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Spiking the Camera

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A specific form of Breaking the Fourth Wall accomplished merely by looking directly at the camera. Usually done by accident, by amateur actors who happen to notice a camera is pointed at them. The trouble here is that the editor didn't catch it, allowing the character to make eye contact with the audience. Typically a film or live TV trope, especially in dramas.

Intentional occurrences fall under Aside Glance or Fourth-Wall Observer.

Contrast with No Fourth Wall (thus including documentaries and reality TV), where the cast is aware of the audience, which in turn is aware of the production crew. Not to be confused with actually spiking a camera, which would probably fall under Camera Abuse.


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    Film Animated 
  • In Surf's Up, Lani brings an injured Cody to her uncle the Geek, really Big Z in hiding, who is shocked at seeing the documentary crew following them, staring at the camera with suspicion and indignation.

    Film Live-Action 
  • An in-universe version occurs in Captain America: The First Avenger, as a film director specifically tells Steve not to look at the camera during filming of a Captain America propaganda film. This becomes a Brick Joke when genuine combat footage of the Howling Commandos is shown later on, in which Cap looks at the camera.
  • Happens a few times in Dazed and Confused, a consequence of using some very fresh actors and random locals as extras.
  • Hot Fuzz: Timothy Dalton looks into the camera for a second in a bar scene. Instead of using a different take, Edgar Wright actually put a cash register ring on it, to draw even more attention to it.
  • In Love Actually, Keira Knightley's character looks at the camera as the boat she's on is pulling out of the dock. Of course, it's a film taken by an in-story amateur on her wedding day, so the slip is more forgiveable. The director commented on it, because the character filming is in love with Keira, and so by looking at the camera, it's like she's looking straight at him.
  • In Lethal Weapon, a traffic car passes in the background filled with a black family staring at the camera curiously which the filmakers tried to blur out.
  • In the opening scene of A Night at the Opera there's a woman in the background who is framed precisely in the center between between Sig Ruman and Margaret Dumont, who stares into the camera the entire time.
  • Averted in Pan's Labyrinth. It is pointed out in the DVD Commentary, where one of the actors looked at the camera as he was exiting the scene, that they covered it up by digitally replacing his head in the relevant frames with his head from the last frame before he looked. It's all over in less than a second, so you don't notice it unless it's pointed out.
  • Star Wars: Obi-Wan appears to do this in A New Hope just after scaring the Tusken Raiders off and ensuring that Luke is alive. He turns to the camera, doffs his hood and says "Hello there!" The very next shot shows that we have been looking through R2-D2's eyes.
  • In The Ten Commandments (1956), Sephorah warns Moses of an intruder nearby; Moses tells Sephorah "Your eyes are sharp as they are beautiful". Yvonne De Carlo responds by staring straight into the camera, away from where she's just said the danger was.
  • The Big Lebowski: Liam O'Brien, the silent partner of Jesus Quintana, does this repeatedly. The person playing him, James G. Hoosier, was a crew member thrown into the scenes and had no other acting experience. Careful watchers will notice Hoosier taking delayed cues from off-screen and constantly trying to keep himself from spiking, but repeatedly failing.
  • In Apocalypse Now, Harrison Ford does this in the briefing scene. It does have the effect of making the audience feel more involved.
  • Pee-wee's Big Adventure: Done in-universe. In the Show Within a Show at the end, when Pee-wee is having a cameo as a bellhop, he can't help himself but glance at the camera and corpse all throughout the scene. Then he glances off to the side and slides mostly out of frame, as if the director was frantically motioning him to get out of the shot and stop ruining the take.
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space: Early on in the film, one of the two girls the Terenzi Brothers got into their Bad Humor Truck with promises of free ice cream does it. As Good Bad Flicks said in his review: "Look, there's only one kind of woman you can lure in with ice cream, ones who don't know not to look DIRECTLY INTO THE CAMERA!"
  • Hercules Returns is a Gag Dub of a 1960's sword and sandal movie. At one stage an actor does this trope, so the Gag Dub turns it into him Breaking the Fourth Wall to apologise to the audience for suggesting that Viewers Are Morons.
  • Invoked Trope in The Battle of San Pietro. John Huston had the soldiers recreating the battle glance at the camera just like they would normally, to make it look like a documentary.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Checkpoint" a Victim of the Week who's Mind Raped does this, but as he's rambling "I know you're always looking at me" at the time, it's likely a Leaning on the Fourth Wall gag.
  • Thanks to retakes being too expensive for much of its No Budget history, this happens fairly often in Classic Doctor Who.
    • Tom Baker was particularly prone to this, to the point where it's a bad-acting habit associated with him in the same way that William Hartnell is associated with line flubbing (though not to the same extent) and since he has very unusual and piercing eyes it can suck you right out of a scene. See the scene at the start of Episode 2 of "Planet of Evil" where, in a scene focused on Sarah Jane talking, Baker accidentally makes eye contact with the camera and breaks it off as soon as he realises what he's doing. A particularly painful example is when Tom Baker makes clear accidental eye contact with the camera in "The Deadly Assassin" during a sequence where the camera is doing a shot from the POV of a sniper scope, making it seem like the Doctor has spotted the sniper and completely changing the intended interpretation of the scene. Of course, later on, sometimes it's intentional Aside Glance a Fourth Doctor quirk that may have developed out of Baker's bad habit.
    • Soldeed in "The Horns of Nimon" accidentally makes eye contact with the camera while overacting his way through the script in one scene. Likely an artifact of the serial's cheap production and a side effect of Ham and Cheese.
    • Though he swears he did it as a joke, during the filming of "Kinda" Matthew Waterhouse told guest star Richard Todd (a distinguished actor with a very long film career under his belt) not to look directly into the camera.
  • Parodied in a Green Acres episode where a documentarian comes to Hooterville to shoot a film. Mr. Haney opens up a film acting class and the first thing he teaches is to not look at the camera. The others interpret this as covering their eyes or turning their back to the camera.

    Video Games 
  • In the first five Final Fantasy games, "child" characters are depicted in battle with their heads tilted towards the camera, showing both eyes, whereas "adults" will be depicted in full profile to face the enemies. These include the Onion Kids in III, young Rydia, Palom and Porom in IV, and Krile in V.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life