Created By: 182crazyking on January 14, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on February 12, 2014

Window Death

Someone dies behind a window while the protagonist can do nothing but watch

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Trope
Window Death (it Needs a Better Title) is a trope that's invoked commonly in horror media. Basically, the hero is trapped behind a pane of glass and sees a Red Shirt die (often in a horrible, bloody way). Most often, a Window Death segment ends with a blood-splattered window, and perhaps the aforementioned Red Shirt's body sliding down the glass.

Whatever caused the Window Death has a habit of escaping after it kills, like it didn't even see the hero staring through the window.

Window Deaths are commonly used to show the powers, abilities, or brutality of an opponent without putting the hero in too much actual danger. It can also be used as the beginning to a mystery plot line.

Can overlap with Rear Window Witness in mystery stories. See also Trapped in Containment. Usually overlaps with Forced to Watch.

Examples

Literature
  • Happens in The Hunger Games where Katniss is forced to watch from within a glass pod as Cinna is pretty much beaten to death.

Live-Action TV
  • Subverted in the first episode of Sherlock. Watson sees Sherlock facing death from the taxi driver, who is having Sherlock consume a possibly poisoned pill. Not only is Watson looking through a window, but from a completely different building. His solution? Shoot through the window at the taxi driver.
  • The Jeffersons. During a Halloween Episode Louise sees a man dressed as a rabbit murder someone in the apartment building across the street from theirs.

Film
  • This is the Inciting Incident of Hitchcock's film Rear Window: a photographer, laid up in his flat with a broken leg, witnesses his neighbour kill his wife through the titular window.
  • Spock's Heroic Sacrifice at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, with Kirk on the other side of the glass.
  • Body Double. Jake Scully is using a telescope to watch a woman through the window of her home. A man enters her house and brutally murders her while Scully is helpless to do anything to stop it.
  • Independence Day. The "release me" scene in Area 51. However, the guards realize they can do something as the glass is not bulletproof, and they shoot up the alien. Doesn't save poor, socially maladjusted Professor Okun, though.
  • A variation occurs in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, when Obi-Wan is forced to watch Qui-Gon die from behind a force field.
  • Cloverfield gets one, somewhat, where the characters see Marissa blow the hell up behind a curtain, leaving only blood splattered on it. All they see is the shadow.
  • Moonraker. James Bond is investigating a secret laboratory where two scientists are working on mysterious devices. One of the scientists accidentally breaks a vial filled with a powerful nerve gas and Bond watches the scientists die from behind a glass window.

Video Games
  • This happens a few times in Dead Space. Played straight when you first encounter the Lurker. You kind of wonder why the scientist started banging on the window instead of using the obviously unlocked door, though.
  • BioShock
    • At the start you see a Spider Splicer kill a human from behind the window in your bathysphere.
    • After your introduction to Little Sisters, you see a Big Daddy slam a splicer into a window and eviscerate him with a drill before slamming his head through the glass.
    • You get to watch as Julie Langford is gassed to death in her office.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution uses it too - one of the bosses kills a scientist in the tutorial behind a glass door, and then jumps off.
  • There is a scene in the original Max Payne (one of the Deep Six levels), where Max witnesses unlucky scientists being slaughtered by commandos behind a bulletproof glass.
  • This happens in the second U-Genix level in Timesplitters Future Perfect, where Cortez has to watch as a scientist is murdered by one of his own experiments.
  • This is how the Bandersnatch is introduced in Resident Evil: Code: Veronica.

Community Feedback Replies: 41
  • January 14, 2012
    Eomega123
    Also in Bio Shock, after your introduction to little sisters you see a Big Daddy slam a splicer into a wall, eviscerated him with a drill, and then slam his head repeatedly into the glass, eventually knocking him through.
  • January 15, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    This is the Inciting Incident of Hitchcock's film Rear Window: a photographer, laid up in his flat with a broken leg, witnesses his neighbour kill his wife through the titular window.
  • January 15, 2012
    Koveras
    • There is a scene in the original Max Payne (one of the Deep Six levels), where Max witnesses unlucky scientists being slaughtered by commandos behind a bulletproof glass.
  • January 15, 2012
    Hadashi

    Needs a better name though
  • January 15, 2012
    whizzerd
    This happens in the second U-Genix level in Timesplitters: Future Perfect, where Cortez has to watch as a scientist is murdered by one of his own experiments.
  • January 15, 2012
    SorciaMacNasty
    In 'Heathers' the Christian Slater character says the last time he saw his mother was when she was waving out a window right before his dad blew up the building, killing her.
  • January 15, 2012
    Duncan
    Spock's Heroic Sacrifice at the end of Star Trek II The Wrath Of Khan, with Kirk on the other side of the glass.
  • January 15, 2012
    KTera
    • Also in BioShock, you get to watch as Julie Langford is gassed to death in her office.
  • January 15, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Body Double. Jake Scully is using a telescope to watch a woman through the window of her home. A man enters her house and brutally murders her while Scully is helpless to do anything to stop it.
  • January 15, 2012
    BlackMageJ
    This is how the Bandersnatch is introduced in Resident Evil Code Veronica. I expect it happens several other times in the series.
  • January 15, 2012
    JohnDiFool
    Would this include seeing someone plummet to their death while the observer is inside a building (and behind a window, natch)?
  • January 15, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Half-Life: leaving sector C after the disaster, Freeman/you see a scientist fall to headcrabs in an inaccessible room.

  • January 15, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Independence Day: The "release me" scene in Area 51. Belatedly, they realize they can do something as the glass is not bulletproof and they shoot the alien a lot. Doesn't save poor, socially maladjusted Professor Okun, though.
  • January 15, 2012
    neobullseye
    How about similiar scenarios like the hero being stuck behind a gate or such, or viewing the scene through a camera?
  • January 15, 2012
    182crazyking
    Hey guys, sorry this took so long to update. I was on a brief vacation. To answer questions: John Di Fool, yes. neobullseye, you could substitute a gate for a window, but I don't think I'd include seeing someone die on-camera since there are too many aspects of the trope that'd have to be stretched. Maybe if the person died right on/next to the lens of the camera, and the video feed is live and not an Apocalyptic Log
  • January 17, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The Jeffersons: During a Halloween Episode Louise sees a man dressed as a rabbit murder someone in the apartment building across the street from theirs.
  • January 17, 2012
    foxley
    Can overlap with Rear Window Witness in mystery stories. See also Trapped In Containment.
  • January 18, 2012
    ladyofprocrastination
    A variation occurs in Star Wars The Phantom Menace, when Obi-Wan is forcd to watch Qui-Gon die from behind a force field.
  • January 18, 2012
    ThatOneGuyNamedX
    Cloverfield gets one, somewhat, where the characters see Marissa (or whatever her name was) blow the hell up behind a curtain, leaving only blood splattered on it. All they see is the shadow.

    Also, i don't know if it counts, but a villanous example happens in the first cutscene of the console version of Rainbow Six Lockdown, where the Big Bad is overlooking the results of Legion, an engineered virus that eats up the flesh from the bloodstream. The imagery is as brutal as it sounds.
  • January 18, 2012
    sliz225
    Usually overlaps with "forced to watch."
  • January 19, 2012
    Abodos
    Subverted in the first episode of Sherlock. Watson sees Sherlock facing death from the taxi driver, who is having Sherlock consume a possibly poisoned pill. Not only is Watson looking through a window, but from a completely different building. His solution? Shoot through the window at the taxi driver.
  • January 19, 2012
    lennyathena
    Happens in [1] where Katniss is forced to watch from within a glass pod as Cinna is pretty much beaten to death.
  • January 20, 2012
    aurora369
    I'm sure Half Life had more than one such moment. I recall the one when a barney gets dragged into an air vent. It's in We've Got Hostilities level, IIRC.
  • January 21, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Moonraker. James Bond is investigating a secret laboratory where two scientists are working on mysterious devices. One of the scientists accidentally breaks a vial filled with a powerful nerve gas and Bond watches the scientists die from behind a glass window.
  • January 22, 2012
    GuyIncog
    Frequently overlaps with instances of Explosive Decompression, as these tend to be depicted by having the victim's face go *splat* against a window or helmet visor.

    Film
  • January 24, 2012
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek The Original Series
      • "Whom Gods Destroy". Kirk is forced to sit and watch through a glass window as the Orion slave girl Marta is blown up by a bomb.
  • January 25, 2012
    TheJackal
    Film
    • In the film version of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Harry, Ron and Hermione see Voldemort kill Severus Snape through the window of the Hogwarts boathouse, complete with blood splattering on the window and the body sliding down it once the attack is finished.
  • January 25, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Flim:
    • In xXx, Xander (through x-ray glasses) and Yelena watch in horror as an Omnicidal Maniac tests his new chemical weapon on the scientists who just helped him develop it.
    • In Project X, Garrett is forced to watch a chimp die as the result of a military experiment to determine how pilots might behave in a nuclear war due to radiation exposue.

    Seen It A Million Times in underwater or Sci Fi movies where in order to save the rest of the ship, facility, etc., The Hero has to seal off the damaged area, and is forced to watch those who could not escape in time die.

    Videogames:
    • In Homeworld: Cataclysm, Somtow scientists are studying cells of The Beast when The Beast starts to take over. They beg you to release the lower decks to save the rest of the ship. As the infested section falls away into the nebula, you hear their screams over the radio.
  • January 26, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Abyss. When the disaster occurs, Bud tries to tell the men trapped inside a flooding room to cut a hose so they can open a door. They don't, and drown as Bud watches them through a glass window in the door.
  • March 24, 2012
    dontcallmewave
    How's about "Helpless Witness" as a trope title?
  • March 25, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In an episode of The Mentalist the Victim Of The Week calls in Jane and the CBI while she's still alive. She's been dosed with a deadly chemical while in a sealed glass room. They catch the killer but before that happens they watch her die, since there's nothing anyone can do. Her daughter also watches via Webcam.
  • March 25, 2012
    TBTabby
    In The Darkness video game, Jackie is held back by the Darkness and forced to watch through a window as Jenny is killed by mobsters.
  • March 26, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    @dontcallmewave how about Window Witness or Witness Through The Window?

  • March 26, 2012
    dontcallmewave
    The thing is, not all the examples involve windows (see the cloverfield entry for example) I think Helpless Witness describes the idea behind the trope better.
  • February 11, 2014
    XFllo
  • February 11, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In Twenty Four Season 5 "6:00-7:00 PM" Chloe watches Edgar die from a poison gas on the other side of a sealed off room which he didn't get to in time.
  • February 11, 2014
    DAN004
    The window part is important cuz otherwise it's Forced To Watch
  • February 11, 2014
    DAN004
  • February 11, 2014
    caimthehero
    Sounds like a sub trope of Forcedto Watch
  • February 12, 2014
    Arivne
  • February 12, 2014
    Lakija
    Not to be confused with Destination Defenestration

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

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