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Demonic Head Shake

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The Demonic Head Shake is a staple of horror movies of recent history, made famous by the 1990 movie Jacob's Ladder. The effect is achieved by filming somebody (or something) waving their head at a very low frame rate and later play the footage back at normal speed which creates an unsettling motion blur effect. Characteristically, the shoulders and the rest of their body remain completely still while the head goes all jittery.

This effect can be used during a Transformation Sequence or alongside a Marionette Motion where awkward body motions are filmed in Adrenaline Time creating the illusion of a broken doll. Compare Exorcist Head when someone spins their head around 360 degrees.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the anime adaptation of The Garden of Sinners, the Big Bad Araya Souren does this while regenerating from a wound on his neck where he was stabbed by Shiki earlier. Enjo Tomoe is freaked out by the sight to such an extent that he runs away shrieking.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 

  • tool's music video for "Sober" features a human character who does the creepy head shake towards the end of the video while suffering from drug withdrawal.

    Video Games 
  • The Silent Hill franchise, heavily influenced by Jacob's Ladder, is the Trope Codifier, providing examples of head twitching as well as Marionette Motion all throughout the game series in random scenes and encounters:
    • In Silent Hill 3, there's the Glutton "boss" in the Hilltop Center Otherworld, Valtiel and the Carousel horses. The head movements also occur during the fight against Memory of Alessa.
    • The Silent Hill 4 has the victim ghosts do this.
  • A non-demonic example is seen Metal Gear Solid. Gray Fox's exoskeleton and medicine, while enhancing his potential, leads him to have very painful spasms, complete with violently uncontrollable headshakes.
    • Even scarier on the original PlayStation version as the head is shaking too fast for the framerate that the red glow emitted from the central eye can't even follow properly.
  • Dawn of War: One Idle Animation for Chaos Space Marines and Khornate Berserkers has their head start shaking uncontrollably.
  • Ultimate Custom Night: Withered Chica's Jump Scare animation has her shaking her head and flapping her arms violently.
  • In Dead Space, Twitchers sometimes have this effect thanks to their Super Speed.
  • In Overwatch cutscenes, Sigma suffers from this trope as his personality fractures due to a close encounter with a black hole. It never comes up in-game due to his mastery of his new gravity powers, but he hasn't managed to elimate the twitching entirely.
  • In Emperor: Battle for Dune the shapeshifting effect of the Tleilaxu face-dancers is achieved this way. While the Tleilaxu are not demonic, they are still one of the most malevolent factions in the story.


Video Example(s):


Don't do that! Stop it!

Jack's face has been electrically stimulated from within to disguise him as The Cowboy, until his fear overpowers the effect. The always amazing Rob Bottin created Jack's Cowboy disguise wearing off with practical effects.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / DemonicHeadShake

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