Follow TV Tropes


Nothing Is Scarier / Live-Action Films

Go To

Examples of Nothing Is Scarier in live-action movies.

    open/close all folders 

Wait for it...

  • Many horror films in the 1980s were modified for television, with particularly gruesome scenes radically shortened or cut out entirely to meet broadcasting standards. In some cases this enhanced the film by removing badly executed special effects, leaving the viewer's imagination to fill in the blanks.

  • In interviews, Clive Barker has spoke of his intent to avert this trope, due to its overuse in horror films growing up, and so the titular monster of Rawhead Rex was revealed early in the movie. All Hellraiser films have followed the convention of showing the Cenobites in their full, gruesome glory.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's movies revolve generally more around pure suspense than fear, but examples of this trope can still be found in Psycho, North By Northwest, The Birds, and so on...
    • A great example is from Rear Window: Love interest Lisa has gone over to the murderer's apartment to collect a crucial piece of evidence while protagonist Jeff, who has broken his leg, can only watch with his camera's telephoto lens. He notices the murderer coming back down the hall; Lisa, obviously, does not, and cheerfully waves in the direction of the camera.
      • There's also the most terrifying bit of the movie where Jeff gets a phone call from the killer who doesn't answer him, but now knows where he lives. Leaving Jeff alone waiting in his dark apartment listening to noises... until he hears footsteps coming to his room.
    • Psycho: When Vera Crane sneaks into the Bates house, into Norman's room, sees the child's toys, sees a Beethoven record on the gramophone, then pulls out a book, opens it up, and looks quite unsettled. We don't see the contents; we can only imagine. (In Robert Bloch's original novel, it's a work of pornography.) There's also the scene where Arbogast is killed. While the original storyboards had tense music and suspenseful camera angles cluing the audience in that a murder was about to happen, Hitchcock chose to shoot it with no music and a completely normal angle of Arbogast walking up the staircase before Norman suddenly pops out and stabs him. A similar technique is used in the infamous shower scene, which seems just like a standard bit of Eye Candy. Then you see the faint shadow appear in the background...
      • One of the most chilling moments in the film is Vera simply walking up to the house. In broad daylight.
    • Frenzy: The murder of Babs by Bob Rusk happens offscreen. We see two people go up to the flat belonging to one of them, he escorts her inside and closes the door...and then the camera pans down the staircase, through the front entryway, and across the busy London street.
    • Allegedly, Hitchcock observed that the scariest thing one could put on the silver screen was a closed door. Roger Corman has asserted that one of the creepiest effects in a movie is a handheld camera slowly approaching a closed door; one of his "alumni", director Jonathan Demme, uses this to good effect in Silence of the Lambs.
  • The movies Val Lewton produced for RKO had (as dictated by his bosses) low budgets and lurid titles such as Cat People, Bedlam, The Body Snatcher and I Walked with a Zombie, but he was able to work around those limitations to produce films that were subtle and thoughtful, and at the same time delivered the chills. He was a firm believer in the idea that what you can't see can be scarier than what you can see. The "chase" from Cat People is still taught in many Film Schools as a perfect example of the use of minimalism to create an amazing amount of terror with a horror movie.
  • David Lynch movies in general. Especially Inland Empire which manages to be unsettling and frightening the whole way through with nothing nightmarish actually happening (well, until that one part....). Also if you look at Eraserhead from the right angle, minus the last half hour or so. True, the baby is grotesque and monstrous, but it never really DOES anything (other than incessantly cry, and later incessantly laugh) and still manages to terrify its audience.
  • M. Night Shyamalan:
    • Despite being considered a failure, The Happening still features one scene (when Elliot wakes up in the isolated country-house) that was extremely unsettling, solely because of the way it is filmed (it may be an ordinary old country-house, but at that very moment it seems very, very creepy).
    • Signs: Nothing much out of the ordinary happens in some early scenes in the film, but there's a foreboding mood and a sense that things are subtly off, creating suspense long before the aliens show up (and making them a bit of a letdown when they do).
    • The Village: when our protagonist is in the forest, completely blind, not even realizing she's stumbling into a patch of bright, red berries, thinking about the stories of Those Of Which We Do Not Speak. (Red attracts Those Of Which We Do Not Speak.)

  • In 10 Cloverfield Lane this is a strongly recurring element of the film. We get the sense that something has happened on the surface, but we have no idea what it is. Considering Howard is quickly established as being paranoid, it's natural to take his explanations with a grain of salt, especially after finding out that he originally used the bunker to kidnap young women. As one review pointed out, this film makes the idea that there's nothing going on outside even scarier than the thought that there is.
  • 28 Days Later:
    • The scene where Jim is walking through a completely abandoned London is made so eerie that one almost has a heart attack when the car alarm goes off. The scene has a soundtrack ("East Hastings" by Godspeed You Black Emperor!) that starts off quietly and slowly builds to a climax when Jim finds out what has happened. The DVD Commentary says it was added because after a few minutes of silence, the car alarm almost killed viewers.
    • About half way through the film, Jim has a nightmare about being alone again, and it's extremely effective at evoking that same dread as well as being heart-breaking.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey with the introduction of the featureless black monoliths and the incredibly eerie music accompanying them.
  • The horror film Absentia relies heavily on build-up and not showing anything for much of the film to horrifying results.
  • The Alien series:
    • Ridley Scott's Alien is emblematic of this trope, using it in the most brilliant fashion to produce high levels of horror. Not that it is very difficult to see a monster designed by H. R. Giger let down on the scare factor, but it mostly remains unseen.
      • During one of the first screenings of the movie, in the infamous scene where Brett is looking for Jones the Cat, reportedly half of the audience left the room out of fear even before the monster showed up. This worked even when the audience saw the monster in full in the same scene, when it was just hanging from a chain, camouflaged from the audience with nothing more than its bio-mechanical appearance. The fact that it was able to hide in plain sight and still sneak up on both Brett and the audience is also pretty scary.
      • Lambert's death in Alien is possibly the most horrific, since the audience doesn't see it at all - we only hear what Ripley hears over the intercom.
      • Even the original trailer qualifies, showing nothing but a quick sequence of images with a chilling musical theme.
      • The fact that the Alien is so subtly and cunningly shown, seldom revealing all of it at one go, has led to the common belief that the thing keeps changing and growing all throughout the film, even though after the chestburster stage, it's the same suit on the same actor all the way.
    • Aliens contains some examples also:
      • You KNOW there is going to be xenomorphs when the marines are walking into the hive, the only thing is how they'll meet... wait, did the wall just move??
      • The dropship pilot Ferro takes off to collect the other marines and her attempts to hurry up her co-pliot are met with silence. That's not him entering the cockpit... Her blood subsequently splashing across the cockpit window can only suggest a particularly gruesome end.
      • When a pack of the xenomorphs is approaching inside the ceiling. Camera angles and Ripley's own dialogue (she guesses they might come through the floor) make it obvious where the creatures are, cranking up buckets of suspense until the Oh, Crap! moment when one of the marines looks up.
      • When Ripley goes through her One-Man Army rampage through the hive to retrieve Newt only to suddenly halt in her movements and slowly look around in pure terror. A second later, we see her standing in the midst of a hatchery, surrounded by eggs. And then she slowly turns around to see...
  • In Alien Abduction (2014), this is par for the course as a found footage film. The aliens attack at night, are only seen indistinctly if they are seen at all, and you never get a good look at the source of the blinding light or that horrible horn sound.
  • Alone in the Dark (2005) uses it twice. One is where Edward Carnby is walking home down a dark alley. The camera moves around to make it seem like something is following him... and nothing is. The second case is at the end of the movie, where monsters have taken over New York City, leaving everyone dead and absolutely no sign of their existence. One attacks Edward and his girlfriend using the power of "Jaws" First-Person Perspective.
  • In the opening of Anaconda, the Anaconda attacks a nameless poacher (played by Danny Trejo) who was piloting a boat full of captured animals before he kills himself. When the expedition later runs into his boat, it's completely empty with not a sign of life. They investigate, only for nothing to happen until a guy who got lost is picked off without anyone but Sarone noticing.
  • Angel Heart has it's share of creepy surreal shots that include panoramic views of spiral staircases and fans spinning, which are somehow creepy on their own but take some horrific meanings with hindsight, especially the fan, which at first seems like nothing, until you realize after watching the film that it appears every time Harry Angel is about to commit a murder. Also, one of the creepiest scenes in the film is Robert De Niro eating a hard-boiled egg. Even once the real horror (as in the stuff that actually should be scary) comes along it's mostly psychological and Robert De Niro with the same beard he had in The Mission may very well be the creepiest depiction of Satan ever put on film. He even lampshades it in The Reveal when he remarks to a skeptical Johnny Favorite "if I had cloven hooves and a pointed tail would you be more convinced?.
  • In Apocalypse Now, the story Kurtz tells of the fate of children inoculated by American medics — having their arms cut off by the Viet Cong — is scarier and more disturbing than anything actually depicted onscreen.
  • An unbelievably creepy example occurs in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. While on a hunting party in the forest, Jaguar Paw comes across a large band of wandering refugees who look very forlorn and fearful; they have obviously been driven from their home. When Jaguar Paw asks them what happened, the only answer he gets is "Our lands were ravaged." This disturbs Jaguar Paw so much that he cannot hide his fear as the hunting party heads back to their village, and his father tells him to banish the fear from his mind so that it will not "infect" the village community. What's key here is the refugee's use of the passive voice: he speaks of being attacked, but he doesn't say by what. This becomes truly frightening in the context of the rest of the film because, after all, these characters are pre-Christian Mayans who believe that their gods are not only all-powerful but bloodthirsty, demanding gruesome human sacrifices and even able to take the form of jaguars - and, of course, might decide to simply blot out the sun (the Mayans do not understand solar eclipses) and literally scare the daylights out of everyone. The horror show continues the next morning as Jaguar Paw awakes in his family's hut - and suddenly panics as he notices the flicker of torchlight between the trees in the distance. He finally realizes what it was that drove the refugees from their village - an army of warriors from the kingdom down the river who come into the jungle periodically to capture and enslave (and, in some cases, execute in human sacrifice) the relatively helpless villagers, and who are about to do the same to Jaguar Paw's people!
  • Army of Darkness:
    • The movie, mostly a comedic masterpiece, has Ash being chased by... SOMETHING. We never see what it is, as we watch the chase from its perspective, and this monster is one of only a few things that seem to scare him after his experiences in the first two Evil Dead films.
    • After Ash finds safety in the windmill, a deleted scene builds up more tension by showing something going by the windows twice.
  • In Tim Burton's Batman (1989), Jack Napier's transformation into The Joker is pulled off this way with varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the format in which you're watching the movie. First we see Jack's clown-white hand coming out of the river, but it's partially covered by a glove. The later scene in the doctor's office shows nothing except the doctor's and Jack's reactions (frightened and mind-warping, respectively) to the removal of Jack's bandages after the surgery - but the effect is undercut by a blooper at the end (barely noticeable unless you're paying attention) in which a swinging light bulb briefly illuminates Jack as he's walking up the stairs, revealing Jack Nicholson without the makeup. The scene in the penthouse is the most effective of all, with the rooms so darkened by shadows that, if you look very closely into the distance when Jack opens the door, you can just barely make out the clown features of his face. The Jokerface slowly becomes more discernible as Jack walks closer to Carl Grissom, but you can't see anything truly terrifying yet; the worst of it is watching Grissom's Stepford Smiler reaction, trying to remain calm and "enjoying" a final drink of scotch, knowing full well he's about to die. The Creepy Circus Music heard at the climax of the scene, when the Joker finally reveals himself, is actually less scary than it would have been, since it breaks up the (mostly) silent tension that had preceded it. (Better yet is that trailers for the movie had already revealed what Nicholson would look like with the makeup; the concealment during the surgery scene is all the scarier because you know what's coming, but Burton won't give it to you!) The scene is perhaps best of all when watched on VHS or DVD, since the image can be graded darker than normal on some TV screens, making the clown face completely invisible until the movie blatantly reveals it.
  • Bird Box: Throughout the film, the creatures are never seen clearly, putting the audience in the same boat as the survivors who can never look upon them.
  • The Blair Witch Project relies heavily on this technique. Parodied by Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier in the one-off comic Blair Which?, where it's revealed that there really wasn't anything to be scared of after all (except the old house getting dynamited).
  • Claude Chabrol's classic thriller Le Boucher relies almost entirely on this for its suspense-filled climax. It begins when the protagonist, Hélène, who knows that her friend Popaul knows that she knows he's a serial killer, is left alone at the schoolhouse where she lives, knowing that he is going to come for her. He doesn't actually show up for a few minutes, though, and all the suspense in the scene comes from wondering when he's going to show up, with both Hélène and the audience jumping at every shadow. It's almost a relief once he finally does come, a real testament to Chabrol's skill as a director.
  • In The Brood, this happens by accident due to censoring in the scene when Nola gives birth to one of the broodlings. As filmed, she then bites through the birthing sac and tenderly licks the child clean, but the censors cut the scene as she is biting through the sac, leaving audiences with the impression that she was eating her baby.
  • The trailer for Buried is a solid minute of nothing but a black screen with a voiceover of a man panting and calling 911, not knowing where he is or what happened to him, until the very end where the flame of a lighter reveals that he's six feet under and very much alive.
  • Fans of The Cabin in the Woods often suspect that "Kevin" is the most terrifying and evil entity in the Cabin's arsenal, simply because we never find out what he is.
  • The infamous tense desert confrontation between Sam "Ace" Rothstein and Nicky Santoro in Casino. While the scene itself is not scary and is just two men arguing, it's the fact that it takes place in the desert that makes it so unnerving, because it's established at the start of the film that the desert is "where problems are taken care of", as it's where the mob executes people and bury the bodies. Considering we see Nicky whack people several times in the film before then, Sam, who usually sees eye to eye with Nicky, is expecting to be whacked and buried in the desert at any given second.
    Sam "Ace" Rothstein: Normally, my prospects of coming back alive from a meeting with Nicky were 99 out of 100. But this time, when I heard him say "a couple of hundred yards down the road", I gave myself 50-50.
  • The Cave. While it somewhat lacks the paranoid claustrophobia of The Descent, it takes similar pleasure in concealing the appearance and abilities of it's main monsters until dramatically appropriate reveals. Notable because, at the time it was made, most monster movies couldn't wait to show their "awesome" CGI creature.
  • 1980's The Changeling is made completely on this concept: it's a ghost story where you never see the ghosts while being able to see a lot of what they see. Very scary.
  • Child's Play is remembered as being goofy and over the top, but Chucky is legitimately frightening before he begins mugging for the camera and cracking wise. People are murdered and things around the doll just happen, with no better excuse than a terrified child trying to explain that it was his "Good Guy" doll doing it. Aspects of the film seem to revel in this fact, suggesting it might have been intended to be playing with the child as a potential Enfant Terrible before Executive Meddling.
  • In Dark City, there's the moment when John wakes up in the eerie hotel bathroom. Hell, the city's unreal, dark, gloomy atmosphere never gives anyone a moment of respite.
  • The original Dawn of the Dead (1978) features a truly terrifying 20 seconds at the beginning, before someone taps the heroine on the shoulder in the TV studio. Nothing scary is happening, but it's unsettling as billy-o.
  • The Descent. Watching it, and knowing something really bad is going to come out of the darkness at any second... The experience is perhaps best described as "Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit OH SHIT!"
    • And also masterful because the film never lets you be comfortable, long before the monsters show up. In addition to the claustrophobia and disorientation of the caves, our main character is suffering long-lasting PTSD.
    • Even the bloody DVD menu does this. It is not recommended to watch this, fall asleep drunk on someone else's sofa and be woken up in the dead of night by a sudden demonic howl.
    • The third variation of this trope is also used, and highlighted in one of the Special Features. In numerous scenes prior to the group actually seeing one of the monsters, they'd had one camouflaged in the background, stalking them.
  • Henri-Georges Clouzot's Les Diaboliques employs this extremely effectively during its climax, when Christina is walking in the empty school at night, looking for her (dead) husband.
  • Dunkirk lives and breathes this trope. The movie is set on the titular French beach in 1940 during WWII, with thousands upon thousands of soldiers trapped and awaiting certain death from the Germans. We never see a single German outside a plane, making the film's already glum and doomy atmosphere downright nerve-wracking, thus leaving one wanting a German to attack just for the damn tension to ease up. Worse, the movie never eases up on this tension until the last scene. In both the air force and land stories, everyone is basically just a sitting duck, with the horrible realization that they may never make it off that beach. The film is meant to put the viewer in the shoes of someone on that beach, and it is extremely effective in that regard.
  • Elevated: The monsters outside the elevator are never seen and all the horror is derived from the possibility that they might get into the elevator, though Hank compares them to various fictional monsters like Pumpkinhead and Alien to explain what they look like.
  • This trope is what made The Exorcist III scary. The hallway scene is simply a nurse doing her rounds for the night including a nice fake-out before she's almost done, and is beheaded by a fast-moving cloaked figure with amputation shears, which we don't even see used since the scene is quickly cut away.
  • Frankenstein (1931): One initially sweet scene has the Creature playing with a young girl and throwing flowers into a lake. When they run out of flowers, the Creature looks around for something else pretty to throw into the water, and in his childlike innocence he throws the girl into the lake, accidentally drowning her. The censors of the day cut the scene just as he reached for her, jumping to her father carrying her lifeless body through town and implying an even more upsetting fate than accidental murder.
  • Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives: At one point, Jason kills a girl named Paula off-screen. Whatever he did to her, it was so brutal that the entire room was drenched in blood.
  • A lot of the time in Godzilla (2014), the presence of the monsters are felt through the paths of destruction they leave in their wake rather than actual appearances on-screen. All in all, the movie is seen more through human perception than the monsters'.
  • The aftermath of Godzilla's attack on Tokyo in the original Gojira is full of this. Everything from the images of the destroyed buildings to the crowded hospitals to the haunting music makes the scene very creepy as well as very sad to watch. It's made even MORE terrifying when you realize that the filmmakers had the scene look eerily similar to the aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • In Werner Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man, Herzog listens (through headphones, on-camera) to the sound-only video recording of two people being attacked, killed, and eaten by a grizzly bear. (It was recorded accidentally while the lens cap was still on.) This is horrifying on multiple levels: not least because it is a real recording of two people being eaten alive. There's no video of course, and we don't hear any sound. Herzog's face remains grimly stoic, but loses all color. He tells the woman who owns the video — an old confidant of Timothy Treadwell, one of the victims — "You must never listen to this recording. You must destroy it, and never listen to it." Not only do we not see anything, we don't hear it either. Later it's seen what is believed (and noted in the film) to be Treadwell's actual video footage of the bear that would kill him and his girlfriend not long thereafter. It's quite unnerving to watch these scenes with that knowledge in mind, even though nothing frightening is actually happening.
    • The tone of his voice when he tells her to turn off the video - this is a man thoroughly rattled to the core, and the look on his face is enough to make her break out in tears. He doesn't just tell her to destroy the video, he practically begs her to.
    • Near the end of the film, Treadwell gives a monologue while standing in front of a thicket of bushes. It all looks normal... until the subtitle appears stating that the spot where Treadwell was killed is right behind him.

  • Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963) is a near-perfect (in every sense) example of this trope. We hear rhythmic thumping and pounding several times in the film, and one character realizes that something was holding her hand a moment ago, and there is a creepy moment where a door softens and bulges as something on the other side tries to get in. But it is never revealed who or what is stalking the characters — or even how much of it is actually real or just inside the main character's mind. The book that serves as inspiration, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, does the exact same thing.
  • Hell House LLC does this with mannequins showing up where they shouldn't be, sudden scene changes and the reactions of members of the haunted house crew to things the audience can't see. What really ratchets up the tension is now that these things have happened you're looking and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
  • I Am Legend:
    • Much of the suspense early in the movie comes from Robert Neville going about on his day-to-day business in a completely deserted New York city. It's incredibly eerie and unsettling, even though it's broad daylight and nothing overtly scary is going on, because all of this is happening in a completely deserted New York City.
    • The classic variation is used to excellent effect when a panicked Neville is searching for his lost dog through a pitch-black building that you just know is infested with the Darkseekers. There's even an excellent fakeout when Neville accidentally shines his flashlight on an entire group of them huddled together, with their backs to him, and manages to get away without being detected. When he finally finds Sam hiding under a table, he hears her whimpering and realizes it's not him she's whining at right as he turns around to get an angry Darkseeker in the face.
    • Even before anything scary is happening, the film subtly builds suspense by showing us the extreme precautions Neville takes in his day-to-day life, before we have any clue as to why. Stockpiling food is perfectly understandable, even having a bunch of sets of car keys for the various automobiles Neville has salvaged makes sense in a deserted New York city, but when we see the booby traps, blast shields on the windows, and the closet full of guns, that's right about the time we start to wonder just what the hell has actually happened to the city.
  • Identity uses this quite a bit as well, being a whodunnit slasher. One notable scene is when a couple are arguing and the wife locks herself in the bathroom. The husband starts banging really frantically on the door. It becomes unnerving when he stops.
  • Although the brutal murder of Jimmy Hoffa is a key part of The Irishman, it happens late in the film, and is made extremely effective in that regard due to this trope. Whereas most of the film is happy to be soundtracked to pop music relevant to whatever time period is depicted, the scene is absolutely dead silent, and the viewer is forced to watch as Frank Sheeran takes a private plane to Detroit, drive to a house that has people working on its floorboards (likely because they know exactly what is about to happen in the next 20 or so minutes), said people get in the car and make humourous small talk that, while effectively funny, only makes the situation more surreal, pick up Hoffa, drive all the way back to said house (worth noting that the shots right before they arrive at the house and after they leave to pick up Hoffa look almost like surveillance shots). Then things get worse when Hoffa and Sheeran enter the house. It only takes Hoffa less than a minute to process that something bad is going to happen... and right when both the viewer and Hoffa least expect, Sheeran pulls out his gun and shoots him twice, effectively killing him. This lasts all of 20 minutes and extremely white knuckle, long and drawn out, with the viewer just wanting SOMETHING to happen so the damn tension can ease up.
  • For most of It's Alive we do not see the killer mutant baby, most of the time when it is on screen it's hidden in the darkness and we hear it's shrieks, we only get a good look at it two or three times in brief instances.
  • The Invisible Man (2020) is a masterclass in this trope. Unlike other adaptations of H.G Wells’s novel the titular Invisible Jerkass Griffin deliberately gets the least screen time, we only “see” him once at the start and right at the end but his lurking presence is felt throughout the movie, even when he isn’t directly attacking his ex Cecilia, just messing with the house she’s staying in like a poltergeist. Moreover the way Cecilia (an explicit victim of his abuse) talks about him and how controlling, dangerous and manipulative he is, which just adds to the dread as he starts screwing with Cecilia‘s mind by faking his death and tormenting her while invisible. In fact, the more the invisibility trick is revealed a subtle clicking noise becomes more prominent.
    • The opening scene alone epitomises this, at first it seems pretty innocent: just a couple lying in bed together in a luxury house. But as the camera zooms in, Cecilia is actually awake and she carefully removes Griffin's hand resting on her stomach note  and she sneaks out of bed and gathers her things to leave the house doing her upmost to make sure Griffin does not wake up. The tension only builds higher as Cecilia causes little noises that panic her as she quietly escapes the house, only for her to accidentally make the car alarm go off at which she runs and makes it to her sister’s car. Then Griffin comes out of the darkness and punches through the car window trying to grab Cecilia.
  • Jaws is another classic example. There's a lot of conjecture about the decision not to show the shark in the first half of the movie, but it was actually intentional. The mechanical difficulties with the shark may have reduced its screen time in the second half, but Steven Spielberg always intended to hide it during the first.
  • Jumanji, showing that Robin Williams could be pretty damn terrifying when need be. For example, there's Alan's description of the Eldritch Location Death World he was stuck in for 26 years:
    "You think that mosquitoes, monkeys, and lions are bad? That is just the beginning. I've seen things you've only seen in your nightmares. Things you can't even imagine. Things you can't even see. There are things that hunt you in the night. Then something screams. Then you hear them eating, and you hope to God you aren't dessert. Afraid? You don't know what afraid is. You will not last five minutes without me."
  • Jurassic Park:
    • The opening scene with the cage for first time viewers. We hear what's in it, we see how wild and ferocious it is, but we're never shown exactly what it is.
    • The buildup to the Tyrannosaurus rex's first appearance also counts. The power has failed and the tour vehicles are immobilized, it's dark, and no one has seen any hint of a dinosaur inside the enclosure... until the ground starts to shake and someone wonders what happened to the goat that was staked out for the T. rex, and everyone realizes that it's gone.
    • The eventual sequel Jurassic World gets in on this, too. The Indominus isn't seen until after it's escaped, and once or twice the characters only have an idea of its location based on its tracking device. The second time the tracking device is used to locate it provides a double subversion: it's clawed out the tracking device, meaning it could be anywhere. It's right in front of them, camouflaged.
    • The opening of Jurassic Park III gives us another example: the incident which triggers the plot of the movie takes place when tourists Eric Kirby and Ben Hildebrand hire a parasailing service to take them close to Isla Sorna, and they have a lot of fun as they glide near the island. Then, the boat towing them goes into a fog bank, they feel the line towing them being jerked around, and when the boat reemerges from the fog, all that's left of the men on it is blood spatters. We never see what kills them, and though it's implied that either Pteranodons or the Spinosaurus were responsible, (though that raises questions of its own) the writers themselves said that they wanted to leave it up to the viewers' imagination.
    • And in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, too. Near the end of the movie, the ship carrying the adult tyrannosaur arrives earlier than expected and crashes into the docks, and it's revealed in short order that the entire crew has somehow been slaughtered with bits and pieces of them all over the place. Like in Jurassic Park III, the implication that the tyrannosaur was responsible is a bit obvious but also has some holes in it, leaving the real culprit up in the air.note  The entire sequence is pretty clearly modeled on a similiar scene from, all of all things, Dracula.
  • Ju-Rei is built around this trope, since it doesn't have the money to copy the nightmare imagery from its obvious inspiration. Notably, these are often exercises in pure suspense that don't always end with a Jump Scare the way they traditionally do, but instead with understated appearances of the ghosts.
  • Kong: Skull Island: When James and Mason seperate from the others, Marlow warns Brooks and Lin to keep their eyes open and up in the trees too, for there are ants. Immediately after that, we hear a bird-like noise and Marlow says that it's an ant. We never see the ants or figure out what they're capable of. All we know is that they're big enough to make bird-like sounds and, judging by the island's other fauna, what they're capable of is not pretty.
  • The Lodgers: The sinister presence of the eponymous lodgers is initially indicated by water emerging from a trapdoor, either dripping upwards to the ceiling or flooding the entryway. It is only much later in the film that we finally see the lodgers and understand their disturbing connection to the curse and the family.
  • The Lord of the Rings: A somewhat Zig-Zagged case with elements of "Nothing At All" and Monster Delay. Unlike in the books where the Nazgûl are invisible except for their eyes under their hoods, and in the Ralph Bakshi film where they're portrayed as ghostly suits of armor; in the Jackson version, we never once see what the naked eye would see to be under the Nine's cloaks if someone removed them. We do however see the Nine's true forms in the shadow world, and we see them manifest in Bakshi-like forms in The Hobbit.
  • Lost Highway: Everything about the Mystery Man, especially when he talks to Fred Madison at the party - even though he never actually does anything overtly violent.
  • Mandy (2018):
    • This is carefully used with the Black Skulls biker gang. Even when they are in full view they are always lit in such a way that we can never tell exactly what they are or what is wrong with them. By extension, we never conclusively find out if they are just men incredibly high on their drugs, or something worse.
    • Also used with the Children of the New Dawn's Bible. We never find out what's in it, but the look on Red's face when he finds it indicates it's not something you'd learn in Sunday school.
  • Attempted in "Manos" The Hands of Fate. The long periods of nothing, apart from the opening scene, are part of what make the movie so surreal and uncomfortable to watch.
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene exists almost entirely on this trope, and does it masterfully. Nothing bad ever actually happens to Martha after she escapes the cult, and its not entirely clear whether or not she's actually in any real danger, and somehow that only makes it more frightening.
  • The Mist, naturally, with its Fog of Doom and the monsters lurking within. We do eventually get a pretty good look at most of them, but even when they're not in sight, we know they may be close.
  • Mulholland Dr.:
    • The scene in which the two guys walk behind the diner.
    • The one after the Club Silencio scene where Betty goes off-camera for a second and really vanishes, leaving Rita alone and frightened.
    • The moment when the camera repeatedly lingers ominously on the mysterious blue box and...
    • The director's incredibly ominous conversation with the Cowboy.
  • The main plot of The Neverending Story centers around this trope, with the mysterious "Nothing" gradually emptying out the fantasy world.
  • There are differing opinions on Jacques Tourneur's Night of the Demon as to whether they should have shown the title demon at the beginning of the film - or at all - but the general consensus is that for or despite its spare appearances, it is a superb horror movie where nothing often lurks in the darkness.
  • Used chillingly and terrifyingly in No Country for Old Men - especially in the buildup to and including the hotel escape scene between Anton Chigurh and Llewellyn Moss.
  • The Others (2001) was much like this. Nine-tenths of the creepy in that movie came from the kids talking and the dark surroundings.
  • Paranormal Activity scared the hell out of people just by swinging the bedroom door about a foot. And in the ending, the period of silence before it happens is absolutely terrifying. The "music" played a big part in the ending too. You hear the footsteps getting louder as they climb the stairs and that sound in the background gets louder and louder too until the footsteps stop altogether and all there is left is this heavy, horrifying tension in the air.
  • The first half of Pontypool is terrific, with the audience and characters being fed information about the chaos happening outside through phone calls, and no one knows exactly what is happening.
  • John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness is a genuinely scary movie with creepy voices, the walking dead, cockroach swarms, Alice Cooper, ancient runes, and so on. But the creepiest moment in the film happens when Jamison Parker's character... an amateur magician who is constantly practicing a "make the card disappear behind the magician's hand" sleight of hand trick... suddenly, and quite accidentally makes the card disappear for real.
    • The same amateur magician is one of the few characters to survive to the end. The final shot of the movie is him reaching for a mirror, made more unnerving by the fact that it cuts to black just before he touches it.
  • Prom Night (2008) uses this to considerable effect on the audience. We know who's been killed already; what keeps us in suspense is the next potential victim's wandering into the scene looking for the friend or girlfriend or such who's been killed. In one particularly memorable scene, the next potential victim is the boyfriend of the girl who's just been killed who's there to apologize after they had an argument and thinks she's just sullenly giving him the silent treatment as he pounds on the hotel bathroom's door and begs her to open up.

    What we see and he doesn't is that the killer is on the other side of that door along with the girl's corpse in that bathroom. After the boy spends several minutes trying to out-wait her, he gets impatient and goes to plead with her again. To his surprise, the door isn't locked this time, so he goes in. The music swells, we're anticipating his shock and horror at discovering his girlfriend has been murdered, and then he finds... nothing. The killer and the corpse are both gone; not even a trace of blood on the floor. Sure, the killer had plenty of time to slip out the bathroom's other door, but where did that body go!? Oh, don't worry, we'll find out where he took it eventually—after we've forgotten about it because the killer has already struck several more times, and this time suddenly and without the dramatic musical swell. The movie does this several times with several of the victims.
  • [REC]: the scenes during which we don't know where the zombies are hiding are scarier than the chase/fight scenes. The same can be said for the remake, Quarantine. Also used to excellent effect when it is very dark in the movie. Especially in the last scene, where the characters are in the attic with only the night vision on. You can't see what the creature is, or where it is.
  • Resident Evil (2002) builds atmosphere and suspense early on. As the lead and the soldiers are making their way into the facility, there are just few enough hints of how bad things are to keep it creepy. Then, the lasers and zombies show up and the movie turns into an action film.
  • In the American The Ring movie there's a scene where Naomi Watts is talking to someone on the phone as she pours herself a glass of water from a plastic pitcher. Subconsciously we recognize the pitcher from the opening scene and become frightened even though nothing even remotely scary is happening to her... yet.
  • Found Footage Faux Documentary Rorschach takes advantage of this throughout, leaving the viewer at the mercy of fixed cameras and handheld cameras, constantly waiting for something to show up from the darkness and break the awful tension.
  • AJ Annila's Surreal Horror film Sauna. Sure, there's a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl and a victim of The Corruption, but both are just remnants with the encounter with something in the dark of the cellar, the shed, and of course, the sauna. You are in the dark. You are not alone. You hope that the other doesn't turn its gaze on you. And then there's the burning question: is the person who walks out of the sauna the same person who walked in?
  • Saw:
    • Nine tenths of the scary in the movies come from the characters walking around in the abandoned, desolate locations where the games take place.
    • As it prioritizes suspense over gore, this trope is utilized even more prominently in the first film.
      • The scene where Lawrence's daughter Diana wakes up and notices there's something beside her. The audience knows just by the shot where the camera zooms into the black void. Zep attacks her later, long after she tells mommy and has daddy help her fall asleep.
      • A pig-masked figure silently crawling out of the back of Lawrence's car.
      • Adam using the split-second flash on his camera to find the intruder in his pitch-black apartment, considering we know that Adam's not alone and he's bound to get attacked...
      • Sing's death via quadruple-shotgun headshot is initially framed from the shoulders down, so we're not able to see how damaged his head is. However, the amount of blood that splatters everywhere insinuates nothing good.
      • Lawrence sawing off his foot. We see the very start of it, but we mainly infer how bad the situation is from the sawing sounds and reaction shots on both an agonized Lawrence and a horrified Adam.
      • And that's to say nothing of the traps themselves. Whereas the sequels are happy to show us every single gory detail, Saw I was very careful to let the traps be disturbing by leaving a surprising amount to the audience's imagination. The "candle wax" trap shows not the moment where the poor guy steps on the wrong piece of glass, but rather him searching for the combination before implying the worst... then transitioning to a shot of his burnt corpse. The "razor wire" trap shows only the start of the trap, and cuts, because let's face it, you already know what's gonna happen. Even the reverse bear trap, which is the goriest and most explicit trap, shows gore in a few split second shots and even then, prefers to let the audience's minds do the work.
  • The buildup to the Chief Scar’s raid (complete with murder and rape that can’t be shown onscreen) on the Edwards homestead in John Ford’s The Searchers turns a scene that otherwise would have qualified as Narm into something that is effectively scary indeed. We already know what’s coming, for that’s been established by the absent members of the Edwards family realizing that they’ve been drawn into setting out on a scouting mission by the Comanche war party so that the older, female and child members of the family would be unprotected. But the victims themselves at first give little indication that they know what will happen (even though they obviously do), at first trying (and failing) to let on that anything is wrong at all. The eerie silence of the prairie – except for the bizarre cry of a prairie chicken – also contributes to the atmosphere. There’s also the boy’s plaintively voiced fear: “I wish Uncle Ethan [John Wayne’s character] was here.” But worst of all is the slow emotional ungluing of the Edwards women – from nervous to frantic to terrified to hysterical to bitterly resigned to their fate – and all this before we see a single Comanche! The eventual violence is shown to us only as a smoking, charcoaled house, but we can imagine the rest vividly.
  • Pick about any moment after the first twenty minutes of the Stanley Kubrick film The Shining. People wandering around an old hotel with things maybe-kinda-did-that-just-really happening never was so unnerving. The famous "Elevator of Blood" scene in the trailer. It's not particularly graphic, but the message comes across immediately.
  • The most terrifying scene in Silence of the Lambs comes, not when a young woman is kidnapped and held in a subterranean well or when Hannibal Lecter escapes from his prison in a veritable spray of blood, but when Clarice Starling stumbles through absolutely silent, pitch-black darkness, knowing the insane Serial Killer (who can conveniently see her just finenote ) is in the room with her, and fully expecting to be shot dead at any second. In the book it's specified he used to lure women down there, switch the lights off and watch them try to escape, before shooting them in the legs. He stopped because it damaged the skin too badly.
  • Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999):
    Ichabod: What is it?
    Masbath: Listen.
    Ichabod: ...I hear nothing.
    Masbath: Nor do I. No crickets or cicadas calling, no bird songs...
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture: "Enterprise, what we got back didn't live long... fortunately."
  • Star Wars:
    • In the original version of The Empire Strikes Back, the Wampa monster that abducts Luke isn't completely shown, with a couple shots of a makeshift head while Luke is being attacked and is only heard roaring throughout the cave before there's a shot of its middle as it approaches Luke. The reason this was done was because the original prototype for the monster didn't work so Lucas used a method similar to what Steven Spielberg did with Jaws. It was then subverted when Lucas redid the scene in the Special Editions, with a new version of the monster. Whether or not this is an improvement is up for debate.
    • This trope is most of the reason the Emperor is so terrifying in Return of the Jedi. He has just 14 minutes of screen time, most of which is spent simply sitting on his throne...waiting. Although he is very creepy-looking and speaks entirely in sinister threats, he cements himself as truly scary by the fact that everyone in the Empire is horrified by his mere presence despite the fact that he appears to be a feeble old man, and we have to wait until the film's climax to find out what exactly he's capable of that makes him so feared. After making it clear to Luke that he and everyone he loves is about to die, he fires bolts of lightning from his hands and starts electrocuting Luke to death, instantly making all of the buildup earlier totally justified.
    • Rogue One has the rebels making their way to the Tantive IV with the Death Star plans, with victorious music playing in the background, all while they try to open a door that's jammed. Then the music stops, they hear creaking noises and turn around, facing the darkness behind them, guns aimed at whatever is coming aboard. KHOHHHHH-CHOOOOO, KHOHHHHH-CHOOOOO. Cue a lightsaber igniting, revealing Darth Vader, and the beginning of a Mook Horror Show as Vader slaughters all the rebels in his path, with the plans just barely being given to Princess Leia.
  • Suspiria (1977) is made of this trope. It uses discordant and menacing music, a world intentionally designed to be slightly off, and constant buildup and anticipation to make truly frightening moments where absolutely nothing is happening... Yet. Unfortunately, as befits this trope, the tagline "The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92" is woefully inaccurate.
  • Anthony Minghella's adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley is built on this. For the first act of the film, everything's going quite splendidly for all the main characters, but soon you feel deeply uncomfortable by this feeling of general unease that the situations the narrative is concocting are inexplicably giving you. Then someone's head gets smashed in, and the murderer must navigate his way through an endless series of exchanges and meetings in which his dirty little secrets are almost exposed. The almost farcical levels of suspenseful complications that occur during these exchanges is terrifying enough, but the most viscerally, nauseatingly scary aspect about them is that they are incredibly drawn-out and often do not have a violent payoff... which makes the instances where shit really does go down all the more unnerving. Worst of all, though, is that the film NEVER eases up on this tension.
  • While being mostly remembered for its much gorier sequels and remakes, and despite its eye-catching title, the original installment of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre makes very good use of this trope, particularly in the scene immediately before the first murder. An early teaser for the remake was nothing but a black screen and sound. The censors apparently didn't like due to how disturbing it was.
  • Tremors does this during the first part of the film. All that is seen of the Graboids are surface undulations as they move. Most of the time there is little hint at lurking danger, and the attack scenes are viscerally frightening because the subterranean monsters that are attacking can't be seen. When the Graboids eventually reveal themselves, though, it makes them only a little less scary.
  • In the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Trouble with Harry, which is for the most part a Black Comedy, there is one scary part. It is never explained who or what keeps opening that closet door...
  • From The Other Wiki: on the filming of the early (nearly) silent horror movie Vampyr by Carl Dreyer, Dreyer reportedly told his cameraman, "Imagine we are sitting in an ordinary room. Suddenly we are told that there is a corpse behind the door. In an instant, the room we are sitting in is completely altered: everything in it has taken on another level; the light, the atmosphere have changed, though they are physically the same. This is because we have changed... This is the effect I want to get."
  • War Horse, set during WWI, has a scene where the British cavalry attacks a German camp, only to find out that they are terrible outmatched by the German machine guns. When Cpt. Nicholls, who is in possession of Joey the horse at this moment, gets shot, we don't actually see it on screen. The noises of the battle get turned down and get replaced by desolate music and the sound of Nicholls panicked breathing when he realises that he will not survive it. We see a shot of him staring forward in pure terror followed by a closeup of a machine gun being fired. And after that, we only see Joey running through the forest without a rider.
  • The various films based on Who Goes There?:
    • The Thing from Another World is heavily based on this trope.
    • Done to a lesser extent in John Carpenter's remake The Thing (1982), mostly in the first part. A great example is a very understated scene of the dog from the Norwegian outpost, just slowly walking around the American base, and there's just... something off about the way he's walking, and the whole scene plays out in unnerving silence.
      • A scene later on in the film, after the Thing was revealed, has a character recording a voice diary in his room. The viewer immediately notices the unusual camera placement to put him in the right side of the room, and the doorway to the hall on the left. You expect to see something, anything to move past the doorway. But nothing ever happens.
    • The Thing (2011) does the same through much of the movie, with the buildup to the alien finally breaking free of its ice block built up several times, starting with the sample being taken. The inevitable scene of the monster smashing its way up and out of the building startles the audience about as much as it does the character in the room.
  • The Witches (1990): Grandma's tales of children trapped and killed by witches are chilling, despite nothing happening on screen, using the viewer's imagination to supply the terror.
  • Zero Dark Thirty is an interesting example of a non-horror/thriller use of this trope. The scene in question is the raid on Bin Laden's compound: it's long, drawn-out and uncomfortable as Navy SEALS hunt down and kill four militants, with only a few shots actually being fired. And it's pulled off extremely well.
  • The basement scene in David Fincher's Zodiac, where Jake Gyllenhaal goes down into the cellar of a house belonging to the guy he's interviewing, a seemingly harmless old man who's just somehow imperceptibly off. Nothing actually happens except for Gyllenhaal's character hearing footsteps upstairs - even though the old man supposedly lives alone - but the tension is so thick that you'll find yourself screaming at the TV for him to get out of there.


Nothing at all

  • 1917 features many scenes of the protagonists silently traversing the war-torn environments of no man's land and beyond, where the enemy could be anywhere, including just around the corner. Often times, they aren't, but due to the single-shot, real-time nature of these scenes (and by extension, the entire film), the fear of being suddenly killed is inescapably constant, resulting in massive powder kegs of tension.
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the approach to The Monolith is frightening simply because we do not know what will happen when the people touch the Monolith.
  • Adrift (2006): Given the film's nature as a Dolled-Up Installment of Open Water, one might be expecting sharks or something similarly scary to show up and menace the protagonists. Nope, it's just them being trapped on the open sea and not being able to get back on their boat or get help in time. Although there's a false alarm at least once, the real threat isn't something trying to eat them but drowning.
  • The Downer Ending of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas manages to make incredibly smart use of its PG-13 rating for this effect. When Bruno and Shmuel wind up in a gas chamber, the actual event of the gassing has a chilling lack of detail; all we see is the gas being poured in, and all of the lights in the chamber turning off before it cuts away. The film's final shot is arguably the scariest part of the movie; it's a zooming-away shot of the chamber Bruno and Shmuel were in, and it's completely silent.
  • Captive State: The Legislators' underground headquarters. All we know is that getting there involves a decon shower, a breathing mask, a lonely walk along a narrow gantry, and being strapped into a tiny rocket-powered capsule that then plunges into the depths. The only concrete description we get is something along the lines of 'you won't believe what's going down there'.
  • The short film "The Confession" by Tanel Toom uses the "disturbing lack of noise" part of this trope very well. There are numerous scenes in the films, such as right after the first car crash and after little Jacob's fall, when there is nothing but heavy, empty, silence, allowing the horror to REALLY sink in.
  • The Day the Earth Caught Fire begins with this. Before we are introduced to any of the characters, there is a long shot of an empty London street with a man walking curiously through it. Through a Rewatch Bonus, we are led to believe the worst.
  • In Dead Birds, Joseph is dragged down a well by an unseen possessed child, and, afterwards, is only shown wandering around once. We never see his face again.
  • Duel: The driver of the malicious truck is unseen, his motivations are unclear, and it all makes the his relentless pursuit of David Mann more frightening, especially in the truck stop scene, where Mann can't identify the truck driver among the patrons.
  • One scene in A Field in England shows the protagonist being led into a tent by an evil alchemist. He is heard screaming for a full minute, without the inside of the tent being shown. He then slowly walks out, wearing a rope leash, with a horrible grin on his face. The mystery of what was done to him makes the scene very unnerving.
  • The scene from Grizzly Man where we see Werner Herzog listening to the audio of Timothy Treadwell's violent death. He's wearing noise-cancelling headphones, so the audience is thankfully not privy to the sounds and it is instead left up to our imagination. The normally-unflappable Herzog is noticeably disturbed by it, and tells Timothy's friend Jewel that she should never listen to the tape and should in fact destroy it, because otherwise it would hang over her head for the rest of her life.
  • There is an in-universe example that is Played for Laughs (albeit with some Black Comedy) in the 1967 sex comedy A Guide For the Married Man. A playboy spends most of the movie instructing his friend on how to commit a foolproof adultery, and his examples of both successful and unsuccessful adulteries are acted out throughout the film. One features a husband (actor Terry-Thomas) foolishly using his own bedroom for a tryst with a ditzy blonde (Jayne Mansfield, in her last film) while his wife is away. The next morning the girl finds that she has misplaced her bra, alarming the husband; no matter how thoroughly they search, neither of them can find it. The scene then shifts back to present day, with the main character (Walter Matthau) asking his playboy friend if he can see what became of this man - and at that moment an impossibly ancient man enters the building. The playboy explains that this is the husband from the story he's just told, and that despite appearances he's still young - but since the bra was never found by anyone, the husband lived in constant fear that his wife would eventually find the bra, realize it wasn't hers, and fly into a rage. The extreme worrying turned him old before his time. (Of course, it's entirely possible that the girl never put on a bra and then forgot that she hadn't, which just makes the entire scenario both funnier and darker.)
  • Throughout The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug there is a sense of threat that an orc, or even worse, Smaug himself is nearby. The Mirkwood forest scene is scariest before a spider even shows up. Then there's a scene where Bilbo and the dwarves walk through a corridor, only for Smaug to pass over them nearly undetected.
  • Julia's Eyes. The movie is this trope, the fear of that which you cannot see. It's played particularly well In this trailer (It's in Spanish)
  • Complex in-universe example on the Viral Marketing website for Jurassic World. Before release, "live video feeds" from different parts of the park showed various mundane goings-on. Post-release, visitors in the vicinity of the main plaza are being evacuated or running in panic, InGen employees are frantically rushing out of their break rooms, and attractions on the periphery are abandoned, but you don't see what's happening to cause all of it. Granted, real life viewers are expected to know anyway, but to anyone in-universe they most likely have no idea what might be happening.
  • The first part of Lost Highway, notably the scene with the dark corridor that wasn't there before.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Scarlet Witch Mind Rapes everybody in the crew. We get to see everybody's vision... except for Bruce Banner's. Judging by his reaction, it isn't pretty.
    • In Ant-Man, going subatomic has this effect. There's no real physical dangers, you are just stuck in a vast cold and dark Pocket Dimension. Go Mad from the Isolation very much a potential risk as well as just plain horror of being stuck in such environment like Janet.
    • Spider-Man: Homecoming makes an unbelievably chilling use of this when we find out that Adrian Toomes, the Vulture himself, is Liz's father. Rather than cheaping out, the scene wisely puts the viewers in Peter's shoes, as all he can do is stunnedly fake smile his way through their meeting at the house- making this even better is that Adrian doesn't know Peter is Spider-Man... yet, thus making Peter's reaction to this even more intense. Things get even more intense when Toomes drives Liz and Peter to the Homecoming dance, and Liz gets foot in mouth, inadvertently revealing that Peter is Spider-Man (indirectly, of course, but still giving away enough detail for Adrian to do the math). At one point, Adrian's reaction grows more and more tense, thinking he's going to snap at Peter, but instead he just gives a condescending comment and drives on. Over yet? Nope. Just when you think it couldn't get any worse, Adrian tells Liz to go inside the school and makes Peter stay behind to give him the "dad talk". At this point you're just begging for a fight to break out so the damn tension can ease up. Instead, Adrian pulls a gun on Peter and gives him a speech about how he'd literally kill Peter, a teenager if that's what it took to keep his family safe. Worse, he doesn't even raise his voice, he says it in a completely casual tone, as if to talk about the weather. Peter then goes inside the school, too shaken by what he's just experienced to enjoy himself. So he leaps into action and grabs a homemade suit, finally satisfying us after sitting through such a tense 10-minute stretch.
    • Speaking of Spider-Man, he himself is an in-universe example of this in Captain America: Civil War. Only Tony Stark knows who he is; to everyone else, he just shows up to web Team Cap's asses and leave. Only Steve sorta gets to know him and that's being kind. Everyone who he squares off against is deeply unsettled by his freaky fast reflexes and wisecracking persona, even more unsettled by the fact that he takes this all lightly. He even leaves Bucky Barnes a tad creeped out when he throws a punch his way and the only way Spidey reacts is to be awestruck at his metal arm.
    Bucky Barnes: What the hell's that?
    Sam Wilson: Everyone's got a gimmick now.
    • Avengers: Infinity War opens on the usual Marvel Studios logo... except where there is usually bombastic music, there's dead silence. As the logo animation progresses, a Drone of Dread starts up in the background, and a frantic distress call from the Asgardian refugee vessel begins to play.
      • The entire ending has this effect: Thanos leaves after the snap, after Thor, panicked, questions what he's done. Then, one by one, the heroes start to turn to dust, everything is dead quiet and everything on Earth seems grey. The final shot of the movie is the Avengers just frozen in shock, horrified by what happened.
    • Used to the same chilling effect in Ant-Man and the Wasp, Scott is in the Quantum Realm, which was already established to be unnerving in its own right, and the communication with Hank, Janet and Hope suddenly stops. Scott calls and gets no response. When we cut back to the others, all we see is pile of dust... leaving Scott alone. The second Stinger elaborates on this. New York had car and helicopter crashes as a result of the Snap. In San Francisco there is simply...silence, suggesting a horrifying death toll. There's also an Emergency Alert that has no announcement.
    • In contrast to the dramatic ending of Avengers: Infinity War, where the audience saw dozens upon dozens of people graphically disintegrating into ash onscreen, its Immediate Sequel Avengers: Endgame opens not only much quieter but in a brightly lit field in the middle of the day. Unlike the previous film, we don't get to see the disintegrations of Hawkeye/Clint Barton's wife and three children onscreen, except for a barely visible fading cloud of ash where his daughter was standing seconds earlier. The moment where Hawkeye turns his back to discover his whole family just simply gone without a trace is unbelievably chilling, especially for anyone who's a parent themselves. And if you're listening really closely, the background noise of birds cuts off at the same time of Clint’s family vanishes. Indicating the wildlife has turned to ashes as well.
  • Megan is Missing has a scene where the titular character finishes talking with her boyfriend over the webcam, leaves the room... and the camera stays focused on the empty room for 15 seconds, suggesting he hasn't ended the video call yet. It's extremely unnerving.
  • There are two sources of fear in The Mist. One is the horrible things that the surviving humans will do to themselves and each other to survive. The other is the giant monsters roaming through the titular weather phenomenon, but we never get a good look at them because it's so thick nobody can fucking see anything.
    • One poor bastard volunteers to leave the supermarket to find a shotgun in another character's car. They tie a rope around his waist so they can pull him back to the supermarket if necessary. Unsurprisingly, when they feel a tug on the rope, they pull back his corpse. Or rather, most of his corpse. And we never find out what did it.
  • Used poorly in Monster a-Go Go, leading to the film's lame non-ending.
    Suddenly, there was no trail. There was no giant, no monster, no thing called Douglas to be followed. There was nothing in the tunnel but the puzzled men of courage who suddenly found themselves alone with the shadows and darkness!
  • The Orphanage lives and breathes this trope. Shall we cite the main character playing a game with ghost children? Or how about little Tomas?
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock exemplifies this trope. The mystery at the crux of the film is never explained.
  • Tarantino does it again in Pulp Fiction. We don't see exactly what Maynard and Zed do to Marsellus Wallace in the back room of Maynard's gun shop — although, judging by the presence of the zip-masked "Gimp" in the uncensored version, it's heavily implied to be sadomasochistic rape. In any case, the camera spends almost the entire time focusing on Butch as he fetches a samurai sword from Maynard's display before returning to the torture chamber, and we can just barely hear Marsellus's grunts and howls of agony over the "comical" bopping jazz music that plays throughout the entire scene.
  • The original version of the "Stuck in the Middle with You" scene of Reservoir Dogs is much more graphic; you actually see Mr. Blonde cutting off the cop's ear, with fairly realistic prostheses and fake blood. The version used in the movie does not include the gory visuals, but is much more horrific as you try to imagine exactly what is happening.
    • Just to show how well they use this trope - there are still LOTS of people who are convinced that you actually see Mr. Blonde cutting off the cop's ear. Despite there not being the actual gore on screen, there are still people who insist that it happened plain as day.
  • In The Sixth Sense, Cole (the boy who sees dead people) goes to a classmate's birthday party in an old Philadelphian house. Two mean classmates dare him to go up some stairs and peek into a closet. As he ascends the staircase, Cole and the audience hear a ghost's voice hissing "Let me out! I did not steal the master's horse!" coming from the closet; when Cole opens the door, this ghost pulls him inside and we hear his yelps. Finally, the adults and other children open the closet and get him out, but even then, the audience never sees this ghost. We see a dozen others in various states of gore throughout the film, but this one remains invisible, which makes it more frightening. Even more terrifying are the ghost's words, which imply that he was a slave and his spirit has been languishing in that closet for centuries.
  • In Let Me In when Owen is being drowned in a pool by his bullies his vampire girlfriend, Abby, comes to save him by slaughtering the bullies. Very little of the massacre is shown, the scenes from Owens point of view and all the viewer sees is random body parts being thrown in the pool and shadows as hes regaining his breath. The sound of screams and ripping flesh can be heard instead. Most disturbing of all, Abbys not seen once. Even when she finishes saving Owen all thats shown is her bloody feet, its not clear at all what she looks like, during the slaughter the flapping of large wings could be heard and she had entered from the skylight. So it can be assumed shes in a form that hadn't been seen in the film.
  • Star Wars: This is part of what makes the Death Troopers in Rogue One so scary. Unlike regular stormtroopers, who we know are just guys in armor, the Death Troopers are a little more...unclear. All we know is they're really damned tall, they're fanatically loyal, and they've got creepy distorted voices. They just show up on the battlefield, gun down a major character or two, and leave. And that's all we ever learn.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Judge Doom's true form. We see a glimpse of it with his glowing red eyes that are occasionally literal daggers and the shapeshifting weapons he uses, but the fact he remains hidden completely by his latex suit except for that enters this trope. Since the Dip melts him while he's still in the suit, we don't know what his true form is, if he even has one, and that just makes a villain who was already pure horrifying even more terrifying!
    • What really deepens the horror is that Judge Doom had been a Devil in Plain Sight for years. Nobody ever suspected he was not human, and in fact the Toons themselves had voted him into the position after he bribed them. Up until the climax he was always more forbidding than truly scary, a Knight Templar with Smug Snake undertones who was hated as well as feared. Eddie Valiant even calls him a "gargoyle" while he's in the same room, hushing his voice more out of feigned politeness than out of fear of retribution. It's actually a bit of relief when he's revealed to be a Toon himself, since now Eddie can destroy that murdering bastard without any qualms.
  • Much of the horror of the original The Wicker Man (1973) comes from this. There's no Jump Scares, no gore, no supernatural horror, not even any deaths until the final scene; just a persistent aura of weirdness and a vague, ever-pervading sense that there's something very, very wrong with the people of Summerisle.
  • The VVitch uses this to unbelievably good effect, the overwhelming atmosphere of paranoia and dread is so oppressive you're almost begging for a Jump Scare to break up the tension.
    • Black Philip in human form at the end. The camera stays fixed on Thomasin's face the entire time, and the room is so dark it's impossible to make out any detail, but as soon as we hear the line "What dost thou want?" it's very clear who we're dealing with.
    • The ultimate fate of the Twins, there's never any clear answer but whatever it was can't be good.
  • "The Box", the first segment of the anthology film XX, runs on this. A curious little boy asks an elderly man on a train what he is carrying inside of a box, and the old man lets him take a peek inside of it. After seeing it, the boy stops eating, and despite a pediatrician outright telling him that he'll die if he keeps starving himself, he doesn't care. Eventually, he shares what he saw in the box with both his sister and his father, who stop eating as well, leaving the mother the only survivor of the event. And we never find out what was in the box. What on Earth could be so horrible that it would do that to someone?
  • Zodiac is already a very disturbing movie with the titular killer's murders staged in graphic detail, but the two scariest moments in the movie feature no violence whatsoever:
    • The interrogation of Arthur Leigh Allen is just a fairly non-descript, balding middle-aged man being interviewed by three detectives in a brightly lit room, and yet John Carroll Lynch's brilliant performance is so chilling that you can cut the tension in the scene with a knife.
    • Robert Graysmith talking with Bob Vaughn at his house, especially because Vaughn seems even more harmless than Vaughn - just a small, not particularly imposing old man, (played by the same guy who played Roger Rabbit, no less!) And yet you'll practically be screaming at your TV yelling at Gyllenhaal not to go down into the creepy dark basement with him. Especially when he hears footsteps upstairs even though Bob Vaughn lives alone. Made even worse because this exact scene happened in real life - so what was making those footsteps in the room above them? We never find out.

There all along

  • In another example from Alien, near the very end, Ripley escapes the Xenomorph by abandoning ship to a shuttle. The soundtrack ceases, she removes her EVA gear and starts preparing for suspended animation over a couple of minutes of near-silence. Slowly and simultaneously, Ripley and the audience both realize that the metallic-colored Xenomorph has been sleeping in the wall of the shuttle for the entire scene, feet away from Ripley. Then it wakes up.
    • Even earlier, before the Alien grabs Brett, a shot showing the chains hanging from the ceiling of the compartment he's in shows the Alien. But since it's all folded up and looks nothing like the tiny little flesh-colored snake it was the last time you saw it, you won't realize that the first time you watch the film. Maybe not even the second, third, fourth, or fifth time. . .
  • Apollo 13 gives an interesting variation with the radio blackout during re-entry. While most examples of this trope involve a tense buildup to a horrifying reveal, here the tension comes from the possibility that the reveal might not happen. Due to the shallow angle of re-entry and evidence indicating the heat shield may have been damaged, there was a good chance the capsule could burn up in the atmosphere, turning all of the efforts to get the astronauts home into a "Shaggy Dog" Story. Thus, after an incredibly tense four minutes of radio silence (six in real life), the reestablishment of communications confirming that Odyssey survived the descent triggers a well-deserved case of And Mission Control Rejoiced.
  • In Halloween (1978), Michael Myers steals a station wagon early in the movie and drives around stalking Laurie. However in many scenes (like when Lumis is just talking to the police chief), we see that station wagon driving around in the background.
  • Angels and Demons has a lot of scenes where the characters are investigating, only for The Assassin have been revealed to be in the same room with them the whole time.
  • Much of the first half of The Babadook is heavy on this. Lots of scenes appear to be normal until a character moves and you realize the terrorizing force has been in plain sight the whole time. The film gets more psychological after that.
  • The Japanese Chakushin Ari (One Missed Call) series loves this. The scene looks completely normal as the character exchange dialogue until something moves slightly in the background and you realise the ghost has been onscreen the whole time.
  • If you watch Copycat all the way through, and then start the movie from the beginning and watch carefully a second time, you'll be amazed at how many times the serial killer in question is right there all along, watching the heroes try to find him.
  • Fight Club: Late in the movie, Tyler Durden disappears after he and the Narrator had a falling out over Project Mayhem. The Narrator goes across the country chasing him, but always remains a step behind. What he does find, however, are more Project Mayhem groups, more fight clubs, and more followers of Tyler's dogma. It's unclear what Tyler's up to, but it's definitely something big. And then people start calling the Narrator "Tyler". Including Marla, the woman that Tyler had been supposedly having sex with. Tyler and the Narrator are one and the same - the Narrator is one step behind Tyler because he's already been there as Tyler. And Tyler has taken the steps necessary to ensure that the Narrator doesn't interfere with his plans, because he knows what the Narrator is thinking.
  • The first big scare in The Grudge is when Yoko goes to check on Emma, an mute American senior citizen with severe dementia. Throughout the scene, there's a creeping sense from everything about the sene that the scene is not going to end well, and the scene ends with a giantic jump scare where Yoko decides to check the attic, only for Kayako to immediately launch right for her and brutally maim her. However, if one goes back and re-watches the scene from the moment Yoko enters the attic, she is plainly visible in clear view for several seconds before Yoko even moves the lighter to find her. Yeah, good luck going in your attic ever again.
  • A couple of times in Hot Fuzz your focus will be on a character interaction in the foreground of a shot - only to realize when those characters leave that the killer is in the background.
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has a brilliant use of this, where Radagast makes his way into the ruined castle where the Necromancer lives. He gazes at a statue in wonder for a few seconds before walking away from it. Then the camera pans to the statue... and it clenches its fist.
  • The Hunt (2012) uses this in one scene in a similar manner to Alien, to a brilliant effect. Lucas and his son Marcus are making dinner together, and the audience notices the scene is really long and drawn out. It isn't until a shot of the windowpane later that the audience realizes the director did this to distract the audience from the fact that something is about to happen. From there on, the audience knows that someone was outside the house the entire time, and a Jump Scare occurs where a brick goes flying through the window, leading the audience to be every bit as shocked as the characters.
  • The Hunt for Red October has Captain Ramius Discuss this trope during his speech to the crew as the Red October, outfitted with caterpillar drive technology that renders it basically invisible to sonar, is about to make its maiden voyage:
    "It brings me back to the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin, when the world trembled at the sound of our rockets. They will tremble again, at the sound of our silence. The order is, engage the silent drive."
  • In Justice League (2017), Dr. Silas Stone comes home from work one night to find everything in the apartment ransacked, thinking Cyborg destroyed everything in a fit of rage. And then the camera pans to reveal a Parademon that has been in the room with him the whole time...
  • Jurassic World does this twice with the Indominus rex. The first time, it's presumed to have escaped, and some characters enter the paddock to investigate. But meanwhile, a separate group of characters locate her tracking implant, and she's in the paddock still, within striking distance of the protagonists. The second time, her tracking implant is already being traced and the characters can't seem to find her at the indicated location. We expect her to be hiding in plain sight as before, but then they find the implant embedded in a chunk of flesh; she's clawed it out. She could be anywhere right now...and she's right in front of them, camouflaged against the jungle foliage.
  • Lake Mungo: While you see images of a ghost in photos and videos throughout the movie, most of these are later revealed to be fake. But during the credits, you see the ghost is actually in some of the fake photos, just very well hidden.
  • In Megan is Missing, there is a scene where Amy, the titular Megan's best friend, videotapes herself talking under her "secret" overpass hiding spot. Later on, after Amy is abducted by the same man who kidnapped and killed Megan, the police find the video Amy made in her hiding spot. After watching it, they realize that the abductor was in the background the entire time, camouflaged by the trees in the background. If you go back and rewatch that scene, you'll be able to spot him spying on Amy.
  • In Signs, Mel Gibson's character is in his corn field at night. He hears a noise behind him and whirls around, shining his light between some rows to reveal... nothing. Then the alien moves.
  • Star Wars: Combined with the "wait for it" variation to terrifying effect in Rogue One. After escaping with the Death Star plans, the Rebel crew frantically flee as their ship is boarded by Imperial troops, but find themselves trapped at a jammed door, and then the lights go off. And then they realize they're not alone in the darkness, with the only sounds being the creaking of the ship, the wailing of the alarm, and their own labored breathing. And then we hear someone else breathing, and a blood-red lightsaber beam extends from the darkness, and then it's all over.
  • Uncut Gems uses this both in-universe and for effect on the audience with regards to the loan sharks. Howard Ratner has 100k worth of debt to his name from lost bets, resulting in loan sharks on his tail. There are several instances where Howard is out in public only for someone on a street to secretly be one of Arno or Phil's men. Particularly effective is when it happens at the school where his daughter's play is, where he'll look at the back of the theater and spot Phil, Buddy or any of the other loan sharks. He quite simply can't shake them wherever he goes.