Created By: SharleeD on November 21, 2011 Last Edited By: SharleeD on December 2, 2011
Troped

The Croc Is Ticking

A predator picks up something that makes noise, which then foreshadows its appearance

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Where most stories rely on a suspenseful soundtrack to foreshadow the monster's attack, some go a step further, giving it its own ominous theme in-universe. Either because it's been tagged with or entangled by a telltale noisemaker, or because it's eaten an audible mechanism -- often along with the person who'd been carrying it -- such a creature usually won't be much good at sneaking up on the heroes, as it'll be accompanied by a distinctive sound of its own.

The Trope Namer is the crocodile from Peter Pan, which had swallowed a clock and was always accompanied by a 'tick-tock' thereafter. Fridge Logic issues such as why the clock (radio, phone, etc) can be heard through a large creature's belly wall, or why it doesn't run down and/or get expelled in time, are often ignored.

Examples:

  • Captain Hook's crocodile nemesis is the Trope Namer.
  • In Sewer, Gas & Electric, a sewer-dwelling mutant shark eats a tunnel worker whose new digital watch plays Bolero. Its next appearance is heralded by the sound.
  • In Jurassic Park III, the Spinosaurus eats a man who's carrying a satellite phone. The phone is later heard ringing just before it attacks, and again from a gigantic pile of dinosaur poop.
  • In Tremors 2, one of the Graboids eats a radio that's blaring music, which is then heard from underground before it reappears.
  • The Beast Fable called The Bell and the Cat or The Mice in Council discusses a plan to put a bell on a cat so the mice will hear it coming. Averted because none of the mice is brave enough to actually install the bell.
  • Parodied/blended with Why Am I Ticking? in Futurama, in the following Show Within a Show excerpt from a film billed to have "a vampire AND an explosion":
    Woman 1: "Don't open that coffin! It's ticking"
    Woman 2 (with stake and hammer, over coffin): "I have to! This coffin isn't going to open itself!"
    Dracula (flinging open coffin and emerging): "BLUUUUAAAH!"
    (explosion, as advertised)
  • In Persona 3, if you stay on one level of Tartarus for too long, you will face having the Reaper spawn. You're able to tell he's close by the sound of chains coming from his direction.
  • Played with on Get Smart, "Ship of Spies": A KAOS informer is killed just before giving Max some important information. The only clue: the killer made an unusual "clip-clop" sound. They investigate and end up on the eponymous ship where it turns out just about everyone makes that clip-clop sound - a woman with castanets, a man with a peg leg, etc.
  • Common in tales of ghosts that are Chained by Fashion.
  • Real Life: Cowbells, although mainly used for easy location of stray livestock, could also give a clanging warning when a ticked-off bull or ram was charging an unsuspecting target.
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, Killer Croc alludes to the Trope Namer, making ticking noises.
  • Zaraki Kenpaichi in Bleach, arguably a predator, deliberately put bells on his hair to invoke this trope.
  • The Clockpunk monsters of Doctor Who's "The Girl in the Fireplace" make ticking noises as they move, and break the mechanical clocks around them so people won't notice that it's them ticking rather than a nearby timepiece.
  • In Hex And The City, the Reality Warper Madman is preceded around the city by his own personal soundtrack, which is helpful to people who want to stay the hell away from him.

Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • November 21, 2011
    Duncan
    The fable called The Bell and the Cat or The Mice in Council discusses a plan to put a bell on a cat so the mice will hear it coming.
  • November 21, 2011
    mtlwriterguy
    Belling the Crocodile? Excuse Me, Your Crocodile is Ticking?
  • November 21, 2011
    azul120
  • November 22, 2011
    condottiera
    The Croc is Ticking is the best choice. When in doubt, go for the pun.
  • November 24, 2011
    DorianMode
    A related, non-auditory example, is the float the shark in Jaws gets harpooned with, which floats to the surface to show he's near. Interestingly enough, they only did that 'cuz the shark prop never worked properly, forcing them to find a workaround, and in the process making the film all the more suspenseful.
  • November 24, 2011
    SharleeD
    ^ Good suggestion, but I'm not sure I want to open this to non-auditory examples quite yet. Let's see if any more straight cases turn up, first; if not, I'll expand the description to allow tagging monsters in visible (or smell-able?) ways.
  • November 24, 2011
    dirkchivers
    Probably my favorite line from Futurama, in the Lucy Liu episode, in the movie billed to have "A vampire AND an explosion":

    Woman 1: "Don't open that coffin! It's ticking"

    Woman 2 (with stake and hammer, over coffin) : "I have to! This coffin isn't going to open itself!"

    (coffin flings open, Dracula pops up)

    Dracula: "BLUUUUAAAH!" (audio in other languages on the DVD: French, "BEEWWWM", Spanish: "AYIEEE")

    (explosion, as advertised)

    Maybe a bit too literal and one shot for this trope, but otherwise fits right in.
  • December 1, 2011
    TBeholder
    Bell On A Cat?
  • December 1, 2011
    Stratadrake
    The Croc Is Ticking is an awesome pun, however the source of the pun implies a Race Against Time, which is unrelated to the trope. Generally, puns should be used where they make sense, not just for pun's sake.
  • December 1, 2011
    ShadowPantherRakuen
    In Persona3, if you stay on one level of Tartarus for too long, you will face having the Reaper spawn. You're able to tell he's close by the sound of chains coming from his direction.
  • December 1, 2011
    nitrokitty
    The Croc Is Ticking makes perfect sense to me. I knew what this was about before I read the laconic, and the idea it could related to Race Against Time didn't even cross my mind. Then again, I have seen Peter Pan, so it makes sense to me, I have no idea how somebody might react if they hadn't. Of course, then they'd probably have been living in a cave their whole lives.

    Also, in Batman Arkham Asylum, I seem to recall that Killer Croc had a bell around his neck or something. I can't remember if that's true though, it's been a while since I played the game.

    Would the monster-detecting radio from Silent Hill count? It's not attached to the monsters themselves, but it seems to serve the same purpose in gameplay: to have a creepy noise accompanying the monster's approach.
  • December 1, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Does this count?
    • Get Smart, "Ship of Spies:" A KAOS informer is killed just before giving Max some important information. The only clue: the killer made an unusual "clip-clop" sound. They investigate and end up on the eponymous ship where it turns out just about everyone makes that clip-clop sound - a woman with castanets, a man with a Peg Leg, etc.
  • December 1, 2011
    JonnyB
    Bell The Cat might do for a redirect.
  • December 2, 2011
    TBeholder
    ^ if it's only about marking them on purpose. The description includes accidental too, so i went with the ready situation rather han action
  • December 2, 2011
    Nibbles2
    Nitrokitty pretty much echoed my thoughts. The Croc Is Ticking seems like a fine name (although I may be biased since I've seen Peter Pan and therefore understand the reference).

    The Batman Arkham Asylum example, Killer Croc had a large collar/chain thing around his neck, and yes, whenever he moved it would clang. However, it's never used to foreshadow Killer Croc's appearance (almost all of his appearances begin with KC shouting threats to Batman, so by the time he starts moving and you actually hear the collar, you already know well in advance that he's there), which in my mind is the main idea behind this trope.
  • December 2, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    • Also, in Batman Arkham Asylum, Croc alludes to the Trope Namer, making ticking noises
    • Zaraki Kenpaichi in Bleach, arguably a predator, put bells on his hair for this purpose.
  • December 2, 2011
    surgoshan
    • The mechanical monsters of Doctor Who's The Girl in the Fireplace break the mechanical clocks around them so people don't get confused by a second source of ticking.
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