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It's quiet...too quiet...[gunshot; bullet whizzes past his head] Now, suddenly, it's too loud. I preferred it when it was quiet.
—O'Malley, Red vs. Blue
How could it be too quiet? It's your house, man. It doesn't get quieter before a missile shoots your house. I haven't had a missile shoot my house but I can't think of any reason why if a missile did shoot my house, why it would get quiet first. Do missiles kill all the birds or something? I don't get it.
The setting is ominous: a dungeon, perhaps, or a dark wood. Not one where the wary or cowardly tread, that's for sure. The heroes, Genre Savvy as they are, ready themselves for an enemy attack that could come at any moment. After all, there MUST be danger nearby... right. It seems safe for now, though... or is it?
Someone has to break the silence, and only one line will do: "It's quiet... Too quiet."
This trope describes any moment in a narrative where the action has hit a low point, when anyone who's paying attention would notice that a Random Encounter could, or should, appear at any instant. Fairly often something will happen within a minute, which will lead another character to say "You Just Had to Say It".
When you start to suspect something is about to happen because the narrative is too positive, rather than too uneventful, that's a Hope Spot.
The Stock Phrase itself is long since discredited and made fun of so often it can now be considered a Dead Horse Trope. Exception is made if it is lampshaded by adding in a sign on WHAT is quiet. "Why have all the forest noises stopped?" Compare We're Being Watched.
Anime & Manga
- Rurouni Kenshin parodies this in their Blooper Reel.
Kenshin: Where are the animals? The birds?
Kenshin: I can't hear any FISH!
- Kurama remarks on the quiet in episode 74 of Yu Yu Hakusho.
- Even the usually reliable Elf Quest comics couldn't resist having a character say "it's too quiet" in the expanded version of Volume One.
- Played with in BtVS Season 8:
Kennedy: It's quiet.
Films -- Animated
- Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame has a scene where Captain Phoebus doesn't like the quietness of the catacombs:
"Speaking of trouble, we should have run into some by now. You know, a guard, a booby trap..." *his torch is blown out leaving only complete darkness* "...or an ambush."
- Shrek utters this line when he and Donkey enter a deserted Kingdom of Duloc. (Everyone there has gone off to watch the tournament.)
- In The Fox and the Hound, Vixey is afraid to enter a copse when she realises it's too quiet, while Todd has no such qualms and narrowly avoids falling foul of Copper, Amus' shotgun and a shitload of bear traps.
Films -- Live-Action
- Robert Stack says the line to Lloyd Bridges as their characters await the arrival of the Airplane!.
- In Asterix Mission Cleopatre, the Egyptian architect, trapped in Cleopatra's Palace under Roman siege, utters this line as everything is silent and a tumblewheed rolls by. Right after, the Romans show up with siege engines.
- "It's quiet... Too quiet... I like i better when it's a little more less quiet..."
- Done in the first scene of Galaxy Quest, right before an ambush attack on Tim Allen and company.
- Used seriously at the time in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, but sets up a joke shortly afterwards:
Donatello: The perimeter's quiet.
- A variation in Lake Placid, where one character, shortly before another attack by the giant alligator, says: "I suddenly got the feeling that everything's perfectly safe".
- When Native Americans who aren't slaves show up for the first time in Aguirre, the Wrath of God, the ambient sounds (birds and insects mostly) go dead. The "Emperor" makes this remark, and soon a spooked horse kicks some fire onto a gunpowder barrel.
- In the movie The Marksman, the main character runs back late to the extraction point, he can clearly hear the helicopter waiting although he's still in enemy territory, he turns around frequently watching for potential pursuers, but after a while he stops, and notices no one is chasing him. He correctly assesses he and his team have been set up, and the extraction chopper is destroyed shortly after by a traitor.
- While the exact words aren't used, there is a scene in Sleepy Hollow where local Young Masbath points out to city slicker Ichabod Crane how quiet the forest is, and has to explain that forests are supposed to be noisy, like crickets and birds and stuff - noises that the forest lacked at that point.
- A variation on the trope is seen in We Were Soldiers when the Mel Gibson's character arrives at a section of the American Line that's too quiet. When asked what's wrong he explains, "There's nothing wrong here...except that there's nothing wrong..."
- Later in the movie, during an especially dark night, one character starts freaking out because it's so quiet, and his commanding officer asks for a flare to see by...revealing that it was quiet because the Vietnamese soldiers were a couple of feet away, trying to sneak attack.
- Inverted in The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra:
Ranger Brad: These things just don't happen! Noises? In the woods?
- In the remake of Assault on Precinct 13, one character remarks that it's "awful quiet out there", and Lawrence Fishburne replies that that's what worries him.
- Parodied by Terry Pratchett's Discworld book Jingo, in which a soldier thinks to himself that after ten years of guerrilla warfare, nothing can be too quiet and the best part of war is the waiting (especially when you're waging war against the D'regs).
- In Five Hundred Years After, one of Khaavren's guardsmen says that since most of the civilians were evacuated, Dragaera City is so quiet that the Guards aren't really needed. Khaavren asks if he's ever spent any time in the jungle, where there are dzur or dragons? The guardsman says he has. Well, if he was out in the jungle and all the birds and little critters suddenly hid or went quiet, would he feel safe? The guardsman sees Khaavren's point.
- In Jerry Pournelle's Falkenberg's Legion, Falkenberg says, "Things are going well. When that happens I wonder what I've overlooked."
- In h.i.v.e.: the overlord protocol, Nigel specifically tells Franz not to say this. After Nigel leaves, Franz says it anyway.
- In Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Choice, Aly notes that the jungle animals are all quiet...however, her sneakiness and the experience of the guards thwart the subsequent ambush.
- In The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, this trope is invoked in numerous ways; wildlife of all kinds instinctively flee when they detect Solanum, the virus responsible for reanimating zombies. In areas abundant with noisy wildlife such as jungle and swamps, silence means that the undead must be close as these areas would never, ever be silent normally. In addition, heavily infested areas are found devoid of any wildlife by survivors as everything has been consumed by ghouls, so cities especially but also other areas known for constant noise, whether human or wildlife created, become jarringly and eerily silent.
- Happens more often than not in The Hounds of the Morrigan. The main characters are looking for a McGuffin that, in theirs hands, will bring down the Celtic goddess of war; in hers, well... However, everytime the goddess's attention is focused somewhere, her ears absorb all the noises of the whereabouts. Therefore, she cannot spy on or attack the main characters without unwittingly creating complete silence, which promptly tips them off. Several times.
- In Band of Brothers, O'Keefe mutters that it's "awfully quiet" while a handful of soldiers are on patrol in the German woods. Moments later, they stumble across a Nazi concentration camp.
- Used in the movie Zombie Nightmare, featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, where it was parodied by Mike and the Bots:
Crow: It's a little ominous in here.
- From the Red Dwarf episode "White Hole."
Kryten: Listen! Can anyone hear anything?
- On Deep Space Nine, Quark once used this line literally. He noticed the ambient noise in his bar was 35 decibels below normal, which made him the first to realize something was wrong with his clients.
- To elaborate, his clients at the time were Klingons. When Klingons are quiet, you know something's up.
- A good twist put on it in "Doctor Who" on a couple of occasions, in that it's not that it's quiet, but the fact that it's NOT quiet that's the problem. Two excellent examples of Oh Crap moments (both courtesy of Steven Moffat) follow.
- The Doctor Dances, where the Doctor is listening to a tape recording of the Empty Child, but there's a whirring flapping noise in the background.
Rose Tyler: Doctor...
- Earlier in that same episode, a boy using a typewriter to write a letter to his dad. The sounds of his typing are under the dialogue of the scene, until Nancy, the leader of these kids, points out that the boy isn't typing anymore. It's typing by itself.
- "The Girl in the Fireplace", Doctor staring at a broken clock.
Doctor: Okay, now that's scary.
- The Hornblower episode Duty:
It's quiet. Uncomfortably quiet.
- An episode of Stargate SG-1 plays with this. O'Neill comments that it's quiet, but that's just because the annoying little man who'd been implanted in all their heads was gone.
- Officer Reed on an episode of Adam-12: "It's almost too quiet." On a prowler call Reed and Malloy suspect is a setup to lure them into an ambush - turns out to be just the "normal" amount of quiet after all, as it was, in fact, just a prowler call.
- Babylon 5. Psi police agent Bester finds that a part of the B5 station is "just too quiet" and so this must be place where telepaths are hiding, because they suppress all their thoughts.
- Earlier in the series, Commander Ivanova states that she is more comfortable when there is something going wrong. Because on Babylon 5, something is always going wrong. Thus, if everything seems to be going smoothly, it simply means you don't know what is going wrong yet.
- In The Wire, McNulty says this line to his wife, speaking of their children's bedroom.
- Burn Notice came at this sideways in a fourth season episode. They didn't drop the line, but Michael did notice that people weren't making eye contact, conversation was muted, they were putting food in their pockets...
- Used in Primeval. While investigating a possible creature sighting on a golf course, Abby notes that it's too quiet. In this case, she's specifically referring to the absence of birdsong.
- Changeling: The Lost mentions that some Beasts come from a jungle where the only silence is when the jungle's Fae lord is on the hunt. As a result, those Beasts who escape from him prefer to live in the city. In the city, it's never quiet...
- Inverted in Warhammer 40000: Warhammer 40,000: Fire Warrior; occasionally an Imperial Guardsman will say this phrase. You can take the cue to make things noisy.
- Straight video game example: Star Fox 64.
- And kinda ruined by the fact that the game's lockon system will mark the first enemy (hidden behind an asteroid) way before the "trap" goes off.
- And the fact that it's an on-rails shooter and you fly in a straight line the entire time. Kinda hard to set up a trap when you're never expected to drop your guard.
- Later repeated on the second mission of Assault, which seems to work better than the above example.
- A chapter in the first Halo game is ominously titled "It's quiet..." What level is this? The one where you first encounter The Flood.
- "Into The Belly of the Beast".
- "No Covenant defenses detected... Contact! Lots of contact!"
- "No Covenant? You HAD to open your mouth!"
- "Into The Belly of the Beast".
- Halo: Reach, in Call Back to the first game, has a chapter titled "...Too Quiet."
- Command and Conquer: Renegade's first mission opened up as follows:
First Soldier: What are we looking for again?
- During a boss fight in that level, the Prince might say, "I told you, never say it's quiet." If you knock the boss off a cliff, he says, "Now it's quiet."
Nathan: Do you hear that?
- Amusingly, Nathan's voice actor is the same as that of the Prince of Persia in the above example.
- Nolan North seems to be very Genre Savvy, as in the sequel Chloe is trapped in an elevator and the power's out, leading to this lovely gem:
Nathan: Great, power's out and the girl's trapped in the elevator. I swear to god if there's a zombie around the next corner...
- Which is understandable since he had to face zombie nazis in the first game.
- Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time:
Captain Qwark: Now the key to getting through situations like these is to avoid phrases like "It's too quiet in here" or "everything is going to be all right."
- This is explained in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, where it is noted that even the area's naturally occurring sounds are gone (such as animals) indicates they are surrounded.
- The Legend of Dragoon observes the exact same phenomenon prior to the nighttime attack on Hoax.
- Parodied? in Valkyria Chronicles.
Imperial chatter: Visibility is good. Almost too good.
- A NPC exchange from City of Heroes, where the Rikti have taken a human sympathizer hostage, doubles as an inversion of Perp Sweating:
Ash: [It's quiet.] The "what the hell happens next" kind of quiet.
- And then in Evil Dead: Regeneration:
Sam: It sure is quiet...
- Dead Rising: This trope is what first tips Frank West off that the situation in the small Colorado town is more than what meets the eye. In his words, "It doesn't sound like civil disobedience. It's too quiet."
- And, again, late in the game, commandos will show up and start slaughtering the zombies. You've gotten used to the place being full of the undead by now, so seeing it empty is eerie.
- Somewhat Lampshaded in Randor Land 3 (a Super Mario World hack). Yoshi says the exact words, and later we find out that... no, there's no traps, the villain's second in command simply forgot to set any.
- Uttered after a lengthy dinosaur chase in Sega's The Lost World Arcade shooter. Cue the T-Rex crashing right through the wall in front of you (just before delivering the final shot)!
- In Mass Effect, Tali-Zorah nar Rayya points out that this trope is usually in effect In Space: if the engines and/or life support aren't making noise, that means they aren't working. The Normandy creeps her out - since it's a brand new ship, there are almost no noises at all, and her instincts are insisting that she's in danger.
- Said in House of the Dead 2, almost word for word. A later scene also has James say something similar when looking around the baddie's base: "It's like they're inviting me in..."
- In Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door, the stunning lack of background music in the underground room with the entrance to the Pit Of 100 Trials provides a big clue as to how deathly serious that pipe in the middle of the room is.
- "It's quiet. Too quiet." [Enemies appear.] "Be careful, it's a trap!" - Peppy, Star Fox 64
- In Dragon Age Origins, at one point in the Dalish Elf origin, Merril mentions that all the woodland animals are silent. She speculates it's because the Darkspawn are in the area. She's right.
- In Dragon Age II Mark of the Assassin, as your party searches for signs of a wyvern, it suddenly becomes very quiet.
Tallis: Wait, what happened to the birds?...Uh oh.
- In Call of Duty: World At War during the mission Ring of Steel, Sgt. Reznov tells his men to be quiet when they are moving through an asylum:
Chernov: Do you hear something?
- Sure enough, there is an ambush up ahead.
- Used as a device in The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion and, to the lesser extent, in The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim. When you travel cross-country, there is usually soft music in the background. When you enter dangerous area with enemies lurking about, thw music fades and there is a brief moment of silence before enemies engage you and the combat music starts playing. When player reacts quickly and plays a stealthy character this can nicely increase the suspense value of stalking the enemies.
- This The B Movie Comic strip and the associated rant.
- Used in The 10 Doctors.
- Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic page "Watching the Fireworks" starts with Adwen's observation that "it's so quiet" and, as the title suggests, gets better.
- Used as part of a string of action movie parodies in The Fairly Odd Parents, "Action Packed".
- A lot of cartoons Butch Hartman seems to be involved with parodies this trope.
- Xandor says it in The Herculoids episodes "Mission of the Amatons" and The Island of the Gravites".
- In the Mighty Mightor episode "The Tiger Men", Tor says "I don't like it. It's too quiet tonight...I sense danger tonight." before the Tiger Men attack.
- Happens twice in the 2003 Ninja Turtles cartoon. The first time it's Leo who says it, and Mikey (who spends most of the episode trying to come up with cool lines) lampshades it by wondering how Leo makes it work. Mikey says it himself a few episodes later, and immediately adds that he'd always wanted to say it.
- In Weekenders when they stay in Lor's house (the house with 13 run-around brothers) after they can't stay in other houses. But they decide to leave instead when it's just too quiet.
- Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Rival", in a scene at an apiary after all the bees leave to steal Homer's sugar.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, "Stare Master": Fluttershy says this before she discovers that the Cutie Mark Crusaders (whom she was babysitting) had snuck out of her house.
- Said by Doc in Galaxy Rangers as the team are patrolling the streets of Tortuna. Doc was probably being his usual Deadpan Snarker self with the comment, but quiet streets on a planet that puts 1700's Port Royale to shame usually does mean trouble.
- Used in Teen Titans episode "Hide n' Seek" by Raven of all people:
- In Taz-Mania, dropped into the middle of one of Wendall T Wolf's neurotic monologues: "..and then the suddenly the jungle gets quiet [insane paranoid Aside Glance] too quiet.."
- Used in an episode of the original Transformers cartoon. Prowl even lampshades it by saying "Yeah, like they say in the movies, too quiet."
- One of the page quotes is from Red vs. Blue; the situation is parodied.
- This first developed from the fact that natural background noise in the wilderness will disappear when the animals making the noise are alerted to intruders. If you are in the woods, and everything suddenly goes quiet, it is a safe bet that you are not alone.
- Inverted if you're hiking in bear country, in which case you being "too quiet" is more likely to get you killed, because you might unintentionally startle one into attacking.
- Applies to gorillas too; this troper once saw a documentary on gorillas where the documenteers constantly cleared their throats when they thought they might be near by, because apparently it's "good manners" for gorillas to grunt constantly when approaching another troop so as not to startle them by suddenly appearing.
- That probably applies with most animals, even domesticated and fairly placid ones. One of the first rules of handling horses is to make sure they don't suddenly get spooked because you've accidentally sneaked up on them, and try to avoid walking in their blind spot for the same reason.
- Inverted if you're hiking in bear country, in which case you being "too quiet" is more likely to get you killed, because you might unintentionally startle one into attacking.
- This is actually a usable rule of thumb in counter-insurgency operations. If a street is filled with people, you're probably safe. If it isn't and it should be, you're probably about to be ambushed.
- It can also be a subversion where the people have left because they know that soldiers are coming and that the insurgents will probably follow to try to blow the soldiers (and any civilians around them) up.
- Or you are causing the quiet by coming...
- Josef Stalin demanded that no one around him ever walk quietly, because he was very paranoid about possible assassination. Five assassination attempts could have something to do with that.
- Many parents of young children consider "too quiet" an urgent signal to find out what the kids are up to.
- In his stand up special Lock 'n Load, Denis Leary mentioned how much he missed quiet in his house with 7 and 5 year old kids, and one day when he was reading the paper enjoying a rare dose of quiet, it suddenly hit him that he hadn't seen the kids in a while. Turns out one of them was defacing his truck, and the other was giving the dog a bath. In the toilet.
- In 2008, the USAF held a major air exercise over Alaska, primarily to test the F-22. Observers of the exercise (220-to-0 kill ratio in the F-22s' favor, in case you were wondering) noted that the conventional "Red Force" had its usual share of radio chatter, but the F-22s had...silence. All the information was datalinked, and the only radio messages were for kills. More than one Air Force officer said that it was rather eerie.
- Walk out on a USAF flightline on a rare day when no one is working and you'll have to clear your throat to make sure you still have your hearing.