There's something about vacuum cleaners. Maybe it's the disproportionately loud shriek they make, or the fact that the stuff that goes into them just disappears, but for whatever reason, they're often seen as frightening by small children and pets.
So in fiction, they're often made out to be menacing, especially in works focusing on children or animals. In animated works especially, vacuum cleaners often display a much greater suction range and strength than real life vacuum cleaners could ever hope to achieve as well as the uncanny ability to suck up items far larger than could fit down their nozzles, rarely changing size no matter how much they consume.
They are the most dangerous when they attack characters, even coming to life and trying to suck up the characters when the vacuum is even bigger than the characters.
- In Goldfish commercials, the vacuum cleaners are portrayed as monsters by the goldfish living under the bed.
- Some animated commercials for Eureka vacuum cleaners were like this. This early-70s ad has "dirt blobs" on patrol against the Eureka.
- A later commercial shows animated dust characters being sucked up.
- The "Rug Doctor" would growl "Steaming mad at dirt!" while dragging terrified dirt blobs out of carpets.
- In this advert for "Red Energy Sweets", the vacuum starts out as an ordinary one, but when it sucks up one of the Red Energy Sweets, it comes alive, and begins pursuing the woman with an extremely powerful suction force, sucking up her nightgown and leaving her naked.
- In one commercial for Friskies cat food, an older cat warns a kitten of the dangers of "Va-koom", the monster that "can eat and yell at the same time."
- The vacuum in Haiyore! Nyarko-san, which seems like a normal vacuum, but can shout "CYCLONE!!" for some reason.
- Pokémon: Invoked in "Get Your Rotom Running!," where Ash, Dawn and Brock explore the Old Chateau and get pursued by kitchen appliances being controlled by a Pokemon named Rotom, one of them being a vacuum cleaner.
- In Futari wa Pretty Cure, Pisard has a Zakenna possess a vacuum cleaner, turning it into a huge monster.
- The Ambitious Vacuum Cleaner by George Carlson (1915) is one of the earliest examples on record. It depicts a Edwardian style vacuum cleaner going on a rampage when left unattended, sucking up the entire contents of the owner's home in seconds, including the cat! Fortunately a strong gentleman friend of the owner manages to open the cleaner up, restoring the items. (It's unclear whether the vacuum is alive or not, but 'ambition' is not usually something associated with inanimate objects.)
- This was part of a scene in Mr. Mom. The Butler family's old-style vacuum cleaner, "Jaws", has a mind of its own; when Jack leaves it unattended, it goes out of control and rolls forward, almost devouring poor Kenny's Security Blanket. For good measure, Kenny's brother Alex is "attacked" by the washing machine lurching forward on its legs at the same time. Later in the film, Jack and Jaws have reached an understanding, and he entertains himself by making the vacuum cleaner behave like a trained animal instead of a wild one.
- Subverted in The Brave Little Toaster. Kirby the vacuum cleaner is the Grumpy Bear of the group, but he turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and a reliable teammate, rather than a villain.
- The Martians have one in Tom And Jerry: Blast Off to Mars.
- Spaceballs. Spaceball One transforms into a giant Megamaid to suck all the air off the planet Druidia.
- Used for a Visual Pun in Airplane II: The Sequel. Our hero opens a hatch on the spacecraft marked DANGER: VACUUM and is attacked by a vacuum cleaner.
- Not exactly killer or sentient per se, but the Hank the Cowdog book "The Case Of The Vampire Vacuum Sweeper" involved Slim Chance using a vacuum to tease Hank.
- Zenna Henderson's short story "Hush!" is about a small boy who, after being told to keep quiet, imagines a sentient vacuum cleaner designed to suck up sound—only to see his imagined invention actually become real, and start sucking up every sound possible—including heartbeats.
- Fatbag: The Demon Vacuum Cleaner by Jeremy Strong tells of the eponymous appliance - a sentient vacuum cleaner that tries to Take Over the World by sucking up everything in sight.
- The Franny K. Stein book The Invisible Fran mentions at one point that Franny once increased the power of the vacuum cleaner and ended up turning her brother Freddy inside out.
Franny: Mom made me promise never to do that again.
- In a long Horror Movie sketch on The Benny Hill Show about various electric devices coming alive, a vacuum cleaner kills a maid by strangling her with its hose.
- In the one-season wonder TV series Testees, wherein the protagonists are employed as product testers for a weird range of products, episode 4, "Vac Attack," has them testing out a military vacuum cleaner imbued with artificial intelligence, which becomes more and more aggressive as it deals with their slovenliness, until it sets out to kill them and must be destroyed with their giant collected hairball.
- There was an arc of Mother Goose and Grimm strips from the early-to-mid 1990s where Grimm and Attila find themselves being pursued by Mother Goose's vacuum cleaner. They tried to stop it by sticking it in the toilet and flushing it, but unfortunately, that only caused the vacuum bag to inflate before the chase resumes once again.
- A 1999 arc had Grimm and Attila find a broom vacuum cleaner in the closet before it also goes on a rampage throughout the house.
- In one strip of Get Fuzzy, Rob, Bucky, and Satchel are going to a Halloween party. Satchel goes to change into his costume, and comes out dressed as a vacuum, with a sign reading "Dirt devil! Run away!" Bucky congratulates him for making a really scary costume.
- Marmaduke, despite being a huge dog, is known to be terrified of vacuum cleaners.
- The Far Side had this caption for a woman walking down a wooded path with a vacuum cleaner, for the Visual Pun:
"The woods were dark and foreboding, and Alice sensed that sinister eyes were watching her every step. Worst of all, she knew that Nature abhorred a vacuum."
- In Little Big Planet 2, the intro movie features a close up of a vacuum cleaner sucking up the small floating images that represent imagination. Also, the Negativitron resembles a vacuum cleaner.
- In Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia, one of Aurica's cosmosphere levels depicts a cat on a vacuum cleaner that has been sucking away her power. Once that is discovered, another her comes and redirects the cat-vacuum toward Misha and Shurelia. The rest of the level is spent dealing with Aurica's inferiority complex with the other two potential love interests.
- In The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare, one of the levels features killer vacuum cleaners.
- In Pajama Sam 2: Thunder and Lightning Aren't So Frightening, the vacuum cleaner is depicted as a very friendly dog that eats soil wherever Sam places it. This is required for one puzzle.
- A sub-boss of Fur Fighters was a vacuum cleaner. Said vacuum cleaner was designed by dinosaurs to detect dirt and apparently you're dirty.
- Dustman from Mega Man 4 is a killer robot vacuum cleaner, complete with a dustbuster as an Arm Cannon. Later subverted as it turns out he's only fighting Megaman because Dr. Wily kidnapped his creator's daughter.
- In Spellevator you are a dust bunny and the enemies are robotic vacuum cleaners.
- An early story arc in Two Lumps involved "Mom" getting a can't-call-it-a-Roomba, which began hunting the cats.
- In The Adventures Of Shark Puppy, Shark Puppy is terrified of the vacuum cleaner. A later comic shows him dreaming about fighting a vacuum monster.
- The Roombas on Questionable Content can get pretty vicious sometimes.
- It's hardly a new idea to attach a knife to a Roomba, but at least in Least I Could Do they provide a good reason. When the robot uprising starts, Rayne wants to make sure the robots remember who armed them.
- In "Dough Ray Me", an episode of DuckTales (1987), Huey, Dewey and Louie vacuum up a hall carpet and suck in a good many other objects.
- Similar to the original comics, an episode of the Mother Goose and Grimm animated series had Grimm and Attila try to stop Mother Goose's vacuum cleaner while she is out of the house.
- The second act of the Mr. Bogus episode "Meet Mr. Bogus" had Bogus rewiring the TV remote so that it could control other appliances other than the TV, but unfortunately, when Kevin the family bulldog takes the remote from him, this also causes a broom vacuum to bust out from the closet and start going on a rampage, even pestering the repairman hired by Mrs. Anybody.
- In an episode of The Simpsons Bart causes mayhem at Lenny's birthday party by switching all the Roombas (which Lenny had given everyone as party favors) from "off" to "Malevolent Sentience."
- On Family Guy Brian, being a dog, is scared of the vacuum cleaner. At one point Peter shoots the vacuum (for unrelated reasons); Brian comes in and sees the "dead" vacuum and says "whoever did this, thank you."
- In Earthworm Jim, as part of Peter Puppy's origin, he tried to stand up against a vacuum cleaner, only to get sucked up and find himself in Planet Heck, home of Evil the Cat.
- Rocko's Modern Life: "A Sucker for the Suck-O-Matic" had the titular Suck-O-Matic, a vacuum cleaner that was as huge as a truck and literally had a mind of its own.
- In one episode of FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman, the kids are sent to the island of Dogtopia/Catlantis, where cats and dogs used to live in harmony until a civil war broke out between them. They use their clue finding skills to solve the mystery of what caused the conflict, eventually finding that both sides blamed each other for a horrible howling that was terrifying everyone. On a smaller island nearby, the kids find the answer: the howling was caused by evil vacuum cleaners living there.
- Though we don't see it happen, Peter on The Real Ghostbusters recounts a shapeshifting ghost that attacked them as a literal vicious vac:
Peter: ...and then he became a carnivorous vacuum cleaner. I've still got the scars; anybody want to see?
Ray: Peter, we just ate.
- Wallace & Gromit: Cracking Contraptions has the Cracker-Vac short, which starts with the eponymous invention trying to eat a packet of perfectly good crackers (as opposed to bits of cracker left on the floor) and ends with a Mexican Stand Off, complete with Ennio Morricone -esque soundtrack.
- Zeke's Pad: In "Gifted Artist", it's Mom's birthday and Zeke has forgotten to get her a birthday gift....again! He desperately attempts to draw her a gift. His first effort is the ultimate vacuum cleaner, which proceeds to go wildly out of control and wreak havoc in the house.
- As noted, cats and dogs being terrified of them is Truth in Television.
- Children on the autistic spectrum have a tendency to be afraid of them (as well as other loud appliances such as lawn mowers and weed-whackers), since being sensitive to loud noises is a common aspect of the condition.
- For autistic people, it's more than just fear, it's pain. Their pain centers in the brain light up when they're distressed by loud noises. The perception that sensitivity to sound (and other sensory stimuli) is fear (which can be overcome) rather than pain (an uncontrollable body reaction) has led to many people's distress being dismissed and invalidated.
- Many a parent has played into this trope by telling their children that they will vacuum up their LEG Os up if they don't pick them up.