the animals the farmer mistakes for his cow are seen first in silhouette that makes them look like a cow. For example, a horse with a pitchfork behind him and a hen underneath to form horns and an udder. Midway through, when Vimes decides that this is a daft way to look for a missing cow and Little Sam is only ever gonna see the barnyard animals on a plate anyways, he goes Off the Rails and starts doing the same with Ankh-Morpork citizens whose silhouettes look like himself.
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Live-Action TV

  • Danger 5: Mad Scientist Dr. Mengele gives virginal Action Girl Claire the choice of sleeping with him or seeing her friends thrown to the mutants. A pair of lab coats hung up behind Mengele give the appearance of horns.
  • Doctor Who: In "City of Death", there's a scene where the Fourth Doctor is forced to his knees by a man with a rapier who has taken him prisoner. The whole scene is shot so that the horns on an ibex skull mounted on the wall appear to be coming out of the Doctor's head as he looks on defiantly.
  • Sherlock: In "The Sign of Three", the imagery of Horns of Villainy is invoked in the scene where Mary is giving both Sherlock and Watson a thumbs up for coercing both of them to take the other one out on a case to alleviate their mutual anxiety. Mary is standing directly below a pair of taxidermied horns on the wall so that these horns appear to be growing out of her head, making her look devilish. This not only symbolizes her skillful manipulation of the two of them, but also preludes to future developments of her character.
  • Played for Laughs in a scene in Spaced, as Daisy realises she and Tim are going to have to keep lying to Marsha about them being a couple in order to continue renting her flat; "We're evil," Daisy laments, just as the shot is reframed to position a pair of bananas in a fruit bowl as horns on her head.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: In "Proving Ground", a shot of Archer talking to Shran on the viewscreen is framed so that Shran's antennae appear on top of Archer's head.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "The Chute", Harry Kim and Tom Paris are in an inescapable prison where the inmates are given aggression-causing brain implants so they will turn on each other. One prisoner however remains calm, claiming that he's figured out the secret of controlling the implants. As he speaks to Harry (whom he wants to become his first disciple), a force field ring surrounding the bottom end of the Chute frames the top of his head, appearing as a halo. However when he moves his head slightly it also appears as a pair of red horns, leading to a more ambiguous interpretation of his character.

Western Animation

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