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Nightmare Fuel / The Little Mermaid (1989)

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Imagine what was running through Triton's head.

  • The scene near the start where Flounder and Ariel are exploring a shipwreck. Naturally, Flounder is afraid, knowing there are sharks around. The tension is built up a bit before we actually see the shark and the voices and music are mostly quiet. It's like two characters innocently exploring while a killer lurks nearby, watching them and waiting for a chance to strike. We get a false scare when Flounder sees a skeleton and screams. The music starts picking up after the shark swims by behind the friends a second time. When the shark finally attacks the music bursts in with Flounder screaming bloody murder "SHARK! SHARK!" the whole time. It barely seems like a shark at all, but rather a bloodthirsty monster. Though considering most of the sea life we see are very anthropomorphized it could just be some psychopath, which makes it worse.
  • The shipwreck/fire scene can be pretty frightening, especially when lightning strikes one of the sails, setting it on fire. Then the ship crashes into a gaggle of rocks, sending crew overboard. As the crew makes it to the lifeboats, Eric realizes that Max is still on board—the shot of the terrified dog, frantically barking while surrounded by deadly flames doesn't help. Then, Eric risks his life to save Max and gets caught in the ensuing explosion and would certainly have drowned had Ariel not rescued him.
  • When Ursula shows what happens to her clients who break their contracts — they get turned into these immobile, screaming, limbless worms stuck by the hundreds to the floor of her cave and then it happens to King Triton.
    • It happens to Ariel too, and in a more horrific way: in order to scare and threaten Triton, Ursula begins to transform Ariel then freezes the transformation, leaving Ariel as a mermaid-worm hybrid as seen above.
    • Consider the polyps in Ursula's garden for a moment. They went to her for help, and now are rooted in the ocean floor forever (at least, until Ursula's death), crying out and attempting to scare off more potential victims. How long have some of them been there? Do they continue to age in their reduced state? And imagine what their families and friends must have thought when they never returned...
    • This deleted scene shows the story of one of Ursula's previous victims. It's as creepy as you'd expect.
    • It's scary when one of the cursed polyps grabs Ariel, and the others immediately attempt to do the same. At a first glance, it seems like they're trying to catch Ariel to kill or devour her. But it's even worse in retrospect. They were trying to prevent her from entering Ursula's lair by scaring her off, in an attempt to save her from their fate. It's also possible that as a princess, Ariel is a familiar face to them, and they were trying extra hard to save her as a result.
  • Ariel's (first) transformation into a human is horrifying. She is voiceless at this point, but her body is writhing in visible torment as something happens to her insides. Then her tail is ripped in two and hangs in shreds before two more flashes of magic turn the raw remainders into legs. Then she nearly drowns right there and then.
  • Several things about Ursula in general. She's a fairly grotesque octopus woman with pasty grayish skin. She eats live (and, as it turns out, sentient) shrimp as snacks. The entrance tunnel to her lair is carpeted with the shriveled bodies of her transformed former clients who "couldn't pay the price". Her interactions with Ariel and constantly trying to touch or grab Ariel with her tentacles feel really creepy. She conjures a pair of wraithlike disembodied hands to forcibly thrust down Ariel's throat and extract her voice. And at the climax of the film, she transforms into a giant, saw-toothed version of herself with a Stygian voice, uses the power of Triton's stolen trident to create maelstroms and raise up the rotting hulks of sunken ships, and finally is impaled on a spear of one of said ships, electrocuted by the lightning she causes, and sinks, clutching the hull of the vessel with her tentacles in her death throes. Afterwards, her remains are shown slowly sinking into her lair. The directors' commentary on the Special Edition DVD noted that they probably wouldn't get away with Ursula (or Chef Louis for that matter) in a modern film.
    • It's even worse if you've read the original story, for all its darkness. Ursula is based on the Sea Witch, who was a True Neutral despite the harsh cost of her magic, and certainly didn't enslave her "customers" in a Fate Worse than Death like Ursula does. Her magic demands a relatively equal exchange, while Ursula delights in her own depravity. The Sea Witch might have been unpleasant and her price was high, but Ursula is a goddamn monster in every sense of the word.
  • The end of Ursula's first scene. As she wonders how Ariel may be the "key to Triton's undoing", she stares at the camera with a Joker-esque Slasher Smile as her theme changes from a malevolent violin solo to a Scare Chord. Needless to say, her grimace terrorized so many young viewers that it eventually became the current trope picture for Fade Around the Eyes.
  • The skeleton of a deceased sea-monster that serves as Ursula's home was a corpse when she found it. Where did all that rotting flesh go?
  • During the song, "Poor, Unfortunate Souls", when Ursula sings, "It's she who holds her tongue who gets her man", she tosses a tongue into the cauldron. Easily missed, if you assume that it's something else.
  • The fact that Ursula's final scene is stolen from H. P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu doesn't help matters at all.
  • When Ursula is looking in the mirror, she essentially squishes a clam's insides up and uses it for her lipstick, meaning she was using clam guts/clam blood for lipgloss.
  • The whole concept of Ursula disguising herself as a shapely young woman is pretty unsettling, especially when she uses her disguise to hypnotize Prince Eric into doing what she wants. The scene of her gliding through the fog down on the beach, Ariel's stolen voice (with a subdued, eerie soundtrack to back it up) echoing forth like a ghost to ensnare Eric, strongly evokes the ancient myths of sirens luring men to their doom.
    • One that might pass unnoticed, but when Ursula decides to turn into a human to ensure Ariel does not win, you can clearly see a butterfly trapped in an airtight bubble before Ursula throws it into a cauldron and it explodes. Ursula just killed a butterfly on screen in a Disney movie.
  • Ursula's transformation from "Vanessa" back into her actual self, which involves the bodice of her dress ripping open down the front and her tentacles spilling out. As if that wasn't enough, she then (shudder) crawls over to Ariel and kidnaps her, all while laughing demonically.
  • The whole scene with Louis the chef gruesomely hacking up fish while poor Sebastian runs around in terror had to have made some people become vegetarians. It doesn't help that he's singing during most of it, making him look like a sociopath right before he goes off the deep end chasing a small crab. Honest Trailers outright calls the song "the traumatize your children song", and changed Louis's song to reflect on that.
    • In his establishing shot as he's singing he's holding a fish almost lovingly, then he slams the fish down on a cutting board, withdraws a friggin meat cleaver from the pocket on his apron and the scene cuts to Sebastian as he withdraws his head into his shell as you hear four solid whacks as Louis chops the poor fish's head off!
  • Ursula's Villainous Breakdown towards the end when Ariel destroys her eel pets and One-Winged Angel form. Also her death.
  • Ursula, while not a good character, was sane and composed during most of the film. However, when she transforms into Vanessa, it's implied that she lost quite a bit of sanity (to the point of becoming borderline Ax-Crazy), as she talks to her mirror in a manner similar to a schizophrenic, emits a psychotic grin when throwing a pin at a mirror's head with enough velocity to knock the mirror back, and most certainly kill a person had that been a human being, and her cackling.
  • Ursula's line to Ariel and the accompanying visuals: "If he [Eric] does kiss you [Ariel] before the sun sets on the third day, you'll remain human permanently! But... if he doesn't, you turn back into a mermaid and... you belong... to me!!!"
  • The entire sequence after Ariel signs the contract. The lighting changes dramatically from reds and golds to greens and blues with Ursula's Slasher Smile, and she begins chanting a spell over the cauldron. And then ghostly grotesque hands rise out, which basically are used as such when one reaches down into Ariel's throat to snatch up her voice. Think she felt it being physically ripped from her?
  • The aftermath of Flotsam and Jetsam's destruction, as well as Ursula's. First when Ursula says, "Babies! My poor little poopsies!", you can see an eye and remnants of the eels, and after Ursula's been destroyed and the trident's sinking, the remnants of her are sinking to the bottom, even as the merpeople she's tricked into making a Deal with the Devil change back, and quite possibly showering them in it.
  • Triton destroying the grotto and everything in it. It's traumatizing for anyone who had parents destroying their stuff as a punishment. He looks like a large, Satan-esque figure, and the whole scene resembles something from the bowels of Hell! It doesn't help that the scene takes on much darker colors and Sebastian, who accidentally broke his promise to Ariel to not mention her love for Eric to him, is absolutely terrified.
    • The preceding argument is also pretty cringe-worthy.
      "So help me, Ariel, I am going to get through to you. And if this is the only way... so be it."
    • Listen to the scene without watching it, and it's even scarier. It sounds like a child begging her father not to beat her.
    • The music, during that scene; from the creepy build-up during the argument to the blaring horn stings and timpani drums when all hell breaks loose.
    • Just Triton being angry is terrifying by itself. There are Disney villains less scary than Triton when he whispers, "so be it".
    • We get a first hint at his terrible temper at the beginning of film, towards the climax of the musical. Just as her sisters are about to introduce their youngest sister, Ariel turns up missing. Upon seeing this, Sebastian nearly soils his shell, and Triton growls out Ariel's name, while his eyes turn a bloody shade of red.
    • How about when Ariel blurts out "Daddy, I love him!" and then clearly wishes she hadn't. She even cowers behind the statue of Eric - knowing something is coming and she's terrified.
    • What starts off the Mood Whiplash at the start of the scene is how King Triton suddenly shows up in the grotto just as Ariel turns around and gasps as sees him in the grotto passageway, within the shadows with a menacing glare on his face as he silently burns with fury. Just as Sebastian (who is forced to lead him here) begins to cower, Flounder knows what's going to happen and hides behind a chest. Triton's voice sounds low and creepy to show that he is well angry at Ariel.
      "I consider myself a reasonable merman. I set certain rules and I expect those rules to be obeyed."
    • The two entries above also lead to some Fridge Horror. That is learned behavior. Exactly how often growing up did Ariel witness Triton losing his temper to be that scared of him?
    • This actually puts her hurry to sign Ursula's contract in a new light; on top of wanting a chance to join the man she loves, a child growing up in that environment would probably be in a similar hurry to take the first chance they could to get out.
      • Some of the lines in "Part Of Your World", in fact, hint at that very thing. Ariel doesn't just want to be among humans and learn their secrets; she also wants to be free from her father's iron grip over her life, like any child with an overbearing parent would.
    • Even worse, Triton realizes that he went too far. But he swims away and leaves his daughter to cry, allowing Flotsam and Jetsam to tempt her with a chance to be with Eric for real. Then Ariel vanishes, along with Sebastian, his best friend, for two days; Triton realizes that he alienated the two sea creatures he cared about the most and gets desperate as no search parties can find them. When Sebastian finally returns, he finds out that Ursula took the opportunity to ensnare his daughter, and wants his crown and trident in exchange. Triton's look as the contract transforms Ariel into a half-polyp is filled with guilt, as he knows that Ariel wouldn't be in this position if not for him.
  • The first time Ariel meets Flotsam and Jetsam with their creepy, echoing voices. Unlike many Disney villains, they are not ineffectual at all. In fact, they are almost as creepy as Ursula herself. In the stage version, they are even creepier with their Villain Song, "Sweet Child".
  • The alternate version of Poor Unfortunate Souls, as seen here.
  • Eric under Vanessa/Ursula's trance is pretty disturbing, especially with his eyes glowing bright yellow and sounding completely monotone without any attitude or feeling in his voice.
  • Poor Unfortunate Souls starts out nice and slow, seductive but just a hint of danger but the second half ramps everything up as Ursula goes into her hard sell. Pat Carroll managed to make Ursula sound insane as she belts the lines.