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Nightmare Fuel / Invader Zim

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Eye scream, you scream, we all scream for one of the most family-friendly Nicktoons!
Invader Zim, despite not lasting that long, managed to create an incredible amount of horrific moments for a children's show, and as such, is widely agreed to be the darkest cartoon Nickelodeon has ever created. Many episodes are so horrifying that it's a miracle that they even aired at all. What do you expect when you get the creator of an incredibly violent and scary comic book to make a kids show?


As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

  • Pretty much the entire show, really. It's odd to think that the only real difference between this universe and the Warhammer 40,000 universe is that in this one, Earth isn't strong enough to repel an invasion.
  • The sheer level of stupidity of every single human except Dib, Gaz and Professor Membrane, and even Dib and Professor Membrane have their moments. "Door to Door" shows a few people who seem kind of normal, but basically everyone is Too Dumb to Live... incidentially, "Door to Door" also presents "candy" made of sawdust. It's far from the only indicator human society of the setting just seems to have gone completely insane.
  • The infamous scene in "Bestest Friend," pictured above, in which Keef gets his eyeballs gruesomely ripped out of his skull by robotic arms. The fact that it's shown in silhouette doesn't really help.
    • And then, as if this wasn't bad enough, they are replaced with artificial eyes which give Zim control over Keef.
  • "Bad, Bad Rubber Piggy," which features Zim systematically crippling Dib as a child and almost killing him over the course of years, doubles as both Nightmare Fuel and a Tear Jerker. Zim's response to the latter happening is to calmly walk away.
    • Zim throws rubber pigs into Dib's past, replacing seemingly random objects in ways that cause Dib to have horrible accidents, progressively crippling Dib and making him more grotesque in the present, until he experiences an honest-to-god NDE in the past and his father builds a super-powered robot body to protect him.
    • It's not really the worst behavior Zim's ever demonstrated, but the rapt, gleefully anticipatory look on his face as he watches the life go out of Dib's eyes — with accompanying flatline beep — is creepy on a personal level that he doesn't often reach.
    • Seeing a horribly scarred Dib (coupled with Hellish Pupils) in that robotic suit coming to horribly kill Zim. Is there any part of that that isn't scary?
    • At the end of that episode, Zim sends the final pig into the past, only for it to replace his past self's BRAIN. Thank goodness for the Reset Button...
  • In the Halloween episode, that surprise shot of that hideous monster with those big eyes during Dib's "crazy house" bus ride? Not to mention that everything in Nightmare World is actually just a figment of Dib's imagination. How disturbed do you have to be to come up with the abominations Dib and Zim encounter?
    • Nightmare Membrane and Nightmare Gaz are the worst of the bunch; Nightmare Membrane, while kinda cool looking and nearly identical to the real Professor Membrane, has a terrifying moment of capturing his "son" while his eyes pop out on stalks, and his hands are revealed to be spindly metallic talons. And then there's Nightmare Gaz, who's hunched over, skeletal, has More Teeth than the Osmond Family, but no bottom jaw.
    • Fridge Horror arises in the episode once one realizes that Dib is sent to life in an insane asylum, only busts out thanks to his trips to the Nightmare World, and apparently, the Skool has normalized such an occurrence with aptly named, "Crazy Cards". Maybe Earth is better off in the hands of the Irken Empire.
    • Pretty much everything in that episode, really. To the point that Jhonen has said that he has no idea how any of this managed to get on the air.
      • Doubles as Fridge Logic when you remember that he was constantly butting heads with the Nickelodeon executives over many original ideas that censors hadn't allowed.
      • There's also been sightings of a nightmare version of Nny.
  • The whole goddamn entirety of "Dark Harvest!" For context, Zim goes on an organ-stealing rampage at Skool to make him seem more human so Dib wouldn't expose him. That catch is that Zim doesn't just steal people's organs, he replaces them with other objects. Here's the list: a liver replaced with a hall pass that Miss Bitters has already specified will explode if the student leaves campus, a brain replaced with a can of soda so the poor receptionist can only foam at the mouth, and one boy has an unknown organ replaced with an entire motherfucking radiator. Other kids in the cafeteria have random objects in place of their other organs and bones. Gaz's beloved game console is implanted into her side and she's still playing it, and Dib has his lungs replaced with a cow sounder that made the school nurse think he isn't human from the mooing noises he makes.
    • Zim literally stuffs his own body with the stolen organs. Complete with a few of them spilling out. And instead of implanting the organs inside him or anything like that... Zim swallows them.
      "Why, you're one of the healthiest little children I've ever seen! And such plentiful organs!"
    • Hell, just how bloated Zim looks from stuffing them all in looks freaking grotesque.
    • The sudden surprise shot of Zim's organs with the X-ray and Dibs Organ-vision, complete with Scare Chord.
    • In a dark room, after Dib leaves, it gives the room a 'window shutter opening' light effect, twice in a row. The first time, the huge bloated Zim sits there smiling, and half a second later, he's gone.
    • Dib's drawing of Zim being dissected. If that weren't bad enough, Zim's fully awake to see it all and his organs are pooling out of his body and onto the floor. Complete with what looks like blood!
    • Dib decides to stick to a boy named Torque Smacky who hasn't lost any organs yet to prevent Zim from stealing a pair of lungs. They enter a dark room where Dib turns around for one second and Torque disappears. We hear something drop and we see one of the dumbbells he was holding roll out from a corner. Cut to Dib yelling out the kid's name.
      • The scene carries on longer in the laboratory with Zim stalking Dib (only times we see Zim in person in the lab are the above-mentioned Stealth Hi/Bye and an X-Ray vision of him dropping into the room), and all he (and the audience) can hear is the pigeon cooing as he goes mad from the revelation.
    • Most bone-chilling of all? A Real Life murderer named Scott Dyleski claimed at his trial that this episode inspired him to eviscerate his neighbor.
  • The scene in "Backseat Drivers" at the end when the brain parasite escapes, latches onto Zim's head, and begins feeding on his brain. It's even worse when coupled with the fact that Zim explicitly stated that the parasite was capable of causing its host agonizing pain when attached. Sweet dreams, kids!
    • The Tallest's reaction pretty much says it all- "I think I'm gonna throw up!"
  • "Bolognius Maximus," where Zim and Dib slowly turn into bologna. Especially the scene in which the bologna is slowly mixed with Zim's skin. And the part where their bodies look swollen.
    • How Dib discovers he tastes like bologna and the rest of the class comment on an increasingly rancid smell coming from Dib and no matter how much he washes himself, nothing works.
    • They also both end up being pursued by hungry dogs. The episode ends with the two of them trapped in an abandoned house with all the dogs outside, waiting for them to come out so that they can eat them. Meanwhile, Dib and Zim have fully transformed into sentient bologna sausages, and are still aware and conscious for all of it. The episode ends and they don't get better. There's Negative Continuity, of course, but still....
  • In "Walk For Your Lives", there's one instance where ZIM is talking to GIR, and the robot pulls something out of his head resembling A DEAD PUPPY, and shouts: "LOOK WHAT I FOUND! IT SMELLS REEEAL BAD!" and proceeds to wave it around manically, the puppy's eyes look lifeless... What the FUCK.
    • Judging by the barking noises, the puppy probably isn't dead.
  • NICK. Sweet jumping Jupiter, Nick. He was intended to be a humorous Take That! to Nickelodeon Studios, but he's just pure, hyper-concentrated nightmare fuel in child form. ZIM kidnapped the poor kid and performed a number of experiments on his brain, and then inserted a large device into Nick's skull that forces him to exclusively feel happiness and nothing else - did we mention that he himself is fully aware of this? The kid has a perpetual, grimacing smile, but the look in his eyes is one of pure terror and panic.
  • In "Plague of Babies," a bunch of infants are beamed aboard an alien ship, never to be seen again. Aliens that LOOK like babies have their intelligence forcibly reduced to that of an infant, and they presumably live out the rest of their lives with the intelligence of babies.
  • ALL of the head tumors in this show.
  • "Oh, yeah... We used to have a puppy, didn't we?"
    • Doubles as Fridge Horror when you consider GIR finding the aforementioned nearly-dead dog!
  • "We'll have to confiscate your retinas!"
  • Zim's eyes bubbling and burning as he stares at the sun. Presumably, only his contacts were burning, but from the sound of his dialogue and his pained screams... *shudder*
  • The blobby alien experiment that Zim doesn't save, and leaves to cry miserably, alone in the spaceship... damn.
  • In "Planet Jackers," Zim crashes his ship into the Jackers' fake sky and his left eye pops out of its socket and remains connected by its optic nerve, and he calmly pushes it back into its socket.
  • All this and NO ONE mentioned the video from "Door To Door". Hell, the whole POINT of the video was even to scare humans into buying Zim's candy! When you consider the ruined city, the fiery, flabby monster who eats children's dollies, spider-cat, capture of humans, and Zim LICKING THE SCREEN WITH HIS did a damn good job.
    • Even worse, was that on the episode's debut (though the scene has been removed from all broadcasts and DVD releases since), the Statue of Liberty could be seen destroyed, only months after 9/11.
  • And let's not forget the scene from "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever". Many people don't notice this, but when Zim is extracting the Santa knowledge from that mall Santa and he starts laughing, in the background you can hear what vaguely sounds like a chainsaw as well as the man screaming.
  • In the episode "Vindicated!", Dib goes to the new counselor Mr. Dwicky and asks what happened to the old counselor. Dwicky crouches behind his desk and says "Something... HORRIBLE!" Par the course for Zim humor so far, but then we pan up to the air vent right above his desk, and a raspy voice says "help... me!", complete with a POV shot from inside the grate! It's so freaky, it wouldn't be out of place in a horror movie.
  • Bloody GIR. A drawing of GIR covered in blood is subtly hidden, half-transparent in single frames of the show. That in itself might not be so bad if not for GIR being in his combat-mode and if he wasn't giving a Thousand-Yard Stare to the viewer.
  • Sometimes, the Malfunctioning Robot Parents are hilarious (Diarrhea, indeed). Other times, Zim has had to stop them from torturing a little kid so that they wouldn't blow his cover ("Come on over everyone, and help us EAT this little boy!"), and the dad's response is to give one of the most disjointed, disturbing versions of the "We don't spend enough quality time together" speech ever. And then they chase Zim through his own base, until he can bar them with a force-field. Even his computer calls them horrifying.
  • The ending of "Career Day" has to take the cake. Earlier in the episode, Zim begins to break out in a rash due to something slowly approaching called the Galactic Equinox, which causes all aliens off of their home planets to go into a hideous molt. While Zim is working at a fast food restaurant, his skin gets progressively worse, and once the planets and stars align as the Galactic Equinox finally takes place, Zim's body BURSTS OUTWARD INTO A GIANT GELATINOUS MASS and fills the capacity of the restaurant, squishing its customers as they cry out for help, not unlike Tetsuo. During this entire moment Zim can be heard making a weird gurgling noise and his molting body is heard pulsating as it grows to the point where it manages to squeeze and ooze out of every opening in the building. Granted, it only lasts for about a minute and he instantly reverts to normal once it ends, but still...
  • In "Bloaty's Pizza Hog", Gaz considers letting Zim turn Dib's body inside out before retrieving Dib for their family night, not to mention we are given a lovely shot of how that would of looked like. The fact that she really looked interested and only changed her mind because Membrane would have canceled their outing doesn't help.
    • At the end of the same episode, Zim tries to confront Dib one last time but is soon surrounded by the animatronic versions of the characters at Bloaty's. The uncanny designs, the unsettling noises they make and the constant shouting of "Bloaty's Pizza Hog!" is rather unnerving to watch. It's no surprise that Zim is terrified by this and he runs away screaming, giving Dib an unintentional victory.
  • "Gaz: Taster of Pork". When Dib confronts Gaz while she's in quarantine, she straight up becomes a demon. She begins to levitate while purple light shines down on her, red flames begins to encircle and trap Dib in, her body becomes a silhouette with nothing but her eyes glowing, and to top it all off she gives Dib this little message:
    "I've never missed a new pizza at Bloaty's. If this next one is ruined by your magical stupidity, I will make you wish you had rabid weasels teleported into your skull instead of having a sister. I'll wait until you sleep and stuff all of your paranormal junk into your big, giant, paranormal head and chew on your eyeballs after I pluck them out!"
    • Let's also not forget that Gaz programmed her security stuffed animals to eat human flesh and almost let them kill Dib. Not to mention Dib was so scared of her wrath that he tried asking Zim for assistance (who of course denied it while probably knowing what Gaz was capable of).
    • The cherry on top of this one goes to the very end where we only see the door to the Shadow Hog's bathroom while Dib is brokenly apologizing while gagging and possibly crying. The fact that both Gaz and Membrane know where he is at that point, what is happening, and don't care at all just makes it worse.
    • There's the subtle creepiness of the fact that Dib willingly used his sister as a guinea pig for the spell, and she was left only being able to taste one kind of food. Worse, she was forced to undergo hours, if not days or weeks, of forced confinement and invasive experimentation by her scientist father in a futile effort to cure her. No wonder she subjected Dib to such a horrible fate.
  • There's a scene in "Invasion of the Idiot Dog Brain" where Zim is sitting in the living room with GIR playing multiple television programs around him. The scene itself is not disturbing, but the... soundtrack playing in the background, however, is possibly the most horrifying noise of any kind to ever be heard in a cartoon, and keep in mind said cartoon's target audience was CHILDREN. Listen to it yourself if you can manage having chills sent down your spine. Enjoy!
    • It can be a little unnerving to see the normally energetic GIR lifeless and blank-eyed after his brain gets transferred into the computer in "Invasion of the Idiot Dog Brain."
  • The ending of "Dib's Wonderful Life of Doom." Dib was given the acceptance and appreciation he'd always wanted, he'd managed to save the human race alongside various others from slavery and/or total destruction, he even had superpowers - and all of this went on for a simulated century. And then it turned out that none of it was real in the first place; Zim had just shoved Dib into a Lotus-Eater Machine so he could confirm that Dib had been the one to throw a muffin at his face, and get revenge.
    • The same simulation depicts a physically weakened but fully conscious Zim held captive in a giant test tube in a dark basement-like room for twenty years on end, with various tubes and protrusions sticking out of his head, including one attached to his tongue and another directly in his eye. At one point he tries to move and his arm snaps off, implying that he's rotting alive. Whether or not you think he'd deserve such a fate, it's a little much. On the plus side, he's at least given stuff to read.
  • "Germs" has a scene where Zim looks like he's cleaned the entire house... but then he sees a lone bacterium crawling between the tiles of his floor. He sprays it with the disinfectant, leading it to cough in the cutest high-pitched voice, and then he sprays it AGAIN, and it weakly cries out "Why?!" as it keels over and finally dies.
  • Not the darkest instance (at least to this show's standards) but still worth a mention, the premise of "Mortos Der Soulstealer" is Dib becoming so desperate that he enlists the help of a wish-giving demon in order to not just foil Zim's latest plan but to downright steal Zim's soul, even allowing Mortos at one point to drain him in order to recharge his power. Thankfully for Zim, Dib's wish was nonexistent in Mortos' list of priorities.


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