Follow TV Tropes


Nothing Is Scarier / Live-Action TV

Go To

Examples of Nothing Is Scarier in live-action TV.

Wait for it...

  • The Max Headroom incident, more so with its successor: the voice is replaced by a screeching static sound, and nothing actually happens in the video; no Take Thats at politicians or corporations, no spanking, just a man in a creepy mask bopping his head around. In addition, the delay between the interruption of the news show and the actual video makes it all the more shocking. Needless to say, it comes as surprisingly as a screamer.

  • The Avengers: There is a fairly long scene in the middle of "Don't Look Behind You" with Cathy Gale walking around in a large, spooky house in the countryside. It seems at first like no-one else is present in the house, but then things in rooms begin to get changed while she is out of the room. There is no BGM at all during this scene; just the sound of Gale's footsteps.
  • Bloodline has multiple flash-forwards to a scene where the show's main character carries his unconscious brother through the mud during a rainstorm, dropping him in a boat, dousing him with gasoline and lighting him on fire. Then in episode 10, we get a scene where the characters are trying on suits for a sister's wedding, only for them to be wearing the same clothing from those flash-forwards, letting us know that moment is near.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is generally pretty up front with its monsters, but there have been a few notable — and scary! — exceptions.
    • Probably the most frightening is the Season 5 episode "Forever", where Dawn recruits Spike's assistance to bring Joyce back from the dead. The final scene of the episode is lifted directly from the short story "The Monkey's Paw", and is equally chilling.
    • In "Faith, Hope, and Trick", Faith's arrived in Sunnydale on the run from the vampire Kakistos, whom she blinded in one eye in response to his killing her Watcher right in front of her. It's never revealed exactly what happened: all Faith says about it is "they don't have a word for what he did to her."
    • There's also the season four finale "Restless" in which Xander, Willow, Giles and Buffy are hunted in their dreams by a malevolent entity that is only ever seen as a shadowy shape or a blurred, fast-moving brown thing or a shimmering, indistinct object stalking back and forth in the heat-blasted distance...
    • Advertisement:
    • In the notably nightmare-inducing season 4 episode "Hush", we never learn where the Gentlemen came from, why they came to Sunnydale, or why they need 7 human hearts. They're more or less just there, and Giles' research claims they can appear in any town.
    • In a Season 7 episode, the Potentials are introduced to the pleasant, friendly, thoroughly non-evil demon Clem, who looks like a bald human with rather too much skin. Then he shows them his other face. All we see is various bits that fly out to the sides, from the back, and the girls all screaming, very much like a scene in Beetlejuice.
  • Burn Notice makes good use of this in "Shot in the Dark" when Michael has to scare the Douchebag of the Week into leaving town.
    Michael: The same things that scare people as kids scare them as adults: fear of the dark [lights go out around the bastich], fear of being alone [car won't start and cell phone is jammed], and fear of the unknown, [the gang peels rubber towards Mook, spitting bullets]. Granted, the last bit proves there's something after him, but it's not the something he thinks it is, so it still fits.
  • Cold Case: The ending of "Offender", where we find out who really molested and killed the boy. The killer lures the boy into the garage supposedly to fix his knee. Then, he shuts the garage and approaches the boy, whose expression changes to one of terror as the door shuts.
    • Cold Case is surprisingly good at this. Another fine example would be the rape/murder flashback in "Death Sentence: Final Appeal".
  • Doctor Who:
    • Many first episodes of serials in the classic series rely on this, as it's natural to want to reveal the monster to the audience for the first time as the Cliffhanger:
      • "The Dead Planet", the first episode of the serial "The Daleks", where the TARDIS crew explore a strange petrified jungle where everything is dead, and yet they have the feeling that something is following them. They enter a deadly-beautiful ruined city with long corridors and proportions built uncomfortably for human bodies, and begin to be aware that something else is following them. We only get to see any monsters right at the very end of the story via a Shaky P.O.V. Cam shot as it suddenly ambushes Barbara at the end of a corridor, and even then, only its hand is visible. Or — well — its plunger.
      • "The Edge of Destruction" has no clear enemy for the first episode, with the malevolent presence represented by the TARDIS doors opening and closing and everyone on the ship going slightly mad thanks to its psychic influence. The second episode of the serial shows them actually puzzling through the problem and isn't half as scary, but the first episode is just horrifying.
      • "World's End", first episode of "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", opens with a shot of a cyborg committing suicide in a Crapsack World version of London where a sign informs us "it is forbidden to dump bodies into the river". The crew spend the episode wondering around, trying to imagine who or what could be responsible for the total collapse of civilisation. Then something comes out of the Thames... with its eyestalk wobbling back and forth and its plunger waving.
      • Episode 1 of "The Space Museum" has the crew caught in a TARDIS technical fault in which they are unable to interact with or see anyone, can't leave footprints, and time occasionally flows backwards or skips ahead of events they have no recollection of doing. It is very spooky and atmospheric and especially stands out when the rest of the serial is a fairly light-hearted comedy story.
    • "Gridlock": Only the Macra's eyes and claws are clearly seen through the haze that permeates the bottom of the Motorway, which makes it more terrifying when they reach out and grab a hapless Flying Car to crack it open and devour the passengers.
    • The Vashta Nerada embody this trope. They can be seen under the right circumstances, but mostly the only sign of them is the room getting darker and darker, and the lights shorting out one by one...
    • There's a scene near the beginning of "The Eleventh Hour" where Amy has the Doctor handcuffed and he lets slip where Prisoner Zero is hiding. She starts walking towards the door, and he's screaming at her not to open it, but she walks through anyway... the appearance of the giant piranha-eel thing suspended from the ceiling directly behind Amy's head is actually a bit of a relief compared to the empty, dusty room that's always been in your house but you've never noticed it that the Doctor is yelling to get out of now.
    • While the Silents in the series itself don't really count, series 6's advertisements talked a lot about them, and they've released a couple of few second long videos as an advertisement. These videos show... Well, absolutely nothing except for a couple of empty streets on CCTV footage. People have been pausing and going through them frame by frame but still seeing nothing unusual, except for the occasional flickering of the screen. And they are scaring the pants off of everyone. In one of them, you can see one of the Silents. It isn't doing anything, just standing there in plain sight. The thing about the Silents is that as soon as you lose sight of them you completely forget about them. So the characters took to marking on their arms when they had seen one and constantly checking. The moment that was nothing more than Amy glancing down to see her arm literally covered in tally marks was seriously scary.
    • In "The God Complex", a Hell Hotel has a room that contains each visitor's greatest fear. When the Doctor finds his room, the audience doesn't see it. All we get is a dark room with the sound of the Cloister Bell (which only goes off in big emergencies) and the Doctor remarking "Of course, who else would it be?" Knowing the Doctor, whatever is on the other side may be too much for humans to comprehend. In "The Time of the Doctor", we find out that it's the cracks in time from the fifth series.
    • Used effectively (and effects-savingly) in "Cold War": Immediately after Skaldak leaves his armor, all we see is something just out of frame rushing past; later, aside from a few closeups of his face in the shadows, all we see is a pair of very large claws. Also, when Clara realizes Skaldak has abandoned his armor, she's searching all over the room without finding anything, invoking this in spades.
  • Game of Thrones employed this in "The Long Night", centered around the undead army attacking Winterfell at night, in the middle of a snowstorm, and with barely any light sources. On one hand, the fact nothing could be seen, only heard - along with the horrible growls of the wights, there were replying weapon strikes - made for an atmospheric threat that the horror was all around and could appear at any time. On the other, it bordered on sensory deprivation and raised many complaints that the battle was nigh incomprehensible.
  • Legion: In classic monster movie fashion, the show establishes an atmosphere of pervasive, surreal menace that you'll be quivering all over just waiting for something creepy to happen, especially during the scenes taking place inside David's head where you just know the danger is never far away and even when it seems safe, you can't trust what we're seeing. And when you hear that frantic-sounding warbling trumpet noise that heralds the arrival of the Devil with the Yellow Eyes, that means it's time to run.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • For the first few episodes of Daredevil, Wilson Fisk is barely seen or heard from at all, only hearing his voice in the first episode, and most of his interactions being conducted through James Wesley. Only in the last minutes of the third episode do we finally get to see Fisk on-camera. Everything is building up his threat level with even hardcore hitmen like Healy being terrified enough to take their own lives upon revealing the name. When we finally meet Fisk for real in "In the Blood," he comes across as friendly, socially awkward and a bit of a romantic with Vanessa, putting the viewer off guard...until the end of the episode when he kills Anatoly for interrupting Fisk and Vanessa's date, by beating him unconscious and decapitating him with a car door.
    • Jessica Jones (2015): In the first episode, the only glimpses we get of Kilgrave are quick flashbacks to Jessica's time under his control, in which only his hand is visible. The lasting impact of his mind control is more prominent as demonstrated with Jessica and Hope. In the second episode, Kilgrave makes his first physical onscreen appearance, but he's always shot from behind or in shadow. This makes Kilgrave more menacing as said onscreen appearance involves him taking over an apartment, making the parents cook him dinner and forcing the kids to lock themselves up in the closet. It's not until the third episode when Jessica tracks Simpson to another apartment that Kilgrave has taken over that we get to see his face for the first time.
      • "AKA 99 Friends" is a notable case of this as despite Kilgrave being completely absent from the episode, we get more images of just how terrifying he is as conveyed through his various victims. At one point, off-camera, he even makes a little girl deliver Jessica a message.
  • M*A*S*H does it for comedy in one episode. BJ bets the gang that he can get every one of them with an epic prank inside of a week, which he does, except for Hawkeye, who thinks he has foiled him by sleeping outside in a bathtub surrounded by barbed wire and jumping at every sound. In the morning, BJ informs him that "The greatest joke ... was the joke that never came."note 
  • Slings & Arrows: In the second season, the portrayal of Banquo's ghost suffers greatly from Special Effect Failure up until someone points out that the director arguing with an empty chair is the scariest thing happening in the theater.
  • The Sopranos:
    • There's an unsettling nightmare experimented by Tony in "Calling All Cars". In that dream, Tony arrives at a house where everything is dark inside, then an old lady with a dark silhouette resembling Livia Soprano (Tony's Abusive Mom, no less) goes down the stairs, stops and creepily stares at Tony. Just as Tony enters the house, he wakes up.
    • The series ended infamously with a Smash to Black. And all of its implications, for better and for worse, are absolutely haunting. But you probably already knew that.
  • Spooksville's teaser of a first-person view of a car driving down a lonely road as an automated GPS voice announces how close they are to Springville, interspersed with snippets of radio broadcasts from the city, as night gradually falls... and the GPS' voice starts telling the driver, "Stop" and "Turn back". In the last couple seconds, something flies into the camera and we see the car's occupants react. Then it fades to the titles on "Turn back... turn back... turn back..." and that's all she wrote.
  • Supernatural:
    • The pilot episode combines this with Adult Fear in its very first scene. Mary Winchester heads into her son Sam's room, and sees a man standing over his cradle. She assumes its John, her husband, and goes downstairs. She then sees that John has fallen asleep in front of the television. Cue Oh, Crap!, and her running up the stairs. When John wakes up, he heads into his son's room, and sees that baby Sam is seemingly alright. And then blood drips down from ceiling, causing John to find Mary's corpse on the ceiling, her stomach sliced open. We don't know who the man/creature was (at least, not until later on), but its clear that its something bad.
    • Continuing on, the final two episodes of Season 1 have this sense of dread to them, as John, Sam, and Dean have tracked down the demon that killed Mary. In the former episode, they arrive in a normal neighborhood, and after encountering a mother taking her six-month daughter out on a stroll, they realize she's the demon's next target. From there, the anticipation rises as night falls and Sam and Dean make their move on the demon. While they save the mother and her daughter, they don't manage to kill the demon. However, we do get a glimpse of the demon - or more specifically, his yellow eyes.
    • And then in the episode after, the finale of Season 1, the boys manage to rescue John from the captivity of demons. However, since the audience doesn't know what the demons did to John while he was captured, there's a constant sense of dread that something will happen. It turns out that the Yellow-Eyed Demon has possessed John.
    • Hellhounds. Completely invisible, which makes it all the more scarier when they come drag someone to Hell.
    • The Season 4 premiere plays with this trope, as the audience doesn't know who - or what - resurrected Dean. And all throughout the episode, things such as loud static noises, demons with their eyes burned out, and a psychic going blind upon glancing on the thing's true form, give us hints as to what, but it doesn't even remotely resemble anything the Winchesters encountered. Meet Castiel, Angel of the Lord.
    • The Season 4 finale ends with Lucifer being freed. We don't see Lucifer himself, though. All we see is a bright light emerging from the hole leading to his cage.
    • Season 13's episodes "The Bad Place" and "Wayward Sisters" have the inhabitants of the Bad Place, an alternate world filled with monsters. One of them is apparently of colossal size, but all we see of it is a footprint it leaves behind, and we only get to hear its roars. Its true face is shown at the end of "Wayward Sisters", and it appears to be Supernatural's answer to King Kong.
  • Torchwood: In "They Keep Killing Suzie", Gwen's driving Suzie through the night. Suzie tells her that something evil is in the darkness, but it doesn't show up until a later episode.

Nothing at all

  • Babylon 5 uses this for a Discussed Trope: Ivanova hates it when nothing is going wrong. In her experience, something is always going wrong. Thus, if nothing seems to be going wrong, it simply means that she hasn't yet discovered what huge problem has developed for her to deal with.
  • Bones: In one episode, the characters are investigating the dead body found in the middle of nowhere by a UFO hunter. The episode is known for several creepy moments, unusual for the crime drama. However, the scariest moment happens at the end, after the murder is solved. Booth and Brennan are in a field, lying on a car hood, stargazing and talking about the possibility of alien life. Suddenly, all sounds stop, even the crickets and the wind don't make a sound. Both characters are suddenly very uncomfortable. End of the episode. Made worse as, right after this happens, Booth asks "Did you hear that?" The viewers NEVER FIND OUT WHAT THEY HEARD.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "The Body" - in which Joyce's body is found - has very little actually happening, making it that much more depressing. And of course, since this is Buffy, nobody is safe from further abuse, even the fans. So it also eliminates the background soundtrack to remove the possible relief of tension it could provide. The effect is, shall we say, powerful. What makes it even scarier is when Dawn tries to use a spell to bring Joyce back to life. We see a pair of legs staggering from the cemetery, a shadow pass by the window, and the front doorknob rattling...but Dawn stops the spell just as Buffy is about to open the door, so we never see Joyce's face or upper body. Fans have pointed out the Fridge Brilliance that arises after Buffy herself comes back from the dead in a later season; she's just fine, and presumably, Joyce would have been too, which makes it all the sadder.
  • Daredevil (2015): During the climactic fight in S1E9, Matt manages to deflect Nobu's weapon up to a flood light, breaking it, sending sparks flying downward which ignite the gasoline surrounding Nobu and set him on fire. Instead of screaming in pain like anyone on fire would, he makes a run for Matt letting out a "kick" yell. Matt knocks him out, but instead of screaming and crying, he's just... silent. Which is even more disturbing.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Waaaaaaaay way back in the classic series (in the second serial!), Ian drinks from a river and the camera shows his face reacting in horror to something underwater. He has no idea what it was he saw and later on a secondary character in the same place is heard screaming in fear as he is dragged under the surface. What exactly it was is never revealed.
    • In the serial after that one, the Doctor and his companions are trapped inside the TARDIS, which is stalled in the Void, while everything is both broken and working at the same time... while Susan screams about something having gotten inside the TARDIS and trying to kill one of the other companions with a pair of scissors.
    • There are many fans who find Missing Episodes scarier than surviving episodes thanks to this trope. Fans are occasionally forced to reevaluate a story thought of as a masterpiece of horror after the visuals are rediscovered and shown to be rather dull or poorly executed compared to a terrifying central concept. "Fury from the Deep", in which the seaweed monster is represented by a terrifying electronic pounding that appears in the background of scenes, is one episode that probably benefits from an audio-only reconstruction rather than viewing a slideshow of dreadful seaweed costumes and foam.
    • "Father's Day": The Doctor and Rose have had a fight about her saving her father's life, and he goes back to the TARDIS to cool off. He opens the doors to find that his police box... is a police box. The inside has straight-up vanished.
    • "Fear Her": The drawing of Chloe's abusive father is never seen after it comes to life, the audience only seeing a red light and a shadow.
    • The concept of "the Void" as the gap which separates universes, according to the Tenth Doctor's explanation in "Army of Ghosts".
      The Doctor: There's all sorts of realities around using different dimensions. Billions of parallel universes all stacked up against each other. The Void is in between, containing absolutely nothing. Imagine that, nothing. No light, no dark, no up, no down. No life. No time. Without end. My people called it the Void, the Eternals call it the Howling. But some people call it Hell.
    • Played with famously in "Blink", when every time you see the Weeping Angels, people are safe. It's between these moments that they're lethal, but the audience is most frightened when everything is, for the moment, clearly fine by the story's rules.
    • In "Midnight", there is ...something ...that torments the Doctor and the people he's traveling with. We never find out anything about it, other than that it utterly deconstructs an ordinary Doctor Who episode and brings all of the Doctor's flaws to the forefront. Oh, and the clearest "description" of the monster is from one of the characters before he is immediately killed.
      Claude: Look, look! There it is! There it is! Look there!
      The Doctor: Where? What was it?
      Claude: Like, just something shifting. Something sort of… Dark. Like it was… running.
      The Doctor: Running which way?
      Claude: Towards us.
    • From "The Pandorica Opens": never have the words "silence will fall" been more scary. Even the background music stops. Earlier in the same episode, we suddenly hear "silence will fall" spoken by a hideous, rasping voice out of goddamn nowhere, just before the TARDIS is hijacked. The source of the sound, and hence the source of the tampering, is never shown (and only vaguely alluded to in a much later episode).
    • The central premise of "Listen": The Doctor tries to find out why "nothing" is so unnerving, and concludes that there is a race so effective at hiding that no-one has ever seen them. In his investigation, he finds himself in several situations where he confronts a scary "nothing", but never actually sees them. Because they probably don't exist. Sometimes your imagination playing tricks on you is just your imagination playing tricks on you, even in Doctor Who.
  • Firefly: In "Bushwhacked", the entire derelict ship is one long example of this: nothing but empty corridors, signs of habitation, and a crewman's log that interrupts right in the middle. But you know something's wrong, because River is acting very odd. This is also one of those cases where the crew discovering what caused the disaster is in fact as scary as the nothing preceding it, made even scarier when one survivor of derelict ship is dangerously affected by whatever the hell happened to him.
  • Friends: An interesting instance of this trope being Played for Laughs is "The One Where Heckles Dies". Near the beginning, the titular Heckles comes up to the Monica's apartment telling them to stop stomping, which they aren't. They then decide to mockingly stomp to make fun of him, only for him to drop dead. Later in the episode, they go down to his apartment to clean it... and then they hear the exact same stomping he was hearing. You get one guess as to whether or not we ever find out where that stomping was coming from. Hint: the answer is two letters.
  • Ideal: The red bag, which apparently contains something terrifying enough to reduce Axe-Crazy gangsters to tears. What is actually in it is never revealed.
  • Legion uses this quite often to truly excellent effect, to the extent where it makes a morbidly obsese man slowly walking forwards absolutely terrifying. In a manner not unlike the Slender Man examples listed elsewhere on this page, half the time he appears the Devil with the Yellow Eyes isn't even doing anything, he's just hanging out in the background, watching the characters. Watching closely.
    • The show does a truly masterful job of replicating the feeling of a nightmare, where things feel indescribably wrong but it's hard to say why. The scene in the psychiatrist's office, where a mass of disembodied hands are breaking through the walls, lit by eerie blood-red lighting, and nobody but Syd can see them, nor do we get to see what's on the other side of the wall, is an excellent example.
    • A visibly terrified David singing "The Rainbow Connection" to Syd in his dreamworld, trying desperately to warn her of the danger but totally unable to move or do anything about it. Way to make the fucking Muppets scary, guys.
  • Millennium: The group is aware of a serial killer whose motive is proving nobody is safe, and part of his MO is casing out "high security" suburban homes during their open house showings. They know him well enough to set up a sting for him on the "right" night, and they've got a strong suspect and a picture, just no proof prior to the sting. When the sting goes off, however, nothing happens... until they realize they're in a suburban housing tract, and every house for blocks around them has the exact design plan as the one they assumed he was in. This being the "right" night, he's somewhere in one of these identical houses, killing again, and they won't find him until he's done. They get to spend the rest of the night dwelling on that as a family dies.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Parodied in the presentation of "Manos" The Hands of Fate, a movie where nothing happens for long periods of time. As the Manos characters stare at each other uncomfortably for a few minutes as scare chords play, one of the riffers responds by saying "Ambiguity is scary!"
  • The Outer Limits (1963) had an episode called "Cry of Silence" that was intended to work off this trope. Unfortunately, the first half of the episode involves possessed killer tumbleweeds, and a later scene features possessed Frogs and Toads; both of these tend to invoke giggles rather than shudders.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: Used to excellent effect in this 1990 miniseries, as unlike all other portrayals of the character we never see Charles Dance’s Phantom face behind his mask. Whether he’s hideously deformed or merely ugly it just isn’t shown, as the Phantom faces away from the camera when he takes the mask off. Judging by Christine’s reaction it’s probably isn’t pretty, but letting your mind fill in the blanks is even worse.
  • Sherlock:
    • In "The Hounds of Baskerville", after accidentally inhaling a hallucinogenic that induces fear, John gets locked in a lab where he hears the growls of the titular hound and desperately tries to hide by locking himself in a cage. He eventually claims he can see the hound, but the audience never does.
    • During Moriarty's trial, said character looks up to where John is sitting and smirks, with John looking visibly uncomfortable. The former had kidnapped John for hours, leaving him unarmed and unable to defend himself with a bomb strapped onto him. We never find out what exactly happened during the time John had left for Sarah's apartment and Sherlock arriving at the pool. Only that John - who was described by Sherlock of having Nerves of Steel and developed a hand tremor because he missed being in danger - was extremely pale, haggard and seconds away from collapsing.
    • In the series 3 finale, after Sherlock gets John out of a bonfire, we don't know who threw him in the bonfire, and neither does Sherlock. But who wants to bet that he was basically willing to find out who almost killed his friend?
  • The Sopranos: This one's not so much scary as extremely tense, but in the final scene of the final episode the family is in a diner, waiting for the daughter, Meadow, to show up. The scene is shot using slightly odd angles with slightly jumpy cuts, and the camera keeps focusing on people sitting nearby. The whole effect is rather unsettling, as though something big and terrible is about to happen, especially given that in the previous few episodes most of the show's characters have been shot dead by a rival 'family'. The tension builds as Meadow approaches the diner, then she opens the door... and the series ends.
  • Stranger Things uses this to excellent effect in a Shout-Out to The Mist as seen above. One of the Red Shirt military gets a cable tied to a harness around his waist and sent through the portal in the Hawkins research lab. The scientists on our side of the Upside-Down lose radio contact with him, hear the Demogorgon snarling and screeching, and pull back only the harness, covered in blood and goo. We don't even to see his corpse.
    • Similarly, in 2x06, we don't see any of the gruesome details when the Hawkins lab soldiers get ambushed by the Demodogs, simply a pitch-black room filled with fog and the soldiers' flashlights going out one by one as they're mauled and killed.
  • Supernatural: Another diner scene, from "Two Minutes to Midnight", when Dean catches up to Death. It's basically just two guys talking and eating pizza, albeit with a bunch of dead bodies lying around, but you could cut the tension with a knife. For just a hint of why he was so nervous: Dean's faced monsters, demons, even angels. Death, on the other hand, is possibly the oldest being in the universe and will one day reap God. All he wants is to have a nice chat and a slice of pizza though, but it is still unnerving as hell.
  • Torchwood: Used very effectively in "Countrycide" where it seems as if aliens are kidnapping and skinning people. Made even more creepy when we learn the danger is the local villagers, who kidnap strangers in order to eat them. Just because it "makes them happy". It's the only episode in the entire Whoniverse that doesn't feature anything supernatural, which is completely Played for Drama. Gwen suffers a full-on breakdown from the realization that humans can be worse than any alien threat she'll ever face.
  • True Detective: Despite the show usually keeping everything pretty graphic, the directors choose to leave the horror to the imagination when Cohle makes Hart watch the videotape of the Fontenot murder.
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • "The Eye of the Beholder": A doctor and a nurse discuss the patient of their experimental reconstructive surgery - a woman whose face is so deformed that other people have hated and reviled her all her life. And they're preparing to take off the bandages to see if the surgery has worked. The set-up to The Reveal is so effective that it strips the rest of the episode of any possible Narm-itude.
    • In "Death's Head Revisited", Gunther Lutze tortured his prisoners in a manner that one of his victims, Becker, described as "unspeakable". He is forced to undergo it. It's unknown what exactly he did (though the fact that he was clutching at his eyes and groin gives us a few ideas), but the agony is so great that it causes his final descent into insanity.
    • In "And When the Sky Was Opened", three astronauts return from a space mission and begin to disappear one by one—that is, their names are stricken from reports, and everyone but the astronauts, including their own parents, lose all memory of them. We never find out why this is happening. One of the astronauts briefly muses that they were supposed to die in the mission, but survived, causing the universe to begin to balance itself, but this fails to explain why they're outright vanishing from the fabric of reality itself.
  • Twin Peaks, already a somewhat creepy and unsettling series, also had a vibe throughout it that there was something beyond the town, just watching. Many viewers think that it was a Wendigo, never seen but felt.
  • The Weird Al Show: Parodied in an episode that aired shortly after The Blair Witch Project became a hit. Al announced that they would show a clip of the upcoming Blair Witch 2 (years before the film was actually made), which will be "the first film done entirely with the lens cap on." Cut to a solid black screen and a woman's voice screaming, "oh no, it's coming, it's so big and so horrible! AAAAAH!" Cut back to Al, who says "now isn't it scarier when they leave it to your imagination?"

There all along

  • Doctor Who:
    • The first and third series had this in a unique form. Bad Wolf is strewn heavily throughout the season, but you don't even notice until they point it out. You think to yourself, "That won't catch me off guard again" until you realize that "Mr. Saxon" and "Vote Saxon" thread of series 3 connect to a newspaper article in "Love & Monsters" and the order to shoot the Monster of the Week in "The Runaway Bride". The first appearance of the "Vote Saxon" posters actually appears in series 1 of Torchwood.
    • "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances": There's the Empty Child. We hear a recording of the Child saying "Are you my mummy?" over and over again. Then we find out that the tape has already run out.
    • "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead": One of the explorers is repeatedly urging the Doctor to get a move on... and then you (and the Doctor) realize that he's repeating because Vashta Nerada ate him without anyone noticing, and his suit is repeating his last words.
    • As well as the Weeping Angels in "The Time of Angels". The first half of the episode is spent hunting a Weeping Angel that's hiding among a mausoleum of stone statues of an extinct two-headed species. The characters venture deep into the mausoleum in search of it, until that thing that was bothering them comes into focus — the stone statues only have one head, meaning all the statues are Weeping Angels.
    • The Silence of series 6 are an excellent example of this. They're almost an opposite of the Angels in that they only seem to exist when you are looking at them. As soon as you look away, you forget they were even there. This can get really creepy when the viewer knows where they are and what they are doing but the characters act like everything is normal. It is especially creepy when the scene is progressing as normal and all of a sudden a character turns around and there are tally marks all over their arms (each tally mark means they have seen a monster) or their palm glows red (the Doctor put a device in their palms which lets them record messages. It then glows red until the message is played back). Amy and Canton Delaware visit a creepy orphanage. At night. During a thunderstorm. They split up so Amy can explore on her own. She enters a room, doesn't see anything (and neither do we). She walks over to a window, looks out, and sees her reflection in the window revealing that she's seen dozens of Silence in the room that we haven't.
  • Psych: In one episode, a killer is stalking a woman in a cabin, but only the viewer sees him. This leads to the extremely creepy shot of the woman talking on the phone, the killer nowhere in sight...and then he moves away from the window in the background.
  • Sherlock: The titular detective is inside the house of a missing person, and he's trying to find out how the burglar was able to get out, despite all doors and windows being locked, and all other exits being sealed. "Oh, stupid. Stupid. Obvious. He's still here.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: