The Villain Knows Where You Live CROWNERS UP
Villain produces proof he can find someone to carry out a threat against them.
Needs Examples Better Name Tropeworthy? Needs Examples Tropeworthy?

(permanent link) added: 2012-08-01 13:00:31 sponsor: 69BookWorM69 (last reply: 2013-08-25 07:31:57)

Add Tag:
I found the title I Know Where You Live as a dead internal link (in other words the page already exists), and I consulted the instructions for handling such dead internal links. Since it said to "Click the edit button...", that's what I did. I came back to it later to find the page blank again, but it's not on the Cut List, so I'm a bit puzzled. I thought I was doing things correctly, but evidently not. <shrug> Hence, this YKTTW.

Anyway, I think we need this, as it isn't really covered by other tropes that I have found, though it does get mentioned elsewhere. Please note that I'm only used the working title for now because it has a page already. In other words, I know it sounds like dialogue and some tropers don't like that, but it'll do for now, and yes, I'll tag it for a title change. Honestly, though, I think the original title works quite well in conveying the point.

UPDATE: There are now two crowners for this YKTTW:

1) If you want to vote on the title of this trope, go here.

2) Yes or No: Should the locked page "I Know Where You Live" become a redirect for this trope?

I am aware that putting the locked page to this or any other use is at the admins' discretion, but some commenters below have expressed a preference for using it as the title. I offer the redirect suggestion in a spirit of compromise.


The Villain, having made a threat against The Hero and/or someone the Hero loves, produces proof he can actually find the intended victim(s) and carry it out. Recent photographs of the target(s) at home or in other familiar settings are probably the most popular form of evidence; the recipient(s) will recognize background items, clothing, hairstyle and other details as familiar and recent, and the very existence of the photos implies someone got physically close enough to take them. On the other hand, The Villain may simply say or write the home address, phone number, school name, or other recent identifying information ("Lovely blue leotard your daughter wore to her dance class today. It matches her eyes."). He may even produce some recognizable item belonging to the target(s), thereby proving he's been there once already and can return.

Since executing this trope involves inspiring feelings of fear and intimidation, it is most often performed by The Villain or at his command. If a heroic character does this, chances are that Hero already operates outside ordinary rules (think superhero), or is angry or desperate enough to act without the aid of law enforcement. When invoked against someone with a secret identity, the trope I Know You Know I Know will play a part in the threat. Implying or announcing that he knows such a secret is another means of making the threat hit close to home, and may even imply that the opponent has some way to deal with the target's special abilities (If he knows Clark Kent is really Superman, maybe he also knows about that kryptonite problem too).

While this may be done in conjunction with an Implied Death Threat, it usually appears with more direct threats (of the Shame If Something Happened variety) or explicit threats, so as to underline both the intent and the ability to follow through. If it is not given in person or via telephone, such proof will likely accompany an anonymous threatening letter.

There is often some overlap with Shame If Something Happened, as this trope can serve to bolster the threat and encourage the target's cooperation. In those cases, there's usually something the target can do or some price that can be paid to buy off the threat, if only for a short time. If this trope is used alone, often there is no price that can be paid; the threat is coming and the purpose is more to terrify beforehand rather than trying to get the target to do (or stop doing) something.

Compare and contrast The Call Knows Where You Live. Where this trope is about demonstrating the ability to strike (i.e. the baddies have done their homework and show their work to prove it), The Call Knows Where You Live is about going ahead and actually doing it (possibly without any warning). Either way, the situation demands some kind of response. It's also possible to do this trope first, then go ahead and pull the other one (by carrying out a threat). If the villain just wants to get the drop on the hero, he'll just act (TCKWYL); if the villain wants to play with the hero's head first, he'll do this first (or something like it).

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In Mystery Of Mamo, Mameaux skips the threat and simply has Frenchy hit the gang's hideout with napalm to show them that he really means business when he sends hitmen after them for giving him a phony Philosopher's Stone.

Comics
  • Sin City: The district attorney finally gets Marv to confess to the murders actually committed by Kevin and Cardinal Roark (and their murders, which he was guilty of) by turning off the recorder and showing him a picture of his mother in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. Marv breaks his arm in three places, but signs.

Film
  • In the film Ice Cream Man about a Humanitarian evil ice cream man the eponymous man uses the exact line: "You little turds are gonna have to realize you can't run from the ice cream man! I know where you live! If you tell anyone, I'll get your mom and dad!"
  • In Grosse Pointe Blank the assassin protagonist tries to convince his psychiatrist to continue seeing him (the psychiatrist freaked out when his patient revealed his profession). The protagonist mentions doctor-patient confidentiality as a reason why their continued visits wouldn't be a problem and then adds, "And besides, I know where you live". Given the protagonist's admitted profession and the fact that he would know the psychiatrist by name, that's not so hard to believe.
  • Subtly done in Layer Cake. The protagonist is going to meet his girlfriend at a hotel rendezvous when he gets abducted by a Diabolical Mastermind gangster, and at the end of their "interview", he's casually dropped off at his home, which the other guy wouldn't know unless he'd been keeping close tabs on him.

Literature
  • Early in Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea, Bill shows Lori a printout of a threatening email he received earlier that morning, the latest in a series. The note came with recent photos of the cottage, Lori, their nanny Annelise and the twins on their ponies. The text reads:

    You came like a thief in the night to cast me into the abyss. You chained me in darkness, but no earthly chains can hold me anymore. I have risen.
    Behold, I am coming soon to repay you for what you have done. All that you love will perish. I will strike your children dead and give your wife a like measure of torment and mourning. I have the keys to Death and Hades, and I will blot your name from the book of life forever.
    Your nightmare has begun. There is no waking.
    Abaddon

  • Villains in Discworld tend to try this on Sam Vimes. Always a terrible idea, since he's a Papa Wolf and that acts as a Berserk Button for him.
    • In Night Watch Carcer tells Vimes: "I can see your house from here"
    • Happens several times in Thud!:
      • The dwarves send a suicide squad to assassinate his family... causing him to pursue their sorry asses all the way into Koom Valley, and filling him with so much primal vengeful rage, he ''almost'' murders them.
      • Two troll enforcers for The Breccia attempt to intimidate Vimes by saying this... right in the middle of the Watch house while surrounded by officers.
      • The Low King of the Dwarves almost pulls this on Vimes in a moment of anger before catching himself and mentioning diplomatically how nice it would be to meet his family. Vimes isn't fooled, but lets it slide.
    • In Guards! Guards! it's implied that Lord Vetinari got the Thieves' Guild leaders to agree to his plan by quietly suggesting that he knew where their loved ones lived.
  • Late in Lynn Shepherd's 2012 novel The Solitary House, protagonist and investigator Charles Maddox finds his housemaid vomiting in the kitchen, and he learns from another servant that she had been accosted while buying provisions at the markets and a package was added to her basket. The package proves to contain the little finger from Charles' right hand, which had been forcibly amputated in an attack on him several days previously. Charles recognizes the contents ("A second, closer look eradicates all doubt."), and the threat:
    The package left in Molly's basket carried more than one message, and the loudest and clearest of them all is that his unseen adversary is closing in. Closing in on Charles, and closing in, now, on all those around him. He could have killed Molly today, if he chose, just as he could have killed Charles on the City Road.

Live-Action TV
  • A subtle one in the Remington Steele episode "Elegy in Steele": Major Descoine comes to the agency's office, promises Laura and Steele he'll kill them both by noon that day, and leads them on a chase around the city. One surreal stop is a richly-furnished Victorian-looking apartment in an otherwise abandoned building. On looking around, the detectives notice that the framed photographs scattered about the living room show them at work on recent cases (in clearly recognizable stills from previous episodes), and the penny drops:

    Steele: He's been FOLLOWING us! The bloody bugger's been SPYING on us!
    Laura: It gives me the creeps.
    The Minor: (Enters carrying a loaded tea tray) Oh, "cream," did you say? (Stops as Steele and Laura turn on her, Steel pointing his gun at her) It's right here on the tray.

  • Buffy: One of the first things Angel does when he turns evil is to go into Buffy's room while she's sleeping, draw a detailed picture of her, and leave it for her to find in the morning.

Indexes on launch: The Index Is Watching You, Fear Tropes, I Have Your Index
replies: 64

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