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Played for Horror

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This is when tropes have their scary elements and/or possibilities brought up.

This can be done in several ways:

This might even be inspired by one of the writers finding Accidental Nightmare Fuel in a trope and then applying it deliberately.


Now it's very rare to see actual horror tropes done this way, since they are technically played for horror by default, but it's not unheard of. Perhaps the horror is exaggerated, or the work finds new horrific implications of the trope.

Furthermore, this in no way excludes horror works from having examples. In fact they can get plenty of scares by finding the scary elements in things that usually aren't.

Now keep in mind the absence of horrific elements doesn't count as Nothing Is Scarier, unless we're meant to be freaked out by something not happening.

A Sub-Trope of Playing with a Trope.

A Sister Trope to Played for Drama. Compare Fridge Horror, contrast Played for Laughs.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Devilman takes the Super-Powered Evil Side trope to utterly horrifying (and tragic) extremes. In many ways, it feels like it would happen in a teenage superhero story (like Spider-Man ) if absolutely everything went horribly wrong.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion plays many tropes commonly associated with Humongous Mecha anime (more specifically the Super Robot Genre), using the usual premise of teenagers piloting giant robots to fight against monsters with much more darker undertones, showing how the Kid Heroes of those stories are basically Child Soldiers, and how traumatic it would be for them having to fight against Eldritch Abominations of unpredictable nature. Not to mention that their own robots are actually Eldritch Abominations themselves under their armor, which are heavily implied to have their own soul.
  • Despite its innocent beginning, Narutaru plays the whole Mon genre for horror (and tragedy), showing everything that could possibly go wrong by giving real-life kids Olympus Mons. By the end of the series, almost every character is dead and humanity is wiped out from the face of earth.
  • Uzumaki is based around horrific things involving spirals, so some of the stories are about the various ways that Everything's Better with Spinning is not better at all, including how a spiral-shaped scar spins into a black hole.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica is basically the Magical Girl Warrior genre played for horror, showing how a lot of the innocently fun elements of typical Magical Girl stories could easily have a much darker purpose, and that if so, they would be very good for manipulating young middle school girls.

  • Nemesis by Mark Millar basically turns the Batman mythos by showing what would happen if a character very similar to Bruce Wayne decided to become a serial killer instead of a superhero.
  • And speaking of Batman, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth turns many of the recurring villains of the franchise into pure Nightmare Fuel material, by stripping them of any kind of silliness and playing their most notorious traits for horror: For example, Dr. Destiny is no longer a creepy but somewhat cartoonish man in a cloak and a skull face. He is an emaciated, withered man trapped in a wheelchair. It's implied that he still posseses his terrifying dream powers as well, the Mad Hatter is hinted at being a pedophile, etc.

    Fan Works 
  • A famed example is the "Scary Mary" recut trailer for Mary Poppins, which plays the well-known scenes of wonder and childhood whimsy of the original film with jarring music, much like a horror film would.
    • In fact, there are many fan-made horror recut trailers floating around on the Internet, including of The Lion King, My Neighbor Totoro, and—combined with genuine horror media—Jurassic World and The Cat in the Hat. It's amazing what a simple change of music and a few different sounds can do to the tone of a familiar scene or trailer...
  • Mrs. Doubtfire Recut As A Horror Movie shows the eponymous character as a crazed stalker.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jan Svankmajer's Alice is an interesting case of this, adapting Alice's Adventures in Wonderland into a dark, ominous film while at the same time being relatively faithful to the source material: The difference is that while in the original book the weirdness of the plot is used for Surreal Humor, in this movie the weirdness is played for Surreal Horror.
  • Fantastic Four (2015) depicts the titular characters' superpowers as Body Horror, given that in this version, they gained them through a Teleporter Accident not unlike that of The Fly (1986).
  • Unedited Footage of a Bear does this for Youtube Ads that interrupt a video: The short starts with the footage of a grizzly bear while the cameraman comments on the size of the bear's ears, then the video suddenly gets interrupted by a commercial for a fictional drug called "Claridryl." But when instead of ending, the seemingly light-hearted commercial slowly turns into a horror story about how said drug has a very negative impact, causing addiction and personality disorders to the protagonist And it is also heavily implied that said drug ultimately drive her into a murderous insanity.
  • Brightburn makes it clear that it wants to do this to the Superman Substitute from the get-go by copying every possible beat from the trailers for Zack Snyder's Man of Steel up until the kid learns that he's an alien with superpowers... and then the rest of the trailer showcases James Gunn's idea of what really happens when a bullied, maladjusted kid finds out that he's potentially invincible.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Guns are commonplace weapons and a familiar sight in virtually any action setting, but Season 3 of Daredevil is credited with making firearms scary in the person of Bullseye, who dispenses instant death to unsuspecting victims.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Knights of Buena Vista plays up some parts in Frozen as if it was horror (this is a Campaign Comic).
    • Weselton talks about how he heard people in the palace over the years said they sometimes felt rooms become as cold as the grave. Mary even compliments Walter on making Elsa's powers seem spooky. Then she's genuinely spooked out by Weselton further interrogating her.
      Walter: And he leans close, almost like he's trying to see the darkness in your pupils.
    • When darker ice appears within the ice of Elsa's palace after she finds out she cause Endless Winter in her kingdom, Dick describes the effect as something like a Japanese horror film. Mary has as much of a genuinely freaked out look as Anna, and says if anything starts coming out of the ice she's quitting the campaign.

    Web Original 
  • For a while, there was a copypasta floating around the internet about "the scariest video game ever". According to the story, you play as a madman with an insatiable appetite that compels him to devour everything he touches, and he is trapped in a dark labyrinth where he is hunted by terrifying spirits that graphically tear him apart if they catch him. The twist at the end (for readers who have not caught onto the joke yet) is that "the scariest game" is Pac-Man.
  • While in theory Happy Tree Friends tends to subvert the Amusing Injuries trope for Black Comedy, the incredibly gruesome deaths of the cute and cuddly cast in some episodes ends being more disturbing rather than comical in plenty of occasions, often indulging in Body Horror and Gorn.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • The mini-adaptation of The Mysterious Stranger included in The Adventures of Mark Twain does this for the source material: While the dark elements were also present in the book, there was also a major Mood Dissonance in the way in which the story was told, making it closer to a whimsical fairy tale than a Cosmic Horror Story. Satan himself was often described as attractive and charming, but in the animated film he is given a creepy, sinister appearence, and the adapted passage (Which is actually one of the most light-hearted moments from the original bok) is given an eerie, nightmarish atmosphere which sharply contrasts with the the rest of the movie.
  • Rick and Morty uses many common fantasy/sci-fi tropes that tend to be played in a rather light-hearted manner in other works, taking their horrifying implications to the deep end: A Love Potion? It causes the entire humanity to be horribly mutated into monsters obsessed with Morty. An Expendable Alternate Universe? When he has to leave his dimension by the first time, Morty is clearly traumatized by the notion that his friends and family are all doomed and he will spend the rest of his life with identical strangers.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil has the Princess Classic played for horror. Rebellious princesses are sent to the St. Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses, where students are psychologically broken down and stripped of their identities, slowly being brainwashed into becoming perfect princesses.


Example of: