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File:Matchlightdanger01 7710.png


A trope commonly found in animation; two or more characters, usually hiding from something, have found themselves in an entirely pitch-black environment. One of them remarks on or complains about how dark it is. The other strikes a match - but the sudden burst of light reveals that the characters are, in fact, standing in the middle of an amazingly dangerous environment, be it a room filled with monsters (who have, up until this point, been remarkably quiet) or - to give the danger an added boost of irony - a room packed with an unimaginably large store of explosives (especially if the "match" turns out to be a Dynamite Candle).

Bonus points if the revealed monsters (or even the match-holder himself) blow out the match, implying that someone's going to be in a lot of pain while conveniently preventing the viewer from actually seeing it.

See also Lightswitch Surprise.

Examples of Matchlight Danger Revelation include:

Comic Books

  • Phil Foglio's What's New with Phil and Dixie comic in Dragon magazine #50 used this. Phil and Dixie were exploring the TSR dungeon in the dark and realized there was someone else with them. Phil lit a match, revealing that the other creature was actually a demon. Then the demon blew out the match...
  • Early in Jeff Smith's Bone, the Red Dragon asks Fone Bone for a light for his cigarette in pitch-darkness, giving Fone his first brief, terrifying glimpse of a dragon. Eventually you might realize that, since the Red Dragon can breathe fire, he might have done this just to mess with the poor guy.
  • One issue of Marvel's G.I. Joe has a group of Joes chasing a Cobra vehicle. They later reach a point far from their starting point and one fires a flame to see where they are. He reveals the Cobra forces that are about to ambush them.
  • Subverted in De Cape et de Crocs. The heroes went to a dark room they assumed to be the exposive storage room. Eusebio lit a candle and revealed they were in the food storage room.


  • Toy Story.
  • Dramatic usage: One of the characters in the movie Pitch Black is being stalked by monsters that fear light. His light source is running out, and he knows he's about to die. He swigs some alcohol, holds up his guttering torch, and blows a column of flame that reveals the army of monsters surrounding him. The second the flame's gone, they attack.
  • Cloverfield does this by utilizing a camcorder's night vision in an abandoned subway tunnel.
  • Pee Wee's Big Adventure.
  • In the 1999 film The Mummy, as Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) escape the rapidly collapsing pyramid, they are forced to leave Rick's traitorous friend Beni behind, and the pyramid seals itself behind them. Beni retreats back into a massive room filled with treasure, with the only light source being his illuminated torch. Thousands of (flesh-consuming) scarabs stream into the room around him, and the light slowly goes out on the torch as they get closer, know the rest.
  • In the first Ju-on film (the original video version, not the theatrical version), Yuki decides to investigate the strange noises she hears coming from the attic of the house. As it is extremely dark up there, she starts to dig out her lighter. Suddenly, the camera switches to the POV of what is in the attic, which crawls towards Yuki at an incredible speed before stopping right in front of her face. The terrified Yuki slowly and shakily manages to flick on her lighter and... BAM. The ghost of Kayako is staring her right in the face, and she is not happy.
    • A similar scene was also featured in the US remake, The Grudge. (In fact, the entire above scene was recreated almost shot-for-shot for the remake, but it ended up as a deleted/alternate scene on the DVD.)
  • In The Descent, one of the girls is using the night vision on the camcorder to see her way through the caves. During a particularly tense scene in which several of the girls are panicking, the camcorder rests on Beth... and the sudden appearance of one of the Crawlers standing right behind her.
  • A variation is used in The Rocketeer in which Lothar uses a match to verify the identity of his sleeping victim, and the light gives the audience the first good look at him.
  • Hoodwinked: Wolf and his squirrel companion during their minecart ride.

 Wolf: What kind of candles are those, anyway?

Squirrel: "Deena Meetay — must be Italian!"

  • In Shaun of the Dead upon arriving at the pub Shaun goes to the back room to fix the fuses and get power to the TV. When he flicks one of the switches it turns on the light outside the door next to him, illuminating a pack of zombies just outside. He rapidly turns it back off and goes back to the main room
  • Much crappier example, but also utilized in P2. While going through the parking garage, the protagonist trips and drops her cell phone. As she picks it up, the light from the screen illuminates her stalker and now kidnapper, who proceeds to knock her out and drag her away.
  • Used VERY effectively in the indie film The Passage. The protagonist finds himself in a series of tunnels in the Atlas Mountains, using only candles for light. When they run out, he has to use the flash of his digital camera. It's a tense scene as he waits for the flash to recharge. The first few moments are suspenseful, and then, well, he's not alone.
  • Happens in Muppet Treasure Island.
  • Happens in Airheads when station accountant Doug Beech is hiding in the janitor's closet. He accidentally spills some liquid on himself, and he lights his cigarette lighter to see what it is. When he sees it has a "Caution: flammable" sticker on its container, he panics.


  • The Phantom of the Opera: Raoul and the Persian escape from the Phantom's Death Trap and find themselves in a pitch black cellar full of barrels. The Persian lights his lantern so they can open up a barrel and examine the contents... which turn out to be gunpowder. The Persian quickly throws his lantern away.
  • Monstrous Regiment: The soldiers are exploring the catacombs of the keep, and Wazzer hears noises in the dark. Someone lights a match. They are surrounded by zombies.

Live Action TV

  • A rare live-action example occurs in the final episode of the first season of Foyle's War. During a German air raid on a British airfield, Foyle and his fighter-pilot son run to the nearest dugout that looks like shelter. In the darkness, Foyle's son flicks on his lighter, revealling that they are surrounded by barrels, having sought shelter in the airfield's fuel dump. Naturally, Foyle recommends that his son put the lighter out.
  • The Andy Griffith Show once had Barney while looking for a lost goat enter an dark shack. The highway department was using dynamite to build a new road near Mayberry. Fortunately when Barney lit the match he didn't light anything else.
  • It happens in an episode of The Incredible Hulk. Banner and two friends are locked in a dark bank vault. Banner transforms, but no one can see it. They hear the Hulk's breathing and realize that they're locked in with something. Cue one of them lighting a match and revealing the Hulk's face.
  • Subverted in the Doctor Who episode "Daleks in Manhattan," when the Cold Open involves a man being lured into the prop room backstage at a Broadway theater by suspicious sounds. He lights a match, which reveals a face leering at him, belonging to a dummy of a pirate. He breathes a sigh of relief, puts out the match, and then is ambushed by a Pig Man.

Newspaper Comics

  • A Garfield strip did this once, during the storyline when Garfield ran away from home.

Video Games

  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge features the 'room full of explosives' variation.
  • The "Mad World" commercial for Gears of War uses this trope for excellent dramatic effect. Being pursued by alien forces, Marcus Fenix dives into a darkened building by crashing through a window. Although it is almost pitch-black inside, he spots countless spots of light, and opens fire upon them. The bright muzzle flash of his machinegun reveals that these eyes belong to a gargantuan, lobster-like creature that fills the entire room.
  • Subverted in Grim Fandango. At one point the protagonists end up at the bottom of the sea, and they meet a wandering man with a lantern attached to his head. When the subject of sea monsters is brought up, he turns his head to reveal that they're already surrounded by them. But it's okay, because the light is what keeps them at bay.
  • The opening sequence of Silent Hill and its film adaptation. Both protagonists go into a dark alleyway and light a match to find that they are surrounded by bloody corpses, chain-link fences, and gray demon children.
  • In the final act of Police Quest: Open Season, you enter a dark room in the theater, and turn on your flashlight to reveal the Big Bad, who knocks you out and strips you of your possessions.
  • An unscripted, but likely, example from Skyrim: A later mission has you faced with a field of vision obscuring fog, naturally calling for the use of the Clear Skies ability, revealing Alduin, The World Eater about a meter and a half in front of your face.

Web Animation

  • The Flash cartoon series Lenny Loosejocks had an episode where the titular character goes spelunking, carrying a flashlight. At one point Lenny falls through a hole, and turns on the flashlight to survey the surroundings, revealing a huge orange snarling monster in front of him. He quickly turns off the light again, then turns it on again... and the monster is gone. Rinse and repeat for a minute or so before Lenny shrugs his shoulders and moves on.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Plenty of Looney Tunes cartoons. Often combined with the obligatory By the Lights of Their Eyes.
    • Wile E. Coyote in particular had a bad habit of finding shacks full of explosives.
    • Yosemite Sam also inadvertently ended up in powder houses every so often, especially when in pursuit of Bugs Bunny.
  • Used in almost every episode of Scooby Doo.
  • Used in the Wallace and Gromit short 'A Grand Day Out'.
  • Done by Plucky at the end of the Tiny Toon Adventures renditon of "Particle Man".
  • On The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, episode "Arabian Desert Danger", after the Ant Hill Mob were tricked into driving into an oil pipeline, Dum Dum struck a match inside the sealed pipeline. Of course, this led to a Non-Fatal Explosion.
  • A variation occurs in The Simpsons. Homer ends up in a dark closet, and lights a match...

 Homer: * sees skeleton* Aah! * drops match, light goes out* That was a close one...* lights another match, sees skeleton again* Aah! * drops match again* That was a closer one! * lights yet another match* Aah! * drops match yet again* Oh, thank God I'm out of matches! Oh, no, here's another one...

  • Spoofed in Futurama. Leela and Fry are trying to find their way out of a pitch black area. Fry lights a match to see better and promptly screams, causing Leela to cry out "What? What is it?" Fry responds, "I burnt my finger."
  • A variation occurs in Avatar: The Last Airbender. In the episode "The Waterbending Scroll," Aang is seperated from Sokka by a huge cloud of smoke originating from smoke bombs used in a battle between pirates and firebenders. Aang, getting tired of the smoke, blows it away, hoping it allows Sokka to find him... only to find himself in the middle of a battle with no less than 7 weapons pointed at him. He promptly brings the smoke back.
  • In one episode of Ben 10 Alien Force, season 3, the Power Trio are exploring a mine. Kevin finds a big pile of boxes, and lights a flare so he can read what's written on the boxes. "TNT" is written on the boxes. Ben quickly blows out the flare. Kevin yells "Hey!" and...lights another flare. Luckily, Ben blows that one out, too, and Gwen berates Kevin for his stupidity.
  • In The Cat Came Back, after falling down a mine shaft and seeing a pair of eyes, the main character lights a match only to find himself surrounded by rats, bats and snakes. The first rat then helpfully blows out the match.
  • Jonny Quest episode "The Fraudulent Volcano". When Jonny and Hadji sneak into the enemy base and end up in the dark:

 Hadji: I wonder what's in those boxes?

Jonny: Wait a minute, I got a match. [lights it] It says E...X...P...L...O...Ex...Explosives!

Hadji: Forget I asked you! Let's get out of here!



  • Once read on a mine exploration forum:

 If you can light a cig it's fine.

If you struggle to light a cig it's poor.

If you can't keep a cig lit it's bad.

If you can light a cig AND everyone else around you, along with the entire mine, then it is bad too.