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Nightmare Fuel / The Phantom of the Opera

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The Novel:

  • Erik, the Phantom himself is at his most terrifying in the book, being a disfigured genius Psychopathic Manchild who lives the bowels of the Opera House and kills anyone he wants on a gleeful whim, with little knowledge of the difference between right and wrong. While he is sympathetic as he is in most adaptations, the Erik of the novel is one of the most famous Gothic Horror monsters, with all his terror played completely straight.
    'Know,' he shouted, while his throat throbbed and panted like a furnace, 'know that I am built up of death from head to foot and that it is a corpse that loves you and adores you and will never, never leave you!'
    • Erik’s childishness makes him in many ways more disturbing. He treats the murders he commits as fun games and often doesn’t take responsibility for them, treating them like they were crimes committed by other people or accidents. It appears he’s so alienated from the rest of humanity he doesn’t view other people (with the exception of Christine) as worth caring about. Most of his murders aren't even committed directly, with his victims all being people killed in the wrong place at the wrong time, making him casually dismiss their demises as accidents.
      • There are three deaths over the course of the novel. The first is Buquet, who hangs himself after somehow stumbling into the Phantom's torture room and finding no way out. The second is the concierge on her visit to the Opera, who gets the chandelier dropped right on her head and is likely a bloody mess by the end of it. The third, possibly, is Philippe de Chagny, who falls into the siren trap of the underground lake and is drowned by Erik, if Erik's claim that it was a sincere accident is to be disproved.
      • The Siren trap itself is terrifying. Originating from Vietnamese pirates, Erik breathes through a hollow reed underwater and throws his voice to create a beautiful song. The victim is inevitably lured by the song, and is pulled by Erik into the lake and drowned. While we don't know if this killed Philippe, we do know that Erik nearly murdered the Persian using this method until he realized who he was.
    • The sheer Paranoia Fuel over the fact Erik can be literally anywhere around the Opera House is empathised from the opening chapter when La Sorelli checks the hallway after explicitly hearing footsteps and finds nothing. Later chapters reveal he is literally in the walls themselves. The chapter where Christine and Raoul play around the Opera House and Christine gets more and more terrified knowing her captor could be in any shadow cements this fear, especially since it turns out he is actually following them.
    • Erik’s first appearance to Raoul in Perros is especially scary. After witnessing Christine be hypnotised by the music Erik plays at her father’s grave, he hears eerie laughter from the skeletons tied to the Breton church and several skulls roll towards Raoul. When he sees a black figure move into the church, Raoul grabs him and comes face to face Erik, who simply uses his own face along with a Death Glare to make Raoul faint in fear.
    • Just putting yourself in Haunted Heroine Christine’s shoes makes the novel horrifying. You’re the obsession of a nigh-unstoppable hideous, insane stalking Serial Killer who wants to marry you and keep you underground with him forever until you both die. The vulnerability of being the trapped love of a monster is especially palpable in the original translation, as when Christine takes a bath in Erik’s lair she keeps some scissors close by ready to kill herself — out of the fear Erik will rape her while she’s naked. While Erik never forces himself on her, he still wants Christine to never leave his side and that domination he has over her is very scary, especially given how traumatised Christine is by it.
      • There’s also the general creepy voyeurism of Erik being behind the mirror of Christine’s dressing room. A voice from Heaven seemingly talking to you in your dressing room is one thing, a madman watching you without consent from behind a mirror is something else entirely.
      • Erik’s method of abducting Christine in the dark clapping a hand over her mouth to stifle her screams, is disturbingly true to real life kidnappers as is keeping the victim trapped in a secure place.
    • Many of Erik’s traps and schemes are pretty damn scary, the Torture Chamber (see below) and it’s horribly unclear exactly how many people he’s killed in his time in the Opera House, given Erik has been living there for decades. “The Siren” trap involves him hiding under the water and breathing/humming through a reed, hypnotizing anyone traversing the underground river in boat with his beautiful humming, making them lean out of the boat before Erik reaches out and grabs them with his long arms. He almost kills the Persian with this trick and succeeds in killing Raoul’s brother Philippe this way, if Erik's account that Philippe's death was a sincere accident is to be disbelieved.
    • "The rosy hours of Mazendaran", the time while Erik worked as a Torture Technician for the Shah-in-Shah. Imagine a Mad Artist + Mad Scientist + Evil Genius who built a Robotic Torture Device capable of driving anyone to suicide and who managed to kill capable armed warriors by strangling them. Even worse, he did the latter to entertain the 'little sultana' and her ladies; the sultana herself learned to wield the punjab lasso and killed several of her waiting women and even her friends. Fortunately, Erik regrets teaching the Sultana to murder...which itself is frightening because that is what scares Erik.
  • The cellars of the Opera House putting aside Erik, are chock full with Nightmare Fuel. The furnace keepers Christine with dread describes as “demons” who are “quite black, standing in front of boilers, and they wield shovels and pitchforks and poke up fires and stir up flames and, if you come too near them, they frighten you by suddenly opening the red mouths of their furnaces”. The head of fire that Fireman Pampin encounters turns out to be the rat-catcher, who at all times is bathed in fiery red light and is accompanied by hundreds of rats scurrying near and around him.
    • While traveling through the cellars in the climax Raoul and the Persian encounter "the shade in a felt hat”. The Persian claims the shade has almost caught him before and at Raoul’s questioning states the shade has nothing to do with Erik or the theatre police, but disturbingly doesn’t elaborate any further. Not even the Leroux’s notes offer any concrete explanation, making the cellars of the Opera and its shadowy occupants even more scary, as is the hint that there are real ghosts in the Opera House. Most of all? Together with a mysterious hermit monk and the shade, Erik is terrified of them.

The 1925 Silent Film:

Has its own page.

The 1943 Film:

  • Claudin snaps when he accuses the publisher of plagiarizing his music and strangles him to death. Immediately afterward, the publisher's wife throws etching acid in Claudin's face and he screams in agony.

The 1962 Hammer Horror Film:

Has its own page.

The 1989 Film:

Has its own page.

The Musical:

  • While there are charges of Lighter and Softer leveled at the musical, there are several sections that are extremely dark and frightening, such as:
    • The Phantom’s first appearance, when his face slowly becomes visible in Christine’s mirror.
    • A freakishly realistic doll in the Phantom’s lair, who looks identical to Christine but in a Wedding Dress and even moves, making Christine faint.
      • The Las Vegas production has the mirror bride in the mirror, when Christine comes closer, and when the doll moves, the shards of glass open like a flower.
      • In the 2004 Hungarian production, the first non-replica, the mirror bride, was accompanied by a Phantom Doll embracing.
    • The Phantom laughing wildly as he makes Carlotta croak. He already sounds completely insane - "Behold! She is singing to bring down the chandelier!!!" - and takes malicious, gleeful delight in humiliating the poor woman.
    • The ballet scene that immediately follows this, as he casts ominous shadows on the backdrop, the dancers get more and more frightened and agitated, even stopping dancing to point and stare in terror, and the music more sinister. If you haven't seen the show before, you're just waiting for something horrible to happen; if you have seen it before, you're waiting for Joseph Buquet to be hanged from his Punjab lasso. Buquet's corpse swings down onto the stage in front of everyone, sometimes with a sickening crack as if his neck has just been broken...
    • Just after the sweet love song "All I Ask Of You" is over and Christine and Raoul depart — the Phantom emerges from behind the statue of the angel, having heard everything. Audiences have been known to gasp in horror, knowing that the lonely man who's already killed tonight has heard his love accept the feelings of someone else.
    • The chandelier first shaking as the Phantom screams in rage, and then swinging down from the rafters into the stage, appearing to nearly hit the characters. Even if you know what's coming it's still a terrifying sight (particularly if you're sitting in the stalls near the stage).
      • The famous chandelier scene was altered in the Las Vegas production, where it's moved from the end of Act 1 to the end of "Point of No Return" (like the 2004 film). But it doesn't swing into the stage as per tradition; instead, it drops right into the audiencenote . Audience members who were lucky enough to be sitting right below the chandelier were in for quite a treat, to say the least (there were even reports of people jumping out of their seats to get out of the way!)
    • Depending on the actors, the majority of the second act is Nightmare Fuel because the audience gets the sense that the Phantom is hiding somewhere close by, ready to strike.
    • The scene where Christine publicly unmasks the Phantom following The Point of No Return. It's nightmare fuel for Christine because she's been singing with her mad stalker all this time, it's nightmare fuel for the Phantom as he's briefly surrounded by armed policemen ready to shoot him, and it's nightmare fuel for everyone else when the ballerinas rip the curtain back to reveal that Piangi has been hanging there dead this entire time.
    • The cemetery scene is extremely creepy, portraying a hurt Christine at her absolute lowest. Her father was buried in a crypt covered in skulls, and after she's poured her heart out to her deceased father, the Phantom emerges from the cross and uses his Compelling Voice to pretend to be her father's ghost and draw her to him. It almost works, and the crypt swings open, as if inviting a now-hypnotized Christine inside...
      • Fortunately, Christine is rescued by Raoul, who yells at her that it's the Phantom, not her father. The Phantom's reaction is to hurl fireballs all over the stage while cackling madly and daring Raoul to come closer, seemingly not caring if Christine gets hurt too.
  • The soundtrack of the original London production has Carlotta about to sing "Think of Me", only to be interrupted by the shrill screams of the ballet dancers. This wouldn't have been too out of the ordinary in the context of the show itself (see previous entries), but it's especially startling to hapless listeners that have their guard down while listening to the soundtrack, not expecting any of the show's scares to creep into the soundtrack. The effect is exacerbated by how "Think of Me" is one of the most gentle songs in the soundtrack.
  • The Lloyd Webber Phantom is the scariest of them all for one simple reason: Strip away the deformity, the genius, all the iconography, and you are left with someone we have known—or been—at some point in our lives. A workplace bully who claims credit for your successes; a fella who steadfastly refuses to take a hint; a would-be lover who puts on a façade, and who would do anything for love except for "All I Ask Of You"...

The 2004 Film: