While Xianxia is essentially a High Fantasy genre, Mo Dao Zu Shi still holds some rather dark and disturbing elements, and that even with evil spirits or monsters lurking about, sometimes the Humans Are the Real Monsters.
Warning: Spoilers Off applies to these pages. Proceed at your own risk.
- While in the donghua adaptation Wei Wuxian doesn't go into the details of how he died, the first episode shows a flash of Wei Wuxian struggling to push away dark spirits that have skeletal shapes and are swarming him until he eventually absorbs them. It's not too far off to imagine that this is him losing control of the feral ghosts before they finally tear him apart.
- The Burial Mounds earned its name for a reason. It was once the site of a great battle, but is now a mass graveyard. Again, since it was a battlefield, many died at the place, and died with resentment at that. Hence, the area became infected with resentful energy, with countless ghosts haunting the place and killing anyone who dared to trespass their grounds. Wei Wuxian may have closely avoided death when he was thrown there, but he wasn't exactly lucky as he spent months being tortured inside and out — before he finally learned to manipulate the resentful energy in the place.
- One mustn't forget that for the past thirteen years, Jiang Cheng has been hunting for demonic cultivators or anyone he thought to be Wei Wuxian, and what he does to those who were unlucky enough to get caught aren't pretty. It's notable enough to become common knowledge to even the junior disciples of the Lan Sect, and an innkeeper in Yunping City even tells Wei Wuxian that many visitors were scared away from Lotus Pier because they would happen to come upon him brutally torturing his victims.Innkeeper: The victims flesh and blood flew as high as his screams!
- And while it's not touched on very often, Jiang Cheng himself is terrifying when he lets his rage get the better of him. The novel even hints a few times on how scary and animalistic he looks when he's truly angered. The donghua even gives the viewer a glimpse of him in a state of both rage and insanity in Episode 12... and it's definitely not a face you would like to remember.
- In the past whenever Wei Wuxian uses resentful energy but slowly starts to lose control, veins start popping up from his neck and he's clearly growling in pain.
- The fisherman finding corpses floating around his boat after he had a near encounter with the Waterborne Abyss.
- The donghua ups the creep factor on the Waterborne Abyss by introducing it as creeping black tendrils that lurk in the water. Then when Wei Wuxian and the others investigate it further, it creates a cyclone that drags cultivators into and also uses it tendrils to grab and pull anyone who comes close under water.
- Lan Wangji writes in his report that they only way they can keep the Waterborne Abyss under control is they constantly check in on it with exorcising spells, and would take years or decades before it is truly gone for good.
- In the donghua, Wen Zhuliu demonstrates his core-melting abilities on a cultivator who spoke out against Wen Chao, and the process is not pretty. The person starts spasming in pain, clutching his chest, and then the core in his chest dims and shatters. The cultivator then lets out one last scream of pain before collapsing and others checking to confirm that his core is now gone.
- The Tortoise of Slaughter, a gigantic tortoise with rows of sharp teeth that easily decimates any cultivator coming near it and sits on a pile of bones of its former victims. When Wei Wuxian swims underwater to scout for another exit, he gets jump-scared by a fresh Wen corpse that was recently killed.
- There's also the question of not only how the tortoise got there, but how old it is.
- The cursed sword (which Wei Wuxian would soon reforge into the Stygian Tiger Seal) is brimming with so much resentful energy, which originated from the hundreds of people that fell victim to the Tortoise of Slaughter. When Wei Wuxian spots the sword, it appears to be surrounded by the flesh of its prey.
- It's a nightmare for anyone having to watch their home not only be invaded, but also burnt to the ground with barely anything left once the fire's have subsided.
- All of the Jiang disciples along with Yu Ziyuan and Jiang Fengmian being killed, and it's very likely none of them were given quick deaths or proper burials. It's even more frightening to imagine that it's possible not even the locals of Lotus Pier were spared.
- After Wei Wuxian goes out to buy food, he returns to find that Jiang Cheng is gone, and the emotions registering on his face is nothing short of terrified as he runs to find his brother. It's later revealed that Jiang Cheng distracted the Wen guards who almost found Wei Wuxian so his brother could be spared, but then he was taken away and lost his golden core, which — as anyone knows by this point — is not a pleasant process.
- Just listening to Jiang Cheng's mind lean on the edge of insanity as he laughs madly and lashes out at anyone nearby, including Wei Wuxian. This is a boy who lost his home, his parents, his golden core and has no idea if his sister is safe or not all in the span of what's likely less than a week. It takes Wen Qing paralyzing him by throwing a needle to his forehead to get him to stop raving.
- The manner in which Wei Wuxian killed the Wens was grotesque, to put lightly. It's never explicitly revealed what he did, but just by altering their protection talismans so it would attract evil instead and a few notes from Chenqing, any Supervisory Office he targeted became the site of what's nothing short of a massacre. And each corpse that was found died in a different manner; either from burning, drowning, suicide, or from sheer fright... And then there's what he did to Wen Chao. Even if he deserved to die, one wouldn't be blamed for thinking that what happened to him was still more brutal than necessary.
- In the audio drama, the aftermath of Wei Wuxian's torture on Wen Chao is not described in detail besides some small observations. Jiang Cheng's reaction isn't horror and disgust like Lan Wangji, instead he's annoyed that Wei Wuxian has already messed Wen Chao up so much he has very little to torture for himself.
- Wei Wuxian as the Yiling Patriarch is Nightmare Fuel incarnate. It's both tragic and chilling since by this point, you've become familiar with him as a happy-go-lucky boy who, even in the face of tragedy, tries to keep it all together. But his experiences at the Burial Mounds turned out to be the last straw for his sanity. Even if his newfound ruthlessness was mainly reserved for the Wens, there's still a reason why Lan Wangji was endlessly concerned about his mental state.
- The change in Wei Wuxian's voice just drives in how he's changed for the worse and there's almost nothing left of the bright and energetic boy he used to be, in which both his voice actors captured. Lu Zhixing perfectly shows how cold Wei Wuxian now sounds in contrast to his cheerful and free-spirited self, and Zhang Jie captures the same effect, then takes it up several notches by having Wei Wuxian sound like he's an otherworldly being that came straight from the realm of the dead.
- The fact that the Wens were rounded up and placed into what is basically a concentration camp, with the Jin clan dishing out torture to innocent children and elderly with no remorse. All they see are the evil Wens, and don't care if they're venting their frustrations out on a group of people who don't deserve that hatred. As Wei Wuxian remarks on later, it almost seems like the Wen's were never eradicated based on the way the Jin clan had now taken the spot as the head of all sects.
- Wei Wuxian managing to stop Jin Zixun from branding a grandmother who is putting herself between the man and A-Yuan with the same brand the Wens used.
- The viewers are thankfully spared the way in which Wen Ning died, but going off how Wen Qing and Wei Wuxian stumbled on his corpse, he didn't go peacefully; his resentful energy points at multiple guards being involved...
- The Hundred Holes Curse and what happens to the unlucky person inflicted with it will definitely make anyone get shivers, whether or not they have trypophobia. Even Wei Wuxian, who's no stranger to inflicting cruel torture, finds the curse's effects to be absolutely disgusting.At the part where this type of curse was explained, an illustration was added to the text. The person on the page was quite calm, as if he felt no pain, but many coin-sized holes had already grown on his body.At first, the victim of the curse would feel nothing. At most, they'd think that their pores had become rougher. However, soon later, the holes would become the size of sesame seeds. The longer it went on, the larger and greater in number the holes would be. It'd proceed until their entire body was covered in holes of all sizes, almost like a grotesque human sieve. On top of that, after the surface of the skin was covered in holes, the curse would begin to extend toward the internal organs. It could either be a ceaseless stomachache, or the rotting of all the organs!
- Although Wen Qing and Wen Ning went to the Jin clan peacefully, Wen Qing was given anything but a peaceful death as she was burned alive while her brother was forced to watch.
- Wei Wuxian arriving in the Nightless City the same way he did for Wen Chao. Surrounded by crows and resentful energy wrapping around him. Just the sight of the infamous Yiling Patriach makes most of the cultivators quiver in fear. But what's even more nightmarish is how the cultivators react at his presence. Fear aside, they all condemn him as if he's a demon with no morsel of humanity. For all their bravado from defeating the Wens, as Wei Wuxian had pointed out once, they had become no different from the tyrants of the Wen Sect themselves.
- Most likely Wei Wuxian's worst fear of all coming to life: watching his sister die in front of his eyes and believing it was all his fault.
- The fates of the Wen remnants that Wei Wuxian rescued. During the First Siege, they were all slaughtered (save for one), and their corpses were tossed into the blood pool in the Demon-Slaughtering Cave. It isn't as brutal or gory as the other examples, but what makes this horrifying as it showed the cruelty of the other cultivation clans, despite their claims to fight in the name of justice and righteousness.
- Keep in mind that only one survived, and that's because he was hidden away before the clans stormed the Burial Mounds. There's no question to what might have happened to Wen Yuan if he wasn't lucky. If it doesn't sink in yet, think about it carefully. No one would have hesitated to murder an innocent child just because he was a Wen and so they could feed their egos about "taking down evil" or vent their hatred in the most unhealthy of ways. Jiang Cheng could have done it, Lan Xichen or Lan Qiren could have done it, Nie Mingjue could have done it. Honestly, anyone could have done it and wouldn't have felt any regrets. It goes to remind everyone that sometimes, Humans Are Bastards to the core, no pun intended.
- Wei Wuxian using Empathy on Wen Ning and finding out his friend was not only kept as a prisoner by the Jin Sect, he was also experimented on for the past thirteen years.
- Wei Wuxian also had to pull iron needles out of Wen Ning's head that was controlling him and even if he doesn't feel much pain anymore, it's still not a pleasant experience for his friend to pull them out.
- Xue Yang's preferred method of slicing people's tongue's out of their mouths and poisoning them with corpse powder. Just hearing the people gurgle in pain but not able to speak anymore makes the act more terrifying especially when Xiao Xingchen's sword can't tell the difference between a living person who has corpse poisoning from actual fierce corpses.
- A-Qing watching Xue Yang brutally murder people, but can't say a word unless she wants him to find her and kill her as well.
- Just watching Xue Yang break down after Xiao Xingchen commits suicide out of grief. He initially plays it off and concludes he can just turn the cultivator into a fierce corpse. But as he tries again and again to bring him back, he slowly starts screaming and yelling at Xiao Xingchen to move again or he'd go out to find and kill A-Qing as if he could still hear him. Xue Yang never realizes how all of this was his fault, and continues to find ways to bring Xiao Xingchen back no matter what, even raving to himself that he must find a spirit-trapping pouch.
- A-Qing's screams of terror when Xue Yang manages to find her and calls her by her name. She begins scrambling backwards out of fright and is yelling for help that won't come.
- The exact circumstances of Jin Guangshan's death. Sure, he more than deserved it, and unlike with Wen Chao you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who even has a smidgen of pity for him. However, anyone can agree that it's not a pleasant way to go — and there wasn't even any blood or guts involved in his death. Not to mention, there's the fates of the people who got unwittingly involved in what happened.
- It's more of a tragic example, but when Wen Ning tells Lan Wangji more details about how Wei Wuxian sacrificed his golden core for Jiang Cheng, he reveals that the process isn't painless, and anesthetics were useless. More accurately, they can't be administered, because the donor must be awake and have all senses intact while the golden core is being extracted for the transplant to even at least be half-successful. It's very easy to liken it to a real-life organ transplant, but with the added bonus of being awake to see and feel it the entire time.
- The Villainous Friends extra, which basically is about Jin Guangyao and Xue Yang in one of their most monstrous moments. Sympathetic backstories or no, the chapter drives in that they have done too many horrible crimes to be able to atone while alive. Wei Wuxian had put it best: Xue Yang needed to die, and the same applies for Jin Guangyao.