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Nightmare Fuel / Cuphead

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"Welching on me just like all the others, eh... I'll teach you for backing out of a dealhave at you!!!"

Cuphead is inspired by 1930s cartoons. While it does look cutesy, it tries to invoke all the creepiness of that animation era as well.

Unmarked spoilers below.

  • Starting off with the plot, the Devil tricks Cuphead into gambling his and Mugman's souls for the Devil's entire fortune after a winning streak at his casino. Thanks to Cuphead's greed, he ends up putting his and his brother's souls literally on the line.
    • Also, before the Devil is summoned, you can see that Cuphead and Mugman are playing dice with King Dice and a few skeletons, and the Craps table is shaped like a coffin. A kind of foreboding, perhaps?
  • The bosses you fight save for the last two are all the Devil's debtors — which are just these unfathomably powerful beings of all shapes, sizes and forms, ranging from mighty dragons, mermaids, clowns, to even actresses to even a train carrying the dead... just how did these things manage to get their souls indebted by the devil in the first placenote ? Badass in Distress doesn't even begin to describe it, because all of these supposedly mighty beings are now slaves of the Devil in exchange for more power or fortune like Cuphead did. No matter how mighty you are, if you deal with the devil... you become his slave! No wonder all the debtors fled when they got the chance...
  • Early promos of the game show the devil making a neck slice motion after winning the game. In the shadows on the wall, you can see Cuphead and Mugman's heads being cut off by the motion to drive home the point of his threat.
    • In fact, the game has a real hard-on for decapitation. The intro song mentions it (and it's proven to not be a figure of speech if you lose to the Devil in the final phases), Cuphead and Mugman remove their heads when getting supers, Baroness Von Bon Bon removes and regrows her head several times (before that, she makes her Throat-Slitting Gesture with her finger as her head jumps up a bit at the beginning of the battle), Cala Maria detaches her head from her body in the last phase of her fight, Rumor Honeybottoms lowers her head in the middle of her fight to attack you, and the Devil himself can detach his own head and turn it into a spider that tries to squash you. The only one it makes sense for is Dr. Kahl, and that's just due to piloting his robot, whose body you destroy.
  • Let's talk bosses, the game's main draw. A few start off seemingly normal, but take more absurd and/or grotesque forms as the battles go on.
    • Cagney Carnation starts out in a cutesy pose before distorting his face and roaring at you, then keeping a maniacal grin through the rest of the fight. He must really love stretching his face — one of his first attacks is him lunging his face out with an even more evil look in his eyes (which is even quicker and harder to dodge in the patched version) (although there could be mild Nightmare Retardant if one compares his face to Mr. Burns). Then comes the second phase, where he gets fed up and makes thorny roots cover the floor, limiting your safe area. His face gets even more sinister, with his teeth turning to fangs and his eyes getting more detail. Think that's the last of his faces? NOPE! Beat him and you see his defeat pose. He holds his head up, his mouth gapes open with his tongue out.... and his eyes are now two empty sockets. It's a grim reminder of what you need to collect for your journey. What's more is that he has a Dummied Out voiceline that was intended to play at this moment, a drawn-out groan of pain that shows how much he is suffering from his defeat.
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    • Hilda Berg's main design is cute enough: Betty Boop with a pointy nose and an airship for a body riding a unicycle for the most part, and her transformations as constellations aren't even that bad either. However, then you hit her final form and she suddenly begins groaning, shaking, and then turns into this bizarre crescent moon form, which invokes a vibe of a wicked witch. Then her face pops out just like Cagney Carnation, but this time, her face stays popped out, revealing a jarringly mechanized body. And for the rest of the fight, she just cackles nonstop.
    • Baroness Von Bon Bon has quite a few moments. Some of the candy-coated creeps she sends your way look a bit odd. Examples being a giant candy corn with a monster face or a flying waffle that fights by exploding then coming back together. The Baroness first taunts you by having her head pop off then retreating into her castle which is also alive with eyes on the towers and the gate acting as the mouth. During the later half of the first phase, she begins to fight on her own, drawing a shotgun and training it on you with a grin. Make it to the second half and the Baroness emerges from behind the castle wall, gives you an award-winning psychotic grin, tugs on the castle towers... and the castle turns monstrous with yellow eyes, the gate opening like a mouth, the walls turn into hands, and it starts crawling towards you! And to top it off, the Baroness will start throwing her own head at you! She's even holding her severed head in her game over screen!
    • Beppi the Clown, as expected, can be scary at times. His Cheshire Cat grin can be a little creepy, along with most of the faces he makes, but then comes the later phases. In the second phase, he turns into a balloon pump and his head separates from his body! And he sends evil balloon animals after you along with a monstrous roller coaster with some equally spooky riders. The next phase he's back to normal but then for the last phase, he turns into a chair swing ride, laughing all the way. And the face he makes when he spawns enemies is especially unsettling. And then his defeat pose...
    • Djimmi the Great is a prime example of the Deranged Animation next to Beppi: One of his actions has him shooting his skull from his head at you. The evil faces on the pillar section of the face is very unsettling. That pink... thing that comes out the sarcophagus during that phase likewise doesn't help. And in his final phase, he goes utterly giant-sized, taking up most the screen, all the while having an echoing evil laugh that is just as creepy.
    • The Phantom Express. It starts out with a cyclops ghost with an empty eye socket and eyes in its hands. It attacks by throwing the eyes at you. Then comes the second phase: a giant skeleton busts out to try and flatten you! The third phase has two heads pop out of the train that spit lightning downwards, the creepy part comes when they die and their faces literally melt away.
      • The death message of the Blind Spectre does not help. Instead of the usual Hurricane of Puns, you get a rather chilling quote that leaves no doubt as to Cuphead and Mugman's fate if they fail:
    I can see... the future. You will be... counting worms.
    • The lovely Cala Maria starts out as a giant mermaid who can spit ghost pirates at you! (Don't think of why she has ghosts in her stomach...) Then the second phase where electric eels shock/bite her and turn her into a gorgon (trust us, just go with it), which isn't that scary until the third phase. Her body turns to stone, leaving only her disembodied flying head to fight. Also, her petrifying gaze involves snakes coming out of her eye sockets!
    • Werner Werman has a creepy moment. Get to the last phase of his fight and he gets eaten alive by the cat lurking in the background. You see the cat skulking behind the wall, so you could probably predict it was gonna happen. But still, it comes as such a shock the first time around when you see it burst through the wall to eat Werner. And then the cat spawns helpers by opening its mouth, which suddenly turns into a jail cell and ghosts of criminal rats fly out. The ghost rats attack by throwing pink bowling balls, complete with creepy laughter.
    • Rumor Honeybottoms is intimidating at the start, though not really enough to take seriously. However, her changing into an airplane is something that's quite unexpected. But even moreso when she tries to attack you with one of the propellers on her wing in a buzzsaw method, gleefully laughing as she tries to get at you. And the cue that she's doing this attack is really subtle, so the first time she does it, it's likely to take you by complete surprise.
    • Captain Brineybeard himself isn't that bad, usually letting various sea creatures do the fighting for him. However, the third phase has his ship suddenly transform into a giant narwhal-looking monster with huge teeth. And this transformation is accompanied by an ungodly discordant screech reminiscent of Monstro.
  • A few of the boss areas likewise are very nightmare-inducing, mostly those seen during King Dice's boss rush, where the "gambling games (and gambling-related activities) are sinful" theme is milked for all it's worth.
    • You might end up fighting against a domino called Pip and Dot in a strange world made of dominoes. They're half woman half man, as in a face on both halves of the domino. The creepy part comes when they attack by opening a mouth in their stomach to attack, complete with shaking, large sharp teeth and a demonic snarl.
    • You could end up on a table against a shot glass filled with whiskey, a martini, and a bottle of cognac called the Tipsy Troop. If you look at the background, you'll see empty tables. Couple seconds later, and suddenly the house is packed...with demons, ghosts, skeletons, the whole nine yards.
    • Mangosteen, an Eight ball with floating eyes and teeth which looks a bit unsettling already. What's really unsettling is his defeat pose, where he starts melting and falling through his teeth. It looks as if he's barfing up himself!
    • You could end up fighting the skeleton racing horse, Phear Lap, on a haunted derby track.
    • Mr. Wheezy the cigar. Cuphead fights him on two ashtrays over a giant pit of fire. And the background is a distorted image of people mingling among the smoke. Pit of fire's pretty fitting, all things considered.
    • Hopus Pocus, a crazed magician rabbit sitting in a hat. One of his attacks is a circle of... rabbit skulls. There's something to be said about someone who fights with the remains of their kin with a deranged look on their face.
    • The background of Chips Bettigan's fight features a host of skeleton patrons in the casino watching the fight. Something about the lack of animation in the background save for it tilting back and forth slowly in a slightly nauseating manner also makes it more than a little unsettling. The knockout animation doesn’t help, either.
    • Pirouletta, a cross between a ballerina and a roulette wheel, fights you on a roulette betting layout. Giant, disembodied gloved hands float slowly in the background, tossing chips/cards around and lifting drinks.
    • You might go up against Mr. Chimes, an evil cymbal-banging monkey toy in a claw machine complete with empty eye-sockets and an ear-piercing shriek whenever he wakes up. Also, when you make an incorrect guess in his memory game, he will let out an unsettling Evil Laugh while still hanging limply from the claw holding him.
  • King Dice's deep voice in his Villain Song "Die House" makes the lyrics all the more creepy. He is the devil's right hand man.
    If you haven't finished your task,
    Haven't worked assiduously,
    No, I cannot let you pass;
    Don't you mess with me!
    • Speaking of whom, King Dice comes off as more unsettling than his boss. One can tell from first glance that the guy's a shifty character, so it comes as no surprise when he leads the boys on when they come into the casino to gamble. But then you have to face him in All Bets Are Off, and the way he just looms over you while you play his dice game with that ominous grin of his. Then you actually have to fight him once you reach the end of the board (which comes very instantaneously), and that grin becomes a full-on Slasher Smile as he sends his cards out, laughing all the while. Thankfully, he's fairly easy, since all you must do is parry through his row of cards and blast at him when you can. But losing here means re-doing the whole dice board game again, having to put up with all of his creepiness once more.
      • The manner in which he sends you to the mini-boss battles. He leans in and eats the camera, complete with requisite *GULP*.
      • Not to mention, King Dice's Slasher Smile is just like the infamously freaky Coachman's leer from Disney's Pinocchio, big green eyes and all.
      • Also, King Dice's laugh when you start the battle and when he sends you to battle his goons is the stuff of nightmares. It doesn't sound normal in the slightest.
      • There's also the Evil Laugh sound that plays when you land on the 'start over' space in Dice's game, which may come as a Jump Scare for some because of how sudden and loud it is. Unlike Dice's usual deep cackles, this one sounds more high-pitched and completely unhinged.
  • Not surprisingly, the Devil is milked for all he's worth in his boss fight. He morphs into bizarre creatures like a goat, a spider, and a serpent creature, he occasionally displays Glowing Eyes of Doom, and in his final phase, he jumps out his skin and hops into a hole, where you chase after him, right into a boss fight in Hell itself against his now kaiju-sized self staring right at the player! Things really get nuts from there.
    • Speaking of, if you lose during phase 2 and onwards, the taunting death message you get shows the Devil holding the lifeless and decrepit heads of Cuphead and Mugman. Also, unlike many of the bosses' game over taunts, which are quite whimsical and comical, the Devil simply gives a straightforward, but terrifying Badass Boastnote .
      The Devil: Anyone who opposes me will be destroyed!
    • Cuphead and Mugman can agree to the Devil's terms just before fighting him. If they do so, the player is granted a bad ending where both of them turn demonic while the Devil says they're going to have "one hell of a time". We then see the brothers, whose heads are partially broken, laughing evilly with the Devil happily glaring in the fiery background. The music certainly doesn't help. The game ends with a very depressing tune playing over the credits.
      • After the credits, once the game returns you to the title screen. The game's main theme "Don't deal with the devil" is played in reverse. It's really unnerving.
    • The Devil's battle intro has him glaring at the heroes, with his pupil turning into a cup that gets cleaved into mincepottery. Notably, this is the only boss intro where Cuphead and Mugman react by screaming in terror.
      • And after jumping down into the hole, they scream in terror again when they see that the Devil has grown to kaiju size while they are clinging for their dear lives on floating platforms. Talk about scary!
    • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but during the transition to the second phase, when the camera pans down to below the earth, you can briefly see a small cave with multiple pairs of creepy glowing eyes. What ARE those things?
    • In addition to his shapeshifting powers, the Devil can also attack you with magic by spinning his staff. When he does this, his eyes glow white and lets out a horrible distorted raspy chant.
  • The invincibility power you gain, while helpful, is activated by having Cuphead's and Mugman's heads grow huge with blank eye sockets, who follow it up by laughing rather creepily.
  • There is a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in Cuphead's and/or Mugman's death animations. If their HP gets dropped down to zero, they pause in a shocked expression before their eyes vanish from their sockets as a single church bell tolls ominously, signifying death, and their body crumbles into dust with a shaky downward slide whistle, at the same time their spirit forms in a dizzying state (with their straw forming into a halo), showing their shiny pink heart as they are flying away. It's all in quick motion, but it's still Nightmare Fuel as to what happens to their bodies when they die (though they can be revived in co-op mode, making it a bit of a relief, but still...).
  • As if the battles with the pink ghosts in each Mausoleum stage weren't creepy enough, the patched version of the game adds a spooky announcer who spouts out creepy lines like, "Here comes the spooky fun!" and "The ghosts are out tonight." And should one of the ghosts happen to reach the urn where the Legendary Chalice is imprisoned, besides the scene when you get frozen in shock accompanied by the "YOU DIED!" message, you now get a scary/sad chord from Shoptimus Prime that plays out like this:
    "YOUUUUUU FAILED!" *cue Record Needle Scratch*
  • On the game over screens, the music slows down, becoming deeper and more distorted. This can turn songs that are normally fun and catchy and make them scary. Especially notable is when you die in the Die House (by hacking the game, since it's impossible to do so otherwise), and King Dice's already deep singing voice becomes just plain demonic.
  • Playing a pirated copy of the game plays a distorted and demonic version of the main theme at the title screen. Said audio file was discovered after an update, yet at the time nobody knew what it was for at first. The track is now dubbed by fans "You Paid The Price".
    • It doesn't help the fact that there's a hidden image in the thing too. This means that the Devil himself KNOWS that you've pirated the game. Holy shit.
  • With the 1.2 patch update, the mid-game cutscenes are now fully animated. This actually makes King Dice and the Devil look more threatening when you end up confronting them.
  • While the previous trailers used the traditional hand-drawn animation, and the Switch reveal trailer had a very cool Roger Rabbit Effect, the reveal trailer for the PlayStation is unnerving. What makes this trailer unique from the others is its use of Stop Motion animation instead of the hand-drawn animation. Something about those puppets of King Dice and Cuphead look really off based on how stilted the animation is.
    • Despite the uncanny animation, there two interesting instances of Fridge Brilliance here. One, stop-motion animation was a very popular animation and film making technique back in the early 20th century and has been used in many popular films at the time, animation or live-action.
    • Two, it can also be factored that stop-motion in general is seen as an uncanny animation format, so this Uncanny Valley was likely intentional.


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