|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
Piglet: Once upon a time...
—The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, "The Monster Frankenpooh"
Evil Is Not Well Lit. We all know this. It's human nature to believe that Darkness Equals Death. Therefore, it's been a commonly held trope for centuries that scary things have to happen in the dark. This is why there are so many horror movies where it's Always Night, or why The Lost Woods never see daylight, or why whoever owns the Haunted House never pays the electricity bill. Conversely, well lit, sunny areas with 100% visibility must be safe. We know that no monsters will harm us once the sun comes up. Hey, the Things That Go Bump only do it at night after all. If spooky things always lurk in the darkness, then Light Is Good.
Sometimes, the writers want to play on the false sense of security we feel about light and turn it on its head. Sometimes, the budget does not allow for any night shots and the filmmakers don't want to use Hollywood Darkness. Whatever the case may be, we get scenes of frightening imagery in broad daylight or well-lit rooms. The Ax Crazy serial killer suddenly shows up at your home when all of the lights are on. The Eldritch Abomination decides to rise on a sunny day. The Zombie Apocalypse around the corner doesn't care if it's nice out and you've decided to go sunbathing. The point is: you're screwed and you have nowhere to hide.
Not to be confused with Light Is Not Good, although it can invoke this.
- In Princess Mononoke both the demon attack in the oppening scene, and the final showdown take place in daylight. Though the really freaky stuff starts at sunset, it doesn't end until the sun rises above the mountains, at which point it had been daylight for quite some time.
- Serial Experiments Lain is known for the highly contrasting light and shadows in its animation style, creating eerily bright days. There are a number of Mind Screw scenes that happen in these settings. They can be found here.
- In Highschool of the Dead one of "them" attacks the school in the morning.
- In fact, quite a bit of the series takes place during the day. Like other zombie shows, its the sheer amount of the creatures that makes them scary, since you may be able to fight some of them off, but you can't hold them off forever, as the characters find out repeatedly and constantly have to retreat to new areas.
- Uzumaki almost entirely takes place during the day. There are only a very few scenes that take place at night. Daylight doesn't help the protagonists anyway, since there are no ways out of the valley.
- In Neil Gaiman's fantasy/horror series Sandman, many scenes take place in Hell. These scenes show horrific demons torturing souls in violent ways. The scenes are colored to look like it is perpetually dusk.
- Lampshaded in an issue of The Walking Dead. Rick, the main character, complains that it's getting cloudy. His friend welcomes the darkness since it had previously been very sunny and the sunlight was "too much of a contradiction."
- The Ring, and HOW.
- The Mist, though it's so, uh, foggy you really couldn't tell.
- Many scenes in the first half of Lost Highway maintain an incredibly menacing feel in broad daylight.
- The Lord of the Rings accomplished this in the first movie. The Ring Wraiths chase Arwen and Frodo across an open field on a very clear and sunny day. It's probably one of the more frightening sequences of the entire trilogy.
- Then there was that damn Uruk-hai attack.
- The scene where Frodo falls into the Dead Marshes from The Two Towers. True, the water itself was fairly dark, but the whole scene took place during the day. Not to mention the soldiers' decapitated heads catapulted over the walls of Minas Tirith in broad daylight in Return of the King...
- John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness happens over the span of a single day in a church with obviously working electricity.
- Another from John Carpenter's films, The Thing, while still using night time for some of its scares, manages to have a few intense moments in the light of day. Then again, they're in the stormy antarctic, so it's mostly an overcast daylight.
- One of Carpenter's most effective uses of the trope, and one of the most famous, are the scenes in his film Halloween when "the shape" is stalking Laurie Strode and her friends through the quiet streets of Haddonfield during the middle of the day. The idyllic, sunny small town environment is rendered uncanny and frightening by the mixture of creepy music and the fact that the audience is aware of a malevolent presence that the onscreen characters cannot seem to sense.
- Obvious examples include both Day of the Dead movies, remake and original.
- The same goes for Dawn of the Dead.
- Twenty Eight Days Later as well as Twenty Eight Weeks Later have the infected attack during the day.
- The opening of 28 Weeks Later was in broad daylight, over some nice green fields, with a horde of zombies. Nightmares ensue.
- David Cronenberg did this quite a bit in his early days with movies such as Shivers and Rabid which depicted horrific scenes in well-lit buildings or even daytime. For instance, the subway is pretty bright in this scene.
- The Cube is very bright in some chambers.
- In the sequel EVERY chamber is practically a White Void Room.
- Just to show that when this trope is used, it doesn't always work. WARNING: Serious Narm.
- The whole of And Soon the Darkness takes place in a sunny afternoon.
- Many of the scary scenes in Jaws happen during the day, including the climax.
- The final sequence in A Nightmare on Elm Street movie invoked this trope, going so far as to give the audience a false sense of security before pulling the rug.
- The Ken Russell film The Lair of the White Worm was, at the time, a rare movie for showing vampires stalking victims during the daytime. The movie was based on a novel by Bram Stoker. See also: Literature.
- The first Predator movie was mostly set during the course of a single day, yet the monster was still hidden due to invisibility, making those scenes more intense.
- The "Man behind Winkies" scene in Mulholland Drive.
- Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining rarely shows darkness. It has many scenes in the day, the hotel always has all of its lights on, and there is a white blanket of snow on the ground outside that makes everything... well, shiny.
- Most of the bird-attacks in The Birds occur during one bright day.
- A number of scenes in The Exorcist have been remarked upon for taking place in daylight, notably The One With... Reagan's spinning head.
- The final scene of The Evil Dead (and subsequently, one of the first scenes of the second movie) shows that the awful night has finally ended: Ash is alive, the deadites are gone, and all is well... then we're hit with Shaky POV Cam.
- The cropduster attack in the cornfield from North by Northwest.
- The Hills Have Eyes: Being the sadistic bastards that they are, the mutants preferred to take down most of their victims in broad daylight rather than at night when they're most vulnerable.
- Juon and The Grudge (and numerous sequels): It doesn't matter if you're in your apartment with the lights on, in a bus, at school, in America thousands of miles away from Japan, or driving a taxi down the road in a Santa outfit delivering a cake to a certain cursed household, the grudge will get you no matter where you are...
- The Crocodile Hunter movie mentions on DVD commentary that they had a scene of Steve handling a deadly snake at night but didn't put in the movie because a similar scene during the day looked more dangerous.
- The Host invokes this trope perfectly when the monster first attacks. The director purposefully wanted an attack during a nice day in order to make the scene surreal and frightening. People are hanging out by Han River one minute, and getting eaten the next.
- In Serenity, Miranda is one of the most brightly lit planets we see in the 'Verse, but it's still where our Big Damn Heroes discover how the Pax killed almost everyone on the planet and created the Reavers. And it's terrifying.
- Many of the scenes of horror in The Devils Rejects take place during the day. One victim even dies the next morning, outside in broad daylight, after the killers have vacated the premises.
- The first Candyman movie had many scenes set during the day. This includes when Candy Man himself first appears in a brightly-lit garage and many of the kills/gory scenes.
- The "birthday party video" scene from Signs. It's arguably scarier than any of the scenes that take place at night.
- Obviously this doesn't work in the absurdly bad The House That Screamed, since the reviewer at Something Awful repeatedly keeps pointing out that "nothing is fucking scary in broad daylight".
- Tremors takes place almost entirely during the day. It's been a while, but this troper doesn't remember the graboids attacking at night at all.
- A few scenes did have one of the creatures trap the protagonist trio overnight on top a cluster of boulders (which also protects them as they can't tunnel through rock). Also, one of their earlier victims were a doctor and his wife (who died when they pulled the car she was hiding in for safety into the sand) all during the nighttime. The point is that like moles, the eponymous worms do not need light to navigate their surroundings and will attack regardless if it's day or night.
- Yes, there's a single nighttime death scene (retired doctor and his wife...and their station wagon), but it's really less terrifying than the daytime graboid scenes because, at night, it's pretty conventional horror movie stuff.
- The 80's slasher flick Pieces starts off with a flashback of the killer chopping his mother up with an axe. The movie skips ahead forty years later and the first kill is a college student getting chopped up by a chainsaw in the middle of the quad on a day that's so sunny, the glare from the sun hides the killer's face.
- Death Proof constantly skirts the line between being an incredibly violent car chase movie and being an inordinately action-heavy slasher movie. Either way, the bulk of the movie is set in the scorching desert, in broad daylight.
- The Creeper's first on-screen kill in Jeepers Creepers 2 is in broad daylight. And it's absolutely terrifying.
- Most of the scenes in The Wicker Man take place in broad daylight, including the terrifying climax. This lets the audience take in the beautiful Celtic landscape, but also helps sink in the deranged surreality of Summer Isle. The things the villagers do in full view of one another wouldn't be nearly as off-putting if it happened at night.
- One of the murder scenes in Zodiac takes place on a bright and sunny day.
- This gets mentioned in Courage Under Fire, when a soldier recalls being Trapped Behind Enemy Lines in the first Gulf War, and waiting all through the night, knowing that the Iraqis were going to overwhelm them come dawn. As he puts it to another soldier interviewing him years afterward "I don't know why people think only good things happen in the daytime".
- The frightening and unexpected closing scenes of Carrie occur during the day.
- Insidious had the scene where the demon pops up in plain sight behind the woman's shoulder at the coffee table in the middle of the day which gave audiences a good startle just because it was so unexpected.
- Resident Evil Extinction is set almost entirely during the day.
- The remake of Friday the 13th had the typical "people take off their clothes and go out to the lake, only to be killed by Jason" scene. This time, however, it happened during the day.
- The final scenes of Session 9 are not only bathed in sunlight, but birdsong too.
- While there are clues that the events start prior to that point, Shaun of the Dead shows the proper zombie apocalypse kicking off in the morning as Shaun wakes up with a hangover. In his half-asleep daze, he fails to notice the corpses everywhere and the zombies hunting the living as he goes to the store and returns to his apartment. Most of the action following this happens in broad daylight.
- Many of the Smoke Monster scenes from Lost happened in broad daylight.
- Dexter is a show that loves to have gruesome serial killer murder scenes juxtaposed against the beautiful Miami backdrop.
- The Doctor Who serial The Greatest Show in the Galaxy takes place during local daytime, as does Fury from the Deep.
- Almost all of the action in "Blink" takes place in the daytime, much of it even in broad daylight. That doesn't make it any less terrifying, as most people who have watched it will tell you.
- Part of "Amy's Choice" is set in a sleepy village during the day.
- All of "Father's Day" occurs on the day of a wedding.
- In the Torchwood episode "End of Days", Abaddon terrorizes the city and kills loads of people in broad daylight. Given that a shadow was required in order to devour people's life force this is actually logical, you need light to cast a shadow.
- Twin Peaks has lots of really creepy scenes that take place in broad daylight. Starting right with the very first scene.
- The sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer subverted the show's usual "Night-time horror" by having most of the scary stuff happen during daytime, culminating in the death of Tara, and Willow's attempt to destroy the world.
- Lampshaded in the very first episode where Willow is conducting a magic ceremony in a beautiful sunlit forest glade. A fawn comes up to lick her hand and Willow promptly slits its throat.
- Used frequently and effectively in The Walking Dead, as the zombies are active in the daytime.
- The main character, Rick Grimes, first emerges from his coma to find himself in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse during the daytime.
- Later, Rick barely survives an encounter with a horde of zombies on the streets of Atlanta.
- In the second season premiere, Rick's group are forced to hide from zombies marching along the highway.
- Famously, Bram Stoker originally had Dracula walking freely during the day.
- In Dean Koontz's novel Cold Fire, Jim and Holly are awakened on a sunny morning by a monstrous presence trying to force its way through the bedroom ceiling. "When something from Beyond found you in the dead hours of the night, you half expected it. But sunshine was supposed to banish all monsters."
- Invoked in-universe for The Zombie Survival Guide. Which recommends finding safe places to sleep during the night, and only 'get moving" when there's Daylight. Implicitly putting you on even terms with the undead, who don't need to see you to find and eat you.
- Consciously invoked by H.P. Lovecraft in his short story, Cool Air:
It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude. I found it in the glare of mid-afternoon, in the clangour of a metropolis, and in the teeming midst of a shabby and commonplace rooming-house with a prosaic landlady and two stalwart men by my side.
- Kids by MGMT.
Myth, Folklore, and Fairy Tales
- East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon is about a girl whose father marries her off to a Bear. She is unhappy but resigned to the prospect. However, the Bear is kind to her, and it turns out that he's only enchanted to be a bear during the day—at night he has a human form, but his wife can't see him, lest he be separated from her forever. She gets an idea...
- In Magic: The Gathering, the Rise of the Eldrazi set started a three-block series of horror sets. To set the Eldritch Abomination Eldrazi apart from the biomechanical Corruption of the Phyrexians, or the Hammer Horror inspired Innistrad, they were always drawn in bright daylight. This served to show their bright, coral-inspired colors and to make it clear even daylight could not protect you.
- This article discusses the concept of daylight levels in horror games.
- Dead Island. Full stop.
- For the most part, The Simpsons Hit and Run’s scary moments occur during the night, such as when Bart and Apu discover that Kang and Kodos have secretly been making the citizens of Springfield drink mind control cola for their hit TV show. There is one exception, however, when Bart is abducted by the aliens in broad daylight. And yes, it’s scarier that way.
- Many levels in Resident Evil 5 take place during the day.
- 4 is pretty gray and gloomy, even during the day, but a slim majority of 5 occurs out in the blinding sun.
- Amplified by the superior lightning effects in 5, an enemy with their back to the sun is a major annoyance.
- Resident Evil 3 Nemesis as well. Well, until you get out of the police station that is.
- Not that it makes a difference — the classic Resident Evil's were never dark to begin with, unless we're talking about a room with a light switch or an area where you have to turn the power on.
- 4 is pretty gray and gloomy, even during the day, but a slim majority of 5 occurs out in the blinding sun.
- Left 4 Dead 2's daytime segments don't just change the lighting, but the behavior of one of the Special Infected. Witches normally sit in one place at night, but during the day they wander around.
- Given the Hollywood Darkness the series favors, you don't gain any advantages on spotting the Infected. In fact, the only bonus for daylight is that the Witch is much more tranquil when walking.
- Though not outright horror, some of the levels in Mass Effect at least go for Daylight Creepy, like Feros and Ilos, and even the prologue on Eden Prime to some degree. In Mass Effect 2, almost every level is like this.
- A specific example is Horizon, a colony in the process of being abducted by the Collectors. It's a beautiful, summery day and the colony looks like any prefabricated community, a place where people live, farm, work and sleep. And then you come across humans frozen in place in the process of fleeing, falling, screaming, hiding, trying to help each other...and then you stop coming across them, and it's like they were never there at all.
- Taken several notches up in Mass Effect 3 with Sanctuary. It's a refugee camp on Horizon that takes in human refugees from planets destroyed by the Reapers and the reception area looks a lot like an elegant and clean airport with huge skylights and indoor parks, except for some very recent damage from firefights and crashed shuttles. As you arrive the last enemy troops are on full retreat and there is nobody else there, while the PA keeps blaring out instructions to new arrivals, which sound increasingly like cult propaganda. From terminals you learn that new arrivals are confined to the reception area and have to leave behind all their possessions. If you volunteer as a receptionist, you are promised better accomodations once you are permited inside the main compound. From which nobody has ever returned. It's actually a kind of concentration camp where refugees are turned into brainwashed cyborg soldiers and everyone who is not suitable is turned into test subjects for anti-zombie weapons.
- Bio Shock Infinite looks to be heading in this direction.
- Pathologic is this trope. Though even the noon of the sunniest day in the game has a withered, autumn atmosphere and can look mildly gloomy.
- Lake Yantar in STALKER is somehow more creepy during the day than during night. During the highly overcast day you can often see zombiefied Stalkers shuffling in the distance or Snorks crawling through the bushes while at night it's just a usual dark wilderness level.
- The upcoming X-COM FPS will be set mostly during daytime. Earlier games in the series also had missions that would take place in daylight, depending on when your soldiers arrived at a terror site.
- Minecraft: Well, it looks like the suns coming up, and all the Mooks are being burned by it. I guess it's safe to go outside! *SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS*...OhCrap
- To explain for non-Minecraft players, most enemies in Minecraft spawn in darkness and burn in direct sunlight, with the exception of two mobs. The first is the giant spider, which becomes passive and stops attacking the player without provocation after the sun comes up. The one mentioned here is the second exception, The Creeper, an Action Bomb which combines several annoying traits. Its body is mottled green, so it blends in rather well with trees. It's completely silent except for a hissing sound it makes right next to you moments before detonating. Its AI is advanced enough that it can ambush the player, hiding in alcoves or around corners waiting to catch you by surprise. And most importantly for this trope, sunlight neither harms nor pacifies creepers, so when you leave your shelter in the morning, they'll be waiting for you.
- In Fragile Dreams there are some places where the sun is setting or it's dawn, but most of the game happens at night (the game's symbol is the moon so day/night cycles are not quite respected). However there is a single setting where you get to play while the sun shines, a Hotel, and is one of the scariest parts of the game.
- A few of the games in the Silent Hill franchise start off in the day, granted a dark and gloomy day, before moving on to night. Silent Hill 2 however has the whole game take place during an overcast day with the only truly dark lighting being inside buildings or when the town shifts into one of it's nightmare world incarnations.
- Eternal Darkness has the one of the characters wondering around a spooky mansion in the day with the sun getting ready to set and still manages to give off the uneasy feeling that monsters are watching you and can strike at any moment.
- Dryfield, the monster-infested town from Parasite Eve 2.
- Diablo 2 mostly takes place under the sunlight (when it's not Beneath the Earth), including a desert territory brimming with undead buzzards and demonic locusts. Diablo I is always night (and the action is entirely Beneath the Earth).
- A large chunk of Devil May Cry takes place during daylight.
- At least half of the missions in Killer 7 take place in sunny locations, like Texas, the Dominican Republic, and a well-lit Amusement Park (of Doom). But since this is a Surreal Horror we're talking about, the bright light emphasizes the bizarre, cel-shaded, technicolor palette, making the world around you only look that much more alien and hostile.
- The Slender Man is generally associated with fog and dark places, but there's nothing really stopping him appearing in broad daylight if he so desires, as seen in most of the web videos based on his mythos.
- Much of Nyx Crossing takes place during the daytime. Doesn't stop it from being eerie though.
- The second chapter of The Bongcheon Dong Ghost takes place in the middle of the day at a train station.
- Fiver's vision in Watership Down shows blood creeping across a meadow with a bright sun overhead.
- Final Fantasy the Spirits Within, the phantoms began rising from the shore and started killing unsuspecting people playing about in the beach one afternoon. Of course, they are invisible — nothing like being attacked by a monster you can't see in daylight.
- Batman: The Animated Series: The episode "Home and Garden" shows one of the few times where Batman's in action in broad daylight. Of course, the reality behind Poison Ivy's new domestic life is no picture-perfect fairy tale, either...dear God, the "cabbage plant kids"...
- Extremely noticable in the animated Disney film Tarzan, especially the scenes involving Sabor the leopard.
- Arguably, being in certain countries in Africa where anarchy is common, oppression is nothing new, and vigilante justice is everyone's cup of tea, a targeted man walking during the night would be much safer than being seen in broad daylight.
- Night is when you are safe at home with others around you. Have you ever been all alone on a quiet day and suddenly get the feeling that you are being watched?
- Giant hogweed (species H. mantegazzianum and H. sosnowskii). A tall poisonous plant that spreads like kudzu and causes dangerous blisters and burns that can enter Body Horror territory if you are not careful. Its poison only works under sunlight, it's safe by night.