Follow TV Tropes


Exorcist Head

Go To
She should have her neck looked at.

A character is shown to have the ability to dislocate their bones in very bizarre places. The most popular way is turning your head 360 degrees before facing the front again. Can fall into either Squick and/or Nightmare Fuel for some people, since it doesn't look natural.

See here for a compilation of this trope.

Often done as a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer, The Exorcist.

Subtrope of Abnormal Limb Rotation Range, Compare Body Horror, Losing Your Head, Demonic Head Shake.



    open/close all folders 

  • An Emerald Nuts commercial featured an "Evil Navigator" who spun his head a full 360 degrees before eating an Emerald Nuts pistachio.
  • The Vive Sin Drogas ads feature a decidedly less horror-based variant. In one ad, after the boy overdoses on drugs, his head does a full 360-degree spin several times before he collapses and dies.
  • A Jello commercial from the 1990's that is presented as a horror movie. At the end, the bus driver spends his head while laughing.

    Anime & Manga 
  • A rather gross and unsettling example of this trope shows up in Boogiepop Phantom.
  • Morga was shown to do this in the first episode of Sailor Moon, but part of her scene was exicised from the original DiC English dub.
  • In an anime-only episode of Rosario + Vampire, Koko pulls this off while under the influence of mind-altering curry.
  • In Digimon Tamers, Makuramon is capable of this in his human guise.
  • In the Tokyo Ghoul anime, Noro turns his head almost completely around to look at someone behind him. The popping noises his neck makes in the process only make it more horrifying.
  • In an instance of Limited Animation in Dragon Ball, Goku as a Great Ape performs this at the climax of the Pilaf episode when the villain and his minions fly past in their escape plane, rather than actually turning around.

    Comic Books 
  • The Owl, a Daredevil villain, can rotate his neck 360 degrees like his namesakenote .

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played for Laughs in Little Nicky when Nicky (son of Satan) performs this again to his buddies.
  • In Beetlejuice, apparently this happens to the titular ghost at random.
  • Done as a parody to The Exorcist by the magical cartoon physics baby in Son of the Mask, when his worn-out and nearly out of his mind father suggests he take him to a doctor, and then an exorcist.
  • As the prologue to Scary Movie II parodies The Exorcist'', this trope shows up.
  • Death Becomes Her, one of a pair of Alpha Bitches, Madeline, (now made immortal by a magic potion) falls down the stairs and cracks her neck. Not only does she survive (or un-survive) the fall, she gets back up with her head twisted completely backwards, facing her backside. Although her head is reoriented to its proper position, it leaves her with a bone protrusion on her neck. The doctor exclaims it's a dislocated neck.
  • Pops up naturally in the Exorcist parody Repossessed.
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the T-X's head does a 360 spin after the Terminator hits her full-on with a fire extinguisher. Her response is a Quizzical Tilt.
  • Another Exorcist parody in Stay Tuned, in the exercise show called "The Exorcisist".
  • Navin Johnson does this in The Jerk, when he goes to deposit what he thinks is a $250 check and learns that it's actually for $250,000.
  • Johnny Depp does this as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (2010) as part of his strange dance.

  • In Doom: Knee-Deep in the Dead, the talking imp rotates its head around to face Fly as it lays dying.
  • Discussed in Good Omens, when Aziraphale (an angel) has to possess Madame Tracy to talk to Shadwell.
    Aziraphale: Now, I know what you're thinking, Sergeant Shadwell. You're thinking that any second now this head is going to go round and round, and I'm going to start vomiting pea soup. Well, I'm not. I'm not a demon.
  • In The Girl from the Well, Okiku broke her neck when she was thrown down a well, and as a ghost sometimes manifests with her head tilted at a grotesque angle.
  • In "The Gypsies in the Wood", the protagonists encounter a fairy changeling that hasn't yet mastered all the finer points of acting like a human being. As one of them walks around it, studying it from various angles, it turns its head to follow the movement all the way around.
  • Journey to Chaos: Tasio the Trickster can turn his head all the way around for fun or convenience. He's made of chaotic energy, after all.
  • In The Divine Comedy there is a place in hell where Phony Psychic are punished by having their heads on backwards, as they pretended to be able to see into the future they are punished by not being able to see in front of themselves at all.
  • The Locked Tomb: When the spirits of Canaan House take over Colum's body, they twist its head around 180 degrees to get a closer look at someone nearby, among other modifications. This is in no small part why the body drops dead as soon as they vacate it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Small Wonder episode "My Robot Family", Vicki does this in response to the command "about face".
  • In The X-Files episode "The Amazing Maleeni", the eponymous magician does this as part of his act. Mulder and Scully never do figure out how he did it.
  • One early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode has a giant praying mantis in human form. Early tip-off: She "does a full-on Exorcist twist" when she hears someone come up behind her.
  • In a rare comedy example from Mystery Science Theater 3000: Tom Servo rotates his head 180 degrees during a cheerful Christmas song. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Doctor Who: The Spoonheads' necks twist 180 degrees to reveal the transmission dish on the backs of their heads when they upload someone in "The Bells Of St. John".
  • On Good Eats, in the episode "Give Peas a Chance," Alton is called in to help a child named Stevie, who has been sitting at the table for days, because his parents told him he couldn't leave the table until he finished his (mushy, overcooked) peas. Alton shows him that peas can be delicious if prepared properly. He makes split-pea soup, a burger made of pressed split-pea paste, and a pea salad with cheese cubes. Stevie expresses his approval by turning his head around 180 degrees. (His parents don't find this unusual.)
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, a possessed Nora Darhk has this done to her by Mallus.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): This is played with in "Criminal Nature", a rare instance where it proved fatal for the person doing it. The Genetic Rejection Syndrome sufferer Melanie commits suicide by using her superhuman strength to turn her head 360 degrees, breaking her neck in the process.

  • Cryptically referenced in the song "Guillotine", by Death Grips.
    The screens flashing red, can't see shit but heads
    Spinning exorcist like planets out of orbit off the edge
  • They Might Be Giants: From the song "Turn Around" on Apollo 18
    We were waving our arms out the window
    Of a fast-moving passenger train
    Acting in an irresponsible fashion
    Until the engineer whose back had been turned
    And who we thought would find this highly amusing
    Quickly swiveled his head around

  • Done for humorous effect by Captain B. Zarr of The Party Zone during Happy Hour multiball.

    Puppet Shows 

    Video Games 
  • Mimi in Super Paper Mario does this upon revealing her true form. However, instead of twisting her head around, she somehow spins her head on her neck, causing her head to turn upside down.
  • Havik from Mortal Kombat has the ability to contort his entire body in odd and sickening ways. In fact, two of his specials allow him to regain health by doing so.
  • The Brawl Doll, a creepy possessed doll in the aptly named Horror Manor in Wario World spins his head backwards while laughing in the boss introduction.
  • The clown monster in Bewilder House can do this when you keep your eyes on him.
  • The Imperium Tremens taunt of Beatrix from Battleborn has her rapidly spin her entire head around 360 degrees while sporting a very nightmare inducing face in a very horror movie way.
  • Parodied in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. In the Haunted Towers, there's a doll in the middle of a room that turns its head to face you. If you walk counterclockwise around it, its head unscrews and falls off.
  • Haunting Starring Polterguy: Some of the fright 'ems invoke this, for the summoned monsters and for the Sardinis.
  • Fallout: New Vegas sometimes has a glitch where an NPC conversing with the player will twist their head in a circle vertically.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied by Courage the Cowardly Dog in The Exorcist spoof "The Demon in the Mattress", where a possessed Muriel's head drops off after doing the 180 degree spin.
  • Danny Phantom's future self demonstarted the 180 degree head spin, and then fully turning his body.
  • The Flying Dutchman actually did this twice in SpongeBob SquarePants.
  • Adventure Time: the Earl of Lemongrab does this, despite not really having a neck. Also, unusually for this trope, doing so seems to cause him visible strain. It somehow makes the whole thing even more disturbing.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Maggie turns her head this way in the very first Treehouse of Horror, in a nod to The Exorcist.
    • One Treehouse of Horror episode has Homer Simpson moving his head in an Exorcist way. Parodied.
    • Played for Laughs in "Krusty Gets Kancelled", when Gabbo spins his head in shock when he learns the only guest he could get on the day of Krusty's comeback special is Ray J. Johnson.
    • In "Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily", the one where Homer and Marge are declared unfit parents and the kids are given to the Flanders family to foster, Ned takes them to the river to baptize them. Bart and Lisa are sitting in the back seat and Maggie is in front.
      Maude: Oh, relax, Bart. Your sister Maggie isn't scared.
      Bart: That's because she can't talk.
      Maggie: [pulls her pacifier out] Daddily doodily!
      [she turns her head 180 degrees to face Bart and Lisa]
    • In "When You Dish Upon a Star", an angry Homer is driving to the beach and turns his head clockwise toward his fighting kids. He then turns his head further clockwise to face the road and we hear an audible snap.
      Marge: Homer, your spine!
    • In "Exor-Sis" story from "Treehouse of Horror XXVIII", Maggie is possessed by a demon called Pazuzu and she starts to turn her head 360 degrees.
  • Tangled: The Series: Little Cassandra is seen bending her neck in an unnatural way to face Pascal in "Islands Apart", complete with the sound of sinew being twisted.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Seahorse Seashell Party", Brian is hallucinating heavily on mushrooms, and he stumbles across a naked Lois standing in a briar patch, who does one.
    Lois: [her head spins around 180 degrees] Wanna have ssssssex? [her eyes turn into snakes and crawl out of her face]
  • The Road Runner is seen turning his head a full 360 degrees at the start of the cartoon, "Ready.. Set.. Zoom!".
  • One episode of The Critic has Jay Sherman's son Marty's school compete against an entire school of "Exorcist" children, all of whom constantly display this trope simultaneously.
  • Done by a Creepy Doll on Jimmy Two-Shoes.
  • Done by Omi, of all people, in Xiaolin Showdown after he makes a temporary Face–Heel Turn and joins Chase Young on the Heylin side when he gets his good chi being left behind in the Yin-Yang world, coming back with only his bad chi remaining. When the remaining Xiaolin apprentices try to restrain him so they can restore his chi, including trying to sneak up behind him during his rampages, Omi makes a complete 180 degree head turn, complete with Ax-Crazy grin, Red Eyes, Take Warning, and the sound of scraping metal.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
  • In Drawn Together, "The Other Cousin" (s01e05), Wooldoor Sockbat on cold turkey hallucinates a baby crawling at him on the ceiling doing the head spin.note 
  • Invader Zim: Gaz does this near the beginning of "Bloaty's Pizza Hog".
  • Hilariously inverted in the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Blood Moon Ball". Star's demon ex-boyfriend Tom holds his head still so he can continue to give Marco a Death Glare while his body rotates as he and his anger-management counselor "walk it out".
  • Gravity Falls: In "The Inconveniencing", a possessed Mabel's head rotates, followed by the rest of her body.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Metallo can shoot Kryptonite Eye Beams. When Superman grabs him from behind, Metallo turns his head towards him anyway and resumes shooting.
  • Steven Universe: In "Change Your Mind", after being possessed by White Diamond, Pearl's head rotates 360 degrees the first time she gets back up. Given Gems' bodies are holograms that likely lack bones (or any other internal organs by default), it's possibly any gem can do so, they just don't because it would be creepy.
    White, speaking through Pearl: I feel excellent!
  • The Lion Guard: Ulla the owl is surrounded by Mama Binturong's porcupine minions, but she scares them away by turning her head exactly behind her. Unlike most fictional owls, she turns her head around at 180 degrees instead of a full 360.
  • Done by Izzy in the Total DramaRama episode "Germ Factory" after she and most of the other kids get sick from licking the interior of a restroom.
  • Played for laughs as a throwaway gag in the Tom and Jerry short "Trap Happy". Butch rolls a cheese-scented bait into Jerry's hole. Jerry watches as the bait rolls a full circle around him.
  • An uncharacteristically pissed-off Ed (of "Edd n' Eddy" fame) briefly does this in the episode "Little Ed Blue" in response to a distraction.
  • Played for laughs when Bean is possessed in Disenchantment, she spins her head around like an owl, then complains that her neck hurts.

    Real Life 
  • Owls are famous for being able to turn their heads extremely far in either direction. Unlike many animals like humans, owls lack the special muscles in their eyes that would allow them to rotate or roll, leaving them fixed. Though despite popular belief, they cannot rotate their heads 360 degrees, for obvious anatomical reasons. Their approximate swivel rotation is about 270 degrees.
  • While owls are particularly specialized for head turning, birds in general have much more flexible necks than most mammals due to having a greater number of neck vertebrae.
  • Praying mantids are the only insects that can look over their shoulder. A praying mantis can turn its head more than 180 degrees and can see movement up to 60 feet.
  • There are people recorded to be capable of turning their heads 180 degrees, like this example
  • Very small primates native to south-east Asia, known to scientists as Tarsius, are capable of this. Since they look a bit like E.T., you probably don't want to chance upon them at night.
  • Pink Amazon River Dolphins (also known as Botos) have unfused neck vertebrae and can turn their heads 180 degrees. This ability aids hunting when the water rises in wet season, as the forest gets partially submerged and they have to swim through the trees.
  • Three-toed sloths have more neck vertebrae than typical mammals (nine as opposed to seven), allowing them to turn their heads in an arc of 270 degrees.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: