Follow TV Tropes


Demonic Head Shake

Go To

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 his body remain completely still while the head goes all jittery.

This effect can be used alongside 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.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In the anime adaptation of Kara no Kyoukai, 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, he runs away shrieking.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Trope Maker is most likely Jacob's Ladder, which has The Vietnam Vet Jacob encounter several of those "twitcher" characters, signifying his mind slipping into madness. The most famous scene is of a hooded, legless man doing the head shake. They filmed the actor waving his head around at 4fps, resulting in an incredibly fast and deeply disturbing motion when played back at the normal frame-rate of 24fps. The imagery was inspired by Witkin's 1976 photograph "Man With No Legs".
  • The Austrian psychological thriller Goodnight Mommy has a Nightmare Sequence wherein Elias' mother strips down in the woods and starts spasming uncontrollably.
  • In House on Haunted Hill (1999), one of the characters experiences a rather freaky nightmare while trapped in a sensory deprivation chamber. This starts with a ghost nurse "diagnosing" him, before asking the ghost of Dr. Vanacut for his "opinion". The Doctor responds by shaking his head in a blurry fashion.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange is doing this as he's having spams from seeing millions of possible futures through the Eye of Agamotto.
  • Innerspace combines this with Shapeshifter Swan Song when Jack (disguised as the Cowboy) loses control over his shapeshifting ability and undergoes an eerie facial deformation process wherein his head shakes uncontrollably.
  • In What We Do in the Shadows, Nick does this in his bed as part of his transformation into a vampire.

    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 provides 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 Rec 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.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: