Created By: YoraSeptember 17, 2011 Last Edited By: LythandeJune 1, 2015
Troped

Trail Of Blood

Characters follow a bloody trail.

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Main
Page Type:
Trope

Following footprints in the mud or using hounds to sniff out a scent are just two of many ways to track down fleeing persons, but none are as dramatic as following a trail left by the mark's blood. Not only does it lead the pursuers right to their target, but it also highlights the fact that the fleeing character is wounded, creating additional drama by constantly making him weaker and bringing him closer to death.

In a variation, the trail of blood comes from a body that has been dragged away, but in that case the amount of blood rarely leaves any hope that the person could still be alive. Still, any characters who come upon such a trail will also follow it to whatever gruesome sight awaits them.

In other cases, the heroes or the villains would find themselves to be vulnerable when they follow it to a bad situation, such as an ambush or a sneak attack.

Compare to Footprints Of Muck and Trail Of Bread Crumbs.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Ghost In The Shell Arise, Batou and Togusa follow a red blood trail when they were investigating a suspect behind a series of bombing attacks involving prosthetic limbs. While it led to a crumpled bullet head, the two detectives were caught in an ambush from the back.

    Comic Books 
  • At the end of V For Vendetta, Evey follows a trail of blood to find V.

    Film 
  • In Die Hard, John McLane's bloody footprints lead the robbers to the ventilation shaft he used to sneak away.
  • In I Robot, Spooner notices that the escaped robot is leaking fluid after getting shot. Instead of following the trail, he goes straight to the factory, where he knows Sunny will go to to repair himself.
  • In The Lord Of The Rings, Gimli tracks the hobbits in Fangorn by following the trail of blood left by the orc chasing them.
  • While it's not technically blood, near the end of Short Circuit 2 Johnny 5 suffers damage to his battery before going on a Roaring Rampage Of Revenge, forcing the rest of the protagonists to follow the trail of battery acid and help him.
  • In Nightcrawler, the hero is first to arrive at a mansion where a double murder has taken place. With his camera he follows a trail of blood upstairs where he finds a body in the sleeping room.
  • A Nightmare On Elm Street 1984: During Nancy's classroom nightmare, she follows Tina's corpse down the school hallway, which has left a bloody trail on the floor behind it.
  • At various times throughout Predator, Dutch and the alien track each other via following their bloodstains.
  • Thunderball: Shot in the ankle, Bond leaves a blood trail that causes mooks to follow him to a nightclub. Bond, ever the ladies man, dances with the female leader of the group, and manages to get her to take the bullet meant for him.
  • The Woman In Green, one of the later black-and-white Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone, has a variation. Holmes and Watson walk into a police detective's office to discover the man has been shot dead. Instead of following the trail of blood to the body, Holmes analyzes the trail of blood the dying detective left to determine the probable sequence of events during the murder.

    Literature 
  • Exploited toward the end of The Elenium. Sparhawk and his friends try to navigate a maze by following blood drops from a wounded enemy. Then they discover 1) the blood drops aren't from any of the injured Zemochs, because 2) they aren't blood, and 3) they're only there to keep people in the killing-ground maze, the real entrance to the temple is elsewhere.
  • Subverted in Temple of the Winds. Kahlan and Nadine are tracking a badly wounded wizard through tunnels. When they reach a fork, Nadine says they should follow the path with blood... but Kahlan points out there was no blood before the fork, so it's obviously a false lead, and they should follow the other path - where there are no people.

    Live Action Television 
  • Invoked in the Burn Notice season 3 premiere. Michael uses the blood from self-inflicted cuts in his wrist (from cutting himself loose after being duct-taped to a chair) to leave a trail that guides his pursuer into an ambush.
  • CSI likes this. It often shows up when they're looking for a primary crime scene after someone dies elsewhere. In one ep,a guy was run over by a taxi but it was clear he was stabbed first. The team followed the blood trail to a basketball court where he was first stabbed. He then made it to the highway and was run over.
  • Dexter does this in the fifth season when he has to track a wounded man in a warehouse. In areas when he loses the trail of blood, he just breaks out the luminol and tracks drops invisible to the naked eye.
  • In the Firefly episode "Bushwhacked", Jayne is ambushed in a derelict ship's mess hall and wings his attacker with his revolver. Simon spots a trail of blood drops they follow to the man's hiding place.
  • Invoked in an episode of Mac Gyver. The title character creates a trail of fake blood drops out of chemicals found nearby to throw a pursuer off
  • In Orphan Black, the police find that Helena left a trail of blood when she broke into someone's home to treat wounds from her fight with Beth/Sarah.
    Art: Just follow the bloody brick road.

    Video Games 
  • In Bioshock these trails include everything from bloody footprints to messages written in it.
  • Counter Strike: In Source, players will leave blood behind if shot. The blood decals are usually away from the player, allowing other players to find out where they are hiding.
  • Can be used as a tactic in Deus Ex if the player wishes to pursue a fleeing, wounded enemy. Wounded characters will leave a trail of blood when they run, and a resourceful player can track them.
  • A variation occurs in Dragon Age: The templars keep a vial of blood of every mage who joins the Circles of Magi, which serves as a sample to magically track down any mages who go rogue. Even without a trail, they can hunt down any mage with their blood.
  • In Dreamfall The Longest Journey, a trail of blood leads Zoe to the backdoor of the Victory Hotel, which she has to infiltrate. She assumes it is Reza's blood but she never finds Reza inside.
  • Both the FEAR and Dead Space series are full of blood trails, but they are usually not relevant, as there are monsters and corpses everywhere else as well.
  • Final Fantasy VII. Cloud & company follow one of these when infiltrating the Shinra building for the first time. The song that plays during this section is aptly named "Following the Trail of Blood".
  • In the Jagged Alliance series wounded soldiers leave a trail of blood, making it easier to track them.
  • In League Of Legends, one of Talon's abilities allows him to brutally stab an enemy, which causes them to leave behind a trail of blood that lets him track them even as they enter cover (like bushes)
  • During the Shadow Broker DLC from Mass Effect 2, after running down the rogue Spectre Tela Vasir during the big skycar chase and causing her to crash, Shepard and Liara must follow her blood trail in order to find her and take her down.
  • In Max Payne, trails of blood feature prominently in Max's nightmares. You must follow them to get out of the nightmare.
  • In Pandoras Tower, if you come back to Elena when her meter is critical, she will not be in the observatory's main room, but rather in the cellar. On the way to the cellar, Aeron spots a trail of purplish blood. It Gets Worse. Much worse.
  • Thief II The Metal Age has a level called "Trail of Blood", in which you follow a wounded Pagan courier through a forest village and into The Maw of Chaos. It ends when you catch up to your target and find he's bled out.

    Web Original 
  • The prevalence of this trope in violence-based games is lampshaded in the Half Life Machinima Freemans Mind, in which Freeman points out that normally he'd like to go away from the trails of bloody corpses, but has no choice because there's literally no other valid path to follow.

    Real Life 
  • Not blood, but when the German battleship Bismark sank its British counterpart Hood and send the Prince of Wales fleeing the battle, she had still been hit several times and was leaking oil. The oil trail allowed British airplanes to track down the damaged ship and completely cripple it with one lucky torpedo hit, after which it was no effort for the superior British fleet to catch up and blow her out of the water.
  • Hunters of all stripes will often follow the trail of blood from something they've just put an arrow or bullet through.
  • Sharks are well known for their ability to follow even the tiniest traces of blood in the water over miles. However, they can not smell blood that is dropped into the water any distance away until the currents create a trail the shark can actually pick up and follow.

Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • September 17, 2011
    Bisected8
    • While it's not technically blood, near the end of Short Circuit 2 Johnny 5 suffers damage to his battery before going on a Roaring Rampage Of Revenge, forcing the rest of the protagonists to follow the trail of battery acid and help him.
    • In Bioshock these trails include everything from bloody footprints to messages written in it.
  • September 17, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    • Dexter does this in the fifth season when he has to track a wounded man in a warehouse. In areas when he loses the trail of blood, he just breaks out the luminol and tracks drops invisible to the naked eye.
  • April 27, 2012
    Antigone3
    Averted toward the end of the Elenium. Sparhawk and his friends try to navigate a maze by following blood drops from a wounded enemy. Then they discover 1) those drops aren't blood, 2) they aren't from any of the injured Zemochs, and 3) they're only there to keep people in the killing-ground maze, the real entrance to the temple is elsewhere.
  • April 27, 2012
    chicagomel
    CSI likes this. It often shows up when they're looking for a primary crime scene after someone does elsewhere. In one ep,a guy was run over by a taxi but it was clear he was stabbed first. The team followed the blood trail to a basketball court where he was first stabbed. He then made it to the highway and was run over.
  • April 28, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    Video Games
    • During the Shadow Broker DLC from Mass Effect 2, after running down the rogue Spectre Tela Vasir during the big skycar chase and causing her to crash, Shepard and Liara must follow her blood trail in order to find her and take her down.

    Real Life
    • Hunters of all stripes will often follow the trail of blood from something they've just put an arrow or bullet through.
  • April 29, 2012
    Koveras
    • In Dreamfall, a trail of blood leads Zoe to the backdoor of the Victory Hotel, which she has to infiltrate. She assumes it is Reza's blood but she never finds Reza inside.
  • April 29, 2012
    Shinr
    In the Jagged Alliance series wounded soldiers leave a trail of blood, making it easier to track them.
  • April 30, 2012
    ScanVisor
  • April 30, 2012
    aurora369
    In Final Fantasy VII, the heroes at one point follow a trail of blood left by the local Eldritch Abomination.
  • April 30, 2012
    AGuy
    In League Of Legends, one of Talon's abilities allows him to brutally stab an enemy, which causes them to leave behind a trail of blood that lets him track them even as they enter cover (like bushes).
  • April 30, 2012
    aurora369
    In Max Payne, trails of blood feature prominently in Max's nightmares. You must follow them to get out of the nightmare.
  • May 26, 2015
    Morgenthaler
    • A Nightmare On Elm Street 1984: During Nancy's classroom nightmare, she follows Tina's corpse down the school hallway, which has left a bloody trail on the floor behind it.
  • May 26, 2015
    eroock
  • May 26, 2015
    ayjazz
    • Can be used as a tactic in Deus Ex if the player wishes to pursue a fleeing, wounded enemy. Wounded characters will leave a trail of blood when they run, and a resourceful player can track them.
    • Counter Strike: In Source, players will leave blood behind if shot. The blood decals are usually away from the player, allowing other players to find out where they are hiding.
  • May 26, 2015
    Generality
    Film:

    • At various times throughout ''Predator, Dutch and the alien track each other via following their bloodstains.

    Web Original:

    • The prevalence of this trope in violence-based games is lampshaded in the Half Life Machinima Freemans Mind, in which Freeman points out that normally he'd like to go away from the trails of bloody corpses, but has no choice because there's literally no other valid path to follow.
  • May 26, 2015
    eroock
    Film:
    • In Nightcrawler, the hero is first to arrive at a mansion where a double murder has taken place. With his camera he follows a trail of blood upstairs where he finds a body in the sleeping room. Here. It's kind of an inconsequential aspect though.
  • May 27, 2015
    Arivne
  • May 27, 2015
    robbulldog
    Live-Action TV:

    An episode of Mac Gyver invokes this, as the title character creates a trail of fake blood drops out of chemicals found nearby to throw a pursuer off.
  • May 27, 2015
    Chernoskill
    Videogames

    • In the Jagged Alliance games, wounded enemies will leave a trail of blood on the ground. This is useful when they try to flee or hide, the red puddles being dead giveaways.
  • May 27, 2015
    ayjazz
    • Thunderball: Shot in the ankle, Bond leaves a blood trail that causes mooks to follow him to a nightclub. Bond, ever the ladies man, dances with the female leader of the group, and manages to get her to take the bullet meant for him.
  • May 28, 2015
    Ominae
    In Ghost In The Shell Arise, Batou and Togusa follow a red blood trail when they were investigating a suspect behind a series of bombing attacks involving prosthetic limbs. While it led to a crumpled bullet head, the two detectives were caught in an ambush from the back. Fortunately, they survived.
  • May 28, 2015
    StarSword
    TV:
    • In the Firefly episode "Bushwhacked", Jayne is ambushed in a derelict ship's mess hall and wings his attacker with his revolver. Simon spots a trail of blood drops they follow to the man's hiding place.
    • Invoked in the Burn Notice season 3 premiere. Michael uses the blood from self-inflicted cuts in his wrist (from cutting himself loose after being duct-taped to a chair) to leave a trail that guides his pursuer into an ambush.
  • May 28, 2015
    Bisected8
    The page image was wrongly aligned (probably because the uploader tool rescaled it but didn't change the automatically generated markup), so I took the liberty of fixing it.
  • May 28, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • At the end of V For Vendetta, Evey follows a trail of blood to find V.
  • May 28, 2015
    StarSword
    Page quote for your consideration:
    Malcolm Reynolds: What'd you see?
    Jayne Cobb: Didn't. Came at me from behind. Big, though. Strong. I think I might have hit him.
    Simon Tam: (spots blood drops) You did.
  • May 28, 2015
    Ominae
    Thanks Bisected
  • May 29, 2015
    qazwsx
    • In Orphan Black, the police find that Helena left a trail of blood when she broke into someone's home to treat wounds from her fight with Beth/Sarah.
      Art: Just follow the bloody brick road.
  • May 29, 2015
    Omeganian
    Subverted in Temple of the Winds. Kahlan and Nadine are tracking a badly wounded wizard through tunnels. When they reach a fork, Nadine says they should follow the path with blood... but Kahlan points out there was no blood before the fork, so it's obviously a false lead, and they should follow the other path - where there are no people.
  • May 30, 2015
    BlackMageJ
    Thief II The Metal Age has a level called "Trail of Blood", in which you follow a wounded Pagan courier through a forest village and into The Maw of Chaos. It ends when you catch up to your target and find he's bled out.
  • May 31, 2015
    StarSword
    Film:
    • One of the later black-and-white Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone had a variation. Holmes and Watson walk into a police detective's office to discover the man has been shot dead. Instead of following the trail of blood to the body, Holmes analyzes the trail of blood the dying detective left to determine the probable sequence of events during the murder.
  • June 1, 2015
    Lythande
    I added the examples from the comments and fixed the formatting of a couple already listed.

    Since it has five hats and an up for grabs tag, does anyone want to launch it?

    I'd also be interested in discussing the differences between invoking and exploiting this trope, because I can't think of a circumstance where they don't go hand in hand - a character knows another character will follow a blood trail, so they leave a blood trail.
  • June 1, 2015
    StarSword
    Managed to find the title of the Sherlock Holmes film on Wikipedia. It's The Woman In Green from 1945.
  • June 1, 2015
    Lythande
    ^ I added that to the entry.

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