Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Nightmare Fuel / The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Go To

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

The original novel:

  • Clopin running through the crowd in the final battle scene with a HUGE SCYTHE, hacking at the horses and guards until he is surrounded by severed limbs. He dies shortly afterwards.

The Disney film:

The Disney adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel (which is hardly light reading in itself) is one of the darkest films ever produced by the studio, featuring adult content like infanticide, the outright racist treatment of the Roma people, the abuse of religious power and creepy lust displayed by one of the most vile and frighteningly realistic villains in the history of animated films, and on-screen deaths for heroes and villains alike. As a result, it has more than enough frightening moments and concepts to go around for the whole family. With all of this and the heavy adult themes present in the picture, it's startling to realize that the film somehow got a G rating from the MPAA...

  • The gargoyle that randomly comes to life just to finish off Frollo.
  • The statues of the saints looking down at Frollo, and of the Virgin Mother's eyes opening as the lightning flashes in the prologue.
    • Also this one seems to be staring at the viewer instead of Frollo.
    • Advertisement:
    • It's not just the Virgin Mary either. The angels guarding her and even the baby Jesus in her arms have their eyes opened by the lightning flash. That brief frame is terrifying.
  • Frollo being scared for the first time in his life. Those statues seem to be staring into his very soul, and one can't help but shake the feeling that they really are. Especially when it focuses on the Virgin Mary...
  • Quasimodo tied to a spinning platform as the crowd throws eggs and vegetables at him is terrifying. Fortunately, Esmeralda's intervention cuts the scene short.
    • Ironically, it's a bowdlerized version of a similar scene in the book, where he's whipped and mocked by the crowd.
    • For some it is worse in this version because of how unprovoked that was. At least in the book, he was guilty of attempted kidnapping and nobody knew that the true culprit was Frollo.
    • In the musical however, he is whipped, and completely without provocation.
  • The sheer look on Quasimodo's face after he breaks free of the chains holding him to Notre Dame. Having never seen Quasimodo truly angry before, it is frightening.
  • Judge Claude Frollo himself. There's a good reason why he's considered the darkest Disney villain ever conceived.
    • Tony Jay's voice for Frollo counts, making his song more frightening.
    • Most of the other Disney villains were terrifying and evil in their own right, but Frollo trumps a majority of them due to following in Lady Tremaine's footsteps in that he is very, very normal and realistic. It gets better. The chances of you personally getting attacked by a sea witch, a sorcerer, or an evil queen are slim to none. And no one has good publicity like Gaston. But are there genocidal racists out there who use religion to justify their beliefs and actions, and convince other people to follow them? Oh, yes.
    • His very introduction applies. As the Roma are surrounded by soldiers, a huge shadow casts itself over the wall, revealed to be Frollo on his Bruiser of a horse. The pure terror in the male Romani's voice is as if he has come face to face with the devil itself; a textbook Oh, Crap! reaction.
      Judge Claude Frollo!
    • The part of the opening number that describes Frollo pretty much says it all about this guy:
      Judge Claude Frollo longed to purge the world of vice and sin.
      And he saw corruption everywhere...
      except within.
    • It also echoes uncomfortably with modern third-world citizens who desperately seek passage to a better life in nations who mercilessly exploit them like slaves, only to run afoul of monsters like Frollo who treat them like human refuse for "daring" to even exist.
    • During the opening sequence, Frollo looks positively demonic as he chases down and ultimately kills Quasimodo's poor mother, a Romani woman whose swaddled baby he initially thinks is stolen goods. There's no discretion either—you get to see Frollo kill her on-screen. And if not for the Archdeacon's intervention, this guy would very well have murdered baby Quasimodo himself as well. And what's worse is that Frollo thinks he is guiltless and in the right (not to mention how he immediately, unhesitatingly moves to take another innocent life when he realizes what the woman actually had)!
      • Heck, the way he talks about it with the Archdeacon. He's very much treating the whole situation as if it's just any other day for him, just another part of his job. That someone could be so casual about killing a woman and then trying to drown her child, "monster" or not, is chilling.
      • There is a very brief moment when baby Quasimodo cries, and Frollo realizes what he's actually holding... then he moves the cloth from the baby's face, discovers his deformity, and immediately begins to look around for somewhere to dispose of the poor infant. It's the move from what might have been stunned realization, to disgust and panic that really sells it. Not that Frollo wouldn't have justified himself somehow anyway, but that one moment somehow makes it even worse.
    Frollo: A baby..? (moves the cloth and freezes in horror) A monster!
    • In the Finnish dub, Frollo's tone of voice when he says "This is an unholy demon. I'm sending it back to Hell, where it belongs," is as if he's discussing the weather.
    • His obsession with Esmeralda is quite creepy indeed, and not at all subtle.
    • The Villain Song, "Hellfire". Fabulous singer, though.
      • When he says "Let her taste the fires of hell," you can actually hear the faint screaming of a woman being burned alive!
      • Can't forget the hellish monk choir draped in red robes who provides the chorus of Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. (Latin for "my fault, my most grievous fault" or "I am guilty, I am so guilty" in more modern language) said right after he says he's not the one at fault.note 
      • It's a blink-and-you'll-miss moment, but when Frollo rushes through the monk choir, watch the direction of their unseen gaze. Their heads turn toward Frollo, as though their invisible eyes are laser-guided to follow him.
      • Frollo is interrupted mid-song by one of his minions, who's telling him that Esmeralda has disappeared from the Cathedral. What makes this moment truly disturbing is that Frollo, for one moment, looks like he's forgotten where he is, and what he's doing.
        Soldier: Minister Frollo, the gypsy has escaped!
        Frollo: What?!
        Soldier: She's nowhere in the cathedral. She's gone.
        Frollo: But how, I - never mind. Get out, you idiot! I'll find her. I'LL FIND HER IF I HAVE TO BURN DOWN ALL OF PARIS!
      • In the Italian version, he sings I'm waiting for you in Hell instead of just Choose me or your pyre. He knows this obsession will damn him but it's got him too tight. That's a sign that he's really losing it, in a horrifying way.
    • Frollo looks very much like the bastard spawn of Lex Luthor and The Joker when he grins, and his cold glare is equally as frightening.
    • When confronting Quasimodo for helping Esmeralda escape Notre Dame, Frollo goes from his usually polite and cold tone to flat-out Unstoppable Rage as he shouts at Quasimodo and destroys his model replica of Paris. Quasimodo is lying on the floor, looking like a frightened child. Makes one wonder if this was the first time Frollo ever shouted at Quasimodo like that.
    Frollo: Isn't this one new? It's awfully good. Looks very much like the... Gypsy Girl. I know... you helped her ESCAPE!
    • The following dialogue as Frollo recomposes himself doesn't help much either.
      Frollo: But what chance could a poor, misshapen child like you have against her heathen treachery? Well, never you mind, Quasimodo. [Pulls a dagger from his robe and stabs the Esmeralda doll with it.] She'll be out of our lives soon enough. [Holds the doll over a candle flame.] I will free you from her evil spell. [Tosses the incinerated doll to the floor.] She will torment you no longer.
    • The scene where he confronts Esmeralda while she's about to be burned telling her to "Choose me or the fire". Rather than fear, Esmeralda looks at him with visible disgust right after letting her choice be plainly known to him with a powerful Spiteful Spit. She would rather face her death, via one of the most horrifically painful methods of execution imaginable, no less, than take Frollo's offer, so repulsed is she by how loathsome and monstrously evil Frollo has become in his lust for her.
  • The scene where Frollo explains his viewpoint of the Roma people to Phoebus. Hello, blatant genocide metaphor in a family-friendly movie. Especially bad for those of us whose relatives were, and continue to be, oppressed by anti-Roma (or anti-almost anything else, really) sentiment.
    Frollo: I have been... taking care of the Gypsies. [Crushes some ants under a finger with each word.] One... by... one. Yet, for all my success, they have thrived! [Pulls off a tile to reveal an ants' nest.] I believe that they have a safe haven within the walls of this very city... a nest if you will. They call it the [Incredulous scoff.] "Court of Miracles".
    Phoebus: What are we going to do about it, sir?
    Frollo: [Smirks, flips the tile over and smashes it back down, crushing every last ant under it, then grinding it a bit to make sure.]
    Phoebus: ...You make your point quite vividly, sir.
    • Phoebus first meeting Judge Frollo, in the castle torture chamber, where you get to hear the sound of the previous captain of the guard being tortured to death. Frollo even advices the Torture Technician to whip his victim slower, because doing it too fast will make the new pain drown out the old one (which he speaks of in the most eerily casual manner possible). The captain's crime? "Disappointing" Frollo.
  • The burning of the miller's house just because he and his family were suspected of hiding Romani. Said family included at least one child and a baby. Frollo even tries to make Phoebus carry out the evil deed, (which he very understandably refuses to do) and then tries to execute him when he rescues the people involved.
  • The last twenty-five seconds of "Paris Burning" is the embodiment of fear and terror itself. In the film, it's played over a clip looking over the skyline of Paris, glowing bright red from all the fire and the smoke filling the sky, as though Frollo really has brought Hellfire to Earth.
    • After Notre Dame itself was partially destroyed by fire on April 15th 2019, it's become even worse in hindsight.
    • And if you listen to the scene with headphones, as Frollo contemplates Esmeralda's escape, you can hear the muffled screams and cries of the townspeople - men, women, and children.
  • Imagine for a moment you are one of the soldiers under Frollo's command. Specifically, one of those attacking the Cathedral. You've stuck by the Judge through all of his monstrosities. The city is in revolt, the Cathedral is throwing beams, stone and molten lead at you. All of this is explainable. Then the birds attack, and everything is put into perspective. The Cathedral isn't attacking you. God is, and now the Devil has a claim on your soul. Pious or not, that would be terrifying.
  • If you interpret the gargoyles strictly as part of Quasi's imagination, not to mention how he behaves around Frollo, it really puts into perspective how much psychological damage has been done to this poor boy in his 20 years in isolation.
    • Really, the fact that Quasimodo was raised by this madman, the fact that he's not stark raving mad himself is nothing short of a miracle. The Archdeacon might possibly have served as a tempering influence, but he's only in a handful of scenes, and almost all of Quasi's social interaction is with Frollo.
  • The fact that the entrance to the Court of Miracles is through a gothic, eerie medieval graveyard inside the grave of a French Crusader that died in The Crusades.
  • Clopin giving a Slasher Smile when he was about to execute Quasimodo and Phoebus as spies. Thankfully Esmeralda stopped him before it was too late.
  • If you don't like insects, the scene where Frollo lifts up the stone covering a nest of ants can be nauseating. Granted, they're just common ants which are completely harmless, but even to people who don't have insectophobia, an entire nest of them crawling over each other can be unsettling. Even worse is that Frollo uses and murders the ants to demonstrate that he's been killing off innocent Romani for decades one by one without fail in the hopes of finding their hideout to kill them all at once.
  • The soundtrack is awesomely terrifying all by itself, but there's a Genius Bonus in the Ominous Latin Chanting you might not catch if you're not either a Classical Music fan or know Latin: namely, the chanting is not mere Canis Latinicus, but actually bits and pieces from the Requiem Mass text (which has been set to music many times by Classical composers, particularly Mozart and Verdi), mostly "Kyrie Eleison" (meaning "Lord, have mercy", which can be as heartbreaking as it is nightmarish), but also the "Dies Irae" ("Day of Wrath", full text and translations at Wikipedia) sequence, particularly when Frollo chases Quasimodo's mother up to Notre Dame. Two lines from the latter really stick out: "Quantus tremor est futurus, quando Judex est venturus" which roughly translates to "How great will be the quaking, when the Judge will come". The text itself refers to Judgment Day and the Apocalypse, which adds yet another brand of fuel to the mix all by itself, but in the context of the scene goes further still by taking on a new meaning as Quasimodo's mother is chased down by the Judge who will kill her and try to kill her baby.
  • The climax:
    • Frollo makes this chilling remark during his last encounter with the Archdeacon:
      Frollo: The hunchback and I have unfinished business to attend to. And this time, you will not interfere.
    • In the following scene, Frollo attempts to stab Quasimodo, but the latter manages to fight back and grab the knife. What follows is Quasimodo being covered in red light and wearing a Death Glare as he advances on Frollo and raises the knife, and Frollo himself is terrified at this sudden show of violence, when Quasimodo gives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and throws the knife away instead. While Frollo would have had it coming, the fact that the protagonist of a Disney movie briefly considered stabbing someone to death is beyond creepy.
    • Frollo chases after Quasimodo and Esmeralda onto the cathedral balcony. Losing track of his prey, he scans the dark balcony. He looks and sees the two hiding below the balcony gargoyles, and viciously attacks the duo with his sword, one swipe barely nicking Quasi's arm.
      Frollo: Leaving so soon? [Proceeds to swipe his sword madly at them.]
    • In his insane rage, Frollo finally admits to Quasi the truth about his mother while letting out all the true hatred he concealed from the hunchback for the past two decades.
      Frollo: I should've known you'd risk your life to save that Gypsy witch! Just as your own mother died trying to save you.
      Quasimodo: What?
      Frollo: And now, I'm going to do what I should've done... 20 YEARS AGO! [Throws his cape over Quasi's face to try to toss him off the edge of the cathedral.]
    • His final scene is the image above for a reason. While watching it, notice the color of his eyes and teeth. They're white like Esmeralda's and Quasi's, until he climbs the gargoyle to decapitate the Roma, then they turn yellow.
      • The Swedish version manages to be very unnerving with his laugh now sounding not only deranged like in the original, but also like it comes from the very pits of hell itself.

The stage musical

  • At the end of the stage version, when Quasimodo is about to throw Frollo to his death, Frollo cries out "You don't want to hurt me!" The gargoyles/chorus whisper to Quasimodo, "Yes you do."
    • It's taken Up to Eleven in the Paper Mills Playhouse version, as you see Quasimodo's final grasp of sanity slip, ensures Frollo can't escape and hurls him off the roof.
    • Even worse is the Paper Mills version. In the German version, only one gargoyle says the line. In Paper Mills, it's the entire chorus. The effect is both chilling and awesome.
    • That line has a horrifically heartbreaking amount of weight behind it... yes, Quasi does want to hurt Frollo. He always has...
    • As the actor playing Frollo disappears into the shadows during his "fall", a heavy bundle dressed in robes suddenly drops from the ceiling and crashes through the beams at the back of the stage: Frollo's plummet reaching its only possible destination. Up against the swell of the chorus, it makes for one hell of a Jump Scare.
  • "Sanctuary (Reprise)" in the stage version. Taken Up to Eleven in the American production, in which Frollo corners Esmeralda in her cell and forces himself on her. The claustrophobia of the prison cell set as Esmeralda tries to crawl towards the bars and call for help despite knowing the cell is locked and nobody will free her just sells her helplessness and the discomfort of the scene.
    Esmeralda: No— no! A demon! Help! Help, please!

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: