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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 (though the two sometimes overlap).



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Devilman takes the Superpowered 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.
  • 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.
  • Secret does this to the typically comedic My Sister Is Off-Limits! by taking it to the logical extreme. Shinichi Mitomo, the mastermind, spends the series trying to manipulate the students into killing each other because one of them impregnated his sister, and it infuriates him that someone got to her first. His obsession with keeping his sister "pure" for himself is treated as creepy and deranged Yandere behavior.
  • Despite its innocent beginning, Shadow Star 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
    • The manga is based around horrific things involving spirals, so some of the stories are about the various ways that Spectacular Spinning is not spectacular at all, including how a spiral-shaped scar spins into a black hole.
    • One chapter uses a Spring Coil as a form of the omnipresent spiral shape, as well as a source of scares and Black Comedy. After Jack gets killed in a horrific car accident, Kirie and Shuichi dig up his grave to stake his corpse, only for it to suddenly come alive and bouncing after them as his entire lower half disintegrates, using a spring stuck in his spine to chase after them. However, once he completely falls apart, the two realize the spring was part of the car suspension that wasn't removed from his body — it's left unclear if his corpse was merely propelled by escaping gas or if it was the result of something supernatural turning him into a literal Jack-in-the-box.

  • Nemesis by Mark Millar basically turns the Batman mythos by showing what would happen if a character very similar to Bruce Wayne turned out to be more like Patrick Bateman instead of Batman.
  • And speaking of Batman, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth takes many of the recurring villains, strips them of any kind of silliness, and plays 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, but 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.
  • The Unfunnies: Emasculated Cuckold is played for horror. Pussywhisker loses both his testicles after being convinced by Dr. Despicable that he has testicular cancer. His wife Polly was outraged that they cannot have children and refusing to adopt, so she forces Pussywhisker to pick up men to get to sleep with her in order to get her pregnant. When she did not get pregnant from the first guy, Polly forced Pussywhisker to get more men. It's clearly damaging for Pussywhisker to do this. At the end of the issue, as Pussywhisker is forced to find another man for Polly, she reveals that she orchestrated her husband's castration so that she would be justified in her acts of adultery with copious partners, is on the pill, and enjoys that she has forced her husband to find these partners while she waits at home.
  • Death Is Cheap is horrifically deconstructed in Immortal Hulk when it's learned that the reason the Hulk and gamma mutates keep coming back is because death has a metaphorical revolving door for them to keep walking out of. Made worse is the fact that it's due to an Eldritch Abomination that is The Anti-God, which is only bringing them back so it has pawns it can use to enact its own plans. There's also the trauma of having to experience death in all of it's pain and terror only to come back repeatedly and realize it's going to keep happening again and again and that you may end up surviving thousands of years past the ends of your friends, loved ones and everything you ever held to be important.
  • A really horrific example of Unreliable Voiceover is in the first issue of Vertigo's House of Mystery series. The narration is a rather uneventful story about a girl who moves back to her hometown after her parents died, becomes a wife and mother, but doesn't love her children. None of this is actually untrue, but the art fills in minor gaps like the fact that the other residents of the city are all Big Creepy-Crawlies, and her children were loads of maggots that left a huge hole in her back that she still has.
  • Wonder Girl (Infinite Frontier): This story show a particularly horrifying example of The Jailbait Wait. It's revealed that Eros has known Yara ever since she was a child because he was the one who murdered her mother and led the siege that slaughtered her tribe. All so that he could have her all to himself as the perfect wife once Yara was finally of age.

    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.
  • A common trend in fan art is to make "realistic" versions of cartoonish characters, often portraying them in a grotesque and sometimes horrifying manner.
  • A common element from darkfics is upping the darker aspects from fictional works, usually for drama, but also for horror as well.
  • Made of Iron turns dark in At The Food Court. Ash got an MRI scan after his psychotic break, and the test showed that he suffered ubiquitous hematomas and inflammation of the brain, and large parts of his brain were straight-up dead from blunt-force trauma. The doctors had no idea how he was even still alive, since the injuries would normally have been enough to kill him several times over. It is not clear whether the healing spring let him survive or whether this is a Cerebus Retcon of Ash being able to survive Pikachu's and Charizard's attacks in canon. Either way, the damage is so great that his original personality and maturity cannot be recovered.
  • Moment of Weakness is used for horror in Avenger of Steel. Raven losing control of her emotions allowed Trigon to enter Azarath and destroy it.
  • It All Started with an OSHA Violation uses Becoming the Costume to this effect. As Skid and Pump went down the elevator shaft in their respective costumes, Skid's skeleton costume fused with his bones while Pump's costume head fused with his head and became an actual pumpkin. Monster was revealed to have suffered the same fate once he fell down the same shaft; the lemon head of his mascot costume became his actual head.
  • Your Mime Makes It Real is played for both scares and Black Comedy in the Saw Fan Film "The Silent Treatment", where an overly-committed mime ends up in one of Jigsaw's ironic Death Traps... which to the viewer looks like a completely empty room. At first, it appears the mime is only acting like he's up in chains and forced into a sadistic life-or-limb scenario, but once he "mimes" cutting himself and very real blood starts coming out of him, it's left really unclear just how imaginary the trap was.
  • Estee's Triptych Continuum features a kind of In-Universe Flanderization with falling into the mark, an extremely common psychological disorder among ponies where the pony allows their special talent to dominate their lives to the point where there is nothing outside the mark. In A Mark Of Appeal, there’s also the discovery of a disease that amplifies the mark magic until it renders the pony unable to do or think of anything that is not the exercise of their talent.
  • What Goes Around Comes Around plays the Shipper on Deck trope for horror. The Agrestes both decide they're on board with Adrien hooking up with Marinette, but only on their terms — to the point that they plan to make a reality-altering Wish that will merge Adrien and Felix into their idealized son, with Marinette forced to marry him.

    Films — Animated 
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes is used to show fear in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When the title princess runs in panic into the forest, some yellow glowing eyes seem to stare at her. They actually belong to friendly cute animals, but Snow White's imagination makes them look evil and demonic.
  • 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 appearance, and the adapted passage (Which is actually one of the most light-hearted moments from the original book) is given an eerie, nightmarish atmosphere which sharply contrasts with the the rest of the movie.

    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.
  • Antebellum, like Octavia Butler's Kindred, is a story about a Black female writer who travels back in time to a pre-Civil War plantation in the Deep South, a premise that is used to explore the violence of slavery. But whereas Kindred is a dark Magic Realism drama, Antebellum is a violent horror movie in which plantation slavery is the subject of Torture Porn.
  • What happens if you take the basic plot of Rio Bravo, in which a group of lawmen are besieged by a heavily armed gang, and give it a Setting Update to contemporary (1970s) Los Angeles and present the gangsters like a human version of the zombies from Night of the Living Dead? You get Assault on Precinct 13, the Action Horror film that put John Carpenter on the map as a filmmaker.
  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe uses Beauty Is Never Tarnished for creepiness, as Jane Doe's body is unnaturally preserved and devoid of external bruises or marks. The "beauty" of the corpse contrasts even more with the discovery of the corpse's gruesome internal traumas. A final unnerving instance of it occurs when in the last moments of the movie, when the police investigate the morgue following the deaths of the Tildens and the corpse is shown to be perfectly intact, which we saw resulting from the transfer of her injuries to Tommy.
  • The Banana Splits adapts the original The Banana Splits series, turning a comedy show for kids into a R-rated horror movie.
  • Batman (1989) has an In-Universe example of Corpsing end with a literal corpse. Two anchors, one male and one female, report on mysterious deaths of models and beauty parlor customers. The female anchor starts laughing until she falls out of her chair, dead. It's then that the Joker interrupts the show with a fake commerical for his chemicals he used to poison beauty products. During this, there's a shot of the dead anchor with her face having turned into a copy of the Joker's perma-smile.
  • Better Watch Out does this with "Home Alone" Antics. As it turns out, the famous paint can trap from that film will actually kill somebody. Also, the Kevin McCallister analogue here is every bit the budding psycho that the popular fan interpretation often paints him as.
  • 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.
  • The usually comedic Glass Smack and Slide trope is played for horror in Carrie (2013). When Carrie snaps and starts her telekinetic rampage, a fleeing girl is hurled into the closed gym door, cracking the window and leaving a thick smear of blood when she slips down.
  • 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).
  • Get Out (2017) does this with racial fetishization and the concept of “positive” discrimination, concepts that the film criticizes for objectifying the very people they supposedly compliment. Neither is too positive when it means white people kidnap Black people with the intent of hijacking their bodies for their stereotyped "positive" aspects. To make matters worse, the original people are still stuck as unwilling passengers in their own bodies.
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife does this with a number of famous scenes from the original Ghostbusters. Whereas that film did the opposite, taking supernatural horror movie scenarios and defanging them by mining humor out of them, this film injects the horror back into many of them. For instance, in the original, Peter Venkman reacts to Dana's possession by Zuul in classic Bill Murray fashion as he tries to handle the situation with cool-headed sarcasm. In Afterlife, on the other hand, Callie Spengler's possession by Zuul is staged like a scene straight out of The Conjuring, with the other characters terrified by the sight and The Reveal done as a Jump Scare.
  • The Guest does this for Stale Beer Spy Fiction in the manner of The Bourne Series, showing how a genetically enhanced super-spy who's been programmed to kill anybody who might blow his cover would make for a terrifying horror movie villain if an ordinary family started to suspect who he was.
  • The Howling does this for Urban Fantasy, showing what it would be like for Muggles living in something like The World of Darkness. Within werewolf society, all manner of internal politics are hinted at, particularly a philosophical divide between those who wish to harmonize their human and animal instincts and those who wish to fully give in to the latter... none of which matters to the protagonists, ordinary humans hunted by werewolves who seek to either transform them (as in the case of Karen and Bill) or kill them to cover up the truth (as with Chris and Terri). A lot of attention is given to how werewolves would operate in modern society... which is used here to highlight how They Look Just Like Everyone Else!. There is a sexy female werewolf in Marsha who seduces one of the male heroes... but her temptations are portrayed as purely villainous, without any redeeming qualities. Werewolves can transform at will rather than waiting for the full moon as per the classic portrayal, a feature that, in urban fantasy stories, is often used to make werewolves more sympathetic and/or badass by letting them control their "monster" side (or, in games specifically, give players easier access to all the cool werewolf powers)... but is used here to make them more dangerous foes for the protagonists, who aren't safe even during the day. When the heroine Karen is turned, she transforms into a werewolf on live TV in an attempt to break the masquerade... and people are too apathetic and cynical to buy it as anything more than a special effects-driven publicity stunt.
  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race gets dark in The Hunt (2020). Crystal Creasy (the Anti-Hero and a Shell-Shocked Veteran) narrates a version of The Tortoise and the Hare in which, as usual, this method lets the tortoise win the race... and then, much to the surprise of the fellow hunted she's talking to (who thought that she was telling him that's how they were going to play the game), she follows it with saying that the hare arrived that same night to the tortoise's home and got even by killing the tortoise and his entire family. The man is visibly nervous when Crystal finishes her tale.
  • Domestic Appliance Disaster is invoked and played for horror in the remake of The Last House on the Left: The main villain Krug gets killed by Mr. Collingwood by ramming his head through the door of a microwave oven and putting it to max power. Krug's head explodes.
  • Leprechaun 3 uses Gag Lips, Gag Boobs/Breast Expansion, and butt inflation for both horror and dark humor. A slender, aging casino worker wishes for a more voluptuous body. The Leprechaun kills her by making her lips, boobs, and butt rapidly expand until she blows up.
  • Nothing but Trouble: The trope Cops Need the Vigilante is used for horror in a reveal: the state police knows perfectly well that J.P. Valkenheiser is a murderous Hanging Judge and not only do nothing about it but send him criminals to get rid of covertly. Chris and Diane discover this while surrounded by the army of cops that came to "arrest" the Judge after they first escaped and the Judge himself all acting chummy, and the massive collapse of Valkenvania happens just in time to interrupt what seemed to be our heroes being murdered to silence them.
  • 1BR uses a Close-Knit Community as a premise for a horror film. At first, the tenants of the apartment building Sarah moves into are a very friendly and sociable bunch. That said, it's soon revealed that they value their community to the point of Serious Business, practically brainwashing and psychologically torturing all new tenants into wanting to become permanent members of the community.
  • Rambo:
    • First Blood, the first film in the series, does this for the action movie premise unlike the following sequels would played it straight, instead being a From Bad to Worse situation that makes an action film like this one being a some sort of nightmarish Psychological Horror experience than some fun rollercoaster.
    • One of the sequels, Rambo IV, has its Big Bad Major Tint who and his Kick the Dog actions are this, showing how much he is a Knight of Cerebus Viler New Villain whose misdeeds pulls no punches when is comes to their graphically horrifying outcomes unlike past villains' evil sins.
  • The The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb turns the classic Tom Thumb fairytale into a Surreal Horror Urban Fantasy film with harsh, squalid environments; giant bugs and creatures crawling everywhere; violence, death and experimentation as major plot points and a dark Mind Screw ending involving a nuclear reactor exploding and killing everyone. Also, Tom Thumb himself looks like a fetus.
  • The Terminator, the first film in the Terminator series, does this for is premise that the sequels that would follow, depicting the premise as a Slasher Movie than a typical blockbuster action flick the franchise would be known for.
  • 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 then, 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 Donna. And it is also heavily implied that said drug ultimately drove her into a murderous insanity.
  • Unfriended
    • Annoying Pop Up Ads become dangerous obstacles. As it's set on Blaire's computer screen, she is annoyed by multiple ads all the way through, especially when she's trying to call for help or figure out what's going on. In a Rewatch Bonus, one of the pop-up "porn" ads is actually footage of Blaire and Adam having sex after she promised Mitch they didn't, an early hint that Laura is haunting Blaire's computer and taunting her.
    • There's a dark example of the protagonists playing "Never Have I Ever". As Laura points out, "the loser doesn't drink, the loser dies".
  • The Straight and Arrow Path is used to emphasize evil in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Kevin goes through all the trouble of becoming an expert at archery so that when he unleashes a massacre on his school, the press will not try to file this under any hot-button issue like gun control or bullying — he wanted them all dead because they annoyed him, that's all there is to it.

  • The Stephen King short story "The Cat From Hell" goes to extreme levels with Cats Are Mean with a cat that is out for revenge on a guy who got his fortune from a drug tested unsafely on cats. This cat doesn't just go after that guy, it kills his immediate family and anyone who gets in the way of its vengeance, including killing a hitman by jumping into his mouth, causing him choke to death, then crawling all the way inside his body.
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau depicts the Beast Man and Uplifted Animal tropes this way, and is an Unbuilt version of the same. The titular doctor has used anesthetic-free vivisections to mold animals into human-like forms, and the main character is disturbed by how much the beast people hit Uncanny Valley for him.
  • The Mysterious Stranger uses the Abilene Paradox for this. It’s revealed that few of the villagers in Dung Ages Austria actually believe in witches, but they all allow witch hunts to happen because they are terrified that the rest of the village truly believes it and will assume that they themselves are witches if they defend the accused in any way, including by saying that witches don’t exist.
  • 1984 does this to the usually comedic How Many Fingers?. In the infamous torture scene (but before Room 101), an Inner Party member holds up four fingers, then asks Winston how many he is holding up. When Winston answers four, he puts Winston through Electric Torture to force him to see five, and will not stop until Winston actually, truly believes that there are five fingers. The scene details Winston's incredible pain and the sheer horror of being coerced into accepting an obvious falsehood, and is one of the most chilling scenes in the story.
  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill feels like a horror retelling of The Polar Express. Charlie Manx basically believes he's the train's conductor, taking children to the magical Christmas Land, only the train is a Rolls Royce Wraith. In fact, he's actually a deranged psychopath who uses the mystical properties of the car to drain the abducted children of their humanity and retain his youth. The story is told from the perspective of a parent who eventually has her child abducted by Manx.
  • "Snow, Glass and Apples" by Neil Gaiman is a very, very dark retelling of Snow White (The original fairy tale, not the Disney film), turning the titular character into a Creepy Child (which is eventually revealed to be a vampire) and adding the same amount of violence and disturbing sexual content that one would expect from stuff like Game of Thrones.
  • Cloudcuckooland is a trope that is often Played for Laughs, specially in media aimed at children. However, in The Neverending Story this trope is played for pure horror with the City Of Old Emperors, a place where Former humans are trapped in Fantasia with no memories of who they are, or what they are, engaging in endless, nonsensical tasks over and over forever, showing how ending in a place like that would be a Fate Worse than Death.
  • The trope Plane Awful Flight turns nightmarish in Station Eleven. While none of the horrific flights are ever shown, the always-deadly Georgia Flu spreads extremely fast and it spreads especially quickly in confinement. As a result, it becomes completely commonplace once the flu originates for airplanes to ground and never open. Clark frequently hopes that everyone is dead.
    Don't think of that unspeakable decision, to keep the jet sealed rather than expose a packed airport to a fatal contagion. Don't think about what enforcing that decision may have required. Don't think about those last few hours on board.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?
  • Criminal Minds makes use of The Dreaded Pretend Tea Party trope in a disturbing way. In the episode "The Uncanny Valley," a woman was sexually abused as a child by her father who bought her dolls as an apology. Decades later, he took her dolls and gave them to other girls whom he abused. His daughter, desperate to have her dolls back, abducted women who happened to look like her dolls, sedated and force-fed them, dressed them up, sewed a wig into a poor woman's scalp and forced them to attend a tea party. All while acting like a well-meaning little girl.
  • Cruel Summer uses a Stargazing Scene to unsettling effect. On the night of the family hunting trip in 1993, a distressed Kate ends up sitting out and looking at the stars, having a sweet and emotional chat...with Martin, the same person who grooms and later kidnaps her for months. As this fate is already well-known, this scene is used to show how Martin manipulated her, turning a normally nice moment horrifying.
  • A horrific example of Hot Guy, Ugly Wife is found in a CSI: Miami episode. A mousy, dowdy-looking woman was so jealous of the attention other women would pay her devoted and handsome husband, that she convinced him to seduce and lure women into their plot. She would go as far as to pretend to be one of the victims, and play up a rescue only to dash their hopes, by pulling back her hands while her husband would drag them to their deaths, all so she could see the look of terror in their eyes, while her husband would kill them with a loving gaze fixated on his wife.
  • 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.
  • Euphoria uses Bigot with a Crush this way. Nate Jacobs, who has extremely fucked-up ideas about how women should look and behave, becomes obsessed with trans girl Jules, who he knows would not meet his exacting standards, and sets about trying to force her to "reform" under threat of having her arrested for underage sexting.
  • "The Screwfly Solution", an episode of Masters of Horror, uses Girls vs. Boys Plot to terrifying effect. One day, men all over the world find themselves slowly succumbing to a Hate Plague that causes them to become violent and murderous toward every woman they find—up to and including their own wives, mothers, and small children. After the initial purges, the episode plays out like a dark version of this type of plot: the few women who avoid the first wave of attacks band together and do their best to survive, only to be slowly hunted down by the still-homicidal men, who do gruesome things like mutilate their victims' bodies and turn them into trophies (at one point, a man proudly walks around carrying a bag made from a woman's breast). The episode ends with one of the last women on Earth discovering that the plague was caused by aliens, who arranged a Gendercide to make the planet easier to conquer.
  • Evil Learns of Outside Context is made chilling in Stranger Things. The Mind Flayer, an entirely alien entity with initially no understanding of Earth, slowly gains more and more knowledge of human behaviour and the larger situation, employing increasingly intelligent tactics as a result. It's especially frightening when the creature figures out that El and The Party are its primary opposition, learning to single them out specifically and make the kids suffer.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): The episode "Stopover in a Quiet Town" features one of the most disturbing uses of The Dreaded Pretend Tea Party trope. A couple who were drunk driving wake up to discover themselves alone in a town they can't seem to escape from. The Plot Twist is that they're in an alien child's dollhouse and surrounding toy town, and the child is just playing. After they ran off the road, the child's parents took them home to the child as playthings. Whether the child and parents are giant or there was a Shrink Ray involved is never explored. But the fear of the couple is genuine in this case given the owner of the dollhouse is at least 6 times their size.
  • WandaVision works its way through a checklist of Sitcom Tropes — and any one of them can turn very wrong in a moment, as the audience learns to see this as a show about a Reality Warper having a nervous breakdown.
  • The X-Files did this to the typically-comedic Rubber Man trope, with the terrifying liver-eating mutant Eugene Victor Tooms. He liked to sneak through vents to reach victims in otherwise locked rooms.

    Music Videos 
  • The video for "Run" by Joji is a rare case where Absurdly Long Limousine is horrific. It begins with Joji waking up in the back of a limo with no clue how he got there, surrounded by party-goers who show no concern for his confusion and distress. He tries to reach the exit, but no matter how far he runs, the limo just keeps going on and on and on…

  • The Magnus Archives does this with Gluttonous Pig. In the episode "Cruelty Free" a farmer discovers a massive, 400 kilogram pig, which devours anything that gets in its pen, starting with the other pigs and eventually moving on to humans.

    Video Games 
  • American McGee's Alice and its sequel Alice: Madness Returns use the Alice in Wonderland mythos for horror. An adult Alice struggles through post-traumatic stress and feelings of guilt over the fire that killed her family. Wonderland has become full of violence and its inhabitants are often grotesque, if not experiencing outright Body Horror.
  • Baldi's Basics in Education and Learning takes the style of a crappy 1990’s Edutainment Game and turns it into a Survival Horror game where the title character chases you down merely for getting an unsolvable math problem wrong.
  • The monster-filled locations of CarnEvil include a Christmas Town. Rickety Town is a fairground located between the Big Top and the Freak Show. The player explores most of the rides and attractions here, the only exception being a rocket next to the snowglobe ice rink. While the level is presented as a Christmas-themed theme park, the game's setting is presented as a Circus of Fear, including a monstrous Bad Santa/The Krampus boss battle on a skating-rink.
  • Darkwood plays Absurdly Ineffective Barricade for drama and terror. Properly barricading a hideout is way more complicated than just closing a door and putting a wardrobe behind it – even dogs can push furniture out of the way with considerable ease.
  • Dead by Daylight makes an Idol Singer one of the killers. Ji-Woon Hak used to be part of a boy band called NO SPIN. Growing jealous of his bandmates' popularity, he commited Murder by Inaction by leaving them trapped inside of a recording studio when the building caught on fire. He then went on to accomplish a successful solo career as The Trickster, where he had a Darker and Edgier image... in part because he moonlighted as a Serial Killer, sampling the screams of his victims in his songs. Finally, after Executive Meddling stopped him from producing his own songs, he retaliated by torturing his record label's board members to death while forcing the talent scout who recruited him to watch.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's
  • Half-Life does this with Doom and the many FPS games that followed in its wake. Like Doom, you play as somebody who uses a prodigious arsenal to fight off hordes of monsters after an advanced physics experiment Gone Horribly Wrong, but unlike the Doomguy, Gordon Freeman is not a soldier, and he will die quickly if he runs headlong into combat. And while Doom used its Excuse Plot to leave as little as possible between the player and the action, Half-Life used its lack of explanation to create mystery and shocking twists, ultimately revealing that Gordon is merely a pawn in something much bigger than himself that he can't hope to comprehend.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords deconstructs many Western RPG gameplay staples by giving them horrific in-story justifications. For instance, the Experience Points are revealed to be an expression of the Exile actually devouring the life force of the people and creatures s/he murders, while Relationship Values turn out to be an indicator of how successful s/he is at More Than Mind Controlling her traveling companions.
  • League of Legends has variants on The Power of Love. Viego the Ruined King exploits a twisted, villainous version of it in that his power over the undead horde of the Black Mist is driven by his love for his fallen queen, with his vain attempts to bring her Back from the Dead forming the Shadow Isles and one of the biggest threats in the game. Even worse, he can use the Black Mist to corrupt and bend people to his will by exploiting what THEY love and value.
  • Library of Ruina heavily and frighteningly exaggerates Capitalism Is Bad. While the game doesn't outright state it, the City doesn't have any non-corporate governors. In fact, it's solely ruled by corporations known as Wings who basically run on fanatical capitalism; even the Head, supposedly being ruling authorities, are actually one such Corporation known as A Corp. It's not even a matter of pure greed; many of them seem to just make decisions that maximize bloodshed or violate all common sense either because they are integral for the Wing's survival, outright weirdness, malice or even any combination of the above. Standouts include former L Corp where the Manager deliberately gets his employees horribly killed by Abnormalities or W Corp forcing passengers of the Warp Train to suffer from a 2000 century torture only to undo them instantly. Commonfolks are thrown into backstreet slums that the Wings don't usually give a rat's ass about and everyone has to more or less, eat rats or kill other human beings to survive. Most people there actually have to earn enough money to go to metropolitan areas called Nests, where the Wings behind it can and will kick you out if you don't yield any produce or societal contribution.
  • Life Is Strange has a few Camera Fiend characters, but one in particular turns out to be quite the literal fiend. He is the Big Bad drugging and kidnapping girls to take them to his Dark Room, where he photographs them in sexualized positions and tortures them, all to capture the moment where innocence becomes corrupted.
  • Portal does this to the Excuse Plot common to Puzzle Games. You move through a series of rooms, solving the puzzles contained therein, whilst guided by a voice over a loudspeaker. However, the rooms have a creepy, oppressive atmosphere from the very beginning, the guide's contributions are unhelpful, bizarre, condescending or some combination of the three, and venturing out of bounds reveals that you aren't the first one to go through the rooms, with the previous participants ending up insane and/or dead. It all comes to a head when the guide throws off the pretense and tries to flat-out murder you.
  • As discussed in this article, what makes Sinistar so frightening beyond the titular character himself is the way the game is structured. Like every other game of its era, Sinistar is an Endless Game with Nintendo Hard difficulty, but uses these conventions to create a Cosmic Horror Story that instills hopelessness in the player: no matter how many times the player character destroys Sinistar, his followers will quickly resume in rebuilding him elsewhere in the galaxy, and so the player character is thus always doomed to fall at the hands of Sinistar.
  • When The Darkness Comes does this with But Thou Must!. The game presents buttons at various points in the game, for the purposes of answering questions. However, the player is never allowed to actually make a choice; either they only get one answer, which invariably isn't the answer they'd typically want to choose, or the answer is nullified anyway because "they didn't mean it". A rather dark version comes near the end. The player is given a button and a woman asking them questions, but they aren't allowed to move. As the woman tries in vain to make you respond, you can do nothing but stand there and fail her.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony uses Breaking the Fourth Wall to dark effect, by revealing that the various fourth wall breaks of Monokuma are actually because the series have been turned into a reality TV show. When the characters discover this, they are utterly shocked as they realize all of their memories and emotions were fiction. This reveal psychologically devastates the surviving members, until Shuichi comes to the realization that even if everything is fictional, their experiences and pain are real. The final battle is against the embodiment of the TV audience itself.

  • The Bikini Bottom Horror takes the show SpongeBob SquarePants and uses it for horror. It starts with Patrick Star graphically killing and eating SpongeBob and escalates from there. Multiple memes from the show's fanbase make it into the comic as well, usually with rather dark context.
    • The line "No, this is Patrick" goes from a joke about Patrick's ditziness to a terrifying statement.
      Mr. Krabs: Wait... Please... This is insane! This is evil!
      Patrick: No... This is Patrick.
    • The comic does this with Healing Factor. Patrick's regenerative abilities allow him not only to withstand all types of damage, but also to multiply... which is what empowers him to go on a deadly rampage upon learning the awful truth. However, hitting certain "nerve clusters" can negate this ability, killing a Patrick outright.
  • Knights of Buena Vista plays up some parts in Frozen (2013) 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 caused an 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 
  • Alien Abduction Role Play uses the Alien Catnip trope to add horror. Acktreal Domma feels a strong, irrational desire to eat her human test subjects, even after working to redeem herself. It's later revealed that human blood has an intoxicating, even addictive, effect on her species.
  • For a while, there was a copypasta/creepypasta 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.
  • The CreepypastaMy Neighbor won’t stop singing Christmas carols” does this to the “annoying Christmas Carolers” trope. The titular neighbors- the wife and daughter specifically- sing carols for days on end, never stopping, and will not respond to anything, even as they are peeing and crying, making it clear that something is wrong. They are being forced to sing by a race of goblins resembling pine trees, and anyone caught in a specific radius from one is magically compelled to join in the caroling forever- eventually, nearly the entire town joins in, with hordes of people forced to sing against their will before being devoured by the pine goblins.
  • Dream SMP: And There Was Much Rejoicing is Played for Drama and Horror in the aftermath of Tommy's death, as the Eggpire throw a party in the victim's house - and after getting kicked out, rent a room in the victim's hotel to continue their revelries. Do bear in mind that the leader of the Eggpire, BadBoyHalo, confirmed by Word of God that his character would be horrified and in mourning if he weren't Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • 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.
  • I'm a therapist, and my patient is going to be the next school shooter
    • The Influencer Files story line uses Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube! to gruesome effect. The Chicken live-streams himself torturing someone in the most painful and humiliating way possible.
    • Asshole Victim is used for horror. Someone with a history of making bigoted and otherwise offensive comments online is kidnapped and tortured in internet videos. While some of the comments hope the victim will be saved, others believe her past awful behavior means she deserves it. Some people outright express pleasure that she's suffering, one calling it the best stream of the year and another asking if anyone else was getting a boner.
  • SCP Foundation
    • SCP-3520 turns Chubby Chaser horrific, where an unknown force takes sado-masochistic glee in watching humanity become this as they destroy Earth’s environment to make way for industrial farms to make more snack food.
      Second female voice: 60% of American women are obese, 75% of American men, 100% of true American animals. Let yourself slip into a dying asteroid, like me!
    • SCP-3344 uses I Have No Son! to this effect. The SCP causes Site 24 Director Carter (and anyone with whom he interacts) to believe that his adult son Niklas, who is living in Site 24 and desperate to contact his family, does not exist and to be completely unable to perceive any evidence to the contrary.
    • The Foundation has several none too pleasant examples of Immortality Field.
      • Any person placed inside SCP-762 enters a state of suspended animation and they would no longer need food, water, or even air and they are immune to disease and injury (when it was found, it contained someone who was probably stuck inside for centuries)... except those caused by its own spikes, because it's an Iron Maiden, in a subversion. As a torture device, its primary purpose is likely not to keep people alive but to prolong the victim's suffering. The person inside is conscious the whole time and the experience is described to be very painful. This is double subverted afterward, as even those wounds heal completely after the person is released.
      • There's also SCP-135, a girl with an aura that makes her and any other organic matter within a 10 cm radius immortal, while causing rapid and uncontrolled cell growth — AKA cancer— within 2.25 meters. Having developed this aura in utero, she is stuck in a fetal position and permanently encrusted in a constantly growing mass of plants, fungi, and microorganisms. The most that can be done for her is to have robots cut off some of the excess matter when it gets too big. She has full brain activity.
    • SCP-3512 ("The More You Know") is a satirical take on pick-up artists that uses their misogyny and Quest for Sex to disturbing effect. Through body-mutilation rituals (like cutting off their own fingers) and creating a sentient doll-like construct from human fat and bones to take control of the person one desires, instances of the SCP turn women they want to fuck into living sex dolls. The affected victims undergo complete personality changes that leave them eager to please their brainwashers, and are completely aware of this outside force taking them over, but can only express it in bouts of screaming that eventually fade away as it takes complete control. The process is detailed in a book written by a pickup artist, excerpts of which are in the report, and advises readers to stop thinking of hot women as people and think of them as instruments to be controlled.
    • SCP-3004 is a horrific form of Interfaith Smoothie. An old cicada-based nature deity that found itself syncretized with the Christian God by missionaries to win over its cult. Unfortunately, this worked too well, as this meant the cicada god itself was convinced it was the Christian God, and is essentially trying to replace God as the central figure of Christianity—and it doesn't help that it also conflated the idea of venerating Jesus's sacrifice with just venerating pain and torture in general. This manifests in abrupt and inexplicable instances of staunch Christians and churchgoers performing bizarre sacrificial rituals that usually end in live cicadas crawling out of someone's orifices.
    • A Christmas Town is used for horror. SCP-784 - Christmas Cheer is a town somewhere in Texas, that is decorated with Christmas all year round regardless of the weather. It is an anomalous location where the inhabitants are Ambiguously Human and assimilate those who do not exhibit the right level of Christmas cheer. This includes things as minor as wishing someone “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”, singing the wrong lyrics to a carol, or not showing enough enthusiasm for a gift.
    • SCP-752 is a "utopian" society that turns Good Feels Good and The Needs of the Many unsettling. The inhabitants, collectively called SCP 752-1, were built to rationally and willingly be unselfish and devoted to the needs of others over their own private good… which just means that the monstrous things their society does to itself are all perpetrated upon fully-willing people. This includes things like disabled people being murdered or Driven to Suicide and people willingly working themselves to death at a relatively young age.
  • This episode of Something About is a legitimately tense short with an engineer being pursued by horrifying, Necromorph-like ghosts...then you get a glimpse of the engineer and realise it’s a sci-fi horror take on Pac-Man. It even has a human version of Ms. Pac-Man, who happens to be a Ripley-esque Action Girl.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 

  • Adventure Time uses Flat Character to make its villain the Lich even more horrifying. His backstory is vague, he doesn't speak much, and his entire character revolves around destroying the normally whimsical land of Ooo. The Lich is an absolute force of destruction, and at the end of the day that's all he wants to be.
  • The Gravity Falls episode "Weirdmageddon" does this with Clothing Appendage. An off-center shot from Ford's Wave-Motion Gun hits Bill Cipher's "hat", creating a gaping hole that exposes a mess of fleshy innards before regenerating.
  • Trainstopping is used to gory and horrifying effect in the Invincible (2021) episode "Where I Really Come From". Omni-Man picks up a battered Mark and holds him in front of an oncoming subway train, causing Mark's invulnerable body to tear through the train—and its hundreds of passengers—like a bullet through Styrofoam. By the time it ends, Mark is covered in blood and thoroughly traumatized.
  • 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 entirety of 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 Trek: Lower Decks: Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence is played for horror. After lying about ascending all episode, O'Connor finally does so near the end. It results in terror and agony for him, and the episode is vague over whether he actually survived in any meaningful sense.
  • 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.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That is used for horror in Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy. Starscream steals the Golden Disk, containing the information from the future, along with sample of Megatron's energon, and sees the recording of Megatron getting reformatted into Galvatron to be enslaved by Unicron. He reacts in amusement...until Unicron in the recording starts speaking directly to him, revealing that he's aware that Starscream is listening and goes as far as to leave direct instructions for him on how to earn his safety as Unicron's herald.
    Unicron: Starscream... (Starscream gasps in shock) Starscream... I know you're there. I know everything.