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Nightmare Face

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"Can I be scary? Well, whaddya think of this? You like it?"

[W]hen she turned, it was the burned face of Sandor Clegane looking down at her, his mouth twisted in a terrible mockery of a smile. "You are shaking, girl," he said, his voice rasping. "Do I frighten you so much?"
He did, and had since she had first laid eyes on the ruin that fire had made of his face...

The human face is supremely important on a social and biological level. Most of our non-verbal communication comes from reading subtle facial movements, and its importance in our cognitive thinking is best shown in our tendency to see faces in inanimate objects (think of how many times you've looked at a rock face and thought you'd seen two eyes and a mouth). So there is something genuinely disturbing to most people about seeing a face visibly distorted, mutated, or rearranged ... so, naturally, this type of Body Horror is one of the most common Horror Tropes.

A Sister Trope and effective primary component of Nightmare Fuel.

It is in fact at least Older Than Feudalism — armies over the world have based their war masks around this trope, and in mythology and folklore, just about any self-respecting demon or supernatural evil will have one.

More recently, it has also become a staple of Surreal Horror.

This is a main symptom of Coming Back Wrong. Most humanoid examples of Our Monsters Are Weird will fit this trope.

This trope is commonly doubled with the Jump Scare in a Screamer Prank.

Sub-Tropes include:

See also:

  • This trope's well-meaning (but still scary) sister, The Grotesque.
  • Game Face, which comes into play when a supernatural villain disguised as a human flashes his true form's Nightmare Face to scare someone.
  • Demon Head, cousin to this trope.
  • Demonic Head Shake, when the head shakes uncontrollably
  • Take Our Word for It, when the face is too grotesque to even show.

Interesting tidbit: this is one theory as to why some people are afraid of clowns. Exaggerated mouths, bulbous noses, and pin-prick eyes are downright terrifying to young children who haven't yet figured out that the person is just wearing make-up and not deformed.

Warning: Many of these examples contain image links. Read at your own risk if you are prone to losing sleep, especially if you're on a touch device where you may accidentally tap and therefore open links.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

  • Some of the scarier vanity plates sometimes used these. Some notable ones include the VID Mask, the Klasky-Csupo Robot and the Nickelodeon Pinchface.
  • This horrific 60s print ad from Mobil, created to advocate against driving with tension. And it does so by showing a horrifically distorted face. Interestingly, this image is actually of a dancer named Killer Joe Piro, and the original photograph was taken mid-dance, giving it its creepy look.
  • 90s Rice Krispie Treats commercials showed kids who, upon having none of the treat left to satisfy their craving, would morph into a of some kind while bellowing "IIIII WAAAAANNNTTT OOOONNNNEEEE!!!" Brrrr.
  • This Scotland Against Drugs PIF. Let's just say the title of the upload ("I've Just Shit Me Pants") is VERY apt.
  • Infamously, this Eggo commercial from 2001. A boy tries to steal some of his sister's waffles, only to immediately regret it.
  • This anti-smoking PSA from the 70s has an animated variation of the "Three Little Pigs" story, and the Wolf gives off such a face right at the camera before leaving his place to get to the pigs' straw house.
  • Wario in the infamous commercial for Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. "Obey Wario, DESTROY MARIO!!!"

    Comic Books 
  • The eponymous Jonah Hex. (That second link includes an informative essay on what the result of Hex being unable to close his right eye would lead to.)
  • Batman:
    • Two-Face, obviously. Well, half of him. Varies from artist to artist, with Tim Sale's rendering being particularly gruesome.
    • The Joker, naturally. Frozen Face with a Slasher Smile? Check. Permanent Uncanny Valley Makeup? Double Check. Looks like a Monster Clown from your worst nightmares? Quintuple check. Taken up several notches in Death of the Family. Prior to the story arc, Joker was last seen having his face surgically removed and left for the police to symbolize his "rebirth". When he returns, still without a face, he steals his original, preserved face from the GCPD lockup and proceeds to wear it like a mask, using several hooks and leather straps to stretch it across his head in a grotesque parody of his original face. As the series goes on, the face starts to visibly decay and attract flies and at one point Joker even wears it upside-down to psychologically torment Red Robin.
    • The Great White Shark lost most of his face (including ears, nose and hair) after being locked in a freezer and has since filed his teeth into points. As a result, he's nothing to scoff at, either.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye:
    • Vos. Oh sweet holy crap, Vos. Vos is a Decepticon Justice Division member, and he combines Cold-Blooded Torture with this trope. Transformer faces have been pretty ugly before, but somehow this takes The Blank, inverts the concept of the Face Stealer (a Face Giver, perhaps?), and comes out the other side unsettling and terrifying.
      Vos: wear. my. faaaace.
    • Vos now has competition in the form of the incredibly creepy Sunder from the same series. It probably comes as little surprise that he's a Serial Killer.
  • All of the titular Hate Plague victims in Crossed have a distinct, cross-shaped rash across their faces. And it's never without a look of pure, animalistic intent.
  • Implied for Doctor Doom of Fantastic Four; first he gets his face scarred up by being caught next to an exploding machine (though precisely how badly scarred varies), and then he, in some tellings at least, puts his trademark metal facemask on. While it's still red hot.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • Judge Fear, one of the Dark Judges, is able to kill by simply revealing his face, though the reader never sees it. Averted once by Dredd himself.
    • Dredd himself for that matter. The first time we "see" his face with his helmet off, there is a big black bar over it reading Censored For Graphic Content and the gang holding him at gunpoint are so horrified at what they see that they decide Dredd needs to die immediately. And while never taken to that extreme again, under Carlos Ezquerra's pen, both Dredd and his clone father Judge Fargo tend to look like lumpy lipless potatoes as they get older.
    • This forms a significant portion of the character named Otto Sump. Put simply, he is the ugliest man who has ever lived. Just how ugly is Depending on the Artist, but the only person in all of Mega-City One who doesn't find it hard to look at him for more than five seconds is Dredd himself.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: Raghor's face is usually under a helm, but when he takes it off... not only does he seem to be completely scarred, but he also has Medusa-like tentacles.
  • Rhona Burchill from Ultimate Fantastic Four has one courtesy of self-inflicted brain surgery to boost her own intellect, which left her with a large bald spot that exposes a very ugly, ragged scar and unnaturally bulging skull.
  • Crazy Jane from Doom Patrol has several, including Black Annis and a personality whose head is a sun that shoots smaller suns.
  • Wonder Woman: Some members of the Greek pantheon like to manifest with horrific things for faces, most notably the fear god twins Phobos and Deimos, who each like to appear with a desiccated dog skull for a head, or in Phobos's case to manifest with shadow and twisting cobras for a face. Their father Ares also tends to go the shadow route, manifesting with formless darkness and two glowing red eyes beneath his helmet is his go to look.
  • Irish Mob member Finn Cooley, a memorable one-off villain in The Punisher MAX. A bomb went off in his face before he could get away, and now everything above the lower lip is just skull wrapped in sticky exposed musculature. At all times he either needs a transparent face mask or a mess of bandages to hold it in place. In spite of all that, he was one of the less nightmarish mobsters in that storyline.
  • In Faith: Dreamside, Belu's minions all have large yellow eyes and wide, sharp-toothed grins.
  • The chapter of Tales from the Dark Multiverse dealing with Knightfall features a version of Bruce Wayne sporting yellow eyes and a Slasher Smile as a result of the torture he was subjected to as he gets revenge on Azrael.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog is no stranger to the stuff of nightmares, but most Sonic media avoids this particular sub-trope. Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW), however, features several notable examples.
    • Mimic the Octopus, a new villain introduced in the Tangle & Whisper miniseries, is a shapeshifter with Black Eyes of Evil and wrinkled lips (as part of a Skeleton Motif). He can show these features while disguised as someone else, with terrifying results.
    • During the second major arc, Dr. Eggman causes a Zombie Apocalypse (on purpose) with his Metal Virus bioweapon, which turns its victims—including some of Sonic's allies—into evil robo-zombies. The faces of these "Zombots" are intimidating by default, but they turn outright demonic when silhouetted, as Sonic's Zombot-ified friends demonstrate.
    • Hell, even Robotnik gets a few of these in some panels being casted in shadow, and only being able to see his eerie grin and glasses which, while totally matching his Eggman Empire logo, is quite creepy-looking on the guy himself.
  • In Pumpkin (Jason Conley), the titular vigilante develops a hideous face like a jack-o-lantern whenever she transforms.

    Comic Strips 
  • Villains in the original Dick Tracy newspaper comic were notoriously Nightmare Faced. This waned at about the time Chester Gould suffered a Creator Breakdown, but has returned with the new artist, Dick Locher, who absolutely loves this trope.
  • Al Capp's Li'l Abner had a character named "Lena the Hyena" whose face was never shown, but by reputation and the reactions of other characters was this. Capp eventually ran a contest for readers to send in their own depictions of Lena. The winning entry, by Basil Wolverton, can be seen here.

    Fan Works 
  • Glitchtale's Season 2 Arc Villain, Bête Noire, excels at this (fittingly for an someone whose power is rooted in Fear). If you don't mind spoilers, see here for an example. Looking like a cute little girl most of the time, in reality her body is a shell made from a dead little girl's corpse. Her true form has sharp teeth, a wide Slasher Smile, and the skin can be torn off to reveal inhuman pink flesh that looks disturbingly like someone who's been Flayed Alive.
  • TS!Underswap:
    • Temmie follows in Flowey's footsteps by busting out a few of these, complete with evil cackling.
    • Asgore makes a scary face during his final attack on a genocide run, as a reference to one of Toby Fox's original concepts.
  • Underverse:
    • Especially with their already eerie black-and-white designs, X-Chara and later on X-Gaster are very good at pulling this, with wide jagged-mouth Slasher Smiles and creepy Black Eyes of Evil that have sinister red and purple irises.
    • Ink Sans of all people does one as well in Xtra Scene 2, though it's implied to have been a dream (or possibly Foreshadowing that he isn't all that trustworthy). It's currently the page image for the Nightmare Fuel page for the series.
    • Unsurprisingly, Flowey does this in OWNERS.
  • Played for Laughs with Ayla in Vow of Nudity. She's a changeling wizard with face-blindness, so her human form includes a horrifyingly uncanny amalgamation of blurry and misshapen facial features, but her neighbors and fellow cityfolk all pretend she's nailing it out of respect for her feelings.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Queen of Hearts' face in Alice in Wonderland when she says "Someone's head's going to ROLL for this!!!"
  • Shown frequently in the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence from Fantasia.
  • The Black Cauldron does this a lot.
  • A gargoyle comes to life snarling at Frollo who then falls to his death near the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Or possibly, Frollo envisioned it due to his guilty conscience.
  • Lucifer (the cat, not that one) roars in front of Gus the mouse, who's holding the corn kernels in Cinderella.
  • Brutus growls at Snoops who thanked him for bringing back Penny in The Rescuers.
  • Isn't it ironic, that your name is Lucky?”
  • The Ant Bully: "Human!...Come with us!"
  • King Triton becomes angry when seeing Ariel missing in The Little Mermaid
    • Right before he completely demolishes Ariel's treasure room ("So help me, Ariel, I'm going to get through to you! And if this is the only way... so be it!").
  • Vlad Vladikoff does that do the Sour Kangaroo in Horton Hears a Who.
  • Tom and Jerry: The Movie
    • The face the bulldog makes when he encounters Tom.
    • "We've got to have...Money"
    • The face Aunt Figg makes at the end of the line "I'll make sure Dr. Applecheek takes special care of you."
    • The face Dr. Applecheek makes when he goes for the ice cream truck.

  • Part of what brought Blood Meridian back to the spotlight in 2023 is this particularly memetic fan art of Judge Holden that captures his character all too well. For those too afraid to click, imagine a hairless, grinning, white-skinned giant looking down at you with unspeakable intentions.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Voldemort is described as having a face like a skull, with glowing red eyes and slits for nostrils. It's hinted that his involvement with the Dark Arts warped him; in later books it's explained that he got this way by splitting his soul to achieve immortality through his Horcruxes — he actually used to be handsome as a young man. Ralph Fiennes does a pretty good job of conveying this description in the movies.
    • The Made of Evil Dementors were even worse, although it's mitigated somewhat by the fact that they wore hooded cloaks and wraps covering up most of their decaying skin. The one part that isn't covered besides their "slimy-looking" hands is the giant black hole where their mouths should be, and it's said that their eye sockets are completely empty and covered with scabbed-over flesh.
  • Quasimodo in Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame is described as being so ugly, people mistake him for the Devil.
  • In Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk, the main character's lower jaw is shot off. This fanmade image (WARNING: gory/NSFW) gives a pretty good idea of why this is a bit of an upsetting thing.
  • The Kane Chronicles:
    • Menshikov, whose face was burned when he tried and failed to awaken Ra.
    • A heroic example can be found in Bes, whose trademark attack is to scare the shit out of his opponent by distorting his face hideously and screaming "BOO!" Not that he's that handsome when he's not making that face.
    • From the first book (and second to an extent) there is a demon named Face-Of-Horror who is Exactly What It Says on the Tin and worse. Compared to how other demons can be called Death-to-Corks and have corkscrews or other objects (or limbs) replacing their heads, Face-Of-Horror is a legitimately terrifying demon. If any of you are wondering what Face of Horror looks like: scaly, clawed talons instead of feet, and his face seems to have all the skin torn off, leaving only muscle. Anyone else reminded of a certain monster from Attack on Titan?
  • The Phantom of the Opera.
  • Redwall:
    • Slagar the Cruel has a badly mutilated Two-Faced look thanks to a snakebite in his youth.
    • Riggu Felis from High Rhulain is probably even worse. After having his face raked by an osprey's talons, he is described as looking like this: "The black-and-grey-striped fur was normal from ears to eyes, but below that it was red, glistening flesh and bone. The whole muzzle, nose, and upper lip had been torn off. Half of the warlord's face was a frightful mask - a spitting, bubbling skeleton, as he continualy sucked air to breathe."
  • "The Dream" from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Let's just say the pale woman from the original edition will make you wish you slept with a Warhammer 40,000 weapon next to your bed. The illustration from The Thing is spookier still, and as for the illustration from The Haunted House... we would post a link, but we're too scared to search. If you're feeling brave, The Haunted House provides the page image for Ghastly Ghost.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Sandor "The Hound" Clegane, who had the left half of his face burned off by his older brother when he was a kid.
    • Lady "Ser" Brienne of Tarth was known for being extremely plain. But after the encounter with Biter she has now a very similar disfigurement to the Hound's, except caused by festering teeth of an evil idiot rather than by fire.
    • Lady Stoneheart formerly known as Catelyn Stark, who, before having her throat cut, tore up her own face out of grief and insanity, and was then thrown in the river, where she spent considerable time before being resurrected. The result is not pleasant.
  • In John French’s Thousand Sons novels, the sorcerer Ichneumon is so heavily mutated by the powers of Chaos that his face no longer resembles anything even remotely human. One half of his face is covered with clusters of eyes, and the other half is dotted with lamprey-like mouths. Ctesias, a fellow sorcerer, is so put-off by the sight of it—and by Ichneumon’s obvious pride at having been “blessed” with such a hideous face by the Chaos Gods—that he can’t think of anything to say for a long moment.
  • Brightheart from Warrior Cats has half of her face torn off by a pack of dogs, leaving her permanently scarred and missing an eye. This picture from Cats of the Clans sums it up nicely.
  • In Wax and Wayne, Bleeder displays one of these between forms, a skinless face "of stretched muscle and grinning teeth". When she realizes she's been seen she makes another one by trying to copy the cabbie's face over the wrong bones, leaving her face a twisted nightmare.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Angel, Jasmine's real face. The magical glamor that makes everyone who sees her fake face love her is her main weapon, so if you can see her real face, she needs you dead.
  • Little Ghoul on Beetleborgs Metallix had one, shown from the back a la Beetlejuice.
  • Breaking Bad has a good example of this in the Season 4 finale, when Gus is caught in an explosion. He calmly exits the crumbling room, adjusting his tie and looking perfectly fine, until the camera pans around to reveal half his face missing, hollowed eye socket staring blankly, teeth bared through the distinct lack of cheek. Exploded flesh adorning his shoulder. Incidentally the name of the episode is "Face Off". Heh.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Clem showed this to the potentials in "Potential".
    • The ghostly James Stanley's rotting zombie-like face in "I Only Had Eyes For You" while scaring Buffy and dancing to a song with his teacher.
  • In the Cadfael series, this is the fate of Lazarus, the titular Leper of St Giles. He was once the legendary knight, Guimar de Massard, but caught leprosy whilst crusading. He let himself be thought of as dead, though secretly returned to England to watch over his orphaned granddaughter. In the end, he leaves her safe with a man she loves, not wishing to sully her memory of him with the truth of what he has become.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The hideous alien face of a Sensorite pressed up against the glass of a spaceship in the first Cliffhanger of "The Sensorites".
    • The Chameleons. There's a good reason why their story is called "The Faceless Ones".
    • The early Cybermen in "The Tenth Planet", with surgical-like cloth masks, black voids for eyes, and jaws that, when they talk, just lock open without moving for the duration of their speech.
    • The Autons are living plastic. In appearance, they can range the spectrum from animate mannequin to indistinguishable from human. While costuming's moved on from their '70s heyday, back then... oh god.
    • Davros, who created the Daleks, had his face (and the rest of his body) hideously disfigured when his lab exploded.
    • The Master in "The Deadly Assassin" and "The Keeper of Traken" who, being on the very verge of death, had basically become a walking corpse with the skeletal face to match (as best makeup of the 1970s and '80s could manage, anyway).
    • Xoanon, the titular Face of Evil in "The Face of Evil", so terrifying the people on the planet have a religion based upon placating it — an especially unusual and upsetting case because it's also played by Tom Baker, with eyes bulging out of his head and the jaw working wrong.
    • The robots in "The Robots of Death" are an in-universe example. Some people in the story are fine with them or even relate to them, but others subconsciously equate their weird, distorted faces with disfigured people or animated corpses, a recognised psychological disorder in the setting.
    • "The Talons of Weng-Chiang": Magnus Greel has a melted, spaghetti-like face due to a mutation caused by primitive time-travel technology.
    • A lot of Doctor Who monsters, especially if they initally seem friendly, get a lot nastier-looking when they get down to business. For example, the Gelth from "The Unquiet Dead".
    • The Weeping Angels. The grey faces of a humanoid angel statue, with fangs.
    • In "Forest of the Dead" we get Miss Evangelista's horribly distorted face in the virtual reality. She looks like a walking Picasso painting.
    • Subverted in "Midnight". When Skye turns around, there is clearly a new consciousness, but her face is unchanged.
    • The infectees in Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford's "The Waters of Mars" with their split, cracked faces.
    • The "Angry Face" of the mechanical Smiler androids from "The Beast Below". Their heads rotated 180 degrees to display one of two Frozen Faces — one pleased and smiling, the other disappointed and frowning. This made the appearance of the angry face, which was furious and snarling — and revealed by rotating the head another 180 degrees — a total surprise.
    • The Silence from series 6, with their eye-covering eyelids, long faces and lack of a nose and mouth.
    • The Siren from "The Curse of the Black Spot" when she gets angered.
    • The Whispermen in "The Name of the Doctor" have no eyes or nostrils, only sharp-toothed mouths.
  • Fringe has one episode where a biological weapon results in people developing scar tissue at an alarming rate. Biggest problem with this is that it turns them into a blank, covering their eyes, nose, and mouth, resulting in them suffocating.
  • Pennywise in the made for TV movie version of IT.
  • Though obviously a mask, who doesn't wish they could forget the chilling grimace of Mr. Noseybonk from the old British TV series, Jigsaw? And if that wasn't bad enough, Stuart Ashen had to go and use his powers of necromancy to revive the horror!
  • Papa Lazarou of The League of Gentlemen.
  • Lucifer (2016): Lucifer is rather fond of scaring humans with his "Devil Face". In the episode "Monster", Lucifer's psychiatrist, Dr. Linda Martin, gets tired of his 'metaphors' about being the Devil, so he decides to drop his glamor. Linda just stares at him in shock. He restores his human features and asks what she thinks. She still keeps staring. So Lucifer quietly gets up and walks out, leaving Linda still staring at the place he was sitting.
  • Valin Hess from The Mandalorian is a normal human Imperial officer with no alien traits whatsoever. And yet, his empty bug eyes and unnerving smile along with his sociopathic tendencies and phony nice guy attitude make for a character who's bound to make your skin crawl.
  • Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld gives us this.
  • The Shining 1997 mini-series, though not considered as scary as the Kubrick version, certainly has it's moments.
  • The Soup, of all shows, has this in their "Tales from Home Shopping" segment. The intro for the segment shows some old-timey footage of people shopping. One of the customers' faces melts into a horrifying expression while a scream plays. It's Played for Laughs, but is arguably still rather scary, especially when they froze on the face when the intro was still new.
  • Balok in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Corbomite Maneuver".
  • Supernatural:
    • One who has sold their soul to a Crossroads Demon and whose time is nearly up begins seeing Nightmare Faces on anyone they encounter as a reminder that their own death is coming soon. We see these from the POV of these people a couple times, twice in "Crossroad Blues,", and again later at the very end of season 3 where we see Sam from Dean's POV, his appearance briefly taking on a Nightmare Face. Happens again much later where someone sees Dean with a similar appearance.
    • Other episodes also often have the various Monster of the Week cases briefly take one at some point, usually when being confronted by Sam and Dean. These faces can also often be revealed through mirrors, even when their non-reflection appearance is outwardly normal.
    • Angels can see demons' true faces, which is useful for identifying those possessed. It poses issues a couple of times when amnesiac angels run into demons and are extremely confused and horrified, while everyone else just sees a normal human face.
  • The lion from Teletubbies, especially when he says "Where is THE BEAR?!!!"
  • In The Twilight Zone (1959) episode The Masks, a dying man promises his entire fortune to his daughter and her family if they will wear grotesque masks for one evening. When the man dies at midnight, after telling them they have earned their inheritance, they remove the masks and find their faces have permanently taken on the masks' features.
    • The..uh..medical staff from the infamous episode "The Eye of the Beholder". In-universe, the patient's face (which looks like a normal face from the perspective of the audience) is seen is this.
  • The creature dubbed "The Great Mutato" in The X-Files, a genetically-engineered mistake whose many deformities included a grotesquely oversized double-face. As it turns out, though, he wasn't such a bad guy, and in fact his greatest desire was to see Cher in concert.
  • Twin Peaks has moments of this, mostly in its surreal dream sequences - the animalistic scream Laura gives in Ronette's nightmare, for example. In one scene toward the end of season 2, the villainous Windom Earle unexplainedly has a chalky, white face and black teeth. And, finally, there are the Woodsmen of Season 3, glaring psychotically out from behind a heavy layer of soot.

  • Aphex Twin's "Rubber Johnny". In fact, Aphex Twin has played this trope for Surreal Humor and Surreal Horror (sometimes both at the same time) in most of his music videos.
  • Quite often used on the album covers of noise musician Aaron Dilloway (of Wolf Eyes fame).
  • The last scene in Lady Gaga's video "Alejandro" in which the film burns up from the eyes and mouth out.
  • In the music video for Madonna's "Bedtime Story", there's a part near the end where Madonna's mouth has been replaced by an eye and her eyes by two mouths. Do NOT click on that image! You have been warned.
  • In the music video for "Mama," by Genesis, when Phil Collins laughs. Also done in live performances of the song as well.
    • "In the Air Tonight" does this as well. When the drum solo kicks in, Collins' black-and-white visage suddenly transforms into a blazing, brightly-colored, and VERY angry thermographic image.
  • GWAR:
    • GWAR's former vocalist, Oderus Urungus, has a very frightening visage that looks like a cross between a horned goblin and a skinned pig. His earlier design was arguably worse because of its cheapness, making it look like his face was mangled in some horrific accident.
    • The band's first female singer, Slymenstra Hymen, could make an absolutely monstrous scowl that gave the impression that she was ready to straight up murder the nearest living thing. Which, to be fair, is what GWAR is best at in-universe.
    • The face of the boy who went mad after seeing Balsac's real face in the film It's Sleazy. He basically turned into a razor-toothed, wide-eyed goblin-creature through the power of pure fear and horrible photoshop. And it's on one of their album covers!
  • Soundgarden's video for Black Hole Sun. It has this suburban neighborhood of creepy smiling people whose faces very suddenly become horrifyingly distorted.
  • Barry Godber's cover artwork from King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King. It's basically a technicolor painting of a man screaming in absolute fear.
  • The album cover of The Miracle by Queen shows a composite of the band members' faces.
  • The shaving weaselman on the cover of Frank Zappa's Weasels Ripped My Flesh.
  • Captain Beefheart's face on the album cover of Trout Mask Replica is covered by a carp's head note , showing a face you wouldn't want to see near your window at night.
  • The little girl on the cover of Beautiful Freak by Eels has large creepy eyes.
  • Tom Waits' close-up face on the cover of Bone Machine.
  • Every friggin' album cover Marilyn Manson appears on (Smells Like Children, Mechanical Animals, Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)) is haunting to watch.
  • 2-D from Gorillaz has two severe eight-ball cataracts, making it look like he has a pair of black, gaping holes for eyes. It's quite frightening in close-up, such as in the music video of "Feel Good, Inc." from Demon Days (Album). Ironically, he's considered very handsome in-universe and has a charming (if dopey) personality.
  • The official music video (not the earlier fan-made one) for "Kids" from Oracular Spectacular by MGMT, featuring deformed rubber masks with grotesque protruding eyes and tongues. Then you notice that a small child is crying and reacting to these horror faces.
  • Björk in the music video of "Alarm Call" for Homogenic, where she changes into a monster with More Teeth than the Osmond Family!
  • Iron Maiden: Any cover where Eddie the Head makes an appearance, especially Iron Maiden.
  • Ozzy Osbourne’s face on the cover of Down to Earth has a much more skeletal and macabre look throughout his body and face, and two heads coming out of his head screaming as if they’re in pain, as it’s really a nightmarish look!
  • The music video for Michael Jackson's "Ghosts" has a lot of creepy moments in it thanks to its supernatural aesthetic, including Michael stripping himself of his skin into a skeleton, but one face from the music video has become rather infamous for its creep factor.
  • The music video for Azealia Banks' "Yung Rapunxel" features her eyes replaced by mouths, with each mouth working independently to lip-sync the lyrics of the song.
  • The album cover for Monster by R.E.M. is a close up of a bobcat-lynx-cougar... thing drawn in black marker on a balloon. It is very disquieting.
  • The cover for Runner's High by The Pillows is a pastel drawing of a white rabbit with its mouth wide open and a pair of absolutely bloodshot eyes. It's guaranteed to frighten children.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: The Gorgons, whose faces would turn you to stone. They supposedly had been beautiful originally, before they became like this. And some think they might still be beautiful, but there is no way of finding out. In the original, only Medusa could petrify with a look; her sisters had different powers (one just caused people to instantly drop dead).
  • Celtic Mythology: One of the many horrific details of Cu Chulainn's infamous riastrad or "warp-spasm" was that one of his eyes would bulge out of the socket (and fall out) and the other would be sucked in, his lips would peel back to reveal a Slasher Smile with More Teeth than the Osmond Family, and his mouth would stretch down to his chest. Even if he wasn't exactly an evil guy, people tended to be really uneasy around him.

  • A recurring motif in I Am in Eskew. The main protagonist, David Ward, sees them on the blueprints of an unending, blank building he visits, the audience that watches him and Allegra, and especially on his fake son, Happy Jack Adam, who he is forced to live with after he lets Jack kill his fake daughter, Lucia.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The krenshar, a catlike monster introduced in 3rd edition to give low-level paladins a use for their fear immunity, uses its complex cheek and brow musculature to fold its whole face back, exposing bare muscle and bone, when using its Scare special ability.
    • Changelings from the Eberron campaign can take the "Disturbing Visage" feat, which among other tricks can unnerve foes by looking more intimidating. The illustration on the Races of Eberron sourcebook definitely falls into this trope, but exaggerates the actual effectiveness of the feat.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade:
    • The Nosferatu have this as a Clan Curse, as their founder was Punished with Ugly by Caine himself, and anyone embraced into the clan will follow suit. They can't live in normal human or vampire society, but they've learned to cope, woe be to anyone who underestimates this.
    • The Tzimisce do this by choice. Their Vicissitude discipline allows them to mold flesh like clay, and as one of the more inhuman clans, they modify themselves and their servants into horrifying forms, faces included.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Lucius the Eternal of the Emperor's Children has a millennia-long habit of ritually scarring his face after every victory. This, combined with his long, ropey tongue, makes him particularly disquieting even by the standards of the setting.

  • The Rahkshi from BIONICLE. Averted in the toys themselves (due to the limitations of toy design), but it is used in full force in the movie Mask of Light to unleash pure Nightmare Fuel on other characters (and the viewers, naturally).
    • The Barraki also count. They all have these freakishly bulbous, emotionless eyes that seemingly stare into nothingness. Pridak takes the cake, however, with his butt-ugly Slasher Smile, and what looks like blood splashed all over his face (which is actually his natural coloring, according to Word of God).
    • Makuta, being a Shapeshifter-race, are full of examples, and many of the fan-built Contest Winner Cameo figures have these as well.
  • The Evil Wand toy discovered by a parent at an Ohio dollar store has a hidden image under the foil on the wand: A disturbing photo of a girl with glowing orange eyes and a bloody, rapacious Slasher Smile cutting into her wrist with a knife.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 


    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • In Marble Hornets, near the end of Entry #22, and in one of totheark's video responses.
  • Speaking of Marble Hornets, the Observer from Tribe Twelve has a pretty nightmarish face at the end of COMECLOSER.
  • A Running Gag in Mr. Plinkett Reviews is for him to react (or overreact...) to an inhuman looking face:
  • Todd in the Shadows is revealed to have this in To Boldly Flee, neatly explaining why he does all of his reviews in the shadows or wearing a mask. Naturally, the other characters see it but the audience does not. The horrifying thing about his face? According to Word of God, his face is a mirror into people's souls — the worse you are, the worse his face looks. Which is why the Makeover Fairy and The Nostalgia Chick have both reacted in horror to it. The fact that Lupa remained calm when seeing Todd's face may lessen this slightly (indicating that good people see a more normal-looking face). The concept is still pretty creepy, though.
  • "The Glitch" by Corridor Digital focuses on a group of game characters as they try to evade a series of game-breaking glitches. Mario falls into a glitched portion of the game world, and just before he sinks in completely, his face suddenly and graphically morphs into several hideous visages as his screams digitally decompose.
  • The reason why Laina Morris became well-known as the Overly Attached Girlfriend. And she only needs to open her eyes wide and smile to do so.
  • This trope plays a major role in Illusion of Bias when the girl is unhappy the she lost her face. She then has a nightmare where she has a hideous face.
  • The entirety of Monster Factory is based on this trope. Out of all of the monsters in the series, Truck Shepard has by far the most nightmarish face, because its features have been horribly distorted thanks to a little hacking. For example, at one point his cheek stretches into infinite and his eye is several inches away from his face. In the words of Griffin, "Yikes!"
  • Bedtime Stories (YouTube Channel) has Michael Taylor's face at the ending of "The Devil Made Me Do It". It didn't help that the narrator had mentioned that there were still 3 demons still possessing him after an incomplete exorcism.
  • The "basic" expressions for the Inhuman Emotions that the Fantastic Drug Thalasin+ enables you to experience. Junji Ito would be proud.
  • Lights Out (2016) Good luck sleeping tonight.......or ever again. Just watch Diana's true form when the lights are on - espeically in the 2013 short film when that......thing appears on the woman's bedside table. It is seriously nightmare fuel and we advise you not to search it. For those of you that want a description of the jumpscare without searching it, here it is: the creature in the short film is a nightmarish humanoid with a female-like appearence, dead white eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth, alongside long brown hair.

Alternative Title(s): Face Worse Than Death


Princess Scares You To Death

The Princess becomes so supernaturally terrifying that she makes your organs fail when she approaches you.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / FrightDeathtrap

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