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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, as seen on 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.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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
  • Monsters, Inc. features this in the opening.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: During the 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, it's used to show there's something ominous in these woods.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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, the large wolf beast that had been stalking him the entire story, eyeing him back.
  • 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.
  • The 2006 film Abominable ends on this, in a combination with Bolivian Army Ending.
  • Suspiria (1977), in all it's 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.

  • Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone short story "The Riddle of the Crypt". This happens twice to Irene Morrow. The first time she 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.
  • In 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.
  • Frodo keeps seeing Gollum's eyes when he's following the heroes in The Lord of the Rings.
  • In Words of Radiance, second book of The Stormlight Archive, the human army can at first only see the Voidbringers by their glowing red eyes.
  • The Alchemist by Ken Goddard. 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.
  • In 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...
  • In 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The X-Files: The ending of "Detour". Mothman's red eyes stare at the motel. Luckily, Scully left the room just in time.

  • 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 

    Web Comics 
  • In The Glass Scientists, the darkness gazes back on the very first page, courtesy of a nestful of soot-mice.
  • 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.
  • 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 T Mit D 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, tho 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 
  • In a Looney Tunes 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.
  • 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.
  • Every season of Jackie Chan Adventures had Shendu do this to end the first part of the two-part finale.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "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.
    • Played for Laughs on two occasions:
      • In "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.
      • In "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.

    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...


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