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"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."

There's a group of people held up in a building or house somewhere partying, shopping, or just minding their own business, when all of a sudden, there's some random injured and bloody guy/girl who shows up giving an ominous message that someone/something's trying to kill them, and that it's following them. Sometimes the bloody stranger dies before they can be specific about the threat. Thus the group of friends/family starts to argue and debate among themselves about what he or she could have been running from. And of course, the threat eventually shows up...

Can also involve when said threat doesn't even leave time for the heroes to debate what they are up against and attacks immediately resulting in a Surprisingly-Sudden Death.

A side note for authors to avoid a Rouge Angles of Satin situation, there are only two "r"s in harbinger. "Harbringer" is not a word.

Subtrope of Herald. Compare Vagueness Is Coming.

Examples of Harbinger of Impending Doom include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the "Zodd The Immortal" episode of Berserk, a badly wounded Hawk Raider escapes the castle and only has enough time to choke out the name of the demon in question before dying, prompting Guts to enter the castle and take him on alone.
    • In the manga version of Berserk, Guts is perpetually enacting this trope, due to the brand on his neck that attracts demons.
  • In Nico Robin's backstory from One Piece, she is finally reunited with her mother after a traumatic childhood raised by abusive relatives. However, her mother is on the run from the Marines for the dangerous knowledge she, and her entire civilization possesses. Guess who followed her...
  • Kotaro's return in Mahou Sensei Negima.
  • In episode 19 of Heroman, the government scientist who shows up just minutes ahead of the tentacle monster.


  • Pariah from DC Comics whole gimmick is this. His main trick is popping up, stating "I'm Pariah and I'm doomed to go from world to world to see them get destroyed!", ad nauseum.
  • This was also the Silver Surfer's gig. Depending on which version, he'd either go around picking out likely worlds for Galactus to devour, or show up to alert said worlds that Galactus was on his way. Or both.


  • In the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the protagonists pick up a bloody female straggler who appears to be in shock. She warns them that they're going the wrong way (the route she was fleeing from). But they ignore her ramblings and try to calm her down. She then proceeds to shoot herself in the mouth, rather then go back to where she came from.
  • Vincenzo Natali's short film Elevated had a guy come into an elevator screaming about a monster that killed everyone on his floor, and tells them they need to get out of the building.
  • Assault on Precinct 13 had a similar trope where a guy goes into a precinct that was in the process of being shut down. He tries to warn them about a gang of murderers that's trying to kill him. But he's in too much shock to get the words out.
  • Played mostly straight in the film Feast when a man, soon followed by his wife, stumbles into a bar in the desert carrying the severed head of a monster they had hit with their car and informing the patrons that there are more of them outside. And proclaims "A storm of hell is coming down on this place any second..."When asked who he is he proclaims, "I'm the man who's gonna save your ass." He is then promptly killed and yanked out a window by another of the monsters
  • The film Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight has a man being tracked by a demon making his way to a small inn a nowhere town. Hell is literally coming with him.
  • Arguably, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The last not-a-pod-person in a small town gets to the city going on about the invasion, trying to get people to act. He gets locked up right around the time that we hear about a truck with these great big pods that somebody found on the highway...
  • John Woo's The Killer had this as the prelude to the big church shootout that would end the movie. Sidney returns to the church with Ah Jong's money, and he's all bloody because he got the living shit kicked out of him by Johnny and his men, who followed Sidney to the church following his escape, and when he gets shot, he has to ask Ah Jong to finish him because he didn't save his last bullet for himself and doesn't want to die like a dog. Then all hell breaks loose.
  • The Invisible Man has a disturbing moment where someone that Dr. Griffin has tried to utilize runs screaming into a small town: "The invisible man is coming!"
  • The plot of Legion appears to put a spin on this with the archangel Michael arriving at a diner shortly before an army of angels from Heaven come to assault the survivors of the Apocalypse. Started by God.
    • Although the above spoiler sounds stupid, the movie is much worse than that.
  • 28 Weeks Later has the little boy the survivors let in from outside. Several minutes later the infected chasing him smash down the door.

 "Who were chasing you?" "My mum, my dad... They're trying to kill me. There's others too." "How many?" "Loads."

  • "There's something in The Mist and it took John Lee." The panicked man is too busy making a Title Drop to mind his profusely bleeding nose.
  • In Zombieland: the initial girl from Apartment 406 that comes to Columbus's apartment after being attacked by a "homeless person". Somewhat different by the fact that technically hell really didn't come with her. But instead She will be the Hell in a few minutes.
  • The western film, Pale Rider uses the page quote as part of its narration. A subplot of the movie is whether or not the pale rider is actually a live person or a walking dead man who has come to exact his vengeance.
  • In 30 Days of Night, a creepy human arrives in Barrow to pave the way for the vampires (stealing and destroying satellite phones, killing sled dogs and trashing the only helicopter), letting Sheriff Oleson know that his day is about to get much worse, but not specifying precisely how.


  • In the Stephen King story and film The Mist, a bleeding man runs into a grocery store and warns people about the monsters that are in the titular mist.
    • It happens too in The Stand. At the beginning of the novel, the first infected almost blows up the gas station where one the main character is spending the day with some friends when he loses control of his car.
  • A majority of Doc Savage novels begin this way outside Doc's reception room. The cleaning costs must be enormous...
  • In The Riftwar Cycle: Literally. When the last city of their once multi-planet empire is close to falling, the taredhel retreat to Midkemia, their ancestral home - and the horde of demons pursuing them means to follow.
  • "The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming."
  • In The Maltese Falcon, the shot and badly wounded Captain Jacobi manages to stumble into Sam Spade's office and press the eponymous MacGuffin into Sam's hands before expiring on the office floor. Trouble quickly follows.
  • Lampshaded in Far North, by Marcel Theroux. A ragged, starved woman drags herself into the extremely isolated frontier town and dies in front of the grocery store. Makepeace reflects that they should have known she wouldn't be the last.
  • From The Stormlight Archive "The Desolation has come. Oh, has come. And I have failed." quoth Talanel'Elin the Lost Herald after stumbling into Kholinar and immediately before collapsing. Although he might not be dead.

Live Action TV

  • Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere introduced Door this way. Richard thinks, "Oh, a bleeding and wounded girl; I'd better help her." His girlfriend thinks, "I'm going to be late for my meeting and she's probably drunk."

Video Games

  • In the opening cinematic for the original Descent: Free Space game, the sole survivor of a patrol wing arrives outside a space station and starts screaming about 'death black' ships coming after him. Before he can calm down, the Shivans have already arrived. In the sequel, the sole survivor of Kappa wing, which disappeared a dozen or so missions earlier, shouts down the radio, warning to get out of the nebula. He's destroyed shortly thereafter, and the threat to which he refers is made plain some sorties later.
  • In Prey, a Coast to Coast AM listener calls Art Bell and frantically tries to explain the proof he collected about regular alien abductions since 1995. Before he can calm down, the aliens abduct him.
  • This occurs twice in Nie R, first with Emil and then a Man of the Mask from Facade. Respectively, they bring warnings of an attack by Shades and the Knave of Hearts/a wolf attack during the King and Fyra's wedding. In both cases they're too late.


Western Animation

  • More of a Heck's Comin' With Me: on Ben 10, a young camper is found frightened and babbling on the road after fleeing an alien mushroom-monster in "Camp Fear".
  • This is pretty much the entire plot of the short film The Chubbchubbs.
  • This is the plot of The Secret of Kells: Aidan of Iona shows up with the Book of Kells and Vikings on his tail. The rest of the film is about how to finish the book before the Vikings burn the abbey.