Created By: LondonKdS on January 14, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on March 29, 2013

When Props Attack

An actor trying to make it look as if an inert object is attacking them

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Where Special Effect Failure overlaps with Fight Scene Failure, this is a scene where a supposedly animate object or creature attacking a character is obviously an inert object that the actor is trying to manipulate while supposedly "fighting" it.

Usually this involves something small strangling someone or biting someone's throat, which allows the actor to stagger around holding the prop to their neck and occasionally wiggling bits of it.

Examples

Film

Live-Action TV
  • Many examples in Doctor Who, but the scenes with Nestene-possessed objects in "Terror of the Autons" are made of this trope. Other notable cases include unshelled Daleks attacking people in "Genesis of the Daleks" and Resurrection of the Daleks".
    • The revived series has had a couple of examples, sometimes possibly tongue-in-cheek, notably including the severed Auton arm attacking the Doctor in "Rose" and the Cybermat attacking Craig in "Closing Time".
  • The fight between Buffy and the giant snake in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Shadow", which reverses the usual by having a small actor clinging onto a very large almost-inert prop.
Community Feedback Replies: 56
  • January 14, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    Done with an actual living (but non-aggressive) octopus in one reality show. A contestant trying to fish one up put up such a spectacular fight with it, that the women in the group refused to participate in the task if you haven't guessed already, he was The Mole in the group
  • January 14, 2012
    dalek955
    Possible page quote:

    I don't know what's weirder: that you're fighting a stuffed tiger, or that you seem to be losing.
  • January 14, 2012
    sliz225
    Bump. I like this one! Are there in-universe examples?
  • January 14, 2012
    Chabal2
    Dave Barry has a few:
    • on Disney's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, about the giant squid scene: "by today's standards it looks like a bunch of men pretending to wrestle a fire hose."
    • Alligator wrestling: It looks as exciting as watching a man move a large carpet.

  • January 14, 2012
    KevinKlawitter
    Shows up in The Screaming Skull:
    Mike: He feels compelled to hold a skull against his neck
  • January 14, 2012
    Treblain
    The second episode of Garth Marenghis Darkplace, "Hell Hath Fury", in which the characters are fighting Animate Inanimate Objects. Including Sanchez struggling with his own gun, then battling a kitchen whisk trying to stab him in the neck, and then wrestling a garbage can.
  • January 14, 2012
    MyTimingIsOff
  • January 14, 2012
    dalek955
    Does it have to be Special Effects Failure? Because if not:
    • Dr Strangelove wore a black glove which kept trying to strangle him. As in, occasionally he would make a grab for his own throat with the glove-wearing hand and then wrench it away with his other hand.
  • January 14, 2012
    SharleeD
    Attack Of The Lame/Killer Prop?
  • January 14, 2012
    LeeM
    • Played For Laughs in an episode of The Goodies where Graeme is supposedly being attacked by a bat.
    • Played straight (as mentioned above), but in exactly the same way, in Doctor Who's "Genesis of the Daleks", where the fourth Doctor is being attacked by a juvenile Dalek (the organic component, that is). It was apparently a bit of business invented by Tom Baker because the original Cliff Hanger was too weak.
  • January 14, 2012
    tustin2121
    I like the title as it is. Also, for Web Originals:
    • In Spoony's video on Ultima 3, there's a skit about fighting the floor outside Exodus's castle. In it, Sage fights with his square of carpet in a very unconvincing manner.
  • January 16, 2012
    nitrokitty
  • January 16, 2012
    CaveCat
    A late 2011 Garfield strip had Garfield eating cookies in the cookie jar, but when Jon catches him, Garfield pretends that the cookie jar is eating him. Of course, Jon isn't fooled one bit by it:
    Garfield: Help! I'm being eaten by a cookie jar!
    Jon:: Get out of there!
  • January 16, 2012
    Tiiba
    [1]

    Trope pic.
  • January 16, 2012
    Psychobabble6
    There seems to be a fair amount of in-universe examples. Should in-universe examples be separated? (As opposed to those where the actors actually are trying to look like the prop is killing them).

  • January 16, 2012
    foxley
    Mel wrestling with the killer swimming pool cleaning machine in the Doctor Who serial "Paradise Towers".
  • January 16, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In a sketch on The Benny Hill Show Benny plays a TV nature presenter like David Attenborough. One of the animals he shows is a giant spider, which is really a prop that Benny slips onto his hand and his fingers are the spider's legs. While Benny is holding the "spider" and talking about it, the spider crawls up Benny's chest towards his neck. Benny drags the spider back down to abdomen level, and it starts crawling up again. He also gets attacked by an offstage "elephant," which is somebody's arm in a gray sleeve simulating the elephant's trunk.
  • January 17, 2012
    MorganWick
    Back in the very early days of Peanuts when Charlie Brown was more of a Jerk Ass, he once made it look like a snowman was chasing him by towing it around in a wagon.
  • January 17, 2012
    tustin2121
    @Tiiba: I like that pic. XD

    1. Psychobabble6: Yes, I think the examples should be split to In-Universe and Meta. Though, technically, in-universe examples don't fall under Special Effects Failure.
  • January 18, 2012
    Psychobabble6
    ^ That's true. Just mention that in the description.
  • January 18, 2012
    Pig_catapult
    I really don't like that pic. It's a domestic abuse trigger and Not An Example.
  • January 18, 2012
    Dreamer
    There's also the fight between the Skeleton and the Mutant in The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra.
  • February 11, 2012
    tustin2121
    Bump again! I like this one as well.
  • February 12, 2012
    Lavalyte
    George Of The Jungle's fight with a lion, at least partially.
  • February 12, 2012
    Telcontar
    Please don't use that picture; Pig_catapult is right about it being a potential trigger. I think the page would be better illustrated with an actor reacting to a non-humanlike object, e.g. being attacked by a teddy bear.
  • February 12, 2012
    nitrokitty
    The scene from Ed Wood where Bela pretends to wrestle the giant octopus would be perfect.
  • February 12, 2012
    IridescentIndividual
    I like the Calvin and Hobbes page quote suggestion--maybe we could use a picture of that comic panel, instead?
  • February 12, 2012
    Telcontar
    There are a number of potential pic options in Calvin And Hobbes; one example might be this strip, where he is attacked by a peanut-butter sandwich, if we don't want to use the same one as for the potential quote. (The image is low-quality, and any version of it would need cropping.)
  • February 12, 2012
    FastEddie
    Get a name for it. This sounds like dialog.
  • February 12, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    This trope is what makes most live-action attempts at Naughty Tentacles look rather pathetic
  • February 12, 2012
    targetbuddy
    There's a better example from Calvin And Hobbes. In the sixth panel of this strip, Calvin's dad scares Calvin with an (obviously pathetic) attempt to pretend that his hand is killing him.
  • February 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Monty Pythons Flying Circus "Scott of the Antarctic" Scott wrestles a lion which is partially Stock Footage, partially a guy in a lion costume, and partially this.
  • February 12, 2012
    BOFH
    Wrestling the Rubber Crocodile?
  • February 13, 2012
    SilentReverence
    The current name proposal is quite unwieldly. Attacked By The Prop or something could work? Attack Of The Inert Prop could also work (since it being inert is what drives the trope).
  • February 13, 2012
    pawsplay
  • February 13, 2012
    deltanine
    In Mystery Science Theatre 3000, One of the guys riffs, "AAHHGGH! I'm being attacked by rubber puppets!"
  • February 13, 2012
    nitrokitty
  • February 13, 2012
    pawsplay
    The title definitely should have Argh in it. You always say Argh.
  • March 13, 2012
    SilentReverence
    Bump for the internets.
  • March 13, 2012
    FastEddie
    No arg! We don't take names anymore that sound like dialog.

    Prop Attack works. As does Attack Prop.
  • March 13, 2012
    SilentReverence
    I think "attack of the" is a very useful thing to have in the trope name since it semantically and mnemonically links it to tropes like Attack Of The 50 Foot Whatever... opinions?
  • March 13, 2012
    abk0100
    ^I like that too.

    Though When Props Attack isn't bad either.
  • March 13, 2012
    Bisected8
  • March 9, 2013
    Freud
    How about the "My tie is evil and it's going to kill me" bit in asdfmovie?
  • March 26, 2013
    NESBoy
    In this Ancient Prophecies segment covering the Mayan Doomsday, there is a dramatization in which an early civilization is attacked by primitive tools (among other things), then moves on to the actual date of the supposed "doomsday" in which the same catastrophe happens, only with modern technology instead.
  • March 26, 2013
    nitrokitty
    The octopus scene from Bride Of The Monster is recreated in Ed Wood.
  • March 27, 2013
    aurora369
    I like Attack Of The Lame Prop. The current name is dialog.
  • March 27, 2013
    StarSword
  • March 27, 2013
    Chernoskill
    • Subverted in The Naked Gun, when Frank Drebin has a towel thrown into his face which proceeds to latch onto his skull like a creature from a horror movie[1].
  • March 28, 2013
    Arivne
  • March 28, 2013
    Antigone3
    Another vote for When Props Attack.

    I'll have to rewatch the movie to be certain, but this may be going on in La Venganza De La Momia when El Santo fights the "ferocious jaguar". It's either a stuffed kitty or a drugged out of its skull one.

    (And yes, I know I should do a works page for that movie.)
  • March 28, 2013
    Stratadrake
    As much as I like the sound of "Help This Prop Is Trying To Kill Me" (seems perfectly illustrative), When Props Attack is also good. Loads more concise, too.
  • March 28, 2013
    DunDun
    • Happens during the "Make 'Em Laugh" scene in Singin In The Rain when Cosmo "flirts" with a headless prop, which proceeds to slap him and they tussle for a minute or two off screen.
  • March 28, 2013
    helterskelter
    Loving When Props Attack.

    • In Scrubs, J.D. imagines a demon baby launching out of Jordan and attacking him. The baby in question is a lumpy plastic doll.
  • March 29, 2013
    Arivne
    ^^^ Fast Eddie has already said no to Help This Prop Is Trying To Kill Me under No New Stock Phrases.

    I'm going to change the title to When Props Attack since that appears to be the majority choice.
  • March 29, 2013
    Stratadrake
    ^ I know that, and I was the one who did most of the writeup for that page. I just disagree with the extent to which he takes the rule.
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