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"They're taking a very restrained approach to this, so much like Jaws did — Steven Spielberg didn't always show the beast, yet the essence is present and it's there and it's moving and you know and it's creepy and it's — so the tension will mount for sure."

When the Big Bad is a monster, especially a large monster, it's imperative to avoid showing your audience the monster for as long as possible.

But it's still OK to show small portions of the monster such as his tails, claws, etc. earlier than that, but the filmmaker should be towards revealing such a monster as an exotic dancer's towards removing her clothing, but the full reveal of the monster should take a long time, which is at least several episodes on television or at least twenty or thirty minutes into the film.

The larger and badder the monster, the longer it will take for him to become visible, and if he's badder than bad, the monster may not ever even be shown at all to start with.

This law emerges from the cost of special effects and also the desire to keep the audience in suspense until the "good stuff" appears, and it's become a standard feature of monster movies.

Conforming to this law often involves the extensive usage of reaction shots, shadow shots, or shots of the monster that are obscured by smoke, waves, darkness, blood, mist or fog, stormclouds, etc.

Of course, actually showing the monster usually heralds the decline of his earlier invincibility, and when the monster's implausibly-good at not being spotted in-universe, that's instead a Suspiciously Stealthy Predator.

An alternative trope is Slow Transformation where in which a major character, often the lead, starts out as a human but then slowly begins changing into a monster, leaving both the characters and the audience in suspense over what the end result'll ultimately be, and the final form's only fully revealed during the climax, and also compare Unseen Evil.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Pluto: The title character is only glimpsed at until his appearance 7/8ths of the way through.

    Comic Books 
  • The Coming of Galactus: In Fantastic Four #48, Galactus — who is probably the largest and most omnipotent bad guy in the Marvel pantheon (at that time) — does not appear until the very last panel.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The Artificial Zombies in the abandoned Monarch outpost — the first several times they appear, they're mostly in silhouette apart from fleeting glimpses of their features and their Glowing Eyelights of Undeath, and it isn't until a few chapters later that we see their full appearance. The fact that right after this reveal, the zombies abandon those forms via merging with and puppeteering Skullcrawlers and are almost never seen in those forms again, arguably makes it all the more effective and impactful.
  • In The Geeky Zoologist's Jurassic World reimagining, the Indominus rex is only fully revealed near the end of the first book. Before that, only her overall shape and some of her body parts are seen by the POV characters.
  • The first entry of the Sweet's Clothing series gives the reveal that Kevin is a werewolf, but his wolf form is obscured for the first three stories, The Night Off ending just as Kevin's transforming, and Love Bites and The First Change having really only the morning after the full moon. On The Loose finally had Kevin's wolf form be more focused on, and an included illustration shows that it's only really a wolf in mentality and general silhouette.

  • Daemon in the Tamers Forever Series, lampshaded by the author.
    Episode five and Daemon hasn't arrived to Shinjuku... *sigh* Oh well, I just hope I actually get him in there before chapter eight, and I expect to finish this story in twenty chapters in the worst-case scenario.

    Films — Animation 
  • Pooh's Grand Adventure: Played with, as the unseen Skullasaurus chases the characters throughout the story as the roars of the monster cause the characters to flee in a panic. Ultimately, when it appears that the Skullasaurus is going to appear to give a final scare it's averted as the suspected shadow of the monster is revealed to be Christopher Robin. Furthermore, the Skullasaurus isn't real and is instead a product of the character's fears, which means that the monster is never revealed at all.
  • The Curse of the Were-Rabbit goes to lengths to avoid giving away the Were-Rabbit's appearance and identity for the movie's first half, even including "Jaws" First-Person Perspective shots.
  • In The Hobbit, there's a brief flashback of the dragon Smaug destroying the cities of Erebor and Dale, but we don't really get a good look at him up close until near the end, when Bilbo finally sees the monster in person.
  • In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, in a similar thematic vein to each of the Jurassic Park franchise examples mentioned directly below within the "Live-Action Films" folder, Rudy The Albino Baryonyx gets this trope's treatment at first in that he's never even mentioned at all until nearly half-way through the runtime, and on top of that, before the climatic sequence where in which he's finally fully shown in the flesh while being completely unobscured by smoke, darkness, or even fog, we only ever see certain parts of him such as his legs, torso, arms, shadow, and finally his glowing red-eyed silhouette.
  • In Turning Red, this is downplayed with Mei's panda form. It is revealed starting with her eye, then feet, followed by the top of her head, and lastly her torso before we see the whole thing a few seconds later. It is played more straight with Ming's with the first glimpse being shadowed, followed by her foot, then silhouetted head before she shows up fully.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Abominable Snowman fittingly uses this to preserve the sense of the unknown and unknowable around the title characters, as well as to cover up any deficiencies in its 1950s special effects. We see the occasional footprint, and at one point even a shaggy arm reaching through a tent flap, but it's not until the climax of the movie that we get a full shot of the creatures, and even then, they're barely more than silhouettes in a dark cave.
  • The Alien franchise as a whole regularly plays with this trope depending on which exact installment you're currently watching...
    • In Alien, even the Ovomorphs don't ever show up until about a quarter of the way on through the film's runtime, which is also when the face-hugger impregnates Kane, and after that, quite a bit of more time passes until the infamous Chest Burster sequence, and after that happens, yet more time passes until the Chest Burster grows up to be "Big Chap" aka "Kane's Son" the Xenomorph Drone, and finally, only one out of three jumpscares seen throughout the whole entire film has anything to do with him at all along with the fact that the audience also doesn't ever even get to have any exceptionally great looks at the entire creature at all right on up until the film's famous Post-Climax Confrontation between him and Ellen Ripley, very much easily making this film's example of this trope a major exaggeration.
    • In Aliens, this trope is still somewhat exaggerated in that the adult Xenomorph Drones, Ovomorphs, and ChestBursters don't ever even show up on-screen at all until more than an hour into the film's runtime and that the First Acheron Queen isn't ever even mentioned at all until even later than that and is likewise not actually shown until just mere moments before her famous Post-Climax Confrontation with the then P-5000-Powered-Work-Loader-clad Ellen Ripley, but exactly what stops this example from truly being considered an exaggeration of this trope is that the FaceHuggers actually show up far earlier into the runtime than in the first film mentioned above as far as the not only extended but also truly canon version of the film goes and that the adult Drones are fully shown right when they finally actually appear on-screen for the first time in the film much unlike "Big Chap" aka "Kane's Son."
    • In Alien³, this trope is significantly downplayed when compared to the first two films in that the Ovomorphs show up immediately during the film's opening sequence along with the FaceHuggers and that we also even get to fully see the lone Xenomorph Runner both in his Chest Burster form and in his adult form not too much later than that.
    • In Alien: Resurrection, this trope is downplayed again in that the Cloned Queen's Chest Burster and adult forms are both shown during the film's very opening sequence and that the Ovomorphs, FaceHuggers, and adult cloned Xenomorph Drones are all also fully shown for the first time just a handful of minutes later than that.
    • In AVP: Alien vs. Predator, this trope is downplayed once again in that the Yautja starships and tech are shown immediately into the film's runtime and that the Yautjas themselves, the Antarctic Queen, the Ovomorphs, the FaceHuggers, the ChestBursters, and the adult Xenomorph Drones are all also fully shown during the film's first act on top of that.
    • In Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, among other tropes prominently seen throughout the franchise as a whole, this trope is in fact outright averted this time around in that the Yautjas, "Chet" the Predalien, the FaceHuggers, the ChestBursters, and the adult Xenomorph Drones are all fully shown together for the first time during just the very opening sequence alone, but shockingly enough, the Ovomorphs are actually literally never even shown at all during the events of this installment.
    • In Prometheus, much like in the first film, this trope is again exaggerated in the case of the Hammerpedes, the Trilobite Face Hugger, and finally the Xenomorph Deacon since none of them are ever fully shown until more than halfway through the runtime in the case of the former two creatures and also during just the last few shots before the end-credits in the case of the latter-most creature, but this trope is also averted hardcore in the Engineers' case since they're actually fully shown right at the very beginning of the film during its Distant Prologue of sorts.
    • In Alien: Covenant, this trope is downplayed in the Neomorphs' case since they fully appear during the film's first act, but this trope is also exaggerated once again in the case of the Ovomorphs, the FaceHuggers, the ChestBursters, and finally the adult Protomorphs since none of them ever fully appear until during the last act of the film.
  • Attack of the 50 Foot Woman: Nancy in her giant form doesn't appear in full until the last ten minutes of the movie. Until then, all that is shown is her hand.
  • Averted in the original 1981 Clash of the Titans film as the Kraken actually shows up during one of the first few scenes before later reappearing during the climax but then exaggerated in the 2010 remake where in which the Kraken does not ever even show up at all until Perseus battles him in order to save Princess Andromeda towards the end.
  • The Crawling Eye was one of the first movies to do this, with its weird alien monsters hiding without the Fog of Doom on the side of the mountain until the climax.
  • Cloverfield, as it's very closely related to each of the Godzilla franchise examples mentioned below in that you don't get to see the entire thing until nearly half of the film has gone by. Not only is its appearance rather hard to explain without seeing the movie, it's quite ugly too. For all films, the entire strategy behind their marketing campaigns was to avoid showing the monsters so that audiences would then go see the films to find out what they looked like for themselves.
  • Dragonheart, where the first look we get at the dragon is in a dark cave, and we only catch brief glimpses of him for the movie's first act.
  • Dragonslayer is a good example: we see the dragon Vermithrax's clawed foot, a wing, the end of its tail, the outline of its head with something (or someone) blocking the head itself... Even when the whole dragon is first shown, it's just a distant shape in the air as it flies over and attacks a town. The dragon is not shown in full, nightmarish detail until at least two-thirds of the way through the movie.
  • Dune (2021): The Sandworms are alluded to a lot over the course of the movie and while some attacks of them are shown, they are mostly hide in the sand and just the fangs are revealed. The full sight of the worms is saved for Dune: Part Two.
  • In The Fly (1958), after his Teleporter Accident Andre initially doesn't allow his wife Helene to see him at all, instead communicating with her through notes and knocks on the door to his lab. When he allows her inside he keeps a hood over his head. She and the audience do see the claw that has replaced one hand, but it's not until the two-thirds mark of the movie that she decides to invoke Dramatic Unmask and the audience sees that his head is now that of a fly's (which also reveals why he couldn't speak to her). The Fly (1986), by comparison, codifies the Slow Transformation trope.
  • For most of The Fog (1980), we don't even know for sure what the threat even is, except that it's something lurking in the Fog of Doom that rolls into town. Even at the film's climax, we only ever see the things in shadowy silhouette.
  • The Godzilla franchise sometimes uses this trope as well, and even the titular Kaiju himself also provides the above page image:
    • In Godzilla (1954), Godzilla's very presence and actions are keenly felt during an attack on a fishing ship, and later, a small town, long before we ever get our first good look at his entire body.
    • In The Return of Godzilla, which is the 1984 reboot and also the first of the heisei era of Godzilla films, suspense is built up around Godzilla again, with his presence instead being shown through sunken ships and floating derelicts infested with his gigantic lice, long before he ever actually fully shows up in person.
    • In the 1998 American Godzilla film, a monster the size of a skyscraper manages to travel halfway around the world while being stalked by the US military, attacks Manhattan, and yet still does ever not fully appear on-screen for forty-five minutes, and on top of that, all of the marketing also hid Godzilla's face, only ever showing very brief glimpses of his foot, his eye, and his tail.
    • In the 2014 Godzilla film, the one whose lead actor provides the above page quote, this trope is annoyingly exaggerated with Godzilla at the very least in part since Godzilla didn't ever even appear on-screen at all until exactly fifty-five minutes into the film, and he didn't have any more than just a few seconds of screentime until the final act of the film on top of that. Critics loved this approach, but the fans easily did not for obvious reasons, but the sequel, King of the Monsters, outright averts this trope with him as you thankfully clearly see Godzilla right at the very beginning of the film.
  • Gremlins: In both films, we at first don't see much if anything of the gremlins except glimpses of their arms and shadows and hearing their voices after their cocoons hatch. After a short time, we finally see them in all their monstrous glory, and from then on they get a lot of screen-time for the rest of either film. This trope's re-use in the second film remains effective due to the four metamorphosing mogwai's unique appearances.
    • Part of this, at least in the first film, is the limitations of the puppets, and Chris Walas always racing to keep up with the film's shooting schedule.
  • Smaug doesn't appear in the entire first Hobbit movie except for brief glimpses of his hide and legs, and a close-up of his eye in The Stinger. A lot of people went into the second film mainly to see the full-body reveal, and they were not disappointed following what is easily the second most exaggerated usage of this trope of all time after the Harry Potter franchise example mentioned below within the "Literature" folder.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: As in the book, Salazar Slytherin's basilisk is only heard as a voice by Harry and moves through Hogwarts' pipes. The giant serpent makes the appearance when it's summoned by the heir of Slytherin, Tom Riddle, the real persona of Lord Voldemort, to fight and kill Harry.
  • The Haunting (1999): Hugh Crain's ghost at first appears as an unseen supernatural force that has full control of the house. Until Nell calls for him in the final battle, when Crain makes his appearance as a tall monstrous humanoid spirit. This is in contrast to the original The Haunting (1963), where we never even saw anything of him at all.
  • Howl (2015): The werewolves aren't fully seen beyond brief glimpses of Scar's limbs until Scar gets onboard the train. Even after that, the other werewolves largely remain obscured by shadow until the climax.
  • Independence Day: While the giant spacecraft are not exactly monsters, they're definitely treated in the same way. The ships are shrouded in mysterious stormy clouds until they actually reach the destinations cities and emerge in their full terrifying majesty. The aliens themselves are kept mostly hidden, too: the first real appearance by one is when Hiller manages to disable its ship and then knock it out, only as a bunch of lashing tentacles and a brief glimpse of it in its biomechanical suit. The alien doesn't fully appear out of its suit until even later, at the end of the second act.
  • In Jaws, the film that's also mentioned within the above page quote, this example is actually an enforced one in that Spielberg didn't like the model of the shark used in the film and it kept malfunctioning during production, so he ensured as little of it was shown on camera as possible, often using POV shots to indicate his presence instead, and besides, great whites are ambush predators that perpetually lurk below the ocean surface anyway and thus have no reason to just go around revealing themselves.
  • The Jurassic Park franchise has also gotten in on the use of this trope on a regular basis before:
    • In the first film, it was even deliberately done during the film's very production as the trailers did not show the animals' full body appearances until the very theatrical release of the film causing the Brachiosaurus' appearance to the audience to be just as stunning as the in-universe visitors' reactions since dinosaurs had simply never even looked that good on-screen before at all.
    • The Tyrannosaurus rex doesn't ever show up until about halfway through both the first film and the second film, and while it may be easy to forget with just how ubiquitous they've become since the film's release, living Velociraptors don't ever appear on screen until about two-thirds of the way through the very same two films. In fact, the second film even goes out of its way to hide them until the last possible second with the "Long Grass" scene.
    • While a talking dream version of a raptor appears on the plane ride to Isla Sorna in Jurassic Park III, real raptors don't show up until about the midpoint of its runtime, and this trope is actually uncharacteristically averted with both the Spinosaurus and the T. rex as they come pretty abruptly onto the scene during the frantic first few scenes on the island, but the Spinosaurus at the very least is only given brief glimpses at first until it rises up to roar at the survivors in the airplane after eating Nash.
    • The Indominus rex is briefly seen as a hatchling at the beginning of Jurassic World and can be faintly seen slinking behind foliage when Simon Masrani comes to inspect the new attraction, but she doesn't make a full on-screen appearance until she's ready to break out, and even then, she doesn't appear within full view until the first attempt at her recapture, and on top of that, this trope is also intensely exaggerated with the Tyrannosaurus who's actually even the very same specimen from the first film as it happens with Zachary and Grey only faintly seeing her past a bunch of other tourists at one point, but she doesn't make a full onscreen appearance until the very last quarter-hour when Claire lures her out to fight Indominus rex. Played with and averted with the Raptor Squad. They're first shown in glimpses as they pursue a pig, only to be fully shown in their display pen moments later.
    • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom outright averts this trope with Rexy as she fully appears right from the very beginning of the film much unlike with the franchise's previous installments that also feature her, but this trope is also still used on Ripper the Indoraptor in that he's never even shown on-screen at all until well into the film more specifically during the auction sequence where in which he's finally fully shown for the first time.
    • In Jurassic World Dominion, as far as the extended version goes at the very least, this trope is outright averted again with both the Tyrannosaurus rex and the Giganotosaurus since they battle each other within full view during the Mesozoic Era prologue sequence.
  • King Kong:
    • In King Kong (1933), this trope is justified in that the main characters have to travel for a long time in order to see him, but this trope is greatly exaggerated in the 2005 remake as it takes a whole hour for us to even hear him roaring from off within the distance someplace, and it likewise also takes even longer than that for him to actually be shown on-screen for the first time.
    • The MonsterVerse incarnation first appears during the first five minutes of cinematic debut, but his face and most of his body are obscured so he looks like an ominous silhouette of incomprehensible size — it's only later in the movie, when he slaughters the Sky Devils, that we see Kong's full appearance. Godzilla vs. Kong's very first shot fully shows the big ape all while he's completely unobscured and lazing about within his jungle home, easily making for this trope's most hardcore aversion of all time, and Godzilla also appears relatively early into that movie too on top of that. Then the spin-off animated series Skull Island plays the trope straight again, with Kong spending the first half of the series obscured in shadow or off-camera whenever he shows up, before Charlie and the audience finally see his full animated appearance when he's brooding at an ancient Iwi temple.
  • The Mist, naturally, keeps its monsters obscured by Fog of Doom. The first good look at them we get is just of a tentacle reaching through the garage door. While some of the smaller varieties of monster are indeed shown pretty clearly, the bigger ones tend to appear in nothing but silhouette.
  • My Animal: The transformed states of the werewolves are primarily hidden for most of the movie, and it's only when we see Henry's corpse that it turns out they look no different from regular wolves, and even then Heather's wolf form isn't shown until near the very end.
  • The title character in 1957's Night of the Demon. The director, Jacques Tourneur, originally wanted the demon to never even appear on-screen at all, but the studio executives were insistent on him appearing on-screen at some point or another no matter what.
  • Nope: Mostly accomplished by Obscured Special Effects. The UFO spends a lot of time hiding in cloud cover, so you spend a lot of the early part of the movie wondering what exactly you're looking at. Even after the UFO is shown more closely, it's mostly featureless with the exception of its mouth hole up until near the end when it completely unfurls itself.
  • In Phantom Of The Rue Morgue (an adaptation of The Murders in the Rue Morgue), the killer is kept largely hidden for the first half of the movie, only seeing glimpses of him, like his shadow, his hands, his hairy body, figure hidden under a sheet, it is later revealed that the killer is a trained gorilla named Sultan who is trained to kill people by hearing ringing bells which were on the bracelets worn by the female victims.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: The Kraken's body is briefly seen when Will is underwater after Davy Jones' pet attacks Bellamy's ship. At the climax, the Kraken shows its large fanged mouth to eat Jack Sparrow. The full body of the creature is not revealed until the third film with its corpse stranded on a beach after Davy Jones is forced to kill it.
  • Much like the Alien franchise mentioned above, the Predator franchise also regularly plays with this trope depending on the specific installment that you're currently watching:
    • In Predator, only the view of the soldiers from the Yautja's eye-view is visible at first, then a shot of its own hand through its visor revealing that it has claws, then a view of the cloaked Yautja with his glowing yellow eyes, then close-ups of him patching up his wound, then a full-body view, and finally the infamous unmasking moment that reveals just what his "real face" looks like.
    • In Predator 2, much the same thing happens with this installment's main Yautja antagonist, but the corresponding moments mentioned directly above each happen significantly earlier within the runtime than in the first film, and on top of that, we also even get to see nine other Yautjas near the end of the film just following the main one's death.
    • In Predators, this trope is downplayed in that the Yautjas are fully shown during the film's first act, and we also even get so see some new types of Yautjas later on in addition to that.
    • In The Predator, this trope is outright averted in that we fully see the Yautjas right from the very beginning of its runtime along with the brand-new upgraded Yautjas who are introduced during the events of this film.
    • In Prey, this trope is used again as the primal Yautja is cloaked at first but then made visible later on.
  • Averted by Rawhead Rex; it was Clive Barker's intent to make the monster as visible as possible early in the film.
  • Super 8 doesn't show the alien at all for the first few attack scenes. During the climax, we briefly see a strobe-lit shot of its face. The alien is fully revealed at the end.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the monster is visible (as Robert Patrick in police blues) from the beginning, but its superpowers and also its stunning visual effects are slowly but surely trickled in as per Monster Delay. The powers are hinted at with first encounter, their lethality is realized with the death of the foster parents, and they're fully exploited to the limits during the double-finale.
  • Them! spends most of its first act as a very minimalistic police procedural type story, showing us very little... Though we regularly hear a strange whirring noise coming from over the next hill, we don't see its source... until a giant ant wanders into the shot. From this point on, the movie becomes a lot less shy.
  • Van Helsing: Dracula's demon form is only glimpsed through shadows and is seen from the distance. During the film's final battle, the monster is finally seen when he faces Van Helsing's werewolf form.
  • Pacific Rim looks at this trope and says "What's that?" as there are lots of monsters, and they spend a lot of time on screen right from the start with much of their bodies also being shown, but this is justified both in and out of universe; in-universe, the majority of the film is set many years after Kaiju started appearing so everyone's already used to them by that point in time, and out of universe, the film's clearly intended to be a very fun Mech vs. Beast movie rather than a serious thriller, so it gives the audience as much of that as possible.
  • Pacific Rim: Uprising exaggerates this trope, however, in that while the Jaegers are shown quickly and frequently, the kaiju aside from the concept of kaiju-brain-controlled rogue Jaegers don't ever show up at all until during the last quarter of the film's runtime, and there's only ever one single fight scene with them on top of that.
  • The kaiju film, Ultra Q The Movie: Legend of the Stars takes its time with the revelation of its monster, Nagira. Its first appearance is in a construction site at night where all the audience see is its tail, smashing into machinery and excavators, and it's roaring before long-distance shot of some gigantic creature's silhouette in the dark. And then a glimpse of its head as it attacks later on, and finally we see the monster completely when it destroys a coastal city in the climax.
  • A unique subversion of this trope occurs within A Quiet Place as one of the "Death Angels" suddenly rushes onto the screen and into full view during just the first several minutes and also during broad daylight no less when it at first seems that the fictional species won't be fully revealed until much later on, and then A Quiet Place Part II simply outright averts this trope in that the creatures are seen in full view quite a lot throughout the film's runtime much like the Pacific Rim Kaiju mentioned above.
  • In Zathura, the single biggest threat to be found within the main game-world, that being the Zorgons more specifically, aren't ever even mentioned at all until around halfway through the film, which is also when we get our first look at a Retro Rocket of theirs, but it still takes even longer than that for any of them to ever actually show up on the screen in person for the first time.

  • Exaggerated in Stephen King's It, which first introduces Pennywise the Monster Clown as Its avatar, then later reveals Its physical form to be more akin to a giant spider. That is only a partial manifestation of Its interdimensional form, which is even more terrifying to the characters. Just perceiving It risks making you lose your mind.
  • What is easily the most exaggerated example of this trope of all time occurs within the Harry Potter franchise since the build-up to revealing the appearance of Voldemort's "vessel" actually spans the first four whole books in fact.
    • For an example that's specific to a single book, there's the Basilisk from the second book as we spend most of the book only hearing its voice and also not even being aware of its true nature although the fact that Harry is the only one who can understand Parseltongue makes it fairly obvious in hindsight, and it's not until the final act that the creature's identity is revealed and even longer after that until we finally see it in the flesh, and in fact, the Basilisk is only seen by the characters for less than a single whole chapter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Mayor's ascension takes an entire season arc.
  • In both episodes of Chased by Dinosaurs, the main subject species to be found within them, those being both the Giganotosaurus and the Argentinosaurus in the first episode and the Therizinosaurus in the second episode, all take awfully long amounts of time to ever even show up on-screen at all, and it's even worse with the Giganotosaurus in the sense of him not ever even receiving a name-drop prior to his first actual on-screen appearance within his respective episode.
  • Just about every Doctor Who story that has a monster, right up to the present day. Often, the actual reveal of the monster was rather a let-down.
  • Firefly. The reavers are constantly referred to, but hardly ever appear on-screen. Until the movie, the only 'reaver' that appears is someone who was driven insane by them.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power:
    • In the pilot, the troll-cave from Utumno is shown lurking around obscured by darkness and a close-up of its hand. He is fully revealed after attacking Galadriel and her company of Elves.
    • In the second episode, a strange sea-dragon attacks the raft with people where Galadriel is also. We see glimpses of his body, hinting at its Kaiju size, but its shape is kept vague. It's subverted in the end, for all the "Godzilla in the water" build-up, the monster is never fully shown.
  • The smoke monster on Lost was not seen in full until the middle of season 2, and his nature wasn't fully understood until season 6.
  • This is Lost Tapes' bread and butter: the monsters featured in each episode hardly ever fully appear on-screen, and if they do, they're usually obscured by darkness or motion blur. As the series went on, they were shown more and more frequently until, in the third season, you could expect to see them in full view of the camera at the end of every episode. The rare occasions where they appear earlier are usually in the event that the creature has a more "human" appearance, such as (in the third season) zombies as opposed to the yeti.
  • Monarch: Legacy of Monsters: The Ion Dragon which appeared in Episode 2 is introduced this way both in a meta sense and in the show proper.
    • Pre-broadcast marketing hinted at the Ion Dragon's appearance but didn't reveal the full thing. Early promos and the first series trailer showed the worm's eye view shot of the Ion Dragon flying overhead, and a snippet of the shot where the Ion Dragon bursts out of the Lawton, but very little of its appearance can be made out. The snippet gets successively lengthier with each new trailer, revealing more of the creature, until most of its appearance except for the up-close look at its face was revealed in the last trailer before the show began airing and it provided that last detail.
    • A mild case in the episode proper. The Ion Dragon's presence is clearly established by the organic ooze dripping in the Saharan Shipwreck of the USS Lawton and by the preserved human corpses, before Bill and Keiko find themselves under attack by a gigantic presence which shrieks, makes the ship tremble, and then attacks them through the wall with a clawed hand that's larger than either of them are. Its full appearance is only unveiled later, after the group have escaped the shipwreck and the Ion Dragon tears itself free.
  • Primeval: A lot of creatures. The Gorgonopsid, Anurognathus, the Future Predator in its debut, the Raptors, the Precambrian worms, the Silurian scorpions, the Labyrinthodont, the Hyaenodon, and the giant burrowing insects from the future.
  • Stranger Things: The show makes fantastic use of this trope. The Demogorgon isn't clearly seen until very late in the first season. It's quite fitting, given the show's prominent Spielberg influence. This is largely abandoned by Season 3, where we are regularly treated to shots of the forming monster as soon as episode 4.
  • Supernatural: Exaggerated with the wendigo in that at first, we see almost nothing of him aside from a shadow moving too fast to make out, and towards the episode's climax, we finally get clear shots of his upper-body's silhouetted outline and also a brief glimpse of his face, but he's actually never even fully shown at all, easily creating a major sense of Nothing Is Scarier as well.
    • In the episode "Folsom Prison Blues" (S02, Ep19), you only see portions of the ghost, a gray blur, tangled hair, or a pair of eyes, until the ghost attacks Dean and its true form is revealed.
  • Titans (2018): A minor one occurs when Trigon unlocks his true form. At first, the camera mainly only affords us shots of his legs or arm, shots of his transformed head from above which obscure his face, and a shot of his eyes, with one shot which has his full upper-body in line of sight blurred in the background. Then once Trigon exits outside to begin his apocalypse, we get a full view of him.
  • The War of the Worlds (2019): At first, we barely see more than vague glimpses of the Martians which are outside of their tripods, but bit by bit more of what they look like is revealed to the viewer.
  • Wolf Like Me has Mary's wolf form be obscured to the audience completely for around 5 episodes. We finally get to see minor yet still good shots of her (looking like something out of An American Werewolf in London) by the climax of episode six.

    Video Games 
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent runs on this trope; the first glimpse of a monster is a silhouette hobbling through the fog, but it doesn't reappear in that area, but the suspense alone stops you from finding out, and even if you try to get a decent look at the monster later on, the game forces you to stop to keep it as scary as possible as the mere grotesqueness of it alone causes your character to lose sanity just by looking at it, increasing the likelihood of being found and killed unless you look away, but unfortunately, the marketing department didn't get the memo and put said monster right on the very cover.
  • Throughout most of EarthBound (1994), you are told about Giygas and that your goal is to defeat him, but you're not given much of a clue besides "He's evil, go beat him." Given the overall quirkiness and saccharine nature of the game, players might be caught off guard when they discover that Giygas is actually an Eldritch Abomination and nothing about him is amusing in the slightest.
  • In Final Fantasy X, you see bits and pieces of Sin, but not the entire thing until its third appearance. Interestingly, its earlier glimpses make it look much more like an Eldritch Abomination than its full body, which is something like a blind whale with extra designs on it.
  • Done in Resident Evil 2 in regards to William Birkin, especially in the A scenario. The game shows what he looked like as a human readily enough, but you only ever see glimpses of him, usually his mutated arm, after he injected himself with the G-virus, until you fight him properly.
  • Cold Fear milks this trope for all it's worth in the beginning. You know there's zombies; they're on the cover. The first Jump Scare? It's a wave. The second? A silhouette of a figure through a window that's gone when you go out there. The third? The panicked crew of the whaler shooting at you because they think you're a zombie. The fourth one, the chain dragging toward you? Literally a chain dragging on the ground. It leads you on for so long with fake scares that the eventual real one actually scares you good.
  • Metroid Fusion: That One Boss, Nightmare, is first rendered as a shadow running rampant throughout one of the subsections. Mission Control tells Samus to ignore it and fix the crises in the other subsections. Finally, it turns out Nightmare's rampage threatens the entire station, prompting Mission Control to give its creepy backstory and dispatch Samus to destroy it. Its lair seems to be in some kind of junkyard or robot graveyard.
  • Dragon Age: Origins brings up the Archdemon as the rallying force behind the Darkspawn Horde very early on but it's not until much later in the game that you actually learn what it is and what it looks like, that being a giant corrupted dragon, and throughout the game, you come in contact with it maybe three times: twice in cutscenes (in a nightmare, which only shows glimpses of it, and down in the Deep Roads, where you first see it in its entirety) and once in the very last Boss Fight.
  • In Alien: Isolation, much like the film that it's a pseudo-sequel to, it takes a damned long time for the Xenomorph to show up, and you're a half hour in before you meet your first corpse which was killed by something, about 45 minutes in before you meet your first survivor who's panicked and claiming something is on the ship killing everyone, an hour before that something kills its first on-screen victim, and about an hour and 15 minutes before you get to see that something in all its horrifying glory.
  • Before The Witch's House's finale, you only see the titular witch as a ghostly afterimage that occasionally appears in various parts of the mansion or, one time, as a crawling silhouette that you most likely wouldn't ever recognise as her on your first playthrough. That is done to hide the current state of her body, namely the fact that she is missing her legs and eyes.
  • Throughout the early parts of the level that introduces the Flood in Halo: Combat Evolved,, those "friendly" units that show up on your motion tracker are, in fact, infected marines. If you try to look for them, you can occasionally catch a slight glimpse of one moving about the jungle in the fog. Not to mention the moment you find Grunts and Jackals running away terrified from something firing at them from inside the structure, only to make your way inside to find nobody.
  • A single playthrough of From Next Door takes around 50 minutes and you don't get your first glimpse of the monster from next door until you're about 20 minutes in. Things escalate from there although it takes a bit longer for the monster to be fully revealed.

    Visual Novels 
  • In contrast to the other spirits in Spirit Hunter: NG, the Screaming Author isn't shown beyond a silhouette right up until the final confrontation with them. This serves a dual purpose; to emphasize the spirit's sound-based powers, and to really hit home how grotesque its appearance is when it finally is shown.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick exaggerates this with the Monster in the Darkness. It has been over a thousand strips and eighteen real-world years since his first appearance, and he still hasn't stepped out of those shadows, because Xykon wants him Emerging from the Shadows at a dramatically appropriate moment. Even the monster himself does not know what he is.
  • Unity of Skin Horse thinks it's just a cheap coverup for unimpressive special effects, as she explained after Tip locked himself in a closet when he started turning into a werewolf, and after a lengthy build-up he turned out to be cute.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in the Doug episode "Doug's Nightmare on Jumbo Street". Doug watches a horror movie called The Abnormal, about an evil alien shape-shifter whose true form is always just off-screen. Doug can't bring himself to watch The Reveal near the end of the movie and ends up having nightmares about it. After repeatedly trying and failing to keep his eyes open through the reveal of the Abnormal's true form, Doug finally works up the nerve to watch the film one last time and soon discovers that the monster is just a guy in a cheap suit with an obvious zipper on the back.
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "The Day the Ed Stood Still", Ed's friends dress him up like a monster, and Ed proceeds to get a little too into character and go on a rampage. Ed's monster costume isn't seen in full until about two-thirds of the way into the episode.
  • In Primal (2019), heavily overlapping with Unseen Evil, this trope is also heavily exaggerated with the so-called "night-feeder" who's obviously featured within the episode of the exact same name in that literally nothing of him at all is ever seen at first right on up until Spear lights up the surrounding landscape with fire during the last several seconds of the episode and likewise also completely burns him to death, and that's when he's finally seen for the very first time and also revealed to've simply been nothing but a jet-black-skinned and also endlessly screeching Megaraptor all along.

    Real Life 
  • Many an ambush predator from all throughout the earth's geological history has deliberately invoked this trope upon his prey on a constant basis for obvious reasons, and on top of that, since mankind's senses usually tend to be significantly inferior to those of non-human animals, just about any wild super-predator out there in our world today can easily hide from oblivious campers, jump out from within the nearby bushes, bite down into somebody, and finally eat him alive before he ever even knows exactly what just now took him down at all to start with.


Video Example(s):


Cell Appears

As Piccolo searches the empty city of Gingertown for the creature responsible for its population disappearing, said being is slowly moving through the shadows, until at last, Piccolo comes face to face with Cell, the monster from the future.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / EmergingFromTheShadows

Media sources: