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Nightmare Fuel / Spirited Away

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As a Nightmare Fuel page, all spoilers are unmarked as per wiki policy. You Have Been Warned!
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While Spirited Away is known as one of Studio Ghibli's highest grossing and most recognized movies in their film library, many have agreed that there is a lot of terrifying moments. It contains graphic and horrific scenes, and many doses of Fridge Horror to make the horror work.

  • The opening sequence seems specifically designed to tap into the childhood fear of being left alone in a strange place. When the hero Chihiro's parents eat some cursed food that turns them into pigs, the sun goes down, and all kinds of creepy black blob monsters flood into the streets. Chihiro runs to the river, where more weird creatures disembark from a riverboat.
    • The worst part is that Chihiro can sense that something is off with the place. The abandoned amusement park and the dark tunnel have bad vibes, especially when paired with freshly made food and no vendors in sight. Because she is a bit spoiled and bratty, however, her parents dismiss her worries when she begs them not to go into the tunnel. Then she meets Haku, who harshly tells her to leave, and she immediately goes to tell her parents. She goes Oh, Crap! on seeing them turned into pigs, and starts running through the stalls calling for them. Then by the time she gets to the river and tries to cross, she realizes that she can't because the sudden water that has appeared is too deep, and the current would drown her. Brr.
      • And then just to make matters worse, she begins to fade away.
    • Chihiro's parents also didn't realize that it was enchanted food. They were actually going to pay the bill as soon as someone appeared and gave in to their hunger. Yet Yubaba tells Chihiro that they deserved to be turned into pigs for eating the food meant for the bathhouse customers.
      • It's still pretty beyond the pale to just eat food that's been left out with no indication who it is for. So beyond the pale in fact, it's almost as if the spirit world was already affecting their minds...
    • And when she sees them again for the first time after they transform, they're surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of other pigs who were, in all likelihood, former humans. There's even a baby piglet, which makes Yubaba's threats to Chihiro all the more unnerving.
      • The disturbing nature of this is not helped at all by the fact that Chihiro is later seen eating a pork bun with Lin.
    • And if that weren't enough, Chihiro's parents have no memory of their former human lives after they've transformed. That said, they probably would not recognize their own daughter given the chance; Chihiro has truly lost them both until she can find a way back to their own world.
    • And through the whole ordeal, Chihiro is absolutely petrified that she will meet the same fate, and Haku tells her in no uncertain terms that she will become a pig herself if she can't convince Yubaba to hire her. When they finally meet, Yubaba indeed considers turning her into a mere animal, or even a lump of coal if she prefers. The entire time, Chihiro just shivers in fear awaiting her fate, until she works up the nerve to beg for work. It's only because of her desperation in that moment when she begs Yubaba for work that she is able to avoid the fate of her parents. Or worse.
  • The theme of Chihiro’s parents transforming into pigs is quite disturbing, especially for the film’s target audience. The face of Chihiro’s dad, in his pig form, as he turns to look at Chihiro can also be somewhat disturbing, due to how detailed the face is.
  • Then there's Yubaba, whose head is scary enough on its own...then you see how proportionately huge it is to her body. Apparently, Yubaba was based physically on the original (and most famous) illustrations to Alice in Wonderland, the ones by Sir John Tenniel, such as The Duchess.
  • The baby. Good God, the baby.
    If you let me go, I'll cry; and Mama will hear me, and then Mama will come in and kill you.
  • Haku almost bleeding to death.
  • When Noh Face eats the workers, especially since he's normally a "no face".
    • Noh Face's behavior towards Chihiro is pretty disturbing after he is affected by the greedy atmosphere of the bathhouse. He tries to forcefully give Chihiro the gold and then threatened to eat her after she hesitates in taking it. It gets worse when Chihiro gives him the medicine ball she used to cure Haku with and it causes him to vomit up all the things he ate which resulted in an intense chase scene with No Face chasing Chihiro throughout the bathhouse (pictured above).
  • Chihiro and Haku are falling through the bowels of the bathhouse, and featureless shadow-things stretch up toward them. What are those things?
  • The short scene where the River Spirit, finally cleansed of all its filth and pollution, reveals itself to Chihiro is rather haunting and unnerving in a surreal way. All of a sudden, Chihiro finds herself in a Placid Plane of Ankle-Deep Water when a disembodied, horribly wizened face with a dangling jaw one breath away from snapping off silently emerges from the water, expressing his gratitude towards our heroine before fading away into the mist. Coupled with the dream-like atmosphere and the lack of sound save for rippling water, the River Spirit's true form makes one hell of an first impression as an example of Creepy Good.
  • The three green severed head things rolling around Yubaba's office that don't talk and eventually pretend to become her child.
  • The creepiest moment in the entire movie is when Chihiro is on the train (the one-way train that never returns, carrying ghosts) and it passes a station, where the ghosts get off. It's implied this is sort of a station where the spirits of the deceased enter into a new realm. Then, Chihiro watches as a little girl no older than her, also a ghost, gets off too.
    • Accompanied by incredible Fridge Horror; what if said little girl was in the same situation as Chihiro, but somehow failed and got herself killed?
  • The theme of losing oneself. Haku being reduced to following rules and orders from and hating Yubaba, No Face getting..."sick" from being in the bath house, "Sen" changing so subtly over fewer than 24 hours that neither she nor the audience notices when she first ceases to realizes that she was anyone else.
  • Everyone in the bath house is a SLAVE. Yubaba clearly did to everyone what she did to Chihiro and Haku, i.e. taking away their name and replacing it with something less individual (e.g. Lin, Kamaji which means old boiler man) and then they're all forced to work there for eternity, doing the same thing every day. It's so creepy how all the men and women look the same as each other. The men all look like frogs and the women look weirdly stretched out. I wonder if they become more homogenous looking the more they stay in the bath house and Lin will end up looking like them eventually. And the scary thing is, they don't really seem to have anywhere else to go - even if they could get on the train, the outside world looks completely inhospitable - it's basically an endless sea. So it's a life of slavery from which there can be no escape. That is deeply disturbing. And there's no resolution to this at the end - Chihiro escapes, but everyone else is just left there.
    • Some Nightmare Retardant to this is that the events of the film likely resulted in Yubaba losing a lot of the control she had over the bathouse, possibly due to Haku taking over, which would have likely resulted in everyone who works there being able to remember their original names and leave on the train if they so wish. It also likely means that the bathouse will become a much more pleasant place to work and live on top of that.
    • The reason why most of the men and women who work there look creepy is because of the type of spirits they are. The majority of the men are frog spirits while most of the women are slug spirits, which means that Lin thankfully won't end up looking like them, as she is a weasel spirit. There are also other more humanlike spirits working in the bath-house seen briefly throughout the film.
    • The spirit world also isn't as inhospitable as it first appears, as the train stops have stairs leading down to unknown locations, and various islands are seen throughout the film.
  • The very end: the fact that the car is so dusty, the trees have grown, and other little details suggest that Chihiro and her parents have been gone far, far longer than a few weeks. It might even be twenty to thirty years.
    • YMMV on this last one. As discussed elsewhere, car fuel only has a shelf life of a few months at best. And the growth seen is rather typical of Japan in summer, so they were gone a few weeks at most. Still a chilling thought to be gone so long though.
      • Most likely they were only gone as many days as they spent in the spirit world, so only around 4-5 days. Still long enough to get people worried and leave Chihiro and her family very confused when they return to find people had been worrying about them and that they were gone for days instead of hours (although less so for Chihiro in the English dub as it's implied she remembers her experience as opposed to the original Japanese version).