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Nightmare Fuel / Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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"I think... something's coming aboard."
Ronald Weasley

WARNING: Spoilers are unmarked.

  • Boggarts. Creatures that can exist without any true form is pretty unnerving, but the fact that they can take the shape of the thing a person fears most, which can change on the person's mindset, and inhabit any given corner of the globe is pretty damn terrifying. The Giant Spider form of the Boggart in the movie is a good example. See for yourself.
  • "Dementors... are among the foulest things that walk this earth. They glory in decay and despair. They drain peace, hope, and happiness from the air around them." J. K. Rowling tried to dream up something that could scare anyone. Her solution was a monster that literally eats joy. And souls. According to her, she actually based the Dementors on the feeling of depression. So basically, these things are depression made into (semi-)physical creatures. Ron even says when in their presence "I felt weird, like I'd never be cheerful again."
    • The actual results of the Dementor's Kiss.
      Lupin: You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self anymore, no memory, no...anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You'll just...exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever...lost.
    • Hagrid revealing that the Dementors at Azkaban don't care whether the prisoners are actually guilty of their crimes or not. Even after he was proven to not be behind the attacks on Muggle-Borns the previous year, they didn't want to release him because his Dark and Troubled Past made him ideal prey. As he describes it:
      Thought I was goin’ mad. Kep’ goin’ over horrible stuff in me mind... the day I got expelled from Hogwarts... day me dad died... day I had ter let Norbert go... Yeh can’ really remember who yeh are after a while. An’ yeh can’ see the point o’ livin’ at all. I used ter hope I’d jus’ die in me sleep.
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    • The GBA game has a rendition of the Dementors' theme that has been catapulted onto many "most disturbing video game music" lists. Hearing it may help you to understand why.
    • Let's take it a bit further, shall we? Deathly Hallows implies that there's some kind of afterlife in the Potterverse, which you can only enter if your soul is whole and undamaged. But Lupin states that when Dementors kiss you, they suck away your soul and presumably eat it or destroy it somehow, and then your soul is "gone forever... lost". Which begs the question: How can you enter the afterlife if your soul's gone? You probably can't, and once you finally die, you'll simply stop existing altogether. Not only that: The Ministry of Magic can sentence someone to the Dementor's Kiss; which means that not only Dementors basically kill you in this life, they also take away your right to enter the eternal afterlife. Talk about harsh punishments.
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    • The books' description of Dementors is horrifying enough, but the third movie takes it to a darker place when the viewers are treated to a close-up of one of their faces as it attacks Harry during a Quidditch game.
    • And Pottermore makes it even worse with the revelation that Dementors are not the scariest thing in Azkaban and refusing to elaborate beyond stating that the Ministry was too scared of the fortress itself to destroy it and the building. Repeat: Un-killable soul-stealing wraiths are not the scariest thing in Azkaban, and even that pales to the building itself.
    • Want even more? In the book, Lupin states that if you suffer a Dementor's presence long enough, you may eventually become one. Sure, he may have been speaking metaphorically, but heavens.
    • It's established in later books that Dementors breed where there's lots of despair; maybe they do it by turning people into more of them? Oh, and lest we forget, not only do they breed, but they're immortal and, by all appearances, un-killable.
    • Dementors can clearly be bargained with, based on their detailed agreements with the Ministry, and yet we never hear one speak onscreen. Their means of communication, therefore, goes straight into Nothing Is Scarier.
    • Every other creature in the Potterverse has some reference point in mythology (hippogriffs, trolls, etc). Dementors are one of Rowling's few original creations. The closest semblance they have to some are the Grim Reaper or Wraiths. Imagine you haven't read the books and you see that cloak and the creepy hand on the train for the first time. You'll quickly realize you're in whole new territory, going "What the hell is THAT thing?!!"
  • The scene where Harry is in bed reading the Marauder's Map, and then suddenly he notices a name that really shouldn't be there: Peter Pettigrew. Now, as far as Harry knows, Pettigrew is a man who has been dead for 12 years. And yet here he sees him walking around Hogwarts on the map. When he goes to check, Pettigrew's name draws closer, but Harry can't see anyone in dark. Then, Pettigrew ends up right next to Harry, yet he still can't see anyone in the hallway with him. It ends up being Nothing Is Scarier on so many levels. Even on repeat viewings when you know what's really going on, (Peter is a rat that's scuttling around beneath Harry's view) it never really loses any of the creep factor.
  • The trance that Trelawney goes into when she speaks her second real prophecy is rather creepily described. In the film, the scene begins in a Jump Scare.
    Trelawney (sounding like she's under demonic possession): "He will return tonight... Tonight, he who betrayed his friends, whose heart rots with murder... Shall break free. Innocent blood shall be spilt... And servant and master shall be reunited once more!"
  • The scene where Harry, Ron, and Hermione walk past Buckbeak's executioner. It's short but just the foreboding tone with the murder of crows gathered round the executioner as he sharpens his axe and the unnerving track consisting of the ominous toll of bells, drums, and menacing horns plays. Worse is how Macnair watches as the kids pass and gives a mocking, unsettling smile.
    • Worse is coming back to this scene after Order of The Phoenix, knowing Macnair is still loyal to Voldemort's cause and escaped imprisonment the same way Lucius did by using the excuse he was Imperius by Voldemort. And he landed a job at the Ministry killing animals. Because he loves to kill. Brrr
    • Worse, that part where Walden gives a mocking smile at the trio? He likely smiled at Harry Potter, knowing who he is, and eagerly awaiting Voldemort's return so he can give the dark lord info on the boy.
  • While you find out at the end of the book/movie that he's a good guy, seeing the Grim before you know it is pretty scary. Especially when he turns up in the beginning, when Harry's alone and he looks ready to attack.
  • Before The Reveal, the idea of Sirius Black himself is pretty terrifying. Voldemort's most faithful servant unhinged by his death, blowing his former friend to bits along with a dozen innocents and laughing mad when the Aurors arrived; escaping from prison solely for revenge on Harry? All the fear of a mass murderer who's out to get you, with added magical powers that the wizards themselves couldn't figure out. Not only was he seemingly unaffected by the Dementors, not only did he escape from Azkaban, but he broke into Hogwarts in a way Voldemort had not (at the time) managed to. Twice.
  • When Ron is taken away by the Grim. Sure, Sirius turns out to be a good guy, so they aren't in any real danger, but try thinking about it from the kids' point of view: They're out after hours without permission, so no one (except Hagrid, but he's not exactly in good shape at the moment) knows where they are, and they get attacked by what is essentially the Wizarding World's form of The Grim Reaper. The Grim jumps on Harry and knocks him down. He tries to bite Harry, but bites Ron's arm instead because he pushed Harry out of the way. Then the Grim runs off with Ron despite their best attempts to stop it and disappears into the Whomping Willow, which leads to the Shrieking Shack.
    • From Harry's point of view, he seems to be Sirius's target. Then Ron pushes him out of the way, and Sirius bites his arm instead. Even though he's hitting with all he's got, Sirius is dragging his best friend away into unknown territory, preparing to do who-knows-what with him (main thoughts were probably visualizing how badly Ron was mauled, or Sirius killing Ron). And he can't run to get the teachers because it might have killed Ron by the time they found him. The kid was probably terrified for his friend, feeling guilty for being unable to stop it, as well as helpless.
    • From Ron's point of view, it's worse. Basically, no matter how hard he struggles or hits Sirius, Sirius is dragging him towards unknown territory. He hooks his foot in a tree root in an attempt to stop it, and gets his leg broken for his trouble. Then inside the shack, Sirius shifts back to human form and takes Ron's wand. Keep in mind that Ron currently believes him to be an Ax-Crazy Fantastic Terrorist who's ready to kill him at any moment, since he needs a wand in order to perform magic. This means he no longer has any defense since his wand was taken, and that he probably knows that he was bait to lure his best friend to his death. Basically, Ron's in an unknown location alone with a terrorist who could kill him at any moment with zero defense and enough pain from his broken leg and bitten arm to potentially pass out, and the only reason he's still alive is to act as bait. Sure, Sirius turned out to be a good guy, but they obviously don't know yet. The poor guy was probably terrified out of what little mind he had left which wasn't trying to cope with a broken leg. Pretty terrifying, huh?
    • And don't forget: This is the second time in two consecutive books that Ron's been dragged away in the clutches of an apparent monster, and the last time it happened, his abductors really did try to eat him.
    • The film adds extra creep factor to the scene in the Shrieking Shack: Accentuated by the music, Ron points to someone standing in the corner, the true form of the Grim, hiding behind the door that Harry and Hermione just walked through. In the dust covering the floor are paw prints, which the camera follows until it finds Sirius's shoes, then pans up to reveal that the hellhound that's been following Harry throughout the story is actually the mad murderer who they're all convinced is about to kill them: Sirius Black. The paw prints leading to a human being are downright unsettling; they create an unnatural sight, even by the standards of a wizarding school.
    • Luckily, Sirius turns out to be innocent. But before that, he's a very unsettling character. Gary Oldman's very unsettling performance doesn't help.
      Harry: The dog. Where is it?
      Ron: Harry, it's a trap! He's the dog! He's an Animagus!
  • Wormtail betrayed Harry's parents to Voldemort, even though they were his best friends. When his remaining friend, Sirius Black, chased him down after James and Lily's deaths, Wormtail cast a spell that caused an explosion that killed a dozen innocent people. Pinning his mass murder on Sirius and ensuring Sirius's twelve-year psychological torture in Azkaban, Wormtail escaped. Worse, he escaped by turning into a rat and got himself adopted as the Weasleys' pet, Scabbers. For twelve years, the Weasley family unwittingly shared their home with a murderer who would bring about the resurrection of Voldemort. Plus, he was in Harry's dormitory for three years. If he had heard of Voldemort recovering...
    • Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew. Right from the beginning there's something not right about him. Like he's not all there, mentally.
  • Deserved it might have been, but seeing Lupin and Sirius ready to kill Pettigrew is pretty chilling, only mitigated a bit by Harry stopping them. The Ministry of Magic song "Marauder's Map" encapsulates the sentiment perfectly showing just what lengths they almost went to.
    • Even worse, Lupin is a werewolf and Sirius has been in Azkaban for twelve years and can turn into a very large black dog. They both, given the forms they transform into, must know many gruesome ways of killing. Now... imagine if Harry hadn't interfered?
  • Remus' transformation, in both the book and the movie. It's both the way it's clear that becoming a werewolf is painful and that he's trying to not become a monster as his sanity goes and his pained whimpers slowly change to growls as the wolf takes over and... yeah.
    • Also the fact that, unlike the protagonists of most werewolf movies who get bitten as adults, he's been going through that same anguish since he was a little kid.
    • The changed appearance of the werewolf from a dire wolf to a more Wolf Man-esque design could've wound up being Nightmare Retardant (and apparently is, for some), but the movie compensates with a design that emphasizes its unnaturally lanky proportions, horrific snarls and roars; and its soulless-looking eyes. Not helping are the several disorienting zoom-ins on its face.
      Ron: Nice doggy, nice doggy...
  • So, back to those Dementors. The climactic scene where Sirius and Harry (Hermione is Adapted Out of the scene, but it's because of Snape's Adaptational Heroism that prevents her from following Harry) are at the lake under attack, there are swarms of them. The book makes it scary enough, but actually seeing it in the film, the part where one attacks Harry and you can see part of his soul getting sucked out, like some sort of double-consciousness, is horrifying, along with the screams of agony. Then two and three more attack, all sucking. And just what was that small bright light leaving Sirius's mouth? If the Dementors had swallowed it, his soul might have been lost forever.
  • The lengths Draco Malfoy goes to get revenge for when he doesn't pay attention in Hagrid's class and gets injured as a result is to have his father convince a committee to kill Buckbeak. Imagine if someone got bit by your pet after refusing to listen to directions on how to handle it and he pulled strings to have it put down.