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"Established wisdom for modern zombie hunters: The only thing worse than a horde of zombies is a horde of flaming zombies."
When confronted with an aggressive, inhumanly evil monster, the modern response is to pepper it with bullets. When the beast proves to be Immune to Bullets, the primal response comes to the fore: Kill It with Fire!
Except, sometimes that backfires.
The evil twin of Man On Fire, Incendiary Exponent, and Out of the Inferno, this is where the heroes set whatever is trying to kill them on fire... which then continues to try and kill them. While on fire. And unlike some tropes, everything is not better with fire.
Sometimes it is just a delayed reaction and the fire will prove fatal, but that is little comfort considering it may prove fatal to the heroes first. Might also apply to Nuke'Em if the target is gigantic. Eldritch Abomination: Bad. Eldritch Abomination that gets nuked, and stands back up pissed off and blazing radioactive fire? Worse.
- 1 General Examples
- 2 Examples with Zombies
Anime and Manga
- In Inuyasha, Jaken uses his staff to try to burn one of another villain's attacking pieces. Bad idea.
- Partial example: in Naruto, Sasuke sets the 8-Tails on fire with Amaterasu, which makes it flail around and hit his teammate Karin, setting her on fire (luckily, he found a way to put her out).
- Lupin III: the manga, the first series and Episode 0 all feature the first meeting of Lupin and eventual ally Goemon ending in this fashion; Lupin throws a special chemical onto the samurai that bursts into flames when it comes into contact with the air. Not content to let Lupin get away with this, Goemon tosses a flaming rope at Lupin, which lights him on fire as well and ends the fight. As it's Lupin, they recover.
- In the Pokémon anime, the battle between Ash's Charizard and Blaine's Magmar seems to end with Magmar diving into lava while holding Charizard in a headlock. However, it turns out that being dunked only made Charizard angry when he explodes from the lava with Magmar in tow and proceeds to Seismic Toss him right back into the volcano.
- V for Vendetta has this, but it's a borderline case. The hero, V, gets set on fire during his explosive escape from a hideous concentration camp/secret medical test site, walks off into the sunset, goes utterly sane and proceeds to take down the dictatorship responsible for his physical and mental disfigurement. Although by the time he does it he's not on fire anymore, so it's debatable.
- Hellboy: Blood and Iron. Pyrokinetic Liz heats up metal Hecate; she gets BIGGER and makes things very uncomfortable for Hellboy, who she's holding. Oops.
- Fables, in The March Of The Wooden Soldiers arc. The Adversary sends enchanted wooden soldiers to attack Fabletown, and the residents decide to fight wood with fire...the problem, as someone only gets to point out after they have done it, is that hard wood burns, if at all, then very, very slowly, and... yeah, the evil puppets are made of, oops! Hard wood! And so now they're dealing with inhuman, nigh-unstoppable killer puppets that are on fire. And setting Fabletown on fire.
- One Deadpool story shows him and Siryn fighting Juggernaut. After trying to stop him with meat cleavers fails, Deadpool dumps a vat of molten steel onto him. He and Siryn then end up fleeing from a burning Juggernaut.
Plan 24: Haemopyrokinetic Adam X deployed to attempt to incapacitate Juggernaut by igniting blood. Result: Blood ignition a success, but worse than ineffective. For fifteen minutes unstoppable Juggernaut is rendered an unstoppable Juggernaut that ignites anything it touches.
- The page picture comes from Grant Morrison's run on Justice League and depicts Orion punching out a White Martian. While on fire.
Films — Live-Action
- Happens in the 2008 horror film Mirrors. Makes some sense as the "villain" Anna is possessed by some sort of otherworldly evil force and hence probably isn't bound by normal human limits.
- Jason in Freddy vs. Jason is set on fire. It doesn't keep him from killing anyone. To top it off, spraying beer eventually puts him out before it can do any real damage. Doubly ironic as it was being dosed in more highly concentrated alcohol that set him on fire in the first place.
- The General, ie the master spider, of the film Arachnophobia gets tossed into some flaming debris at the end...and comes running back out and takes one last go at the protagonist, who needs to shoot it with a nail gun to put it down permanently.
- Mutant beast Kothoga/Mbwun in the movie version of The Relic is set on fire: he just chases the Final Girl around some more. It takes a follow up explosion and its shockwave to pulp him and do him in for good.
- The clerk at the beginning of From Dusk till Dawn.
- Several incarnations of The Thing keep causing trouble even after catching fire.
- In Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Godzilla spends much of the movie in a state of nuclear meltdown, glowing red and generally causing trouble for everyone, especially Destoroyah. There's also a threat that when he finally does meltdown, the fallout will effectively bring about The End of the World as We Know It. Luckily, the adolescent Godzilla-like creature is there to absorb all the radiation.
- Godzilla: Final Wars has Gigan blasting Mothra with his eye laser as she spreads her wing scales, which explode in a spectacular fireball. She emerges from the explosion completely ablaze and rams Gigan, destroying him and herself in another spectacular explosion.
- Ghostbusters. Burning the Marshmallow Man wasn't 100 percent effective. Burning him a lot more was.
- In Ong Bak, during a fight at a gas station, Tony Jaa's character gets his pants soaked in gasoline from the knee down, before dodging behind some barrels, which are promptly blown up by gunfire. After a few seconds, Tony comes leaping out of the inferno and kicks a couple of guys with his flaming legs.
- Halloween 2 ends with Michael being blown up in a room full of ether. Cue a massive mountain of man walking through a hospital hallway on fire. It doesn't actually make him more dangerous (he's weakened due to being on fucking fire), but he's still going, the scamp.
- In The Mummy 1999, an attempt to set a determined Medjai on fire has seemingly no effect. Said Medjai, robes aflame, appears almost blissfully unaware of the fact as he tries to take the key artifact from Jonathan.
- Happens to the eponymous character in Maniac Cop 2.
- In Maniac Cop 3 Badge of Silence, it happens during a car chase.
- Christine pulls this off with one of the guys who vandalized her: After blowing up a gas station, while still burning, she chases him down a road.
- Happens after a fashion in the Lone Wolf book Wolf's Bane. Early on in the story, Lone Wolf is trapped in an otherworldly plant stem. Your options include cutting your way out, shouting your way out, and using magic. The problem comes with the last option, since the player isn't told which spell Lone Wolf will use. He ends up casting his lightning hand spell, which does effectively open the stem up, but it also causes the apparently flammable sap in the stem to ignite and burn furiously. You take damage from the resulting inferno if you're not immune to fire.
- In Stone of Tears, the second book of the Sword of Truth series, Zedd, Chase, and Chase's daughter encounter a beast from the Underworld. The little girl uses a magic wand to set it on fire... and the beast start laughing and presses the attack. It's eventually defeated (but not killed) when Zedd encases it in a block of ice and order guards to chop it to bits.
- The third book in A Song of Ice and Fire has the example of Beric Dondarrion taking on Sandor "the Hound" Clegane with a flaming sword. Despite the fact that Sandor is terrified of fire due to childhood trauma, it doesn't work. Beric dies, although it doesn't stick.
- In the prologue of the book Ghost Soldiers about the Bataan Death March in WWII, a burning U.S. P.O.W. set his Japanese executioner on fire.
- Warhammer 40,000: The monstrous Tyranids were damaged as normal by fire attacks, but could continue moving and attacking. In fact, several models (particularly those who were affected by the Frenzy rules) were subject to this. Khorne Berzerkers were as tough as a "normal" Space Marine, had even better armour and ran faster to get into combat, making it quite likely that turning a flamer on one would only lead to him running full pelt into you whilst on fire.
- In previous editions, using any heat weapons (flamers, melta-guns, plasma weapons, and so on) did nothing to the Eldar Avatar... because he is a molten iron incarnation of the Eldar god of war. This has since been nerfed: he is now only immune to flamers and meltas.
- The Necrons, being ancient alien souls sealed inside advanced necrodermis bodies, are not much bothered by fire.
- In one tabletop RPG based on H.P. Lovecraft's writings, there are rules for nuking Cthulhu. He comes back 24 hours later and is now radioactive.
- Golems in several editions of Dungeons & Dragons are often strengthened by some magical attacks. For example, flesh golems are hasted by electrical attacks, and iron golems are healed by fire attacks.
- Frequently seen with inferno missiles (basically napalm rounds for short-range launchers) against BattleMechs in BattleTech. Infernos do not cause actual damage to 'Mechs, they just add to their heat troubles; especially under the old Master Rules, where the amount of extra heat for being on fire from infernos was fixed at a relatively modest six points per turn and additional hits just increased the duration, sufficiently cool-running 'Mechs could play this trope dead straight.
- Ignus from Planescape: Torment is permanently on fire as a result of the collective hedge wizards in the Hive opening a portal to the elemental plane of fire inside his body and turning him into a living effigy as a way of punishing him for an act of mass arson. As a punishment, it failed miserably—it only made him happy.
- In Resident Evil 4, before fighting the Village Elder, Leon shoots an explosive barrel, setting him and the barn they're both locked inside on fire. This doesn't so much kill him as make him reveal his terrible true form.
- The Keese from The Legend of Zelda are generally invulnerable to straight-up fire attacks. This, in fact, usually sets them on fire, turning them into the far more dangerous Fire Keese. In the Oracle of Seasons/Ages games, Fire Keese not only did more damage but also could fly above Link's sword's reach.
- In the handheld games, setting a Gibdo on fire is a mixed bag, as the wrapping burns away to reveal a faster-moving, hopping Stalfos, who's harder to hit but takes far less damage to defeat. Probably worth it near the beginning of the game, when your dinky starting sword takes like 8 or 10 hits to defeat a Gibdo; perhaps not so much later.
- Ask any player about what happens when they accidentally got too close to a Gibdos or ReDead in the 3D games after using a fire arrow but before the arrow finished them off.
- The boss of the Iifa Tree in Final Fantasy IX isn't very tough, unless you somehow assume that a wood-based creature is weak to fire, in which case you're in for a world of flaming hurt. Life magic, on the other hand...
- Dwarf Fortress AI tend to ignore being on fire as often a not, so... yes, it happens. Earlier versions had dwarves generally non-plussed about picking up things on fire and being on fire themselves, which was highly amusing until you realized it makes keeping a fire under control nearly impossible. Booze storages don't actually explode, but wooden barrels catch fire and then surviving dwarves get grouchy and slow without booze while the settlement is damaged and covered in smoke that hinders pathfinding.
- Butchering a Fire Imp corpse occasionally sprays clouds of boiling fat everywhere, setting anything flammable in the room ablaze.
- The grand finale of Boatmurdered. The fortress' method for dealing with the various goblins invaders, killer elephant herds, and crazed mandrills became "flood everything outside the mountain with lava". This eventually backfired fantastically when a puppy got caught in the lava outside and wouldn't stop burning. In itself this would have been fine, but one of the dwarves then decided to go and retrieve the puppy. That dwarf got lit on fire and went back into the fortress, not only igniting random things but also spreading smoke everywhere, which causes insanity.
- In the wake of that came Sankis's rampage while on fire - which catalyzed a chain of events which eventually reduced the entire fortress into a desolate, smoking, miasma-filled ruin. Well, more than it already was, anyways...
- Could be good or bad in Ogre Battle 64, depending on who you did it to and your outlook. Setting a Zombie on fire would cause them to pull a terminator-like transformation into a Skeleton. Happened both to enemy Zombies and your own Zombies. Skeletons were generally better than Zombies, but it was a huge pain to create them.
- This significantly reduced the effectiveness of the flamethrower in the First Person Shooter Aliens vs. Predator for the PC, as setting aliens on fire would simply result in them continuing to attack you while on fire, and since they're already extremely fast attackers, this usually meant you dying even more quickly than usual. This was adjusted in Aliens Vs Predator 2, where, since Aliens aren't so goddamn fast anymore, the flamethrower kills 'em real good before they can get to you.
- Worsened in the 2010 game. Not only does it fire kill the aliens too slowly, if they grab you while they're on fire, they have a tendency to explode.
- Big Daddies of BioShock have been known to continue trying to drill you while in flames (they will try to get to water when they can). BioShock in general in fact; use caution when setting enemies on fire anywhere near an oil slick, especially if the leaky barrels that created it are still there. That said, this can also work to your advantage, and is generally meant to. Also, unlike some games with fire weapons, stepping on their corpse while it's still burning deals damage to you, although it doesn't set you on fire (nothing in this game can).
- In the newest[when?] Prince of Persia game (as of Dec. 2008), the main characters knock a giant warrior king off the edge of a tall tower, and he falls into a pool of black ooze. When the tower falls apart and the they land on a lower platform, the creature crawls from the ooze, scaling the wall by force. The titular prince's response?
Prince: Oh good, now he's on fire.
- In The Punisher, setting mooks aflame with the flamethrower isn't one hundred percent effective; they panic and run amok, sometimes into you. Ouch.
- Fire burns the vampires bad in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But not right away. They can still tag you for a nasty burn before dusting.
- In the original Syphon Filter game, in stages where a lot is burning, there will be some mooks, on fire, running
wildlyto you! Since you'll take massive damage when caught on fire, the best option (and only, actually), is to put said mook out of his misery.
- Done to hilarious effect in Time Splitters. Hell, there is even a game-mode based around it! (Virus) One person starts on fire and must find and light everyone else on fire. Also, it burns away armor only first, then health. If you know where all the pickups are, in deathmatches you can continue to collect kills for a long while if you don't get hit too much, just by running into people and shooting them as they try and flee and find an extinguisher. Also everyone has hilarious screams while on fire, so you may as well do it anyway!
- The Ents in The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth are normally slow and tough, but when set aflame they become enraged, moving and attacking much more quickly, while taking damage over time from the fire. After a few moments of rampaging they'll try to find some water to douse the flames. Mumakil also rampage when set alight, though there's no way to extinguish the fire and they'll eventually die.
- While the Bomberman series more or less revolves around killing everything with fire based explosives, one of the possible skull item effects from Bomberman 64 and Bomberman 64: The Second Attack sets the person unfortunate enough to pick up the item on fire. While in this state, the burning bomber has about 30 seconds to kill everyone else with their burning body (can't use bombs since their body sets off any bombs he drops or touches) before the fire finally kills him.
- Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World - The final battle. What is cooler than a Badass Dual-Wielding a sword and axe? A Badass Dual-Wielding a sword and axe who is on fire. Oh, and don't forget his battle theme. Or the fact that his Mystic Arte tells you that "The pain will only last an instant" despite the fact that he is sending enough hellfire to drown an entire planet your way.
- In Team Fortress 2, the soldier achievement Semper Fry requires you to kill opponents while on fire. To explain, on of the Soldier's melee weapons, the Equalizer, increases his speed and attack when he is at little health. So more damage = more power. Fire = more damage. Fire = more power.
- Saints Row 2 has a damn minigame focused around this. You're driving an ATV while on fire and your job is to light as many people on fire as you can. The player character is wearing a fireproof suit for the duration though (which can be unlocked for general use by completing all levels of the minigame). The third game allows the player to purchase immunity to fire as an upgrade, allowing quite a bit of fun with flame based weapons with little risk to the player.
- The Grand Theft Auto games let you have some fun with this. Touching fire lights you on fire, but it generally isn't enough to kill you if you have enough health, leaving you with the option to walk into people and set them on fire. Several of the games allow the player to become immune to fire-damage by completing the Fire Fighter minigame. Like the Saints Row example above, this makes using fire based weapons like the Flamethrower or Molotov Cocktails a much more viable option for causing mayhem without significant risk of burning oneself to death in the process.
- Viva Caligula has two major gamebreakers; the flambeau, and Necromancy. Combine the two: Your own personal flaming army of the undead!
- In Kingdom of Loathing, your rival goes One-Winged Angel after falling into lava.
- Adventure Quest has the Razorclaws, wolves transformed by dark magic to act as assassins for their sorcerous masters. They are most vulnerable to fire, but if you are foolish enough to actually use fire on a Razorclaw, it will catch fire and perform a vicious attack on you for serious damage.
- Girl Genius: "Great. Now the crowd is trapped by the stalagmites while the flaming monster advances."
- In 8-Bit Theater, Red Mage attempts, and fails, to invoke this trope.
"Fire breathing [dragon], Black Mage, not fire eating."
- Awkward Zombie guest comic presents: Mario Kart 8, now with Fire Flower and Bowser trying to remember where he put his brown pants.
- A nuke was one of the methods proposed by the SCP Foundation to kill the so-far-indestructable SCP-682. It was turned down mainly because the brass was worried about what SCP-682 could become if it survived, as it generates a defense mechanism against whatever is used on it. One of the pages mentions launching SCP-682 into the sun with a giant cannon. It came back a little while later, on fire.
- In Beast Wars, Megatron, while in a temporarily weakened state due to an imminant Power Makeover, gets thrown into a pool of lava. The result? He emerges in dragon form.
- In the Family Guy episode "Lois Kills Stewie", when Lois assumes Stewie is dead after being caught in an explosion. He's not.
- Truth in Television. No, really: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6257292.stm
- Another example reiterated in a comedy routine. Man lights bonfire. Man sees mouse. Man throws mouse into bonfire. Burning mouse runs into man's house. Man has no house. Man tells story on news.
Examples with Zombies
Media in General
- As established in the page quote, doing this to zombies is a crapshoot. While they may lack the brains to put themselves out, and the thinking is they'd bump into each other and set each other on fire, setting off a chain reaction of sort is fine, it tends to backfire as they can also run into you, or the building you're hiding out in, or any surrounding buildings, in which case you'll set everything around you on fire. Also, zombies aren't scared by fire and don't feel pain, so it wouldn't be as scary as it would for a normal human. The odds are you'll make things worse. Nice going.
Anime and Manga
- An experiment in Highschool of the Dead demonstrates that a molotov cocktail does not, in the short term, improve an assault from "them".
Films — Live-Action
- Demonstrated in the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead: The DVD has an extra about a guy holed up in a gunshop who tries molotov cocktails on the zombie horde from his roof. All he gets is lots of walking, charred zombies (people don't really burn that well, being largely water and all) who all smell like smoky bacon (he's running low on food).
- In the actual movie, a group in the parking garage lock the zombies outside a chain-link fence, then set them on fire when they realize that they're getting through. The zombies do burn enough to die, but that may be justified by the group dousing them in gasoline beforehand.
- Notable exception to this rule are the zombies from the original Night of the Living Dead. They did fear fire and setting one ablaze would cause it to run off in a panic.
- It is noted both in World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide that flaming zombies have caused added havok (and increased property damage) on more than one occasion.
Myth and Legend
- In one traditional Cree story, two children are being chased by the severed head of their mother, and they start a wildfire behind them to stop her. However, she rolls straight through the fire, and then they're being chased by the flaming severed head of their mother. (Fortunately, shortly afterwards she goes through a river and the fire gets put out, but by then she's a skull.)
- In Mage: The Awakening however, its necessary to assign a weakness to a zombie (otherwise you have to devote a success to making it so they can only be destroyed by essentially being reduced to a fine paste) which can include fire.
- Forgotten Realms has a special undead monster, "Blazing Bones". It's created when someone under death-preventing contingency magic is killed by fire while using another magic and they all interfere. It is a skeleton with remains of its living mind, still aflame, and still feeling this. It quickly discovers that hurling or pouring fire into someone else gives relief and goes on an insane rampage. It's "healed" by magical fire damage, but obviously is not going to be grateful for this.
- In Halo 3, using fire against the Flood can sometimes lead to this. Sticky grenades had a similar effect in the earlier games.
- It works even worse for the player in Return to Castle Wolfenstein: While flame works well against the sword'n'shield zombies, it turns the unarmed ghost-skull ones into mean firebreathing mofos.
- Their Wolfenstein successors, the Despoiled, are constantly engulfed in magical fire from the start. Naturally, it's not a good idea to get too close to them. And, they're quite immune to the flamethrower.
- In Half-Life 2, while regular headcrab zombies will scream and hold their arms out in agony when on fire, fast zombies don't even notice, right up until the point where they fall down and die from it. The fire doesn't do any additional damage to you, as far as I can tell, though. Poison zombies also seem to be oblivious to the flames when set on fire.
- A possibility within the Nazi Zombies mode of Call of Duty: World at War. While flamethrowers will generally be a good weapon against the zombies for most of the game, it becomes more dangerous later on as they get more health. However, being careful and just running around, lighting zombies aflame and keeping your distance while they burn usually works.
- In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin striking a zombie (or ghoul) with a fire attack causes them to become skeletons, even if the attack should've reduced their HP to zero.
- Generally speaking, setting the zombies in Left 4 Dead on fire is a very good idea. But the Hunters, although the flames will kill them eventually, get a huge boost to their attack power while they're burning. Said boost was later nerfed by a patch, but is still present. The Witch doesn't like fire either: normally, she'll leave you alone if you're not the one who pissed her off, even if you're shooting her. But if you set her on fire while she's chasing the person who did, she'll switch over to attacking you instead, until either she dies, or you do. Finally, the tank gains a small speed boost when lit on fire in Campaign mode.
- Doom 3 features a zombie (nicknamed Burnie) that is already on fire when it attacks you. Ordinary zombies, however, seem abnormally sensitive to fire.
- Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines has the Grout's Mansion level, where you have to find a lost vampire primogen who was studying madness. And of course, he has a lot of human test subjects. When you arrive at the mansion, you will soon realize that all this madmen have somehow been able to free themselves and aren't exactly happy to see you. So, after you punched, shot and sliced your way through the mansion, you come across a vampire hunter, who sets the whole place on fire. And also, it seems like some of the test subjects have survived your fights in the mansion and now are on fire as well. And instead of running out of the mansion (they are insane after all) they decide to try killing you again. They are much more vulnerable now, it usually takes only two shots to kill them. However, considering that vampires are very vulnerable to fire, they can also take out you with two hits. It's helpful to have a machine gun when these guys approach you.
- A serious threat in Saints Row. Burning people can set other people on fire, and burning cars explode, scattering burning debris which can also set people on fire.
- The zombie homie you can summon is rather nonchalant about being lit ablaze. Potentially dangerous to you, certainly dangerous to your enemies.
- Burn, Zombie, Burn. It's pretty much the whole title. Running around lighting zombies on fire makes them faster and deadlier. On the plus side, it increases your score multiplier.
- Resident Evil 4 has both the Incendiary Grenades, which avert the trope and merely cause painful burning, and a single unique Ganado nicknamed 'Oven Man' that escapes from an oven while on fire to menace the player. No one seems to be quite sure what he was doing in there.
- In Marvel vs. Capcom 2, one of Jill Valentine's special moves is a zombie summon. One possible summon is a flaming zombie. Instead of grabbing and holding an opponent in place like normal zombies, these explode.
- In the Fall From Heaven II mod for Civilization IV, which is set in a fantasy world, the bringers of Apocalypse, the Sheaim, have an axemen replacement called the Pyre Zombie, which is, well, Exactly What It Says on the Tin; A zombie inherently on fire. Of course, whenever one of them perish, all enemy units in the vicinity are damaged, which makes the "PZ" Awesome but Practical and the perfect bane of any army that cannot perform ranged attacks or are somehow immune to fire. To be fair, though, it's one of the only early-game advantages of the Sheaim.
- In Plants vs. Zombies, Torchwood sets peas ablaze, dealing more damage when they hit zombies.
- Blood allows you to set zombies on fire, and when they erupt into a zombie torch, they hurt you with touch.
- In the expansion pack of Postal 2, Apocalypse Weekend, setting zombies on fire is about as effective as dousing them in lemon juice. Actually, it's even less effective, as the fire will do nothing (these zombies require their heads to be destroyed before they'll stop attacking), and unless you cut their legs off beforehand, they'll just run up to you and set you on fire too.
- There is a certain point in Dragon Age where you have to protect a village from an oncomming zombie horde. You can find barrels of oil, and suggest to the head of the guard to light it on fire, weakening the initial wave. If Zeveran is in your team at this point, he'll wisely snark that it may create flaming undead, instead. Subverted in that, yes, fire does help against the zombies, with no serious repercussions.
- When El Tigre had to battle Santara Of the Dead's grandson; Django of The Dead. El Tigre managed to get Django to drop into a lava pit in the final battle, but came back using the lava around his hands and arms to blast himself back onto the platform and use said lava to retaliate. Until he accidentally touched his own guitar with his lava hands and destroyed himself.