Nightmare Retardant

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
(Redirected from Nightmare Fail)
"I am Ro-Man of the Gorilla Divers Association!"
I think this video's supposed to be like, freaking us out, but like, I'm unfreaked. In fact, this video is making me feel totally normal.

Wait a minute, was that supposed to be scary?

Nightmare Retardant is the polar opposite of Nightmare Fuel: Something meant to be truly terrifying (or at least somewhat frightening or disturbing) which instead comes off as stupid, laughable, cute, or all of them. As with Nightmare Fuel, examples will often be subjective. Often caused by Special Effects Failure or Stock Sound Effects; sometimes, for older titles with now-outdated special effects, it can simply be an example of Seinfeld Is Unfunny. Of course, when used intentionally, it could be that They Plotted a Perfectly Good Waste.

May be caused by, or cause, Villain Decay.

Many B-movie creature features, especially those featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, were chock full of this, since most of them had very low budgets and had to rely on puppets and guys wearing carpets over their heads for their creature effects.

Contrast Nothing Is Scarier, which is a possible way to avert this trope by not showing the monster at all and letting the characters—and audience—scare themselves with the fantasy of what it might be.

See also Narm. Compare Fetish Retardant for the Fetish Fuel equivalent.

Examples of Nightmare Retardant include:


  • One episode of Doug illustrated this trope. Doug and his friends went to see a horror movie called "The Abnormal". Doug covered his eyes when the monster finally came on-screen; it had only been seen in shadow or in disguise until that point, adding to the tension. After suffering recurring nightmares over it, he eventually forced himself to see it one last time without looking away—only to discover the monster was a man in a ridiculous costume with an obvious zipper. When he told his friends about it, they all confessed they had looked away, too.
    • As almost a real-life reenactment of this, this was cited as one of the reasons the movie Signs is profoundly unscary: the aliens are genuinely frightening until we actually see them near the end of the film. The whole "melted by water" thing doesn't help their image either.
    • Stephen King actually identifies this trope in his non-fiction horror study Danse Macabre, and suggests that in some cases it is partly relief on the part of the audience after a build-up of tension. The bit describing this phenomenon features a quote from somebody who puts it (in rough lines) like this: "The heroine opens the door, and is faced by a ten-feet tall cockroach. The audience screams, but this particular scream sounds almost relieved. 'A ten foot tall bug is pretty horrifying,' they think, 'but I can handle that. I was afraid it might be a HUNDRED feet tall!'
      • Clive Barker also identifies this trope and tries to avert it, showing instead of hiding the gruesome. He's had some degrees of success as far back as Rawhead Rex. Nightbreed could be an subversion in that the monsters are much less scary after being exposed to the audience, but they're also the protagonists of the story. In fact, some are downright Gorgeous Gorgons.
  • Any time a gun does not fire correctly/make a sound during a scary piece of theatre, the scene becomes Nightmare Retardant.
    • However, it not firing correctly might be Nightmare Fuel too, as someone might die.
      • Non-firing guns are made MORE Nightmare Retardant when the actor feels compelled to shout "BANG!" in the absence of the real effect.
  • One advertisement for Traveler's Insurance has a rattlesnake surprising a hare...except that its rattle was a baby rattle. Cue the hare falling over with laughter and other hares coming out and laughing as well. The snake is understandably mortified.
    • Rattled, even.
    • Except, you know, the snake could've eaten them while they were distracted by the rattle.
  • In general, playing music that is completely unfitting to the scene will defuse any tension almost instantly.

Anime and Manga

  • As has been noted elsewhere on the wiki, Belial Vamdemon from Digimon Adventure 02 (MaloMyotismon in the dub). Way to just stand there and get pummeled, moron.
    • Oh, it gets even better than that. As many people know Digimon names are formed of descriptive words put together and ending with "mon" for monster. The word "myotis" is Latin for bat, ok so far, but then we find that "malo" is the Spanish word simply meaning "bad". That's right, folks, the Big Bad of Digimon 02 is the Bad Bat Monster.
      • And yet, "malo" is the word for "little" in many Slavic languages, which turns Bad Bat Monster into Little Bat Monster.
      • Contrast that to his original name's translation: Vamdemon=Vampire Demon Monster; Belial=the name given to Satan's form that is arisen upon the Earth during Armageddon.
    • And his Venom Vamdemon form in the first season wasn't much better, acting mainly like a fairly bland and stupid kaijuu wannabe with a supernatural backstory... up until the "crotch monster" came out. Then it divided everyone between freakish dismay and immature giggling.
    • Don't forget Apocalymon. His quips in the dub make him the most pathetic Big Bad in the series until Belial Vamdemon. Still, some of his lines are pure fourth wall breaking awesome.

Apocalymon: -hysterical laugh- "WAIT, I'M SUPPOSED TO BE DEPRESSED!"

  • Hellsing Ultimate, while awesome in many ways, would probably have been a lot more frightening if it weren't for all the Gratuitous English.
    • The upbeat drums during the Nazis butchering Londoners while the Major er...ate lunch...epically? rather killed the scariness you'd expect of Nazi vampires killing random Londoners and reviving them as cannibal zombies. This display of callous brutality and the deaths of thousands of noncombatants at the hands of vampires was accompanied by a cheerful drum beat and a chorus of "AKUMA STALKING, DO DO DO DO!" Soundtrack Dissonance much?
  • Random Security Guard Guy being squished with Mortal Kombat blood-spray in Patlabor Wasted XIII. It actually won an award in a magazine for being the most hilarious death all year.
  • Gantz is not scary or horrifying at all, in spite of the egregious amounts of gore. This is mainly due to the fact that, first off, the English dub borders on Gag Dub territory, and second off the series is already slightly Black Comedy to begin with. The manga, on the other hand, is a lot less campy and a lot more disturbing.
  • In Naruto, Pain is (arguably) very hard to take seriously ever since his true form has been revealed: an emaciated guy in a wheelchair with bright red hair that would make Carrot Top proud. Others can see his appearance as arguably even more scary and disturbing with the Fridge Horror attached.
    • Pain seems to get hit with this fairly often. There's his Motive Rants, which combined with excessive body piercings makes him sound like an Emo Teen...
    • Manga chapter 427, where he gets knocked across the room by twelve-year-old comic relief character Konohamaru.... Of course, he later recovers from the hit and doesn't even need to repair that body.
    • And, last but not least, the tropers who insist on spelling his name "Pein", which never stops looking like "Peen". And/or "Pain", which just fully underscores how emo he is.
    • Orochimaru is introduced as a thoroughly creepy character: eating people's faces off and taking on the role of an already creepy woman (?) and first making himself known by picking up a kunai knife with his tongue and talking about bloodlust because he lost some hair... which all comes into perspective after the Internet "outed" him as gay.
  • Bleach has the creature known as Allon, who is actually genuine Nightmare Fuel for the first few moments of its introduction. That is, until its ridiculous face is revealed (what we had thought was its face was more like a nose, and its eyes and mouth are hidden), and all fear is promptly forgotten.
    • Aizen has been going through some One-Winged Angel phases as of late. Unfortunately for him, these have only gotten sillier and sillier. The first one has garnered Fan Nicknames along the line of "Tube Sock Ninja" and "Condomman" and led to jokes about how Tite Kubo finally let his background artists design a character. The next was essentially him with a mullet, and as long as you focused on his eyes, only mildly Narmful. But then he went and morphed into a pretty butterfly a six-winged seraph with butterfly wings, and his next comment was drowned out by the chorus of laughter from everyone reading. Made even funnier by the fact that his earlier comments about evolving into a superior being had earned him the Fan Nickname Butterflyzen, which was suddenly perfectly appropriate.
  • In the manga of Fullmetal Alchemist, Barry the Chopper fails to look disturbing or scary twice. Once with Alphonse Elric, the other with Riza Hawkeye. He later succeeds with some prison guards.
  • One Piece had Duval, whose first appearance was him in huge armor that didn't give out any detail whatsoever on who he was. Things were worse when he said that the Straw Hat Crew should know him. His armor is taken off, and he's...! an ugly man who looks like Sanji's wanted poster. After hearing all these theories on who Duval COULD have been, this turned out instead to be a Crowning Moment of Funny.
    • He is arguably worse after Sanji kicks him until he gets a facelift. The winking is terrifying.
    • This trope could probably go to the entire show. The Devil Fruit ability seems completely horrifying. When thought of realistically, it becomes hilarious when you realize the people using them are very different than us. The tool that can wipe an island off the map? A golden snail. A lady that can make any part of her body appear on any solid object? She made wings (and flew) from her arms. The boy that had to reconstruct himself after being hit by a train? Franky.
    • And that's not even getting into Thriller Bark. After watching that arc, you may never look at zombies seriously again. ZOMBIE NIGHT!
  • After watching Mistress of the Tome of the Night Sky Tremendae, you will find it hard to be scared by a certain Break the Cutie scene in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's.
  • Maria's faces in the Anime adaptation of Umineko no Naku Koro ni. The original visual novel succeeded in making Maria creepy through subtle expressions and description. That's not mentioning her head on a plate, that instead of creeping most fans out, inevitably reminded them of Tako Luka, and thus ended up being morbidly cute. The Anime decided to take a different route [dead link]... (Warning: Link is not an example of this trope.)
  • In the translated version of The Enigma of Amigara Fault, the sound effect DRR DRR DRR doesn't quite read in many people's minds the way the translator intended.
  • The monsters in Mermaid Saga would have been a little ridiculous no matter what, given their ridiculously oversize eyes. The capital mistake, though, was to have the first one in the manga be a still-sentient Woobie with a speech impediment. It's hard to take the later Smash Mooks seriously at all. (To be fair, the primary fear here isn't being killed by one of these freaks, but turning into one of them.)
  • Mimi no Kaidan, illustrated by horror master Junji Ito, features some prime nightmare retardant, particularly on this page. Works best on a small screen and out of context.
  • All the Sailor Moon Monsters of the Week after season 3 might fall in this category.
  • In Higurashi no Naku Koro ni much of the horror comes from not knowing what is causing all these horrible occurences to happen and why. As the second season explains more and more, much of the original horror is lost. Perhaps most notably in finding out that the sinister deity Oyashiro-sama is in fact Hanyuu, a Cute Ghost Girl who just wanted to help all along. On a similar note, in both seasons, there are moments where the "crazy faces" kill the horror.
  • Charlotte's One-Winged Angel form in Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a large worm made out of candy with a face that looks like a grinning clown (and not a Slasher Smile at that). It's thus hard to take seriously until it devours Mami.
  • Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion was meant to inhabit the Uncanny Valley, and probably does. Suffices to say that she has an entry at the Moe page.
  • There's an example in Yu Yu Hakusho almost certainly done on purpose. Mysterious old man Onji, who had just effortlessly beaten Kuwabara, rips off his face like a mask...and then, in a puff of cartoonish pink smoke, reveals himself as "The Beautiful Demon Fighter" Suzuki. The horror of both the characters and the audience is instantly replaced with hilarious incredulity.

Comic Books

  • An issue of Ambush Bug featured Quantis, the koala that walks like a man who is really Dr Quentin Quantis turned into a giant koala thanks to a serum containing the essence of cuteness. This giant marsupial even has the authorities going "Aaaaaw!" rather than trying to destroy it. It sounds really funny doesn't it? Then there's the fact that it goes "Niknak!".
  • As awesome as the Superman: Brainiac Attacks arc (from Action Comics #866-870) was (which actually contained fairly competent, if mild, nightmare fuel) it also contained spaceships shaped like skulls. No... I don't think so. Still, skull-shaped ships in a Brainiac storyarc must be due to the Grandfather Clause.
  • The Red Skull had the same problem in The Silver Age , with his skull-shaped space-station (red, of course). It wasn't as scary as he likely wanted it to be, probably the reason he got rid of such stuff in more modern times.
  • Your view on Christabella from Silent Hill: Dying Inside will probably range somewhere between "scary" and "creepy". But the moment she starts swearing like a sailor, you will most likely zero in on "ridiculous".
  • Captain Marvel's old enemy Mr. Mind. Evil Genius, Omnicidal Maniac, and a frequent ally of Those Wacky Nazis he may be, but no matter how broad the scope of his evil deeds, a four-inch-long alien worm with glasses just isn't intimidating. In fact, Marvel - and the readers - believed for a long time that the notorious madman was a human villain, Mr. Mind's true face obscured for this very reason.
  • In-universe example in The Smurfs; Farmer is having trouble with pesky birds, so he asks Vanity to make him a scarecrow. Comically Missing the Point, Vanity makes him one that has the opposite intended effect.
  • X-Men: Holy War was a storyline that ran through Uncanny X-Men #423 and #434. In the opening scene, several young mutants - including recurring characters Jubilee, Skin, Magma, and Bedlam - are crucified on the front lawn of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. The setup promises a dark and gritty Religious Horror, until Nightcrawler (acting as Narrator here) introduces everyone present, and then ruins it by adding that his former girlfriends used to call him "Blueberry Muffin". Long time X-Men fans know this was a joke that was never funny to begin with, and this was not the right time for it. It gets worse from there, a ludicrous plot, a villain with a plan that makes no sense, and a message that, while obvious, fails to deliver.


  • The dancing ghost boy in Insidious.
  • The scene in Drag Me to Hell wherein the goat is possessed by the malevolent spirit and the lamia dances.
  • All four of the Scary Movie films, along with Stan Helsing, are based entirely on this trope.
  • Narrowly avoided during shooting of the original Predator. The original costume had a bulky space suit with a snake-like head sticking out that bounced around like crazy. It was everything the directors did not want and they demanded a new design after one day.
  • Eight Legged Freaks, though played for Black Humor, starts with -and quickly ruins- a potentially very scary premise: realistic-looking giant spiders are pretty horrifying, but the decision to give the spiders all sorts of "wacky" jabbering noises as they run amok destroys whatever potential horror the movie could have had.
    • It wasn't just the noises. There is a memorable scene where a spider jumps the stuffed head of a moose, only to take a bite and looking visibly annoyed at the taste.
  • The 1931 version of Dracula contains two misguided attempts at symbolism: a close-up shot of a Jerusalem cricket (which looks a lot like a giant bee) crawling out of a coffin and a "giant rat," played by an opossum. In the Spanish version of the film, the "giant rat" falls off of the ledge it is walking on during the shot. And then there's the armadillos and the "terrifying" rubber bats on strings in that and so many other early Dracula films.
    • Lovingly homaged by The Monster Squad, which fills Dracula's lair with rubber bats and armadillos.
  • The New Zealand horror movie Black Sheep is about rampaging, man-eating sheep, as well as a couple of weresheep. Although, given the nature of this movie and the fact that it's basically Shaun of the Dead replaced with ravenous sheep, this was probably intentional.
    • Of course, if you're like the protagonist and have a fear of sheep, then this film could quite literally scare the shit out of you.
  • Nosferatu: in the opening scenes the villagers claim a werewolf roams through the forest at night. The atmosphere is really creepy and the audience wonders what this creature will look like. When the protagonist goes to sleep the camera shows a wolf like creature walking in the forest, but it's clearly not a werewolf, left alone a wolf, but a striped hyena! And it's strange to downright ridiculous that this animal walks around in Transylvania, Romania.
  • The "bat suit" in Bram Stokers Dracula. Apparently it was added because Gary Oldman didn't feel he could be scary enough for that scene. Ironic, since he was a lot scarier without the dippy rubber suit.
  • The title character from Robot Monster (pictured above) was a guy in a gorilla suit. And a diver's helmet.
  • Ironically, it was the Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary for The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies?! - which definitely definitely fits here—was one of the earliest uses of the term "[Nightmare Fuel"—the earliest being Santa Claus, which actually was pretty scary, but not in the intended scenes.
  • The Happening is a critically panned film that has gained something of a cult following due to how utterly hilarious it is; unfortunately, the director had intended it as completely serious horror thriller. The monsters are... trees. Right, not the kind that move either, these are plain old trees with a malevolent intelligence who compel humans to kill themselves. About as scary as a field of dandelions.
  • In Attack of the Prehistoric Women, the women at one point need to defend themselves from a ferocious dinosaur, played by a superimposed iguana.
    • This was very common in prehistoric movies from the 70s and earlier.
  • Night of the Lepus is about giant rampaging killer rabbits... which are played either by cute little bunnies on a scale-model set, or people wearing garish rabbit suits. Yes, it's as hilariously awful as it sounds. Here. The saddest part is that the portions of the movie where the rabbits aren't on screen are actually pretty decent, and the miniature work is, for the most part, very good. It's just that, well, you've seen the clip.
    • To quote one succinct reviewer: 'The basic problem is, an ant magnified a thousand times is a monster, but a bunny magnified twenty times is still a bunny.'
    • One instance of miniature work that isn't good is the down-the-empty street shot... with the 'giant killer stagehand' stepping off to the side.
  • A lot of modern horror/comedy movies just aren't scary because, no matter how much blood, gore, and death the sadistically evil villain leaves in his wake, he's so absurdly funny that you're laughing too much to be scared of him. For example, there's Leprechaun (leprechauns aren't scary, no matter how ugly they are, especially when they're afraid of four-leaf clovers), Santa's Slay (a Bad Santa is funny, not scary), Jack Frost (you can have this guy rape a woman in the shower if you want, but the fact that he's a snowman still makes it hard to take him seriously), The Gingerdead Man. (This guy is a living gingerbread cookie! How is anyone supposed to be scared of that?), and Blown (the title is a Double Entendre on purpose, seeing as the monster is a possessed, inflatable sex toy, which would have been even less scary had its victims figured out that this was a balloon; pretty easy to destroy.).
  • The 1986 version of The Fly was kind of scary; the the 1958 movie it was a remake of, not so much. One of the biggest problems while filming the movie was having to cut the scenes short because Vincent Price couldn't help but laugh at co-star David Hedison's costume in the middle of filming. Many viewers had a similar problem.
  • Beginning of the End featured giant mutant grasshoppers played by regular-sized grasshoppers crawling across pictures of the Chicago skyline.
  • Teenagers From Outer Space used the shadow of a lobster for its giant monster.
  • Werewolf had a monster that changed its look throughout the film. One of which being the producer's own pet dog. Yuri's hair was scarier than the Werewolves.
  • Any character played by Tor Johnson. "Time for go to bed!"
  • Most film adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft replace his unseen, indescribable Eldritch Abominations with bad special effects and lots of fake blood and slime. You can't help but laugh.
    • Also, Lovecraft's extreme racism in several of his written works can seem so silly in our modern days that some people have trouble taking them seriously, no matter how horrifying the events.
  • A lot of the current SciFi, I mean, Syfy films suffer from this. Hard. No one is going to be scared of killer dinosaur FOSSILS.
    • Considering that Syfy Original Movies are made exclusively by the infamously B-quality Asylum Studios, this is hardly suprising.
    • Every now and then, Syfy actually comes up with ideas that sound promising and might be a little scary. Then the monster appears.
  • In a scene near the end of the film version of The Day of the Triffids, the characters shelter at the top of a lighthouse while a triffid's tendril crawls up the stairs towards them. Unfortunately, it's quite obvious that the tendril is a sock puppet. Also, the Triffids themselves were basically giant sunflowers. Sunflowers.
  • While the first movie in the series is pretty good, some of the other films of the Friday the 13th franchise fit this trope to a T. There is something strangely comedic about seeing a guy in a hockey mask wander around the woods like he's lost, machete or no machete.
    • The bits where Mrs. Voorhees assumes the character of Jason and starts saying things like "Kill her, Mommy!"
    • The production team and writers seemed to invoke this trope willingly for Friday the 13th, when he's presented with a hologram of two busty, naked co-eds saying that they love partying and having unprotected sex. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The original King Kong was released as a very frightening horror movie and was effective as such for many years. There were people fainting in the audience when it was first shown. Advanced effects have made us jaded. The version from 1976 has aged even worse, mostly because it doesn't even try to have Kong move like anything but a guy shuffling around in a gorilla suit.
  • Spider-Man 3: Venom is pretty much living horror, so it's a little disconcerting to hear Topher Grace's voice coming out of his mouth. And whenever he talks he pulls back the face so Topher Grace's face can be seen; that also doesn't help.
  • There is one part of the video-game-to-film adaptation of Silent Hill in which the Creepy Child bursts into flame and says "Look...I'm burning." Owing to how subjective this trope is, you either were creeped out by it or laughed your head off.
  • Troll 2. The first one was no masterpiece, but this not-really-a-sequel about goblins who turn people into spinach or something is just So Bad It's Good. "Oh my GAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWD!"
    • To be perfectly honest, there's far worse ideas out there, and it could have been a genuinely scary movie if the special effects weren't so crappy and the acting so terrible. One of the big problems was that the director (who did not speak a word of English) insisted that the original script, written in Italian, be translated to English word for word. Anyone who learns either English or Italian as a second language knows doing that would result in a vaguely comprehensible mess, as they have different grammatical structures that must be taken into account when translating.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West, and her flying monkeys don't pack the terrifying punch they used to, though they still scare some younger kids.
  • John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness would be much more frightening if the movie never showed the body and Eldritch Abominations that destroy humanity/are imagined by Sam Neill. It's still pretty frightening, the scenes which show the horrors just lose something.
  • The 1925 Phantom of the Opera appeared to have passed the test of time when it comes to this. Although reactions may not be as extreme today, the unmasking scene will still make many people jump in surprise. It even has the ever-creepy uplighting technique. Unfortunately, when the Phantom jumps up and points directly at Christine after the unmasking, things that were once considered scary turn hilarious. The reason being that the actions is almost identical to the monkey's infamous pointing in Family Guy.
    • On the other hand, the Phantom in the 2004 movie musical version gets his mask pulled off to reveal... Gerard Butler with a nasty sunburn.
  • Listen to the noise the parasites in Cloverfield make. It sounds like Donald Duck, for God's sake. Or maybe Yoshi. Fortunately Clover's roar more than made up for the silly parasite chittering.
  • Jurassic Park 3 has the gem of a reply "No, it sounds bigger," when one character asks another if the roar they just heard was that of a T Rex. While not as frightening on a personal level like the velociraptors, Tyrannosaurus had made it known in the previous films that when he (or one of his counterparts) shows up, shit goes down. The addition of a "bigger" predator, by this point, loses all impact.
  • In The Creeping Terror, the eponymous creeping terror was an alien who ate things to study their biology (or something like that), and it was clearly supposed to strike fear in the viewers, but only made them giggle. It resembled a large carpet slug that shuffled along slowly, and its victims, instead of running away like most sensible people would have done, stood there and screamed while the creature ate them. The costume was such that the victims actually had to crawl into the hole in the front that was supposed to be its mouth.
  • Wes Craven's Cursed was a good example of this trope, where the scenes meant to be scary were downright funny, and the scenes meant to be funny were downright cheesy. From the predictable plot, to the bad acting, to the cheesy dialogue, this movie has it all. Strange how a film intended to reinvent the werewolf genre ends up falling back on every single Hollywood werewolf convention. To be fair though, the movie turned out this way in part due to Executive Meddling.
    • Then there's the scene where a werewolf appears above the balcony after Christina Ricci's character taunts its fashion sense, flipping the bird and roaring "fuck you!", before dying in a hail of bullets.
  • The Scare Chords in the otherwise creepy The Descent.
  • The 1989 horror movie Food of the Gods 2 has a scene in which giant rats attack a swimming competition. The cheesy special effects however, kills any shred of horror from the scene. The intercutting shots of panicked people in a normal sized competition pool with shots of ordinary-sized rats walking around and splashing in an obvious miniature pool had no credibility whatsoever.
  • Super Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II was supposed to be scary, but all anyone remembers is that he yelled, pounded a boardwalk above it, got crushed by the damn boardwalk while yelling some more, then died. Doesn't help that Super Shredder was played by Kevin "argh my quad!" Nash either.
  • Maleficent's dragon transformation in Disney's Sleeping Beauty is pure fearsomeness, even though it also makes for a very good boss battle. Narissa's version of it in Disney's self-parody film Enchanted? Not so much. (especially since Maleficent as a dragon only roared fearsomely, whereas Narissa as a dragon just... um...
  • The Predator. No, no, not Predator that was terrifying. The 2018 movie (the fourth in the franchise) was such a mess (for a variety of reasons) that test audiences were laughing their heads off, not exactly a good sign for a movie that isn't supposed to be funny. Fortunately, it might eventually become a So Bad It's Good type of movie, assuming it doesn't ruin the franchise.
  • Bad Milo. Despite the gore in this cheesy B-movie, the eponymous demon is just too cute to be scary.
  • Sinister was actually a pretty good movie, but the villain is what prevented it from becoming a truly great one. The plot is similar to Children of the Corn, involving a demon who compels children to murder their parents in brutal and horrific ways, which makes the movie terrifying... until about halfway through. Then the demon’s name is revealed - Bughuul, which seems more fitting for a villain from Monty Python than a movie like this - and when he actually appears, he looks less like a demon from hell and more like a rock musician pretending to be one.[2] Even worse, the film becomes predictable from that point on. The writer had stated he had actually wanted a monster that looked more like a “demented Willie Wonka” before the director talked him out of it, which would have been… Well, actually much scarier.
  • Speaking of Children of the Corn, the movie seemed to flux between a seriously enacted horror movie and a horror satire. The villain, however, tended to ruin any attempt at seriousness for the rest of the cast. The leader of the eponymous children, Isaac, was portrayed by John Franklin (an adult actor with dwarfism) who truly overplayed the “ten-year-old pompous religious zealot” routine, unintentionally becoming a parody of the typical Sinister Minister villain and giving a Ham and Cheese performance that ruined every attempt by the other cast members to make the story serious.
  • Annabelle fit this trope for two reasons. First, they made the mistake of making the possessed doll look creepy from the start, making the whole story predictable. Second, when the demon actually appears in its true form, they took the Big Red Devil approach, which is never used in a serious story nowadays and has been considered 'out of style' for centuries.
  • The original version of The Wizard of Gore was made with the intent to create a campy parody of slasher movies, something director Hershel Gordon Lewis seemed to excel at. The 2007 remake, however, was presented as a mystery horror movie with a Film Noir theme, intended to be far more serious and darker in tone. It didn’t succeed: Christen Glover’s outrageously hammy performance as Montag the Magnificent - a villain whose motivations make absolutely no sense - a ridiculous plot involving hallucinogens and conspiracy theories, and the fact that production was rushed, making the movie itself unfinished, made it impossible to take seriously to the point that most consider it even sillier than the original.
  • Truth or Dare: Watching this movie, you have to wonder if the screenplay writers thought, "Hey, let's make a horror movie using a popular party game!" but really had no idea how to go about doing it. However, the villain - Calux, a demon who possesses humans - makes it worse, because any and every time he speaks through a victim’s mouth, the victim sports a hideous Slasher Smile. Now this may have been sorta scary if he did it once or twice, but he does it every single time, and the novelty wears off quickly, eventually becoming ridiculous. In fact, this movie could have been more successful had they presented it as a Black Comedy satire.
    • Not that such a concept can't work at all. The much better 2022 film Smile shows how to do this sort of thing right.
  • The Black Cat: Oh sure! Black cats are often associated with witches so a slasher movie where the villain is an evil black cat who kills people would be great, right? Problem was, the cat in this movie (that tries to be completely serious) was such an adorable kitty cat, that it was impossible to be frightened of it.
  • The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns has long been considered the worst case of Special Effects Failure in history, and also a case of They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character, as it pretty much ruined any chance of The Scorpion King being taken seriously. Casting Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would have been a pretty good idea had they not put his face on a laughably bad CGI monstrosity.
  • In The Mangler, the monster is a giant laundry press possessed by a demon, and not exactly one that looks safe to use, making the whole concept pretty silly. A similar movie was Death Bed: The Bed That Eats; clearly, evil furniture just doesn't cut it as horror movie monsters.
  • Zombeavers; the monsters are mutated beavers whose bite can zombify humans. Ironically, though, the zombiefied victims are much scarier than the beavers, who actually look kind of cute. Not to mention the way their intended victims try to fight them reminds most viewers of teenagers playing whack-a-mole - possibly intentional on the part of the screenplay writers... possibly.
  • The Stuff was a movie made with the intent to be this. The monster and concept surrounding it was pretty silly, but that was the idea, as it was supposed to be a blatant criticism of unfettered capitalism.
  • In A Nightmare Before Christmas, Lock, Stock, and Barrel have a creepy Villain Song where they detail what they're going to do to Santa when they grab him, and their walking bathtub vehicle makes them even creepier. Unfortunately, they completely blow it in the next scene when they kidnap the Easter Bunny by mistake. Hilarious, yes, but a terrifying Terrible Trio they are not.
  • The Bye Bye Man is a horror movie that fails at being scary because the viewers are likely to spend too much time trying to figure out the convoluted lore behind the eponymous villain, which ultimately, makes no sense at all. Worse, when the Bye Bye Man actually appears, he's just a generic undead monster in a cloak and hood, nothing the typical horror movie fans haven't seen before.
  • One Missed Call. The beginning of this movie might unnerve some viewers, but by the time you reach the part where a priest is doing an exorcism on a... flip phone, the unnerving feeling has worn off.
  • Jaws was utterly terrifying. The sharks in the copycat movies it spawned can usually only manage So Bad It's Good at most. There’s Deep Blue Sea (“Bigger, Smarter, Faster, Meaner”... Sillier.) Ghost Shark (it is indeed a ghost shark, and it can appear out of any source of water, even if it’s no larger than a drinking cup - more funny than scary), Sharktopus (Hybrid Monster created by the government, looks utterly ridiculous) and Sharknado, the idea some Hollywood producer figured was Crazy Enough to Work.

Live-Action TV

  • The Langoliers from the TV movie of the same name were one of Stephen King's sillier ideas. The movie seemed to be taking a Nothing Is Scarier approach at first, gradually building up to the scene where the monsters actually appeared... And then they actually appeared, and ruined it. They looked pretty ridiculous, like flying meatballs with huge, toothy mouths, depicted with shoddy CGI effects. And before anyone blames the crude CGI technology at the time, this was two years after the original Jurassic Park, they could have done much better.

Video Games

  • In Silent Hill: Origins, you are able to control the transition from the fog world to the nightmarish otherworld by touching a mirror. It significantly lessens the power of being transported to a nightmarish industrial Hell if you do it willfully and deliberately (or worse, go back and forth between worlds trying to figure out what to do next).
  • Ecstatica is a game that was plugged as a horror title with fantasy elements. But while it does have some Gorn and dark themes, most of the game was too colorful and the animation too "cartoon-like" to fit the bill. In hindsight, however, once you compare it to famous Survival Horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill (both of which were released after Ecstatica) it's easy to see elements of both those games in this one.
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent is renowned as one of the scariest games ever made. The one problem is... The box art. Trust me, this buffoonish, floppy-mouthed monster is much more terrifying in the actual game, honest. Course, if the box is nearby when the average player is playing, such art might actually make it easier to keep from panicking. Might, that is.
  • From The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; once Link gains control of the Sandship’s control room, something bad happens. Squid-like tentacles erupt from the floor, and Link is forced to flee as the ship floods, lest whatever horrific monstrosity drag him to a watery grave, running through corridors as the ship is being torn apart and lamps violently swinging, avoiding rolling barrels as he runs up ramps that were flat hallways a minute ago. When he finally reaches the exit that he has no choice but to take, Fi chimes in and warns him that a “great evil” of incredible power lurks on the other side and tells him to approach with caution. Link opens the door and tentacles burst from the floor, surrounding him as the ominous music rises, they retract and there is a moment of dead silence, and finally, he is face to face with… the dumbest looking sea monster ever conceived. While the fight with Tentalus is certainly a challenge, this chubby, double-chinned medusa-squid hybrid looks like Celia Mae’s fat, lazy uncle, not intimidating at all. As far as scare factor goes, this boss fight has a strong delivery for a weak result.

Web Original

  • Up and sleepless at 3AM because you watched Marble Hornets? No worries.
    • In the similar Marble Bumblebee, Slendy comes off as clumsy, petty, or an attention whore.
    • No wifin in da club, Gimme 20 dollas...
    • When you've seen a few other Alternate Reality Games have the wind taken out of them by people making jokes (such as Slendy just wanting to get buff) or saying "this is all fak y u guys takng so srsly", it becomes clear that this is why MH disabled comments on their videos.
    • Also, on the Marble Hornets DVD; watch the entries with the DVD commentary on. It's hard to take entry #1 seriously ever again while Troy Wagner (i.e. Jay) explains how Joseph DeLage (i.e. Alex) made a promise to go streaking if the video ever reached a million hits on Youtube. And they absolutelyruin the Totheark videoes in terms of scariness. The boys realise they're too short for proper commentary, so they just put stupid jokes over the top of them. More or less the commentary removes all the scary and replaces it with pure, unadulterated funny.
    • Also, if you're unfamiliar with The Slender Man Mythos, you might mistake Slendy for Jack Skellington. In fact, in Seeking Truth, Zeke even refers to the drawings made by the first victim as ". . . what looked like Jack Skellington with about six extra arms and no eye holes, or any facial features, for that matter."
    • In the radio interview with the two creators, they mention how any attempt to make the Operator's head snap towards the camera in Entry 6 resulted in a A Night at the Roxbury head bop on the Operator. Cue Haddaway!
    • The whole mood is also a bit lost when you realize that, with Slendy spending most of his times watching hidden in the background, most entries on the mythos can be seen as Waldo's spooky cousin...
    • This troper randomly refered to Slenderman as "Slendermensch" once and now I can no longer think of him by any other name, and the thought of this horrible Eldritch Abomination kvetching in the standard TV old Jewish guy accent is too hillarious to be scared by.
    • Any of the shorts on troyhasacamera, and the simple knowledge that these are the same people behind Marble Hornets, is enough to put one's mind at ease just a bit.
  • The Arise Flash Series, especially if the viewer is viewing Retsupurae's Retsuflash of the games.
    • With special mention to the infamous "John McCain Face".
  • Encyclopedia Dramatica has that page on Creepypasta. However, they also have that page for "Retarded Creepypasta", which were either attempts at creepypastas that fell flat, or silly parodies of creepypastas. (Some of the most infamous being "THEN A SKELETON POPPED OUT" and "THEN WHO WAS PHONE?")
  • Voo Doo Wop pokes fun at paranormal investigating shows in their skit called Haunted Homes.
  • Exmortis 3 - the third installment of a series of flash games - is considerably less scary than the previous two. Things become a lot less scary when your character becomes a superhuman that has telekinesis and can cause people / evil beings to explode. With his mind. This is especially pronounced when you come to a horror-filled room with a cannibalistic survivor that wants to eat you. Until you immediately pwn him and hold him up in the air with your mind. He practically pisses himself in fear, and the horrific feeling kind of... goes away.
  • This is a natural hazard for horror-themed Play By Post Games, given that they usually have a very crude art style in order to update in a timely manner. Even the better ones only become scary once you've been reading long enough to get sucked in—it's difficult to adequately convey the scariness of a particular section to someone who hasn't been read previous sections.
  • H(a)unting is a blog about three people and their encounters with Slenderman, who is one of the most genuinely creepy mythos creatures out there, particularly considering his origin-with the Rake and a second Slender-creature known as //IT// showing up later-and the Rake is essentially the main character's dog, Slenderman gives her candy for winning a pokemon tournament and brings her a flashlight during a storm, and can not only be beat up by her, but by her pet chicken too. Oh, and she's conveniently immune to Slendy and the Rake's powers, and is special in almost every way. Mary Sue much? In any case, you simply cannot be afraid of a Slenderman who is afraid of a silkie chicken, brings frightened girls flashlights, and gives people Reeses candy for winning a video game.
  • In Hyperbole and a Half, the main character tried to give her younger sister nightmares with a ghost story about blood, closets, killers, blood, ghosts, and more blood. It didn't work.
  • The original Jeff the Killer story. Most Creepypasta aficionados attest that the original story is so absurd and badly written that it's far funnier than it is scary.

Western Animation

  • As an example of Nightmare Retardant within a series, the pilot episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy had the Grim Reaper confused and annoyed that the two children weren't afraid of him, which, along with Mandy's rather sarcastic response that he was "a truly terrifying and horrific creature", set the tone for the entire series to come.
    • Another in-universe example: the Boogeyman. He tries. Really.
  • An episode of The Backyardigans was based around this entire trope. The episode was titled "Scared Of You" and featured Tasha as a mad scientist with Austin playing her assistant, she gives Austin some secret notes and tells him it's a secret (a birthday invite because it's Austin's birthday in this episode) and tells him to find three monsters: A mummy king (Tyrone), a rather cute werewolf (Uniqua) and a vampire (Pablo). When he meets the mummy king at first, the mummy king is terrified of him at first but then says..."You're not scary", the same happens when he meets the werewolf and the vampire, he then points out that none of them are scary. Then at the end they reach the spooky castle where his master lives, the monsters all go and hide while he looks around, then everyone yells out "Surprise!" , and a big monster dance party starts.
  • The 1994 animated movie Felidae did have several scary and/or disturbing parts, but a nightmare about Gregor Mendel...Even if he was playing with rotting cat-corpse marionettes.
  • The Simpsons:
    • A non Treehouse of Horror example is the Screamatorium, a very low budget and pathetic ghost ride that features cheap ghosts stuck to the walls, a coffin containing nothing but a spring, and an old woman telling people about the "ravages of age." It then becomes hilarious when there's a skeleton that goes Hee Haw like a donkey!
    • There is a Treehouse of Horror episode where Flanders attempts to make a "Hell House", a religious alternative to Halloween haunted houses with intent to scare people, in this case, children, into being a good Christian. It starts off as Nightmare Retardant, with a crappy sketch where Skinner gets hit by a cardboard bus after looking at a smutty magazine, punished for thinking the human body is beautiful. The children think it's stupid, and thus fails in converting them, so Flanders prays to God to give him the ability to scare the kids into religion. This trope is subverted: God answers, and Flanders turns into a Satan-looking monster and forces them to sit in a hellish realm, and watch several scenes featuring the consequences of the seven deadly sins. By the end, the children promise to be good Christians.
    • Inverted and played for laughs with The Grumble, a character from an ice-show that looks like a man in a Dr. Suess-ian suit. Later in the episode, Homer knocks it out in a bar fight, and we see it has green blood.

Homer: What the hell is this thing?

  • One episode of South Park has live-action footage of "giant" guinea pigs terrorizing the town and its citizens.

It's a guinea mouse!
No! It's a Guinea Bear!

    • The episode "Cow Days" had an example of this too, with a haunted house that was decidedly un-scary.
    • "So, the Chamber of Farts has another victim, eh? Don't worry; there are no ghouls here. ONLY!!! FARTS!!!!!"
  • Invader Zim spoofed this trope a couple of times. Remember the disgusting, horrifying and unspeakably grotesque ROOM WITH THE MOOSE??
    • Ultra Peepi to a lesser extent. His unbearable cuteness sweeps away all the horror he fairly causes among people at first, which makes it a whole lot easier for him to destroy the city (even the military refuses to attack the cute giant hamster. But the point is that Ultra Peepi wasn't actually intended to be horrifying at all. He was supposed to be a genuine Nightmare Retardant, so that people wouldn't pay much attantion to the havoc the hamster's creating, therefore letting themselves be gradually killed off.


  • Explored in this article, entitled "10 Scenes of Brutal Violence Guaranteed to Make You Laugh".
  • For many, The End of the World as We Know It falls into this due to people at least annually announcing the end is near. There are even sites dedicated to mocking this phenomenon.
  • Pretty much happens to anything scary if you choose to face your fears directly. Except for guns. Please do not face guns directly. Or hungry dangerous wild animals.
  • Done intentionally in this youtube video. It starts out showing a fairly horrifying soundtrack, and then doing so backwards. Then, it plays Gordon Freeman's soundtrack backwards. Followed by the sound made when a certain enemy dies. When played backwards, you get the song Bananaphone.
  • The entire Monster Clown genre. For those who, as children, never found clowns even slightly scary, it's hard to take such characters seriously, let alone be scared of them. Wonderfully lampshaded in The Tick (animation): "People laugh at Proto-Clown, so Proto-Clown smash!"
    • Except if it is Tim Curry, off course.
      • Not really. Tim Curry's portrayal would vary from awkward to hillarious, but it never really becomes scary.
      • Tim Curry was the first pick over Mark Hamill to play the Joker, but was judged too scary.
    • Sufferers of Coulrophobia -which is a very real thing- have a name for those who don't find clowns scary: Lucky bastards.
  • "Fairies Wear Boots" is this in itself, but it gets worse if you picture said fairies as this.
  • In fact, just take something that you find scary in mind. Take a long hard look about what it is and why you are afraid of it. Examples?
    • Dem Bones - Walking skeletons... technically what you are. (That just became unintentional Fridge Horror, didn't it?) Plus they always seem to have goofy smiles.
    • Malevolent Masked Man - The same things trick-or-treaters wear.
    • Giant Spiders - The biggest you'll probably ever encounter are hardly larger than your palm. Unless you're arachnophobic.
    • Killer Whales. They got their name for a reason, being predators who are known to prey on animals much larger than themselves, but whenever thy're mentioned, the first thing you think of is Shamu
    • Elephants and hippopotamuses (hippopotami?). Both are very large animals more than capable of killing you in half a dozen different ways if they feel like it. Both are so incredibly goofy-looking that in fiction they're more or less relegated to the comic relief of the animal world.
    • Dolphins, who are considered ridiculously cute critters.
    • Also chimpanzes, who are regarded as really funny animals, despite the fact they've been known to kill people. Same with other primates; trained orangutans can be very funny, but can also be very dangerous if mishandled.
  • Feathered dinosaurs, especially those that sank into public consciousness as scaly, reptilian monsters (such as raptors) might be viewed as such by people who are oblivious to the more "fearsome" birds of our time, or simply because some illustrations tend to depict them still acting like monsters but looking like brightly colored, overgrown turkeys (akin to prehistoric a Monster Clown), or as harmless-looking, cute feather-balls.

  1. To elaborate, in one scene of the film adaptation of the famous anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, when one character is being brutally beaten to death, school children singing plays in the background. This was very much done intentionally, and really does up the creepy factor that the series became famous for.
  2. The design drew from death metal bands like Immortal and Mayhem.