Frights in Disguise: Unintentionally Scary Pieces of Media

Last year we discussed "four games that hide their horror", but that was all about video games that were built to be intentionally scary but hide their frights beneath an otherwise cute exterior, to fool the unsuspecting. If you hear mutterings about their scariness through their grapevine, you might be able to get away unscathed. But what happens when a piece of media; whether it be a movie or a video game, isn't created with scares in mind, but something within its content manages to scare your socks off anyway? We've rallied our Alt:Mag writing team to help bring some of these stray spooks to your attention!
Monster Hunter - Picked by Harrison Fleming

Have you ever met a Deviljho in Monster Hunter? Imagine you're playing a high-rank quest, perhaps hunting a Great Jaggi. You're about to creep up on your target when, suddenly, the music turns sinister - but the Jaggi hasn't seen you. You look behind you, and there it is... an abomination worse than anything from Jurassic World. And it's about to have you and that Jaggi for dinner! 
The Deviljho has many cute and funny nicknames, but don't be fooled. Ten years after it first appeared in Monster Hunter 3, it continues to strike fear in the hearts of beginning and seasoned hunters. Its sheer strength, atomic breath, and ferocious appetite are scary enough - but the worst thing is you're always bound to run into one when you least expect it. If you're feeling brave, you can find Big Jho in the newest game, Monster Hunter World. Be careful though, he has some new tricks up his sleeve... 

Batman: Arkham Asylum - Picked by Ben Williams

Moving on to become one of the seventh generation's biggest franchises, Batman Arkham Asylum defined the superhero genre in gaming; and it wasn't just because of its groundbreaking combat and adventure elements that made becoming the caped crusader so breathtaking. Masterfully paced and implemented, there was one part of the 2009 Batman story that still sends eerie chills down my spine to this day. Normally sending fear into the hearts of criminals, this particular section looks into the fear of Batman (Bruce Wayne) himself and it belongs in its own horror film.
Subtly afflicted with the effects of the Scarecrow's gaseous fear toxin, we begin to see the Dark Knight facing his worst fears as if they were reality. He sees the dead body of Commissioner Gordon, facing the idea that, like with his parents, he was once again unable to save those he cares for. Continuing to walk through the Asylum, the eerier music continues to escalate whilst masses of insects scale the walls. Opening another set of cold, metallic doors, Batman finds himself in an empty morgue.
Nothing seems too irregular, that is until you make Batman walk around. As you continue to make him stroll around the room designed for the deceased, you begin to hear whispers. The mutterings of child-like ghosts increase, in tandem with the morgue almost coming to life; as the cold lockers where bodies would be stored open and shut wildly on their own. Finally, when you walk through another door to leave this room of nightmares, Batman enters an identical yet-thankfully silent morgue. The other key difference however is that there are three full body bags lying ahead. 

Giving you a sense of suspenseful unease, you’re urged to hesitantly walk over to the zipped-up corpses. The first is none other than the decaying, rotting body of Bruce Wayne’s own Dad, Thomas Wayne.

“Father….” Bruce mutters in a vulnerable down.

Thomas’ corpse turns and responds, almost angrily, “you should’ve stood up to him, son, like a man!”

Bruce goes across to the other bag, parallel to his father’s. Upon opening it he finds the elegantly dressed, ghostly corpse of his cherished mother, Martha Wayne.

“Mom….” Says Bruce in a tone of heartbreak.

The corpse turns its pale head, looking with clear, unseeing eyes as she cries, “help us, Bruce! Don’t let us die!”

At last, there is nothing else to do but approach the third bag, to discover what horror remains. Batman opens the bag and the horrifying, piercing gaze of the Scarecrow jumps out, making Bruce fall to the floor in delirium. Batman soon stands back up, his senses regained. Scarecrow and the bodies of his parents are gone.

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day - Picked by Lewis Cox

Not many people would argue that the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and his pals in the Hundred Acre Woods aren't some of the most wholesome children's tales to ever grace our screens. I for one still have a nostalgic soft spot for Pooh and pals, and the 2018 Christopher Robin movie gave me so many damn feels.
But there is a part of my happy childhood memories watching Winnie the Pooh that I have learnt to suppress. A little section during Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day known as "Heffalumps and Woozles". I once got told by someone that I was ridiculous for saying I found it creepy. Watch this shit and tell me that it doesn't unsettle you at least a little. Even a twinge of discomfort?

As a kid I felt traumatised watching my favourite yellow bear get taunted by the titular Heffalumps and Woozles. They shift in and out of existence, they contort and change, and they do so at a very alarming speed, as if the knowledge that you couldn't escape the fuckers wasn't drummed into your head enough. They do things that things in reality, you know, don't.
The music is discordant and the vocals are mocking, with a use of echo/reverb on them that just adds to the "you're in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable place lol" vibe that the entire scene carries. Oh, and there's a nice dose of heights too, in case you weren't tormented enough. And don't get me started on that bloody honey (sorry, "hunny") pot with human legs and its bloody Joker (2019) laugh. There's no reason it needed to laugh like that. That's not cool, man.
The reason why media for kids is so generic is because generic and normal is what makes kids feel safe and comfortable. As you tip your toe into the horror genre, you start to learn that taking us away from familiarity - from our comfort zones - is often what causes the best frights. Disney managed to utilise one of horror's favourite scaring conventions for a scene in the middle of a kid's movie. Thanks for the trauma, Disney.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - Picked by Liv Gamble

On the surface, Majora’s Mask doesn’t look too threatening. Many of the promotional images, and a lot of the cover art for the game, isn’t exactly what many of us would call scary. At 9 years old, fresh-faced, na├»ve and going in blind, I definitely wouldn’t have called it scary. I’d just finished playing Ocarina of Time and figured it was time to try Majora’s Mask – another fun little romp with Link!

How wrong I was.

Majora’s Mask may have elements of fun concealed within but rest assured it’s a horror game, through and through. From the very first second you begin the game, you’re transported into a strange world where time doesn’t quite run right, where you’re threatened and manhandled by the Happy Mask Salesman before you can say ‘quit game’, and where the people of Clock Town panic and suffer under a darkening sky.

Oh, yeah, and if all of that wasn’t bad enough, you have three days to save this backwards world from this gigantic, hellish nightmare:

Yep. That’s the moon. Save Termina (oh, come on – even the name is one letter away from the word ‘terminal’) in three days, or let it be crushed under a grinning hunk of rock. At this point I’d be willing to get the hell out of there and leave Termina to its fate, but there’s just one thing – you can’t leave.

So it’s up to you to swim the poisoned waters of the swamp, face-off against ruthless pirates and literally enter the valley of the dead in order to save this hell-world. You’d better make good use of the skip button, otherwise you’ll be treated each time to a clip of Link howling in pain as the various masks contort his features. Speaking of masks, there’s one in particular that sends this game from scary, to bone-chillingly terrifying; the All-Night Mask. As the name implies, it keeps you awake if you wear it. Sounds fine, right? Wrong. According to one of the Gossip Stones dotted around Termina, it was originally used as a torture device – forcing people to stay awake for days, weeks, months on end…

I know what you’re thinking; what the hell is wrong with this game, right? Did Nintendo have an emo phase, or something? And this is normally the part where I’d disagree, because Majora’s Mask is a fantastic game in its own right. But that doesn’t stop it from being all kinds of messed-up.

One last thing, if you were, by some miracle, doubting this game’s capacity for horror: While you’re travelling the valley of the dead, you’ll come across a house. Moaning, mummified corpses known as Gibdos are circling that house. Inside, a little girl is trapped. Her father is trapped inside with her, and he’s becoming one of those things. Not only is this game terrifying, they had to bring children into it. Thanks, Nintendo.

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