Follow TV Tropes


Horrifying Hero

Go To
He didn't actually need the sword, he just likes swishing it around.

"There are few who'd deny, at what I do, I am the best
For my talents are renowned far and wide
When it comes to surprises in the moonlit night
I excel without ever even trying
With the slightest little effort of my ghostlike charms
I have seen grown men give out a shriek
With a wave of my hand and a well-placed moan
I have swept the very bravest off their feet
Yet year after year, it's the same routine
And I grow so weary of the sound of screams
And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King
Have grown so tired of the same old thing"
Jack Skellington, The Nightmare Before Christmas

When the protagonist of the work is itself some horrific being that sends people screaming in its wake. They might never have been human, or possibly might have been once, but now they are some inexplicable creature that has no place in this world. These Horrifying Heroes not only look frightening, they also have frightening abilities to match, and could just as easily be imagined as a bad guy in nearly any other story. They tend to be an Anti-Hero, or villains who have had a Heel–Face Turn, however whether they are true heroes or just a Villain Protagonist they still get to be the effective hero of their story.

Characters which qualify as a Horrifying Hero include the Eldritch Abomination, Cthulhumanoids, Humanoid Abominations, Starfish Aliens, a Living Shadow, a Demon and other such things which by their very nature are normally Obviously Evil. Characters which appear human part of the time can qualify, but only if their alternate form is such a thing, and is consistently described as Nightmare Fuel, not just weird or ugly in appearance, and they generally need the powers to match. After revealing the character's true nature, a person would have to be a Nightmare Fetishist and crazy to boot to find the character appealing.


If there is a question of qualification on the basis of the character being scary but not exactly an Eldritch Abomination, then the character instead may be a Monster Adventurer. The differences between them can come down to portrayal. The Monster Adventurer is defined by being ugly or scary. The Horrifying Hero might be ugly and/or scary, but often he will also have frightening abilities. You are meant to feel bad for, and relate to, the Monster Adventurer, while the Horrifying Hero is a badass, and might be Wish Fulfillment.

Subtrope of Creepy Good, which is when any character on the side of good (not just the hero) is perceived by those around them as creepy.

Tropes which might be associated with a Horrifying Hero include Dark Is Not Evil, Face of a Thug, What Measure Is a Non-Human?, What Measure Is a Non-Cute?, Hunter of His Own Kind and Stages of Monster Grief. This type of hero is probably more likely than any other to induce a Mook Horror Show.


As for characters which are scary but don't qualify for this trope, you will likely find them under Reluctant Monster, Non-Malicious Monster or Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain. For characters whose behavior is horrifying, see Terror Hero.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Alucard from Hellsing is already a vampire in his least terrifying form; he can also turn into a roiling mass of shadows, hellhounds, eyeballs, Slasher Smiles and some kind of stampede of black knights that kill people on contact.
  • Kudou Denji from Tsutomu Nihei's Abara who is a Gauna—which is some serious Body Horror and a taste for human flesh.
  • Devilman. Anyone who sees him in his full demonic aspect is instantly horrified. Jun, the female counterpart in Devilman Lady fares little better.
  • Abel Nightroad from Trinity Blood is secretly a Crusnik, a technologically-augmented monster that can feed on vampires the way vampires feed on humans. He looks human most of the time, but when it's time to get serious...
  • Darkrai (a Pokemon that controls nightmares) was actually portrayed as one in the film Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai.
  • Franken Fran: Leading lady Madaraki Fran normally resembles a teenaged girl version of Frankenstein's monster, but at times she adopts her multi-armed "Operation Mode." While the precise value of "hero" may come into question, the "horrifying" very much definite.
    • Her sister Veronica seems to be much closer to human morality and is genuinely nice person. But while Fran was designed as an ideal surgeon, Veronica was designed as an assassin, and a fairly good one.
  • Kaiman from Dorohedoro is a man with a Caiman's head who tracks down every magic user (in search of the one who turn his head into a caiman). If they're not, he kills them, brutally. Also there is a guy who lives in his mouth and can tell whether the victim is the responsible or not. And yet he is the hero.
    • Kaiman is actually a human who became a brutal magic-user/gang leader (and currently trying to become a devil); fortunately Kaiman is now his own person thanks to magic resurrection while the guy in his mouth is the "Curse" of a seemingly non-magical magic-user "pre-Kaiman" betrayed and murdered (ditto on having his own body back).
    • Pretty much every "heroic" character can be fairly horrifying given the setting. That kindly, enthusiastic doctor who's so much like Dr. Newt? He made a magic door out of magic-user body parts (magic-users are indistinguishable from normal humans except for a tiny devil-shaped tumor in their brains).
  • Eren becomes this in this Attack on Titan after gaining the ability to transform into a Titan. He may be on their side, but that doesn't stop most people from being terrified the first time around.
  • From the anime Hell Girl, we have Ai Enma, the titular Hell Girl. Her job is simple. She runs a website called Hell Correspondence. If you have been tormented and want to be avenged, you can visit her through this site and she'll offer to literally send your tormentor to Hell. Her way of doing this involves inflicting terrifying illusions on her victim before finally sending them to Hell. Is there a catch you ask? Oh, nothing grandiose. Just your own soul going to Hell when you die. That's not a problem is it?
  • Berserk has the Skull Knight, who is an undead, skeletal knight riding a Hellish Horse. His speech is rendered in the manga the same way as the speech of the demonic Apostles or the Godhand. More than one character who has met him has been absolutely terrified to be in his presence, and at least once he was mistaken for an avatar of Death itself. Despite all this, he is the closest thing the series has to a Big Good, and has been nothing but heroic in his deeds (at least, that the readers have seen). He also literally eats the resident Artifacts of Doom for breakfast.
    • Guts himself is a monstrously large amputee with an even larger sword with a demonic wolf roosting in his psyche that gets let loose through Skull Knight's old armor, which has been retrofitted to its new host. It's implied that if he keeps down this path, Guts will become just like Skull Knight, an undead warrior in an endless battle against the Godhand's forces.
  • There are a few in One-Punch Man. Pig God is a gigantic obese man who literally devours monsters whole, Metal Knight's robots have been known to terrify even other heroes, Zombieman (who looks like a normal guy but when you see him regenerate in seconds from having his brains blown across the room, it can be quite unnerving). There are also the psychic sisters, who have been given the appellations 'Blizzard of Hell' and 'Tornado of Terror'. Their physical appearances don't qualify them for this trope, rather their extreme methods and ruthless attitudes towards even other heroes.

    Comic Books 
  • The eponymous character of Spawn, as befits the most iconic '90s Anti-Hero to survive out of the 90s. First, there's the look; taller than a human and prone to towering ominously over others, with a hugely collared, blood-red, shroud-like tattered cape framing a jet-black bodysuit adorned with Spikes of Villainy and bedecked with writhing chains. Eerie green eyes that glow with hellfire stare out of a blank-featured mask, brooding at all before him, while fingers grow into razor-sharp claws. Then you see how he fights; using Combat Tentacles and bare limbs to tear his opponents apart and rip off limbs, or emotionlessly gunning them down. Then you find out he's a Humanoid Abomination; a walking, rotting, undead corpse with a living demon serving as his (fiercely protective) costume and with enough Black Magic to wipe out armies singlehandedly.
  • Also the eponymous character of Ghost Rider; not much scarier than a leather-clad demonic biker with a Flaming Skull head that can destroy any evil character just by looking into their eyes and visiting every ounce of pain they've inflicted upon the innocent onto them.
  • Marvel's Man-Thing. Provoking fear is an explicit part of Man-Thing's powers: those that fear him burn at his touch.note 
  • Hellboy is the demon who was supposed to bring about the Apocalypse, and he probably would have become a straight Eldritch Abomination if not for being raised like a human. He's personable enough that he isn't treated like the abomination he is, but underneath it all he was still by his very nature supposed to be evil.
  • Although he can pass for human, the aptly-named Doc Horror from Nocturnals probably fits under this trope, being a creature from another dimension who escaped to our world. His teammates definitely qualify, as they include a wraith, a pyrokinetic swordsman, a fish woman, a flesh golem/gunfighter and his daughter, who carries around a collection of possessed toys.
  • The Tattered Man from the obscure one-shot comic of the same name is a spirit of vengeance whose body is composed of the tattered clothing worn by Jews who died in a concentration camp. The strands of clothing act as Combat Tentacles that he uses to impale violent criminals.
  • Eddie Brock, famous for wearing a carnivorous alien symbiote with Lovecraftian superpowers as a costume, thinks of himself as being one of these. As Anti-Venom, he expresses shock that a Mook is more terrified of the Wraith than of him.
  • During the AXIS event, Carnage was one of the villains affected by the inversion spell, which made heroes turn evil and villains turn good. While he is driven by an urge to do good, he's still brutally violent and is largely terrible at hero work.
  • As a spirit of vengeance who could teach even Ghost Rider a thing or two, The Spectre hunts down evildoers who escaped justice and uses his vast magical powers to inflict nightmarish deaths and worse-than-deaths. Turning a villain's body into cheese but leaving his mind intact and then loosing the villain's trained rats to have dinner? That was in the Lighter and Softer Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon series. When he gets serious, he's even more cruel.
  • Aside from facing general hatred just for how they were born, many of the mutants in the Marvel Universe have either powers or an appearance that terrify anyone not on their team (and even some that are). A lot of these end up becoming Morlocks, living in sewers and such, and the go-to targets for the latest "test" of a mutant genocide without wiping out a bunch of beloved main and secondary characters.
  • Fantastic Four: The Thing started off like this, but after a few decades of Character Development, the public have gotten used to an orange, rocky hero, and they love him. In-Universe, the Thing is considered the most beloved Marvel hero, tied only with Captain America (in some versions, this is because the Fantastic Four is secretly Reed Richards's wildly successful PR campaign. He may not have been able to undo mutating his family, but he could rebrand them as heroes instead of freaks).
  • Astro City mainstay The Hanged Man definitely qualifies, being a silent black spectre whose only features are a burlap sack on his head and a noose around his neck.
  • 2000 AD:
    • Nemesis the Warlock: Nemesis is a powerful demonic alien with Bizarre Alien Biology. He is a Blood Knight Anti-Hero as well, but he's positively heroic compared to his genocidal arch-enemy Torquemada, leader of The Empire.
    • Shakara: Shakara is a menacing Killer Robot with glowing red eyes, chains and spikes all over his body, and weapons for hands. In most other stories, he'd probably be either the villain himself or a robot mook for the hero to defeat, but he's simply the instrument of revenge against the evil aliens who wiped out his creators.
  • DC's Creature Commandos include Frankenstein's monster, a werewolf, a (pseudo)vampire, and a woman with snakes for hair, and occasionally a possibly sapient combat robot. The robot is the least creepy of the lot.
  • The Incredible Hulk is an unfortunate victim of this trope, due to his traditionally low intelligence and bad temper. He has a tendency to lash out in incredibly destructive rampages whenever anything angers him, which is pretty much anything. It doesn't help that he's subject to a smear campaign by the U.S military, who make him look even more bestial than he really is, and follow him around to try and capture him even when he seeks out solitude.
  • The Darkness is the living embodiment of primal darkness and chaos with the power to summon demons and tendrils that can tear humans in a variety of ways. Typically, it has sought criminals and warlords to serve as vessels so it can remain in position of powers, though its current host Jackie Estacado is a Noble Demon mobster that tries to do good in his way (preventing his power from falling into worse hands).
  • Ultimate X-Men: For the same reasons as regular Nightcrawler, only with the addition that not only does Kurt look like a devil, he also breaths out smoke whenever he teleports, making him look even more sinister.

    Fan Works 
  • The protagonists of The Return, since they are all fascistic, cannibalistic-demons, in various stages of devolving into Humanoid Abominations. And they are our world's best hope for survival against a true Eldritch Abomination which might in fact be a whole 'nother universe in itself.
  • In The Darkness Series Harry in his snake form saves Fleur from the Grindylows.
  • In The Bridge, say you're an Equestrian native. You see a giant Pillar of Light shoot out in front of your capital city and a forty story tall, razor clawed, multi-fanged, giant dinosaur with sharp spines down its back appears from the light and promptly starts mauling another giant creature that was on the attack. Congrats, the dino is the good guy.
  • Taylor in Starry Eyes is this so much. This is mostly due to the fact that her body is its own Pocket Dimension to another realm, hosting a couple of Eldritch Abominations who allow her to use their many multi-tentacled appendages to her will. Half of the heroes who see her mistake her for a villain simply because she is so mindbogglingly terrifying.
  • In the story "Real Life" by Cordria this is the reason for Danny's bad publicity; he triggers an instinctive fear response in humans whether he wants to or not.
  • Ruby in Of Red Petals and Black Feathers. She merged with Fiddlesticks, a fear demon, when she was young, and now she barely shows emotion, has the ability to induce fear in others (and just generally has an aura of creepiness even when she isn't using her powers), has trouble speaking (eventually revealed to be the result of brain damage caused by the merger), has No Social Skills, can summon hordes of crows to tear enemies apart, and has a crow that follows her around. However, she is still a good person who wants to help others, only uses her powers against bullies, monsters, and criminals, and genuinely wants to be friends with people.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas stars Halloween Town's local hero, Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King.
  • James P. "Sulley" Sullivan and Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. are monsters whose job it is to scare children.
  • Though not horrifying to the audience, the hulking green ogre Shrek certainly is to the humans he meets. He enjoys acting the stereotype of a foul man-eating monster to scare people, and he does a good job of it. He causes a panic wherever he goes, and nearby human warriors spend a good deal of time trying to slay him like heroes in stories usually do to ogres. His main motive in scaring people away is peace and quiet, and once he starts to come out of his shell, everyone gets to know him and becomes less afraid of him. In fact, one of his frustrations in the fourth movie is that he's undergone Badass Decay: he's a Bumbling Dad and a beloved member of the community, and he longs for the days when everyone used to be afraid of him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Avengers, the Hulk may ultimately fight against the villains, but he is very much a monster that strikes terror into the bravest of men. Even the normally expressionless Black Widow trembles in fear whenever the Hulk threatens to come out, and when Bruce first hulks out, he's writhing in pain as it sounds like his bones are breaking while a monster takes over his body.
  • Faust: Love of the Damned: John Jaspers' superhero form, in true Faustian Rebellion style, is a giant winged demon with Wolverine Claws. You would be forgiven for mistaking the character featured on the cover for the villain.
  • Godzilla himself, particularly in his most anti-heroic incarnations. He's a gigantic, mutant dinosaur who shoots atomic fire from his maw, yet he's nowhere as dangerous as beings like King Ghidorah or Space Godzilla.
  • A nebbishy janitor is transformed into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength after falling into a vat of nuclear waste. Though a monster, he realizes that with his newfound power, he can clean up the crime and corruption that has overtaken his city. Thus The Toxic Avenger is born.
  • Lou Garou, the main character of WolfCop. He's a small town cop transformed into a Wolf Man via a dark magic ritual. Although he's definitely savage and has a habit of tearing apart his opponents, becoming a werewolf actually makes Lou into a better cop who starts cleaning up his Wretched Hive of a town.

  • The protagonist in Everybody Loves Large Chests evolves from a humble dungeon mimic to a flesh-devouring tentacled abomination.
  • Eva Ibbotson likes to play with this trope. Some of her heroes are beings that should be horrifying, but actually aren't. For example the ghost whose ectoplasm is, unfortunately, of a bright pink. His brother is a screaming skull, and his sister has done something horrible and has to wash her bloody hands regularly. No one knows what's wrong with him. He'd still be a horrible sight to anyone who fears everything supernatural. Or the little witch, whose sisters look terrible, with clawlike fingernails and such, but the only thing strange about her is that she has a blue tooth. Sadly, it's not one of the front teeth. Played straight with others, such as the (ghost of a) man who has a rat eating his heart. People run away screaming when they see him, but he's one of the good guys.
  • Shrek, from William Stieg's original picture book of the same name, may be even more of a Horrifying Hero than he is in The Film of the Book, since he doesn't have a hidden nice-guy side to him and the entire story is about how foul and scary he is.
  • The eponymous character of Skulduggery Pleasant is a living skeleton. The cover of the American edition of the first book had a picture of him and a blurb saying "And he's the good guy!"
  • Once he's in mourning, the poet of the Vita Nuova scares off all men who see him because his face is as dead as a ghost's. Dante alludes to the fact that in his mourning he was not quite alive and that only the lady he mourned could restore him, with no confirmation as to exactly what he was in that time.
  • Invoked in Worm by Skitter, a teenage girl with total control over every insect in a massive radius. She regularly covers herself in insects to give herself the appearance of The Worm That Walks and normal battle tactics involve stuffing insects down people's throats. It's no wonder that the first superhero she runs into thinks that she's a supervillain!
  • Creature of Havoc: The titular creature is a hulking, spiny, fanged, cannibalistic powerhouse of a Monstrous Humanoid, created from a human captive by the Big Bad via Baleful Polymorph. All the same, it becomes instrumental in saving the land from a depraved Sorcerous Overlord and can do some good for bewildered citizens along the way.
  • N. K. Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy: Lil, a goddess of hunger, manifests as a sickly-looking humanoid whose jaw hangs down to her knees and is filled with rows of fangs that rotate like chainsaw teeth. Still, she's quite pleasant in her own way, helps out the heroes out of kindness, once acts as The Cavalry and forces the book's Big Bad to flee, and ends up serving as guardian to a group of Street Urchins. She also makes amazing omelettes.
  • In Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October, various supernatural creatures and horror villains draw battle lines about whether to complete a ritual that will allow certain creatures entry into our world (Openers wish to allow them through, Closers wish to stop them). The protagonist, strongly implied to be Jack the Ripper, isn't the viewpoint character; instead, the story is narrated by his dog to avoid humanizing him. He's a Closer. So is Count Dracula, to everyone's utter shock, who spends most of the story as The Dreaded and never receives any humanization.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Some of the various heroes of the Kamen Rider franchise could easily be confused for villains:
    • The original hero of Kamen Rider, Takeshi Hongo is an undeniably righteous person. Starting as a normal college student, bike enthusiast, and Judo black belt, he is abducted by Shocker, who turn him into a cyborg bioweapon. He escapes before he can be reprogrammed into a murderous killing machine and uses his new powers to fight Shocker's troops and other monsters, often with merciless and enthusiastic vigor.
    • The original Kamen Rider Amazon had a more insect-like design than even the original, and rather than having a cybernetic suit materialize from a belt, used an Incan curse to physically change his body. While Daisuke himself is normally a forgiving person, once forced into combat he doesn't hold back.
    • Kamen Rider Shin was Darker and Edgier Deconstruction of the franchise's heroes, being much more organic and frightening in appearance than they already were. The film was much more brutal than anything that had come before, and wouldn't be outdone for years until the aforementioned Amazons. The movie was considered too frightening and the series it was supposed to pilot was cancelled.
    • Tsukasa Kadoya of Kamen Rider Decade was born with a fragment of the immortal essence of the Great Leader of Shocker within him, and is even implied to be his direct reincarnation. He starts out as a world conquering villain, now leading the multi-dimensional Dai-Shocker organization. However, he ultimately ends up losing his memory while traveling to a new universe, which he agrees to protect. As a Kamen Rider, his task is to seek out alternate realities and decide whether or not they need to be destroyed For The Greater Good. Otherwise, he has to resolve the conflicts that exist in those worlds so that their threat to the greater multiverse can be stopped. Tsukasa shows little hesitation or remorse, even when he ends up in the world of Zi-O years later.
    • Kamen Rider Amazons is a horror series specifically aimed at adult fans of the show, particularly middle aged fans who grew up with the early Amazon. When the hero, who has undeniably good intentions, has a kill-or-be-killed attitude and a Cannibalism Superpower where he literally eats his opponents, themselves all biologically augmented humans beings, it's hard not to be terrified. The hero of the second season, Amazon Neo, is much the same but also able to better control the monster cells in his body. They're father and son.
  • Ultraman Geed is the son of Ultraman Belial and looks a lot like his demonically twisted father. This is rather problematic, as it means 75% of the population is scared of him and uncertain of whether or not he's a good guy, despite him being The Cape personality wise. It takes kicking his old man's butt in front of all of Japan for them to finally realize he's the good guy.

  • The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" subverts this. The singer is Satan, but he probably represents humanity. As it turns out, we're the really horrifying ones.
    After all, it was you and me.
  • Stephen Lynch's "Beelz," also from Satan's viewpoint, subverts this one too. Lynch's voice starts out deep and guttural, presenting Satan as an ancient and sinister presence, but then it abruptly shifts several octaves higher and acquires a feminine lisp. The rest of the song presents Satan as a Laughably Evil Flaming Devil.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible, when angels aren't disguising themselves as humans, anyone they appear to tends to react in fear. Their descriptions by the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel involve strange descriptors like "faces made of lightning" or "fiery interlocking chariot wheels". Despite all this, one of the first things an angel usually says is "Do not be afraid", and they are after all the messengers and soldiers of Heaven, and are definitely on the side of good.
  • Cú Chulainn, the young hero of the Ulster Cycle of Celtic Mythology, particularly of the The Cattle Raid of Cooley. Though he is portrayed as being as Bishōnen as a teenaged Irish ginger can be, he is a descendant of either the Tuatha Dé Danann Lugh or the Fomorians, a monstrous race from the mythic prehistory era of Ireland. Though he is heroic and stalwart, and generally perceived as a good guy, his defining mystical characteristic is his ability to transform into various disfigured superpowered abominations through the use of his warp-spasm. After he transforms, he becomes a berserker that slaughters anything in his path, friend and foe alike. Even out of his warp spasm, he is described in the Táin as having Multicolored Hair, four multicolored dimples in each cheek, seven pupils in each eye, one of which is sucked deep into its socket and the other hangs out of its socket, and seven clawed fingers and toes on each hand/foot.
  • Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction. She wears a skirt made of arms and a necklace of skulls, carries a severed head and a bloodstained sword and is a grade-A Blood Knight with matted black hair, black skin and a lolling tongue. She also happens to be a slayer of demons and protector of widows.

    Tabletop Games 
  • When played as heroes, the Abyssal Exalted can exhibit this sort of behavior, due to some being hideous pseudo-undead monstrosities. The (probably more common) darkly beautiful variety aren't such good examples, though their anima still sends mortals fleeing in terror.
    • Lunar Exalted, too. Their most common battle tactic is "turn into an 8-foot-tall animalistic monstrosity", after all.
    • Infernal Exalted on the other hand are basically turning into Primordials (beings with hundreds of souls and are the creators of the world), and are supposed to be helping their masters bring about the Reclamation.
      • Many Infernal powers were directly conceived as being very evil and scary in special effects but not actually mandatory-evil in execution...for a sufficiently lenient definition of "evil" anyway.
    • Hell, the Solar Exalted are the targets of a massive smear campaign from the dominant faith and as such, even if they save the day and convince a few people they really aren't so bad, if they want to avoid witch hunts and fate ninjas they tend to move on very quickly.
    • If a Raksha decided to play hero it would be most likely the definition of this Trope. As pretty as they are, they're still an Alien Intelligence from the Wyld and all.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has a slight lack of personalities who could reasonably be described as heroic. Inasmuch as they're technically "good guys", the Legion of the Damned probably qualify as they are silent warriors whose black armour is adorned with chilling images of bone and fire, and they basically will appear out of nowhere and completely slaughter a losing imperial force's foes and then disappear.
    • Mephiston, Lord of Death is generally considered a hero, but he's certainly a bit more... odd looking than the usual appearance of Space Marines.
    • It is mentioned that the Primarch Vulkan and his Salamanders would often terrify those they came to save, what with their obsidian-black skin with the texture of rock, glowing red eyes, and penchant for burning everything in their path. Despite this, Vulkan was known as one of the kindest and most caring of all the Primarchs, and the Salamanders uphold his legacy of doing their utmost to protect the Imperium's citizens, and do not ignore those in need of help.
    • From the point of view of the "bad guys", pretty much every Chaotic, Tyrannid or Necron "hero" counts.
  • It's a slim chance that anyone can be a truly heroic character in any of The World of Darkness gamelines, but both versions of Werewolves have a form of Weirdness Censor that force normal people to flee in terror when they are, uh, being werewolves.
    • Sin-Eaters, as far as supernatural beings go, usually are fairly benevolent, being essentially mediums trying to help ghosts move on in the afterlife. But since they are ex-dead people who were brought back to life by disturbing ghost-like creatures who then share their bodies, and use multiple ghost-like abilities, they tend to be seen as not exactly reassuring. One of the texts in Hunter: The Vigil supplement Mortal Remains describes a group of them fighting as seen from a regular joe's perspective; the description is absolutely horrifying, and insists on the fact the soldiers they had come to save end up almost just as traumatized as their enemies.
  • Some Player Character races in Dungeons & Dragons are weird enough, although rarely to the point that they can't function socially. But some sourcebooks allow you to either evolve yourself into an Eldritch Abomination, implant Eldritch Abomination flesh into yourself, or just plain be an Eldritch Abomination— one sourcebook has a Good Illithid. Either way, the result is… disturbing. There is the Dragon disciple class which allows you turn yourself into a half dragon. 4e allows you to play as a war golem, living mass of crystals or Minotaur.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse: Writhe is easily the creepiest person to have a hero deck. The majority of villain decks are actually less creepy. Once a scientist whose experiment with shadow energy went awry, as he moves into his Void Guard incarnation and starts wearing an OblivAeon shard on his forehead, he moves from "shadowy dude in a trenchcoat and hat" to "vaguely humanoid shadow creature that regularly sprouts tentacles, fights like a xenomorph and creates nightmare inventions". His deck has cards where he intimidates guards by throwing his voice, sucks people into dark vortices, creates shadowy reflections of his opponents, shrouds the sky in darkness, and drops from the ceiling to prey on his foes, and one of his Ongoings actually forces his opponents to take psychic damage when they hurt him.
    Writhe: Shhh, no more yelling. The dark is a place of quiet. And stillness.

    Video Games 
  • [PROTOTYPE]'s Alex Mercer is a living pile of general-purpose biomass sporting a multitude of Shapeshifter Weapons, Combat Tentacles, as well as the ability to perfectly mimic any person and assume their memories and knowledge by eating them. He's also the player character, and the one person who stands a chance at defeating an equally-horrifying personification of a different strain of The Virus.

    The same goes for James Heller of [PROTOTYPE 2]. Fits all of the criteria above, along with being a Scary Black Man who can not only summon up tendrils to tether enemies to each other but infest them with a biological bomb of sorts as well as control Elite Mooks to some extent. It's really shown in the finale, where his daughter is too terrified of him to approach him at first.
  • Raziel of the Legacy of Kain series is basically the ghost of a vampire. His blue skin, glowing yellow eyes, clawed hands and feet, tattered wings, and lack of a lower jaw leave him looking more like a demon than anything else, although in the first Soul Reaver game he can convince humans that he's on their side by not killing them. His sire Kain may qualify as well, even if he straddles the line between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist. Although he looks mostly human, people's reactions in the first game (when he's not using disguise magic) make it clear that he's recognizable as a vampire on sight.
  • Wolf Link from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a wolf with mysterious powers of darkness, ridden by Midna, a creepy imp with strange markings and a Fused Shadow helmet. Wolf Link and Midna aren't really horrifying to the player, but in-game, the two of them cause a general panic wherever they go. (The only people who aren't scared of them are the lady who operates a canoe minigame, and her brother who is more scared of her than he is of Wolf Link and Midna.) But they're definitely on the side of good.
  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm gives us Sarah Kerrigan, formerly known as the Queen of Blades and the self-proclaimed Queen Bitch of the Universe, as the protagonist. Kerrigan has been a Brainwashed and Crazy Fallen Hero and Omnicidal Maniac for most of StarCraft and all of Brood War, who only got recently turned back to normal in Wings of Liberty. She leads a Horde of Alien Locusts, possess creepy psychic powers and is motivated by a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Over the course of the game, she gets an upgraded but just as creepy version of the powers she had as a villain, basically turning into a Humanoid Abomination Physical God. And yet, while she is on a thin line between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist, she still is a better person than Arcturus Mengsk, the perfectly human Villain with Good Publicity who she wants to make pay. She has also dropped the habit of backstabbing allies and executing rivals, and even goes out of her way to minimize collateral damage; things that Mengsk has done in the past without a shred of remorse.
  • A high-Humanity Nosferatu player character in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a hideous undead monstrosity who can do quite a lot of good around town. Some humans can be quite vocally grateful for their help. Others drop dead from the sight of them.
  • The image above comes from Cthulhu Saves the World, where it's Played for Laughs.
  • Vincent Valentine of Final Fantasy VII. He fights by invoking mutations in his body to turn him into monstrous creatures, which include: Galian Beast, a werewolf-gargoyle hybrid; Death Gigas, a hulking Frankenstein's Monster; Hell Masker, a Hockey Mask and Chainsaw freak; and Chaos, a demonic entity based on himself. He also invokes the image of a vampire, as the heroes find him sleeping in a coffin in the basement of a creepy haunted mansion, but they can recruit him to the party and it turns out he's a pretty decent guy, if a little broody and unsociable. Oh, and he was so popular that he managed to get his own game.
  • Beatrix from Battleborn is one of the more disturbingly creepy characters among the heroic Battleborn. It's best shown in a number of her taunts which make her look like something from a horror movie.
  • Krieg the Psycho, the second DLC character in Borderlands 2. As if looking like a slasher movie villain and having the most agressive style and most gruesomely disturbing abilities of all Vault Hunters weren't enough, he doesn't really help his case when he tries talking. While driven by bloodlust, his original personality is still present if passive and does his best to steer his murderous side away from the innocent and unarmed. Even his crazy side actively helps the Vault Hunters by fighting alongside them, and is even ready to put his life at risk for his allies - best emphasized by some of his quotes when reviving teammates ("You're in my spot !") and his ability Redeem The Soul that instantly revives an ally at the cost of downing him ("You don't die, I DIE !"). The dormant sane fragment of his mind even threatens to take over them and kill their body should someone undeserving be hurt in their rampage.
  • The Hunter from Bloodborne is somewhere between an Empowered Badass Normal, a vampire, a werewolf, and a Humanoid Abomination. They're still mostly good, depending on player choice.
  • The Chosen Undead, Bearer of the Curse, and Ashen One from the Dark Souls series are all undead revenants who have been brought back in a half-living but powerful state in order to decide the fate of the First Flame in their respective eras. Their normal states of appearance range from "walking beef jerky" to "normal if a bit splotchy" to "terrifying burning engine of death". Regardless, each is a Humanoid Abomination at best due to gaining life from the unregulated Humanity (which comes from the Dark Soul itself) in their bodiesnote , but can become even more horrifying by choosing to have a bug burrow into their head, change into a gaunt humanoid dragon, or use any number of Dark-element spells and items to warp their body into unnatural forms. The character is as heroic or not as the player wants them to be, meaning one can use the hollowed out hand of a wraith to steal living essence from their enemies while also telling funny stories to Yorshka.
  • Yuri Hyuuga, the Harmonixer, from the Shadow Hearts games. While most of the time he's a handsome young man, he mainly fights by transforming into demonic beasts and harnessing their powers. Particularly notable in the opening of Shadow Hearts Covenant where he's protecting the French town of Domremy where he's residing from the advance of the WWI German army using the demon form of Amon, Lord of Destruction; the opening FMV of the game sees him putting on a full-blown Mook Horror Show as he terrorises the German infantry. The cutscene is called "The Demon of Domremy".
  • Eiyuden Chronicle Hundred Heroes: A 109th hero has been announced as this trope, and his design will be voted upon by backers of the Kickstarter campaign tomorrow, as per its 11th update.
  • League of Legends has Kai'Sa, a Heroic Host to a Voidspawn symbiote who uses the powers it gives her to hunt down other, more dangerous Voidspawn that threaten humanity. She actually is a fairly (and somewhat inexplicably) attractive young woman, but as her symbiote manifests effectively as a bodysuit of Void matter, it's not surprising that normal humans think she's one of them and reject her.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The playable character Fane or a custom undead PC is a walking skeleton who has to hide their body to avoid being attacked on sight, and who wields the dreaded Source magic to boot. Despite this, they can save the world, do a lot of good along the way, and earn the title of Hero in-game.

    Web Comics 
  • Duane from Unsounded is a sentient skeleton with a zombie's perpetual predatory drive who occasionally grave-robs to replace broken limbs. He's also one of the most noble, lawful, moral characters in the story.

    Web Original 
  • Cody Giles in Angel of Death is a lich which, in his universe, entails devouring human souls. He smells like a noxious corpse, and his powers include smelling fear, surrounding himself with a dark shadowy cloud by draining light out of the area, and inflicting any disease or injury on anyone with a mere touch. He is extremely moral, and is always very concerned about hurting as few people as possible.
  • The two fairies in CD-I Super Guns Fight are based off of Left 4 Dead witches, which proves to be horrific for anyone that encounters them whose not on their side. In the first appearance, they brutally murder Lupay and her entire squad, though in the former's case she almost escapes... minus one arm. However, they're aligned with the good team instead of the evil team.
  • In the early runs of Twitch Plays Pokémon, some interpretations of Red had him as a lich controlled by a very large amount of bickering spirits. Later protagonist Ao would be a walking anomaly that glitched the world around her, and it was speculated that her presence in Johto was the reason why Pokemon in the area didn't act the way they usually did.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


The Toxic Avenger (1984)

Both Melvin's appearance and his brutal methods make him horrifying.

How well does it match the trope?

4.33 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / HorrifyingHero

Media sources:

Main / HorrifyingHero