The “Mirror Scare” Horror Trope, Explained

In real life, mirrors are quite a boring part of everyday life. People walk past them without a second thought or check their hairstyle or makeup. But in the horror genre, mirrors are how spirits or villains show themselves to characters they’re haunting or about to kill, and it’s not possible to look in the mirror in the middle overnight without anything bad happening.


Some horror tropes can seem corny, and fans have gotten super wise with them over the years. But the “Mirror Scare” trope is superior because it’s still guaranteed to feel scary. There’s one TV show in particular that uses this trope effectively and creates an air of jaw-dropping terror every time.

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According TV tropes, the “Mirror Scare” horror trope uses the reflection of a mirror to show the villain, be it a creature, monster, killer, or ghost. Usually these scenes take place in the bathroom and the main or minor character looks at himself in the mirror of the medicine cabinet. When the character opens the door and takes something out, then looks in the mirror again, he sees something behind him. Or the villain is literally in the mirror now.

The website mentions that the character can see things or imagine them or, in most cases, the villain is really there. The Mirror Scare trope is the best because the faces of the villains are truly shocking and while it’s easy to predict, it’s heartwarming in its familiarity and always welcome. A lot of great horror movies don’t use jump scare, but often when a movie does, it uses the Mirror Scare trope at the same time. This works well because it’s always terrifying when a character assumes they’re alone and then realizes they’re not. This trope is also used most often late at night or even in the middle of the night and having the character in a dark house or apartment makes it more creepy.

Freddy versus Jason, which is an underrated horror movie, is a prime example of the Mirror Scare trope. Mark Davis (Brendan Fletcher) doesn’t want to fall asleep because of course Freddy Krueger kills people in dreams, so he goes to the bathroom to take pills. He closes the bathroom cabinet door and instead of seeing Mark’s face in the mirror, the audience sees Freddy’s. Freddy kills Mark, who knows it can’t stop what is about to happen to him. The Mirror Scare trope is effective here because it proves that even though Mark thinks he has a plan to escape Freddy, Freddy is too strong and Mark won’t be victorious. The Mirror Scare shows that the villain is literally everywhere.

Just as this trope is often used with good horror movies, it also works in a TV series with young adult characters. Are you scared of the dark? has scary episodes and the reboot’s third season, “Ghost Island,” uses the Mirror Scare trope. Kayla King (Telci Huynh), who mourns the death of his sister Bella, travels to a beautiful island with his best friends for the summer. The group meets Max Matheson (Conor Sherry) who shares a ghost story that many people who live there believe to be true. In the Midnight Society tradition of the original 90s children’s horror TV show, viewers see the story unfold as a young boy opens the door to room 13 and never leaves. When Kayla and her friends enter the room, they hear the song that played in the story, and they think they are going to be trapped there. The show is as charming as the original and the mirror element makes it memorable.

In a clever move, the show uses the Mirror Scare trope by having Max look in the mirror and see a distorted, weird version of himself. When he stands still, his mirror image moves and spins in a circle. Without this addition, the scene would not be so horrible. The magic mirror proves that something dangerous is about to happen.

Like other teen horror TV shows, the Are you scared of the dark? reboot understands that its young characters are very brave because they believe in themselves and life hasn’t knocked them down too many times yet. Max is determined to figure out why the mirror in this particular room is showing something scary, and viewers know he will most likely succeed.

While many horror tropes can fall flat, there’s nothing quite like a good Mirror Scare. This trope suggests that the characters aren’t in control of their situation and won’t be able to escape the evil that awaits them.

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