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A music box tune that sounds a bit off. It may have an overly cheery or depressing sound to it or the tune just seems to be completely out of place. Either way, the effect is just creepy, and there is something not quite right about it. Something not quite right at all.

Shows up in horror movies and TV shows occasionally.

Compare Ironic Nursery Tune, Creepy Circus Music, and Creepy Children Singing, where creepy songs and nursery rhymes are played in the background to add tension and fear to a scene. Similar to the Uncanny Valley, in that the tiny bit that's "off" is what makes it feel very wrong.

Examples of Ominous Music Box Tune include:


Anime

Film

  • The music from a musical box entrances the killer into a homicidal state of mind in Dario Argento's Deep Red.
  • The Sandman in Hanna.
  • Davey Jones' music box In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It was supposed to be romantic--because of Davy Jones and Calypso/Tia Dalma, but the effect was kind of ruined when they did that crazy-evil organ arrangement while the fish-pirates were scrubbing the deck.
    • This is also an instance of the planet wide cinematic regulation which says that wistful music-box melodies must slow and eventually stop just before the final note.
  • The above Pirates of the Caribbean example seems like an homage to For a Few Dollars More, where El Indio (sexy weed-smoking Mexican baddie) is addicted to a musical pocket watch, which plays Morricone music, and he uses it every time he has a duel, or just kills someone.
    • As the flashback sequence in throughout the movie keeps extending, showing us more and more of what happened on that rainy night, you realize just how creepy this is, since El Indio got it from a woman whose husband he killed and whom he then raped, driving her to shoot herself. One of the two heroes has a matching version because it turns out the woman was his sister.
    • Used to great effect in their final showdown as they agree to draw when the music stops.
  • Major plot point in Tuck Everlasting.
  • The main theme from Ju-on: The Grudge.
  • Charlie Clouser - Dead Silence, main theme.
  • Samara's song from The Ring.
  • The song that plays in the opening ballroom scene of the Disney movie Haunted Mansion. The music box in the movie also has a similar tune.
  • Hedwig's Theme. Even though it is never heard from a music box, the instrumentation is heavily reminiscent of one.
  • The theme from Candyman is this.
  • One Missed Call has this as a cell phone ring tone and a teddy bear that plays it.
  • The arrangement of "Mother" in the movie Pink Floyd The Wall.
  • Danny Elfman uses this in a lot of his works, for example, in the theme from Edward Scissorhands and Jack's Lament
  • As if there wasn't enough horror motifs in the 1999 remake of The Haunting (it already had Creepy Circus Music), there was also a music box tune which Eleanor was humming almost from the beginning of the movie (suggesting even then that she was already being drawn to the house). She later finds the actual music box in the nursery of Hill House. If it isn't too blasphemous to consider, one might wonder if this is meant to be the tune for the song "Journeys End In Lovers Meeting" from the Shirley Jackson novel.
    • Actually, the "song" from the novel is called Carpe Diem, and it's a poem that Shakespeare wrote for his play, "Twelfth Night."
  • In Time After Time, Jack the Ripper has a cameo on a chain that contains, along with a mystery woman's photo, a tiny music box as accompaniment to his activities.
  • The theme song of Dead Friend (aka The Ghost).
  • The Red Queen's theme from Resident Evil was written to sound like a sweet child's waltz. As the movie continues, her theme becomes increasingly dark and menacing as she shows her murderous colors to the group.
  • Throughout The Innocents, Flora's music box plays the tune O Willow Waly, the lyrics of which are sung by Flora at the very beginning of the film.
  • The first few notes of "Do You Know Where Christmas Trees are Grown" (a cheerful song that played in the background earlier) can be heard in a tense scene after 007 is locked in a cable car machine room in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Live Action TV

  • There was a tune like this in the Are You Afraid of the Dark?? episode "The Tale of the Dark Music" when the Creepy Doll shows up. There were a more tunes like these in other episodes as well.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Survivors," Deanna Troi, The Empath of the crew, happens to hear a music box playing during her visit to an elderly couple's home after a mysterious attack on their colony. Her empathic nature briefly brings her into contact with something very powerful that doesn't want to be discovered - the result is that the music box melody starts playing in her mind over and over again, louder and louder, until even a medically induced coma can't block it out.
  • Used in Doctor Who in "Silence in the Library" as the theme for the library and the alternate world, doubling the WTF factor and giving the episode Moffat's trademark 'dark fairytale' overtone.
  • The final notes of the Dollhouse Instrumental Theme Tune sound like a music box in minor key. Appropriate, given the title.
  • The killer in the Babylon 5 episode "No Compromises" uses one.
  • Criminal Minds makes use of the very haunting "Illabye" to great effect on two separate episodes.
  • Power Rangers RPM features a haunting tune whenever Dillon (Ranger Series Black) has a flashback of his past prior to the series beginning. The dark lighting in those flashbacks don't help, either.
  • The Ominous Music Box Tune is used to a fantastic effect in this advert for Eastenders.


Music

  • The song "Blue" by The Birthday Massacre.
  • "Grisly Reminder" by Midnight Syndicate.
  • "Sæglopur," by Sigur Ròs, manages to combine this and some of the most haunting bowed guitar ever.
    • Sigur Ros uses music boxes quite a lot, actually, especially in Takk and Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do. Most of the time the sound is meant to be pretty rather than ominous, however.
  • "Haunted Music Box," Made By Sirfinix.
  • "Kid A" and "No Surprises" by Radiohead.
  • Gothic Lolita by Emilie Autumn starts with a clanky music box tune that jumps notes when you least expect it.
    • "What If" ends with one of these.
  • Lordi's "Blood Red Sandman" starts with one.
  • "White Russian" by Marillion uses this to chilling effect, even slowing the music box to a halt just before the last note.
  • "Swept Away" by Flyleaf.
  • "Spieluhr" by Rammstein. The title actually means Music Box.
  • Rockabye Baby is a band that does covers of classic rock and alternative songs as instrumental baby music. Their output runs quite a gamut of bands, from the Beach Boys to Bob Marley to Green Day to Tool, so it occasionally runs into this (especially with the covers of Tool, Nirvana, Metallica, Radiohead, and Nine Inch Nails)
  • In The Phantom of the Opera, the music box with the monkey on top plays "Masquerade."
  • "Music Box" by Eminem. As you would expect from Slim Shady, it has some pretty dark lyrics about drug use, satanism, cannibalism and the like.
  • "Return To Innocence Lost" by The Roots uses an eerie music box tune in it's backing music. The effect is meant to be sad rather than scary though; the song is about the child of an abusive drug-addicted father growing up to become an addict himself and eventually dying at a young age from a gunshot wound.
  • "Old" by Starflyer 59 begins with the clicking of a music box being wound. The music box plays for the opening stanza before getting drowned out. It can be heard again at the end, after the other instruments stop.
  • "Jynweythek Ylow"(Cornish for "electronic music machine") by Aphex Twin.
  • "The Box Part 1"(album version) by Orbital.
  • Depeche Mode's "Blasphemous Rumours" has one come up in the middle of the song right before the central character is fatally wounded in a car wreck.
  • Creepy Doll by Jonathan Coulton features one in the opening bars of the song.
  • Featured on the opening of Helloween's "Still We Go."
  • The beginnings of "Bring Me To Life" and "Taking Over Me" by Evanescence.
    • Also "Tourniquet"
  • The Ambient musician Colleen is fond of the music box. She has an EP full of them.
  • Steven Wilson's song "Significant Other" has this at the end.
  • Porcupine Tree's "Drawing the Line" has one at the start (it's not actually a music box, but still fits the trope).
  • Thrice's "Music Box" features an actual recording of a music box, which the band had to wind just so in order to sync it with the heavy guitar rock of the song.
  • The Northern Kings' version of the Radiohead song "Creep" uses a music box to make the song sound incredibly...well, creepy. This is especially noticeable at the beginning and end of the song, creating an eerie and spooky atmosphere.
  • Hannah Fury loves this trope. It's featured in a large number of her songs, most notably Beware The Touch, My Next Victim and Never Look Back.
  • Used in several song outros on Kaizers Orchestra's album Violeta Violeta Volume I.
  • Korn's song Dead Bodies Everywhere opens with this.
  • Panic! at the Disco's Ballad of Mona Lisa
  • The Vocaloid song "Music Box of Time"
  • This remix of ZUN's Mary the Magician, from his Touhou supplementary Ghostly Field Club.
  • The song "Mr. Tinkertrain" by Ozzy Osbourne, which is about a sexual predator who preys on children, opens with a creepy music box tune.

Pro Wrestling

  • A scary musicbox tune has been playing in the background in the VERY creepy WWE promo videos for the former TNA wrestling Awesome Kong, to be known in WWE as "Kharma."

Video Games

  • First Encounter Assault Recon: Alma's music box.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask and Twilight Princess all have this kind of tune: the theme for the Stone Tower Temple, Song of Healing, Twilight Princess - Original Soundtrack, etc.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, the music box in the old man's house plays a rather mournful tune and almost certainly belonged to the man's dead wife, who you later meet as a ghost in the forest.
  • In DK64, the tune that plays in Frantic Factory opens with a singularly creepy music-box segment, complete with "winding up," and it returns several times throughout the tune.
  • Just about the entire soundtrack of American McGee's Alice comes off as this.
  • The "Game Over" music in Blaz Blue sounds like a generic, slightly dissonant "better luck next game" tune (mostly "ominous" because the player just lost). Early in Ragna's Story (the first most players are likely to try, since it's at the top of the list), it's revealed to be the song from Saya's music box. Who's Saya, you ask? Figure It Out Yourself.
  • Meteos gives us the theme music for Jeljel.
  • Fable 2 has the music from the music box from the beginning playing during the breakdown of the "Perfect World" part of the game, including the music becoming more and more disjointed as you run away from the bright, shiny place.
  • "Luigis Mansion" especially the remix which actually incorporates a few cords from a music box.
  • "Baby Bowser's Lullaby" in Yoshis Story.
  • Also, before you reach a miniboss in Super Mario Galaxy, a music box version of the Super Mario Bros Underground theme will start to play.
  • The church music box in Resident Evil 3 Nemesis.
  • The music box in the hotel lobby in Silent Hill 2.
  • In Scratches there is a music box in the attic whose melody starts off rather prettily but quickly turns creepy.
  • In Mother, the first of the 8 Melodies is a music box hidden in your sister's formerly possessed naked baby doll.
  • Valkyrie Profile has "Behave Irrationally" which plays whenever someone dies. Naturally, you'll hear it quite often throughout the game.
  • Radical Dreamers has a music-box reprise of "Day of Summer" after each scenario's end credits. It also features during a key scene of the main scenario.
  • Planetarian opens with its Robot Girl lead cheerfully greeting planetarium customers, over a music-box arrangement of the hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" [1]... and then, we cut immediately to After the End.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles has a song called Mag Mell, which is the theme of a location filled with sleeping Carbuncles that you can only get to after getting past the unknown element Miasma Stream.
  • The Disgaea games have a "music box" version of Dark Whisper, which plays on the title screen. If nothing else, it's a lot more serene than most of the music one normally hears in the games.
  • In Pokémon Black and White, the BGM for N's Toy Room is this. Whether it's more creepy or sad is up for debate.
    • It's both.
    • N's regular overworld Leitmotif comes off as this as well.
  • The BGM for the Fortune-Teller's room in Shivers.
  • Rise of Nightmares for Xbox 360 Kinect features a hand-cranked musical lock that plays an appropriately creepy tune. Just don't crank too fast or slow...just don't.


Web Comics

Western Animation

  1. In case you're wondering what the connection is, in Japan the tune is better known as "World of Stars"
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