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The Darkness Gazes Back

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Listen, spooky eyes, why don't you take a picture? It'll last longer!!

A common Horror Trope. A character is surrounded in darkness, aware that there's something lurking just in the shadows. They stare inquisitively into the abyss... and then a pair of eyes appears and returns the favor.

Usually, this is used for Rule of Scary, but there's many other uses. For example, a comedic effect could be that the entity shrouded in shadow could be invisible except for their eyes.

By the Lights of Their Eyes is a Sister Trope. A typical trait of Things That Go "Bump" in the Night. Compare Glowing Eyes of Doom.

The trope title refers to one of the many philosophies of the eternally quotable Friedrich Nietzsche, featured as the page quote for He Who Fights Monsters.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Sensation Comics: In "In the Clutches of Nero" Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, Bobby Strong and Glamora Treat's campsite gets surrounded in the dark which is shown as many sets of eyes gazing at them from the darkness as they grab whatever is nearby to act as weapons.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman. In the "Chase Me" short, Batman chases Catwomen into a zoo, enters a dark corridor and sees her eyes staring at him in the darkness. He charges towards her, only to face a panther that Catwoman has released from its cage.
  • In Frozen, Anna and Kristoff are attacked by a pack of wolves while riding in Kristoff's sled. In the light of the sled's lantern, the first things to become visible are their silhouettes and their reddish, glowing eyes.
  • Overlaps with By the Lights of Their Eyes in The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure Ozzy is trapped under a large pile of rocks, Strut looks down to see a pair of glowing angry eyes staring back at him.
  • Monsters, Inc. features this in the opening.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls:
      • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Legend of Everfree: The intro sequence briefly includes a pair of glowing yellow eyes appearing in the darkness of the forest — and the camera just zooms on them. No explanation is given, but the shot is used to show that there's something ominous in these woods.
      • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Spring Breakdown: When Twilight is very hesitant to enter the jungle on a deserted island with Sunset, her reaction is reinforced by the fact that numerous glowing white eyes can be seen from within said jungle.
    • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): When the Ursa Minor that breaks off Tempest's horn first appears, it is shrouded in the darkness of its cave. The first warning of its presence is a pair of glaring yellow eyes appearing in the darkness, the only other visible part of the beast being the glowing star on its forehead.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: One of the characters in the opening song "This Is Halloween" is the monster devoted to this "job".
    I am the one hiding under your bed
    Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: During Snow White's run in the forest, wild animals' eyes appear from the darkness, made to look inhuman and demonic by Snow White's fear and confusion.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 2006 film Abominable ends on this, in a combination with Bolivian Army Ending.
  • Come Play: While playing with a face-decorating app alone in his room, Oliver suddenly sees another face appear in the closet. Then Larry speaks through the tablet for the first time.
  • Played with in the Doom movie, when one of the soldiers sees a pair of eyes in the darkness. He calls out, thinking it's one of the scientists he's looking for... only to see all the other eyes of the mutated monster opening just before it springs.
  • In Iron Man, Pepper Potts and agents of SHIELD are looking for Big Bad Obidiah Stane in his darkly-lit workshop. Pepper notices a suspiciously-large shadow and cautiously stares into it, only for the Iron Monger to power up and two glowing mechanical eyes to stare back at her.
  • In The Neverending Story, Atreyu stares into a dark corner to find his nemesis Gmork, the large wolf beast that had been stalking him the entire story, eyeing him back.
  • Suspiria (1977), in all its Technicolor, trippy glory, plays this trope straight.

  • Lone Wolf: An interesting variation occurs in The Kingdoms of Terror. Lone Wolf is being attacked by a very fast monster with glowing eyes in a pitch-black castle. If you choose to fire an arrow at its eyes you actually get a bonus to your success roll since, because they're glowing, they're an easier target.

  • The Alchemist: Two federal agents are thrown into a dark room and see two eyes looking at them. The eyes then rise up to facial level. Then the Big Bad turns on the lights and they find themselves facing a large deadly snake.
  • The House With a Clock in Its Walls: When Lewis and Tarby accidentally release Selenna Izard from her tomb, "two small spots of freezing gray light" can be seen peering out of the darkness at them. The editions of the book with Edward Gorey's illustrations milk this scene for all it's worth.
  • Life, the Universe and Everything: Arthur Dent finds himself in a completely dark cave. He turns around several times, convinced that something may be behind him, and the third or so time he sees the compound eyes of a giant fly staring back at him.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Hobbit: The impenetrable darkness that is Mirkwood at night is broken only by the countless eyes that can be seen watching from the shadows. In Bilbo's opinion, the worst are the ones that look more like insect eyes than animal eyes — and he's proven right, though it might be better to call those eyes arachnid...
    • The Lord of the Rings:
      • Frodo keeps seeing Gollum's eyes at night when he's following the heroes.
      • During Frodo and Sam's first encounter with Shelob, all they can see of her are her eyes advancing on them, before Frodo drives her away with the light from the Phial of Galadriel.
  • So You Want To Be A Wizard: The tunnel where the MacGuffin is hidden is infested with little creatures that skitter through the shadows and watch the protagonists with glowing eyes. Nita's wizard manual explains that their eyes glow because their main food source is the convenient glowing fungus that grows on the walls.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Riddle of the Crypt", the first time that Irene Morrow sees yellow eyes in the darkness it turns out to be a large owl, which attacks her. The second time it's a vampire that wants to drain her blood.
  • Words of Radiance: The human army can at first only see the Voidbringers by their glowing red eyes.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Subverted in Katy Perry's "Roar" when the jungle night full of eyes turns out to be a swarm of fireflies. When Perry's Damsel in Distress realises this, she stops being afraid of everything and begins her transition to a Jungle Princess.
  • In the music video for Second Person's "Wood", when the girl and monkey find themselves in a dark cave, eyes belonging to unknown creatures appear in the darkness around them. As the girl and monkey make their way forward by the light of a match, another pair of eyes appears behind them, soon revealed to belong to the dragon living there.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A good share of this to be seen in the corridors of the Atmosfear DVD game.

    Theme Parks 
  • In the Disney World version of The Haunted Mansion there is a point where the Doom Buggy is surrounded by demonic eyes that look around and blink. As it moves to an area with better lighting, these eyes are revealed to be designs in the wallpaper. What makes this especially strange is that some of the eyes in the dark section are closer than other nearby ones, and a few are even moving in 3D space.
  • Journey into the Dark is an attraction from the Futuroscope that put you into the shoes of blind people. The only thing you'll ever see in the darkness is the glowing eyes of the Yeti at the end of the walkthrough.

    Video Games 
  • Bug Fables: Once Team Snakemouth enters the Giant's Lair, they are terrorized here by a giant creature that patrols the area, with its glowing yellow eye being one of its only visible features. Every time it notices the main trio, it immediately drops Dead Lander Gamma, an extremely powerful creature that is very hard to defeat, on them, just to see how long they will fare against it.
  • Cube Escape: The Corrupted souls, who are zombies that appear when someone steals their memories, whether the host is dead or alive. Many of them appear in broad daylight, though.
  • Dark Souls 1: If you look into the pitch-black chasm near the boss fog gate to Manus, Father of the Abyss, you can see his many red eyes down there. The Abyss gazes back indeed. However, you can actually shoot those eyes with a bow and kill Manus before even entering the arena. It will take hundreds of arrows but will spare you from a brutal Superboss fight.
  • Deep Sleep Trilogy: The shadow people are pitch-black except for their large glowing eyes, and generally only appear in the darkness.
  • Don't Starve: This occurs as your character's sanity decreases. Unlike most examples, the eyes themselves are actually harmless... though getting insane enough gives you plenty of other things to worry about.
  • Earthworm Jim: In the hidden level "Who Turned Out The Lights?", plenty of creatures lurk in the darkness. The most dangerous one on the bottom floor...well, we don't know what it is, all we see is a monstrous pair of giant orange eyes that chase Jim as soon as he sees them, and instantly kill him if they catch him.
  • In Five Nights at Freddy's 4, Nightmare's kill screen is nothing but its piercing red eyes and razor-sharp teeth illuminating from darkness. This is fitting, given that its body is pitch black (or, rather, translucent). Fail your objective and you get to see this for five straight seconds before the game reboots.
  • Lakeview Valley has something that seems to be peering out of practically every tree hollow and sewer grate, offering your protagonist advice... such as encouraging you not to trust any of the locals, and tempting you to turn against your new neighbors in exchange for various perks.
  • LEGO Adaptation Games: Used for gameplay; areas that need to be illuminated by a specific character have eyes in them so that the player doesn't confuse them with ordinary dark areas of the level.
  • Scratches: Happens in the climax of when Michael enters the hidden part of the basement and peers though a dark hole in the wall and glimpses a pair of Glowing Eyes staring back at him... and then the creature jumps at him.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: once Galeem is busted, Dharkon, his umbral counterpart, launches his own attack from the shadows, and emerges from the darkness once the invasion is underway. Also counts as a Daylight Horror, since he breaks space to enter the world.

  • In Alice and the Nightmare, Jabberwocky's appearance of pitch-black forms with glowing white eyes makes them look like this when they appear in greater numbers.
  • In The Glass Scientists, the darkness gazes back on the very first page, courtesy of a nestful of soot-mice.
  • Huckleberry introduces an evil mummy this way, with red eyes shining inside an underground cavern.
  • Hibachi the Dragon made his debut this way in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!
  • This is the appearance of the aptly named The Monster In The Darkness of The Order of the Stick, Xykon's ultimate weapon of terror and destruction which behaves like an innocent little kid. Despite being dragged all over the world, Xykon insists that TMitD stay hidden in shadow to preserve its mysterious appearance until the time comes for the big dramatic reveal, necessitating the use of a pink umbrella whenever they're out in the sun.
  • Precocious:
    • Cole in "The Inferior Lake" arc is first introduced as a pair of eyes huddled under a blanket saying "I want to go home" repeatedly, scaring a couple of other campers. When the blanket's finally removed he turns out to be a coal-black cat with no other discernible characteristics.
    • The "It's All Fun and Games" arc introduces Myra, a messenger of the Guild of Eyes who always appears peering through a shadowed alcove, though the effect is somewhat ruined by her over-enthusiasm. Fittingly, she turns out to be Cole's mother.
  • Rusty and Co.: In Level 3, the woods the party is crossing have plenty yellow eyes staring at them from the shadows. Roxy starting to sing, however, seems to dissuade them from attacking.
  • Sinfest: Invoked and heartwarmingly subverted here as part of the Criminy-Fuchsia romance:
    When you look into the abyss...
    the abyss also looks
    into you.
    And then you spend the afternoon together.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • This scene pictured above is from episode "The Swamp", when the gang realizes they're NOT alone.
    • Done earlier in the series when Avatar Roku acts through Aang to drive off a large firebending force.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Every season has Shendu do this to end the first part of the two-part finale.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In one Sylvester and son cartoon, Sylvester corners the mouse he's chasing into a dark room and sees a pair eyes staring back. Thinking it's the meek rodent, he charges inside to attack—only to get his ass kicked by the boxing kangaroo.
    • Subverted in "Scrap Happy Daffy". Daffy sees a pair of eyes in the darkness and starts threatening whoever's back there, only to find out it was a mirror and he was talking to himself.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Stare Master": A large number of white eyes in the darkness appear as the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Fluttershy walk through the Everfree Forest.
    • "To Where and Back Again": When Trixie sacrifices herself to spring a changeling trap when the main characters are infiltrating their hive, the darkness of the unlit tunnel she's in suddenly fills with slitted, glowing blue eyes, at which point dozens of changelings come boiling out of the darkness and overwhelm her.
    • "What Lies Beneath": The spiders are first visible as clusters of glowing red eyes in the darkness of the tunnels that Yona is lost in.
    • Played for Laughs on two occasions:
      • "It Isn't the Mane Thing About You": When Rarity and Pinkie are walking through the Everfree Forest to reach Zecora's home, Rarity's fears about the dangers of the forest are highlighted by the glowing, slitted yellow eyes of unknown forest creatures appearing in the shadows around them and looking back at them. These eyes keep appearing as Rarity and Pinkie walk along the path — up until Rarity snaps and yells at them, at which point the creatures scamper off.
      • "Frenemies": Chrysalis is observed by numerous eyes peering from the trees, after which a mass of shadow comes up behind her, swallowing the path, and two massive orange eyes open within it to look at her... until Chrysalis roars at it and sends all the eyes' owners running away, smugly remarking that there's nothing around scarier than her.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil uses this trope in the episode "Storm the Castle." Star reaches into the orifices on a sleeping monster's back to get a sandwich and eyes stare at her arm from the darkness. Apparently the monster's body makes sandwiches in addition to being full of glowing eyes.Talk about disgusting.
  • Subverted in the opening title of the original (1973-74) Superfriends. When Wonder Dog looks into the darkness he sees a pair of eyes. However, they're quickly revealed to be a reflection of Wonder Dog's eyes in a mirror.
  • Total Drama:
    • "Up the Creek": As the campers rush into the forest of Boney Island, they are met by eyes glowing up from the flora's shadows. The eyes turn out to belong to woolly beavers, which are hostile, carnivorous, and give chase.
    • "Finders Creepers": As the Mutant Maggots try to break free from the branches of a bush, Brick has a good look at the dark forest surrounding them. His eyes land on a tree hollow from which ten pairs of eyes gaze back at him. He screams, picks up the bush with his entire team, and runs away.

    Real Life 
  • Animals with a tapetum lucidum can produce this effect in Real Life: if there's a dim light source (like a campfire) behind the person peering into the darkness, it may be bright enough to reflect off the tapetum and reveal the animal's eyes but not bright enough to make the whole animal visible. Nearly all nocturnal predators have a tapetum lucidum, because it improves their night vision, including all the ones that you really don't want to have lurking around your campfire...


Video Example(s):


Snow White in the Woods

Snow White's first experience in the woods is not a pleasant one, as her imagination, having just been spurred by the reveal that her own stepmother wants to kill her, causes the frightened princess to imagine the trees and surrounding plants as monsters, crocodiles and beasts out to get her. It is only after she's calmed down, that the wood turns more peaceful and the animals come to help her.

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Example of:

Main / DontGoInTheWoods

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