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Nightmare Fuel / Coco

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Coco tackles some very serious subject matters even for a Pixar film, in addition to touching on the importance of family and following your dreams and aspirations. It's also possibly one of the darkest films ever produced by the studio themselves, fitting for a movie about the Day of the Dead.

  • The flashback near the beginning of the film wherein we see Ernesto de la Cruz's death in 1942. While performing in front of a cheering audience, on a big, luxuriant stage, he's crushed to death by a large bell hung over his head as a prop, in an unnervingly lethal take on Anvil on Head or Squashed Flat. While he's already dead and thus isn't affected by it, and he honestly deserves it for being such a rotten egg, seeing it happen to him a second time (from his point of view no less) at the climax of the film isn't much better.
  • The fact that, between them, Ernesto de la Cruz and Mamá Imelda managed to completely erase all evidence of Héctor's existence outside of the memories note  of one person. Everything that remained was more easily traced to Ernesto, meaning he completely subsumed Héctor's identity.
    • Icing on the cake: even they are shocked/surprised when they realize the full ramifications of this for Héctor. Ernesto seems surprised when he says "My friend... you are being forgotten..." (after all, if he had the Lack of Empathy necessary to kill his friend, why would he have thought about what the family might do without Héctor?), and though Imelda says she wanted to forget her husband and wished Coco would forget the father who left them, it is with regret (like she never thought the family would go as far as never putting the name on the story of the runaway musician after she died and Coco took over as matriarch).
  • She may be sweet to her grandson, but when it comes to musicians, Abuelita Elena knows how to pull off an unsettling Kubrick Stare.
    • During the family argument, Elena tells Miguel that he will be forgotten and left off from the ofrenda if he becomes a musician, only for Miguel to angrily yell that he doesn't care. This causes Elena to lose her temper as she destroys Miguel's home-made guitar.
  • In his first moments as a spirit, Miguel bumps into a few skeletons who give him the most menacing frowns. Sure it turns out they're just confused as to why there's a living boy in the spirit plane, but Miguel didn't know at that time. From his point of view, this is a suspenseful moment.
    • Earlier, while he's a spirit, Miguel accidentally falls into an empty grave, as though it grimly symbolizes that for all intents and purposes, he's now amongst the dead.
  • While the movie doesn't dwell on it, it's implied that Miguel's family spent the entire night looking for him.
  • The moment Miguel realizes what's going to happen if he doesn't make it home by sunrise.
    Papa Julio: Híjolenote , your hand!
    (Miguel sees his finger becoming skeletal and nearly faints.)
    • The music that accompanies it makes it known to the audience how unnerving it must've been for Miguel to see himself start to become a skeleton.
  • When Miguel first meets Héctor and tells him that Ernesto is his great great-grandfather, his eyes leave their sockets to his jaw in shock and confusion. As a sweet character as he is, he (and, by extension, all the skeletons) is this with huge, black holes where his eyes should be.
  • Among the souls seen in the Land of the Dead are families with young children. Although they're primarily used as a throwaway gag about traveling during the holidays, the implications of how entire families could have died to be together in that manner are both sad and horrific.
  • Though Imelda is not a villain and is justifiably angry and hurt, she still did everything she could to make her husband Héctor forgotten amongst the living, therefore pushing him close to a Fate Worse than Death in the afterlife. Granted, Ernesto began the process and Imelda did seem remorseful at the end, but she did her share in pushing him closer to second death. Hell hath no fury like a Woman Scorned indeed, and Imelda is at least mildly terrifying.
  • Even though Pepita is technically one of the good guys, she can be pretty horrifying when angry.
  • When Miguel and Héctor enter Los Olvidados, the scene is an unnerving far cry from the bright city: it's a ghetto amongst old Aztec ruins, with paintings of skeletons with fire wings and eerie music playing in the background... Luckily, Héctor is with him, and he knows his way around the place, whilst he brings out the friendliness in everyone. Nonetheless, it's not exactly a decent place to reside before you fade away.
  • Chicharrón's "Second Death." Seeing him just... fade away into nothing, and knowing that will happen to anyone who is completely forgotten, is disturbing to think about. When asked about where he went, Héctor responds, "No one knows".
  • Héctor's death in 1921. We see every last bit of it happen before cutting away, and it's disturbing to watch as he clutches his stomach and collapses from poisoning. Ernesto's completely calm reaction to it, affably saying it's probably the chorizo he ate upsetting his stomach, is equally unnerving.
    • Ernesto's Death Glare while Héctor drinks his tequila is that of sinister determination, as though thinking "Come on, poison, work your magic." It easily foreshadows that Ernesto was not about to let Héctor return to Santa Cecilia alive...
    • On that note, the fact that Ernesto included a scene depicting the exact same way that he killed his best friend in his movie, casting himself as the hero in Héctor's place who realized he was poisoned, even letting himself escape alive. It's an unbelievably sick, arrogant thing to do, and similar to real life murderers who find clandestine ways to brag about what they've done.
      • Even worse still, the novel Coco: A Story of Music, Shoes, and Family reveals that Ernesto and Héctor were childhood friends to the point where Héctor feels that Ernesto is like his brother, and cannot remember life without him in it. This means that Ernesto murdered the man he had grown up with no remorse whatsoever. Talk about a sociopath.
      • How about the fact that Ernesto would have been the one to deal with arranging Héctor's burial. At best Héctor is buried in a simple grave away from the rest of his family but with a paper trail Miguel and the rest of the Riveras can follow, at worst Héctor was dumped in a unmarked grave somewhere and the Riveras will never find his body to bury with the rest of the family.
      • In a way, the latter half would be averted. Even if Héctor was buried in an unmarked grave, cemeteries, as well as online records, keep track of a person's date of death, burial date, and burial location (burial plots have numbers in order to avoid disturbing someone's grave) meaning that the Rivera’s would’ve been able to locate Héctor’s grave from public burial records. Not only that, but Héctor and Ernesto were in Mexico City when the latter poisoned the former, meaning that there was no possible way that Ernesto would’ve been able to perform a body dump. Police would have been involved and Ernesto would’ve been smart enough to come up with a sob story, telling the cops about how his friend must’ve died from food poisoning (Remember Héctor himself believed that it was food poisoning) and they would’ve had him buried, and Héctor's record would still be available in the Police archives.
    • For added irony, the whole idea behind clinking glasses together during a toast is meant to reinforce trust through the assumption that the drinks could accidentally slosh between glasses and still be safe for both to drink.
    • The nauseating thought that all this time, Miguel innocently kept a shrine to a man who turns out to be a murderer.
      • And not just any murderer - someone who murdered Miguel's direct ancestor.
    • For more Paranoia Fuel? Unlike most poisonings depicted in movies and stories, Héctor doesn't immediately drop dead after consuming the tequila. They're walking to the train station some time later and he collapses in pain and it's a drawn out process as he fades away. What makes this scarier? That is how most poisons work in reality.
    • Fridge Horror sets in when one realises that Ernesto already had the poison on hand to spike the drink. This either means that he planned well in advance if Héctor chose to leave, or Ernesto was planning to kill him from the start so he could have all the glory to himself.
  • The Reveal of what Ernesto did to Héctor comes about when Miguel remembers their parting words from one of Ernesto's old films. In the film, the dashing hero played by Ernesto immediately realises that the drinks are poisoned and swiftly takes care of his attempted murderer. In most situations where a flawed villain kills someone close to them, they hate themselves for it and desperately try to justify it as a necessary sacrifice. Ernesto not only has no shame or regret for what he did, but he parodied what happened in this film to gloat.
  • The second Héctor finally learns his friend poisoned him, he instantly begins throttling Ernesto on the spot, his face contorted with anger like never before. True, it's his natural reaction to being denied one last chance to see his daughter, but it's still unnerving to see Héctor's face actually filled with so much hatred.
  • Also, how Ernesto delivers this whammy, cementing his true sociopathic nature, and possibly the one line that reveals one of Pixar's most immoral and monstrous villains.
    Miguel: Papa Ernesto? My blessing?
  • Ernesto being revealed to have murdered Héctor, and later trying to keep Miguel in the land of the dead permanently, which is staged to resemble trying to murder him, because it essentially is. What makes it worse is that both he and Miguel still think they're related at this point. He's not just willing to throw his best friend or a child under the bus to keep his reputation. He's willing to do this to his own family.
    Miguel: But I'm your family!
    Ernesto: And Héctor was my best friend. Success doesn't come for free, Miguel. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to... seize your moment. (Miguel gasps) I know you understand.
    • Leading up to this, the lighting in the scene is effectively unnerving, as though reflecting Miguel's changed view on his "hero". Ernesto asks the boy if he'd ever tell the truth to anyone in the Land of the Living. Miguel promises not to, but the doubt in his voice betrays him. He asks De la Cruz for his blessing, but the audience can already tell he's contemplating keeping the boy in the Land of the Dead.
    Miguel: Everyone knows you're the... good guy...
    • You can see the building fear and realization in Miguel's eyes as Héctor is dragged away. He looks almost afraid to look back at his "great-great-grandfather", like he's expecting to be jumped immediately after looking at him. Understandably, he stutters after finally speaking.
    • After getting thrown into the cenote, Miguel tries to call for help but there's no response. Just the way he asks to go home, he sounds like a recently run-away kid begging his abductors to let him go home.
  • And then he really does try to murder Miguel by throwing him off the building with absolutely no hesitation.
    • The whole thing gets extra points for Ernesto being perhaps the most realistic and (for lack of a better word) human of Pixar's villains. A normal person with a body count of just one stays with you just for how easy it is to imagine him actually existing.
    • It's even worse because of the fact that, unlike other "surprise villains" (From Charles Muntz, Lotso, Hans, and Bellwether), nothing suggests that he was faking his earlier demeanor, which brings about the Paranoia Fuel that even people with sincere good qualities and likable personalities can be horrible, twisted villains as well.
      • What makes this all the more terrifying, just as he was about to hand Miguel a petal with his blessings he says, "I hope you die very soon". Looking back later at that scene after Héctor finds out Ernesto not only stole his song but was also the one who poisoned him these words get even more chilling, it's very scary to think what would've happened if Miguel accepted Ernesto's blessing and if Héctor never came and interrupted them.
    • A good spot of Fridge Horror: Ernesto could've added a condition to his blessing that he tell no one in the Land of the Living his secret of success, and all his problems would've been solved. But the fact that Ernesto refuses to do even that just cements his paranoia about his reputation's fragility.
      • Actually, both for this and previous idea - probably nothing would happen and no problems would be solved - Miguel has to receive a petal with blessing from his relative and this is why he tried to reach Ernesto in the first place - but De la Cruz isn't his actual ancestor as they both think at the moment.
  • In the climax, Miguel came this close to being stuck in the Land of the Dead forever.
    • Put another way, Miguel came horrifically close to sharing his great-great-grandfather's fate— that is, murdered by Ernesto de la Cruz to preserve his career. Imelda says that she "will not let you go down the same path he did," and Miguel eagerly defies her, and came within a hair's breadth of walking Héctor's path all the way down to the bitter end.
      • All the way to the end...and beyond. If Miguel had died that night, after the enormous fight he had with his family and suffering a grievous loss, it's possible that his name might have been banished from the family as another 'victim to music". Ultimately he would suffer the same fate Hector faced: being forgotten.
      • And to add another layer to that, if he died in the Land of the Dead, that means he would have completely disappeared in the Land of the Living, with no corpse left behind, no one would have ever find out if he died or gone missing and still alive.
  • Even after the reveal of Ernesto stealing Héctor's songs (and with Miguel's help, possibly succeeding with officially branding Ernesto a murderer in the Land of the Living), there will almost certainly still be people defending him/continue being his fans because they 'like his music' or 'that happened long ago' or 'let's not drag private matters into this'. As an example, defenders of Roman Polański.
    • De la Cruz's fate can definitely count as nightmare fuel, since now he will inevitably be remembered as a murderer for a long time, all while probably being trapped under a giant bell while nobody in the land of the dead will be willing to help him out. He's trapped inside there forever.
    • Fortunately, there are also people who won't turn a blind eye to the truth and now rightfully revere Héctor as the true musical genius. However, this won't bode well for Ernesto: he'll be trapped in a limbo between being remembered whilst living amongst fans who now revile him, and being forgotten.
  • In a way, through Ernesto's eyes, the audience of the Sunrise Spectacular turning on him. It’s never a comfortable sight to watch unanimous public rejection of that level, especially when you see the abject disgust, hatred, and rage in the faces of literal thousands of men and women as they glare and jeer at their former idol. The band conductor in particular is a special case; he responds to Ernesto’s increasingly desperate attempts to get the orchestra going by snapping his baton in half in an understated display of Tranquil Fury.
    • Really, the conductor's Kubrick Stare is nothing short of unnerving.
  • When Miguel and Ernesto are celebrating being family, Ernesto says he hopes Miguel dies soon. It's so they can spend time together in the Afterlife, but even before we know Ernesto is a horrible person it's an uneasy moment. Even Miguel is subdued by the statement, and it's still awkward after Ernesto says, "You know what I mean." His actions later make this moment terrifying in hindsight.
  • Miguel runs into Papá Julio several times after he steals the guitar, scattering Julio's bones everywhere. It's played for laughs but does seem a bit horrible at first, even though Julio can somehow easily pull his skeleton back together. This seems true for most of the skeletons in the Afterlife. Ernesto was obviously killed by the falling bell the first time, and gets crushed again by the bell at the end of the movie. What condition was his skeleton in? Did the bell just trap him, or did it grind his bones into dust? It was poetic justice but still, it's pretty gruesome, since Ernesto's probably "alive" under the bell.