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Slasher Smile
aka: Evil Grin

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With a face like this, it's very easy to tell which side is in control.
"He is Bob, eager for fun. He wears a smile, everybody run."
Mike, Twin Peaks
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What's the difference between a smile and a grin? The same difference between kissing and tasting.

In the animal kingdom, baring your teeth is a sign of aggression. In the case of humans — well, there's something very disconcerting about a smile that doesn't have an ounce of happiness in it. It's downright frightening when the smile is in anticipation of pain or death — yours, probably. Needless to say, the Slasher Smile does not inspire warmth in anyone who sees it.

The Slasher Smile is the Evil Counterpart of the Cheshire Cat Grin. In general, the difference is in the eyes of the character. If the eyes sparkle or are mischievously wicked, it's a Cheshire Cat Grin. If, however, the eyes are clearly crazy or malevolent, it's a Slasher Smile. If the grinning person is holding a knife or an axe or some other implement of painful and often bloody death, it's best to assume the worst.

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While the Cheshire Cat Grin is a staple of The Trickster, generally one of the good guys, the Slasher Smile is the staple of the Ax-Crazy, unless said hero is a particularly dark or vicious Anti-Hero. Only expect to see a "nice" hero with a Slasher Smile if they've been possessed, are Brainwashed and Crazy, suffered a major Freak Out or if they've been taken over by their Superpowered Evil Side. Also, a devious Chessmaster or Magnificent Bastard is unlikely to look like this — it's too Obviously Evil, and they prefer the subtler Psychotic Smirk.

No, the Slasher Smile is more appropriate for The Dragon, the Mad Scientist, and most especially Serial Killers, but it can happen with any character who is gleefully violent and/or fits any "wild crazy person" stereotypes. Beings who hunt and eat victims we are supposed to identify with will also often have Slasher Smiles... in their case, it means "Hello, lunch!"

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Some characters with a Slasher Smile wear the grin all the timein fact, it's physically impossible for them to move their face out of it. For many, this has the added worry of making it harder to tell what they're thinking or feeling, because their face betrays no expression beyond the smile. This can be especially tricky for a character with a Face of a Thug — even if the smile genuinely has no malice behind it, others will assume there is.

Not to be confused with a Slashed Smile (although they sometimes overlap), and has nothing to do with the pleased smiles of Slash Fic fans upon the detection of impending Ho Yay. Hopefully.

Contrast Dissonant Serenity for a calm mood which isn't the slightest bit more reassuring, and also contrast Grin of Audacity. Sometimes paired with the Maniac Tongue. When the smile is merely creepy, it's The Un-Smile. May be part of the fear behind the Monster Clown. See also Technically a Smile.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • In the Enzyte Commercials, Smilin' Bob has one of the most unnatural smiles ever seen in an advertisement. It's not MEANT to be a Slasher Smile, but still... BRRR!

    Card Games 

    Comic Strips 
  • Pearls Before Swine: When Starbicks Coffee seizes Pig and Rat's house to set up a new coffee shop, one of the Starbicks guys gives an evil grin to Rat before kicking him and Pig out.
  • Both hosts of What's New? with Phil and Dixie do it at the end of MegagameTM 3-page mini arc — they had a good reason.
    The company representative: ...cute joke, eh? Eh? Eh? ...why aren't you laughing?

    Light Novels 
  • Being possibly the craziest bastard in the series, Baccano!'s Claire Stanfield has a warehouse full of psychotic, blood-soaked grins and smirks to put to use. Not to say that Ladd, Czeslaw, and Graham don't get their fair share.
  • Shizuo Heiwajima of Durarara!! is fond of sporting these right before he's about to hurt someone.
  • Gauron from Full Metal Panic! usually cracks one of these whenever he's not wearing his Psychotic Smirk. HE WANTS TO RAPE YOU!!!
  • Jack Frost is the embodiment of this trope. The wider his smile, the bloodier things get. And things get pretty damn bloody.
  • Xellos from Slayers has this in spades. It's less common to see him not smiling than to see him with a smile (or a convenient Psychotic Smirk) on his lips, but if he's smiling and his eyes are open, you're in serious trouble. Especially exemplified as he's sadistically torturing Valgaav in TRY and a highly amused smile never leaves Xellos' face, backed up by a truly psychotic giggle.
  • As a Neat Freak, Ryuuji from Toradora! gets one whenever he cleans. As in, dirt and dust and mold. Combined with his permanent death glare, he looks like he's rejoicing in the thought of committing genocide on entire societies of dust mites and mold colonies. There's a brief shot of one right in the opening theme.

    Music 
  • Michael Jackson turns to the camera with cat eyes and a creepy smile at the end of his "Thriller" music video.
  • One of the detective's other selves in the music video for Blind Guardian's "Another Stranger Me." The band's singer also has a Slasher Smile at one point.
  • "The Guy," the mascot of the metal band Disturbed, is always depicted with this (always.)
  • Danny Elfman practically made a living doing this in the '70s and '80s. There's hardly any Oingo Boingo music video (or film, for that matter) in which he doesn't spend a few seconds scaring the living crap out of the audience. Overly obnoxious talk show hosts occasionally got the silent treatment from him, combined with a trademark psychotic grin.
    • The worst, or possibly the best example, has got to be the music video for "Little Girls", wherein the slasher smile goes on for the entire video and makes Danny look like he's in searing pain. See it here
  • And then there's... well, everyone but the band in the video for Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun".
  • Pustulus Maximus pulls one of these in the music video for GWAR's "I'll Be Your Monster".
  • In The Birthday Massacre's song Happy Birthday ( 3 guesses as to what it's about), there are the lines:
    • I think my friend said, "Don't forget the video." / I think my friend said, "Don't forget to smile."
  • Motörhead has a song about this trope called "Smiling Like a Killer."
    "Go to bed, lock the door,
    don't look in the mirror,
    what if I was right behind you,
    SMILING LIKE A KILLER?"
  • The more disturbing of the Vocaloid music videos feature this, such as the chainsaw-happy "nurse" and the demented victims in the "Dark Woods Circus" series (you can even see a disembodied Slasher Smile behind the flap of the circus tent), and Miku in "Circle you" right before she cleaves you in half with a machete, at the moment when you least expect it. it will most likely catch you off guard.
  • The cover of Aphex Twin's Richard D. James Album.
  • Technical thrash metal band Coroner has a song entitled "Grin (Nails Hurt)" off the aptly titled "Grin" album, which itself features a pretty sadistic grin.
    Nails in my brain, all that's left just
    Grin
    Grin 'til I lose
    Until I lose myself
  • The video for David Bowie's "Valentine's Day" consists of just about nothing but David playing guitar while making a Slasher Smile at the camera.
  • Annie Lennox has an unexpected one at the very end of the music video for Little Bird
  • La Camilla from Army of Lovers displays a rather frightening one in the video for "Obsession" as she's rolling her fellow band mate down the hall in a wheelchair. And later, while cutting his head open.
  • Then-prime minister Tony Blair is depicted with such a smile in a hidden booklet included with early pressings of Radiohead's Kid A. It's every bit as unsettling as it sounds.
  • The album art for Poets of the Fall's Twilight Theater gives us Hamartia, the Monster Clown jester who finds perverse humour and joy in others' disastrous errors. No wonder he's smiling.
  • The music video for The Lonely Island's "Threw It on the Ground" features Elijah Wood giving a hilariously creepy grin as he and Ryan Reynolds pin the narrator down and fire a tazer into his anus repeatedly. The guy definitely earned it, but it's still a strange experience to see this kind of expression on Frodo Baggins.
  • Brent Smith of Shinedown unleashes a blink-and-you-miss slasher smile in the band's video for "Devil." It's surprisingly creepy.
  • The sharks' smiles in Baby Shark become slasher smiles when they go hunting and we see them behind the children.

    Mythology And Folklore 

    Pinball 

    Podcasts 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Randy Orton doesn't smile often, but when he does...
  • Batista could be like this as well, both as a face and as a heel.
  • Kane too. Bonus points for not needing to smile to look scary.
  • Beth Phoenix is the rare Diva who is able to smile evilly without making it look the least bit sexy.
  • Chris Benoit. Throughout most of his career, he tried to keep his missing tooth hidden behind his lips, but WWE bookers decided to have him accentuate it with a slasher smile.
  • Madison Rayne, even when giving a genuinely friendly smile looks really unnerving.
  • So far in NXT, a slasher smile seems to be Asuka's trademark. During her NXT contract signing, she was interrupted and teased by Emma and Dana Brooke, and just before she walked backstage she turned around and smiled so creepily it scared them both into silence. She followed up by getting a bit of an ass kicking from Billie Kay in her debut match — then after Billie mocked her, she smiled and proceeded to hurt her.
  • Eddie Dennis is the master of this. He's usually smiling when he appears on NXT UK, but with how toothy it is and the fact that it never quite reaches his eyes, it comes off more like an animal about to attack you.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 

    Toys 

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 

    Web Original 
  • Played with in the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series with Kaiba's normal-looking, yet still-disturbing smile. "Every time Kaiba smiles, a puppy dies."
    • He does it twice in the newly released Episode 42.
      [As Odion summons Mega-Ultra Chicken]
      Kaiba[Grinning]: Oh god yes! ["+ 100 Dead Puppies" is written on the bottom]
  • The Smile Tapes combines this with Facial Horror for maximum creepiness.

    Other 
  • Many of the images on Encyclopedia Dramatica's "DO IT FAGGOT" page can either be examples of Slasher Smiles or Cheshire Cat Grins.
  • In Norse Mythology, Loki was often depicted with one of these (in some versions, due to a bet gone wrong Loki often had scars on his entire lip as well.
  • Smile.dog's nightmarish grin is like this.
  • The urban legend of The Grinning Man, told as an event that coincided with the Mothman sightings in West Virginia during the 1960s. Some artistic renderings can be a little unsettling.
    • The last one... Is that Voldemort?
    • That last image may be Nightmare Retardant. It's an edited photo of the cockmongler.
      • It's only Nightmare Retardant if you actually knew who the cockmongler was beforehand. Otherwise?
  • Death is usually seen as a skeleton (with some accessories, like a scythe). Ironically, a human skull seems to "smile" all the time.
  • The devil overlooking Dante and Virgil in Hell doesn't seem to have lips and has teeth that look more like razor-like fangs. This leaves him with a permanent and threatening grin as he sees a man bite into the throat of another.

    Real Life 
  • Actor Jack Black can be seen with these in a wide number of photos.
  • The "literally smiling from ear to ear" disfigurement smile as evidenced by characters such as Kakihara in Ichi the Killer, Gwynplaine (of the aforementioned The Man Who Laughs), and The Dark Knight's Joker is commonly referred to as a "Glasgow smile" and is not a terribly uncommon humiliation injury by gangs. The actor Tommy Flanagannote  sports one of these courtesy of being jumped outside a pub in his younger days.
    • In Japan, legends abound of the kuchisake-onna (口裂け女), a female onryou with a surgical mask to conceal it and who is hellbent on returning the favor to every male she accosts around sundown
  • Jack Nicholson.
    • "Heeeeeeere's Johnny!" (that tends to happen when you play those roles).
    • With new Joker brand I get a grin again and again and again.
  • Lon Chaney was a master of this both in and out of makeup.
  • Michael Fassbender. There's a reason everyone on the Internet thinks he's a shark.
    • Smiling too widely is a good way to unsettle a fencing opponent.
  • Pittsburgh Steeler receiver Hines Ward is known for two things. The first is blocks so vicious and they made a new rule to try to keep him from hurting people. The second is almost always smiling. No matter how hard he gets hit, or how hard he hits someone, he gets up smiling like a lunatic.
  • Cult leader and sexual deviant David Berg's slasher smile never seemed to leave his face. Makes you shudder and want to punch him at the same time.
  • Marlon Brando, as seen here. (He looks like he might have been told by the makeup artist to grin so that the artist knows which facial wrinkles to highlight. Still looks freaky.)
  • Joe Biden smiles a lot: a nice smile, on the whole. But in this smile, as he explains why we have the Geneva Convention,note  there's nothing but pure distilled rage. And Nightmare Fuel.
    To protect my son in the military. That's why we sign these treaties.
  • Shirley Phelps tends to wear this expression during interviews.
  • Actor John Astin often sports one of these in his various roles. For example, take a look at the unnerving grin he's wearing during his credit close-up in The Addams Family theme song.
    • Supposedly, he first perfected it while living in a rough area, when he found that coming across as unnerving and somewhat Ax-Crazy made people leave him alone, and it then became his trademark as an actor.
  • Andrew Kehoe was reportedly seen wearing one of these while heading toward Bath School, half of which he had blown up with dynamite minutes earlier, killing 38 people (mostly kids). Shortly thereafter, he blew up his car, killing himself and four others.
  • UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum often makes a goofy face at the camera that has become memetic. It involves a large, bizarre, Joker-like smile that makes him look insane. He's even worn shirts with himself making the smile.
  • David Bowie could produce one when he was in the right mood.
  • Satoshi Uematsu, suspected of stabbing 19 severely disabled people to death in a Japanese care home, has one of these in virtually every photo of him, both before and after the rampage.
  • Alligators and crocodiles often appear to have a permanent one, though, in reality, this is just how their mouths are shaped. Gators, however, look less threatening since they have an overbite, in contrast to crocs which have both their upper and lower teeth interlock with each other forming a toothy grin.
  • Averted with wolves, which is one of the reasons our two species get along fairly well. Granted, the phrase "wolf grin" exists for a reason, their smiles don't always look happy, but anything resembling a smile from a wolf can at least be read as non-aggression.
  • Played straight and inverted with chimpanzees. Any facial gesture from a chimp that shows teeth is at best a warning a sign, whether it's a smile or otherwise, even if it is a happy looking smile.
  • Due to autism spectrum disorder being linked to difficulty reading social and facial cues, many people on the spectrum often have to practice grinning to avoid it looking like a slasher smile.
  • George Eastman (no not that one) is a master at the slasher smile from his numerous villain and exploitation film roles throughout his career.
  • Ad voiceover artist Mona Abboud recorded a song called "The Pretty Little Dolly", which she was invited to perform on The Tonight Show as Johnny Carson's guest. While her expression starts off shy and sweet, as the song veers off Letter to Santa Road and onto Psychopath Boulevard, Abboud's smile slowly morphs into a pretty unsettling Slasher Smile.
  • Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame has naturally "angry eyebrows" shaped in a way that make her look perpetually pissed off, despite the fact that she's a really sweet, funny, and kind lady. She tends to smile a lot but her angry eyebrows make her smile look aggressive, despite the warmth behind it, making her an unintentional example of this.


 
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Alternative Title(s): Evil Grin

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The Smile of Dan Kuroto

Saiba Nico attempts to be her usual sassy self when dealing with Danny Boy. His response immediately makes her rethink her life choices.

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