Darkness Equals Death

The entry is simply: "Lights out. God help me."
The Haunter of the Dark by HP Lovecraft

If someone enters a dark space in any horror media (though action films also use the trope), you know something's going to happen, and it's not likely to be good. Something's going to snatch someone, burst into the room, be lit dramatically by a sudden flash of lightning, and/or bull rush the heroes.

Happens especially in rooms where there are dangly things to hide the villain. Foreboding Architecture and evil being poorly lit tend to compound the problem. Bonus points if a storm causes the aforementioned lightning flashes. More bonus points if it's the attacker who set up the dark room in the first place.

In real life, associating darkness with impending doom is just one of the many evolutionary survival techniques that makes us fear the dark, many predators that could take down humans are nocturnal hunters and humans have poor night vision in comparison.

Daylight Horror is Not a Subversion, but an inversion of this trope. Not to be confused with Dark Is Evil, although it can invoke this.


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    Comic Books 
  • At the very beginning of the first issue of Death Of The Family, Commissioner Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department is just going about their business...when Joker turns the lights off. By the time they get turned back on, Gordon is alive and surrounded by a lot of dead cops.

  • Alien was full of these.
  • Iron Man has the sequence when Pepper goes into Section 16. Also the beginning, when the terrorists are searching for Iron Man right before the killing starts.
  • Jurassic Park has it with the raptors in the power station.
  • There's a good guy example in Batman Begins in the sequence on the docks, where Batman pulls a mob goon into said dark space.
  • I Am Legend, when Sam (the dog) follows a deer into a building.
  • It is the outright basic gimmick of Darkness Falls. The "tooth fairy", a ghost of a woman who was heavily burned in life, experiences extreme pain and can be eventually destroyed when exposed to light, but can essentially teleport anywhere else. The main character manages to survive his first encounter with the tooth fairy as a child, and then never goes into the darkness again until he's an adult.
  • Happens in Deep Blue Sea - female scientist goes into her dark, half-submerged room for files. A Threatening Shark sneaks in and tries to kill her.
  • There's a very eerie scene in Cloverfield where the main characters are walking through some pitch black subway tunnels and hear... noises. The night vision setting on the camera provides a very nice HOLY SHIT moment.
  • During the failed operation to remove Octopus' tentacles in Spider-Man 2, a nurse is dragged screaming toward a dark area of the room.
  • Beautifully subverted in the movie Wait Until Dark. Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman who knocks out all the lights to give herself the advantage over her attacker.
    • Too bad she forgot one. You probably would, too. In the refrigerator. She thankfully does manage to unplug it at the last second, and darkness equals her attacker's death instead of her own.
  • Pitch Black was designed from the ground up to utilize this trope, and every single death in the movie did in one way or another.
  • Subverted in the 1980 movie version of The Shining where Jack kills Halloran under the only lit lamp in the hall.
  • The Zombie Diaries has a group of survivors looking through an abandoned house where they enter a dark room and... Well you get the idea.
  • Subverted in Scream 2, where Randy is killed in broad daylight, and in the middle of a very active college campus. For everyone else in the series though, this trope very much applies.
  • Another Christian Bale example in Equilibrium: during the raid on the sense-offender's camp/base in the Nether, Grammaton Cleric Preston arranges for the power and light to the last pocket of resistance to be cut, bursting into the room just as it goes dark. After several seconds of gunfire intended for him, the room is completely dark, with the sense-offenders whisper to each other as to whether they got him. Then Preston opens up using his Gun Fu, illuminating himself and small other parts of the room with muzzle flash, wiping out the mooks. It's all very beautifully done.
  • A variation occurs in The Mist. Surely, at daytime the mist is not dark, but you still can't see that far in front of you. Averted with the first person to walk into the mist, who is seen very alive at the end.
  • The Descent takes place in an underground cave. So all over the characters, as well as the audience, could only see as much as their helmet lights and glow sticks could show. When they burn out... bad things happen.
  • The monsters in They only exist in the dark.
  • Weaponized by the protagonist in The Book of Eli, Eli leads a gang of post-apocalyptic thugs into a dark overpass and slaughters them. It turns out that the darkness was only half of it, since Eli was blind he wasn't handicapped by the shadows like they were, and the overpass served to heighten his already blindness-compensated sense of hearing, allowing him to react superhumanly fast.

  • In the book Firefight, written by Chris Ryan, the freedom fighter Faisal Ahmed disables the power in a country house, then once the SAS team leader goes to investigate, the other two men react too slow in the darkness and are slaughtered mercilessly.
  • HP Lovecraft's "The Haunter of the Dark" features a monster that can be hurt or banished by light, and which goes after the protagonist during a thunderstorm that knocks out the lights.
  • Every death in Dead Friend (aka The Ghost) happens on a dark night in a dark room. For an extra kicker, there's usually a storm outside too.
  • In Phantoms, you might as well sign your own death warrant before you go into the shadows. Not that being in the light makes you much safer, but at least you'll see what's about to eat your face.
  • Arguably the entire point of House of Leaves.
  • Several Fighting Fantasy books will award you non standard game overs for going into tunnels and caves without a light (many of which chastise the player for their foolishness). The Zork gamebook has you (unsurprisingly) eaten by a Grue.
  • Halfway through Tyrannosaur Canyon a character hides from a stalker in a dark vault, reasoning that a) it'll afford an opportunity to see the stalker through the window without being seen, b) the vault's security will prevent the stalker from following, and c) even if the stalker enters, the prey will be able to use superior knowledge of the surroundings to his advantage. He's only right on the first count.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverting this trope was the very reason why Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer: instead of having a blonde entering a dark corner and never coming back, you have a blonde entering a dark corner and coming back with a spinal cord in her hand.
    • He sets out his stall in the very first episode: a blonde girl goes into the school late at night with a boy - but as this blonde girl is really badass vampire Darla, the boy's the one who meets a sticky end.
    • The Major and his henchmen cut the power at Sunnydale High before doing a Hostage for MacGuffin trade — the lights make it difficult to kill the Giant Spiders that starts scrabbling around when the trade goes wrong. Likewise Angelus so he can do an Emerging from the Shadows reveal that he's turned evil.
  • Prominent in the episode "Bushwhacked" of Joss Whedon's Cult Classic show Firefly. The crew of Serenity come across a ship which has been attacked by Reavers and they explore its innards for potential salvage and survivors. They come across one insane survivor, some cargo and a lot of dead bodies.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The new series episode "Silence in the Library" gives a rather literal example. "See, you were right to insist on a night light!"
    • If you're seeing statues where they shouldn't be, you'd better be in daylight. Torches might help, but statues of the angelic bent have a nasty habit of switching them off in order to come and get you...
  • This is heavily enforced during Garo. All monster attacks happen in the night. So going out to some abandoned alley after sunset is tempting fate for a truly horrible death.
  • In The X-Files episode "Darkness Falls", the Monster of the Week is a swarm of flesh-eating bugs that only attack in the dark, making it crucial to keep the generator going.
  • Invoked in the Criminal Minds episode "Our Darkest Hour", where the killer's MO is that he strikes only in darkness by taking advantage of power cuts.
  • In the episode "Hollywood Babylon" of Supernatural, this is lampshaded when a network executive says he wants to see more color in the dailies and the director points out they are filming a horror movie, the executive says "And who says horror has to be dark? It's sort of depressing. Don't you think?"

  • Averted in WHO dunnit. When Nick goes into the basement of Tony's Palace, he gets ambushed by an axe-welding attacker. Nick narrowly dodges the blow and gives chase, starting Basement Multiball.

    Theme Parks 
  • At Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights event, several haunted houses have attempted (not always successfully) at making completely dark environments.

    Video Games 
  • As a general convention in 3D games, any drop into darkness is fatal to the character. Sometimes a leap of faith or a razor-thin ledge leads to Secret Path or Easter Egg, but these are intended to be challenging.
  • In Doom, a room suddenly turning dark indicates a monster ambush. "Invisible" enemies are also visible in bright areas, but practically impossible to see in dim or dark ones.
    • In Doom 3, a game infamous for this trope, there's a section where you have to choose between the flashlight or a weapon (unless you are escorting a scientist carrying a lantern.) Player frustration with this arbitrary choice led to the famous "duct-tape mod", in which the character Took a Third Option by strapping the flashlight to the weapon.
  • If a level is dark in Halo, it is likely that you will be fighting Flood very soon.
  • Subverted in Alone In The Dark 2008, where the main characters randomly end up in a dark room lit only by the fire of their automatic guns; they wipe out the evil attempting to kill them. Those not in the darkness, in well lit areas, will end up dead by the end of the scene.
    • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney's third case, the blind Lamiroir employs the same tactic by running into a pitch black stage to take cover from an assailant.
  • Averted most of the time in Dead Space, many of the zombie monsters attack you in very brightly lit areas, allowing you to see them in their full horrifying glory (And making you jump all the more when they actually do attack you in the darkness).
    • Also, just because the lights go out, doesn't mean you're about to be attacked. In fact, it's a 50-50 chance.
    • Played more straight in Dead Space 2, where the Necromorphs are much less inclined to attack in bright areas, and much more inclined to attack in darkness.
  • In Five Nights at Freddy's, the player has limited power and is trying to survive a wave of amoral animatronics trying to stuff them into a suit lined with gizmos and electronics, killing them in the attempt. If the power runs out, Freddy Fazbear himself appears and plays an Ominous Music Box Tune, leaving the player helpless to do anything but wait for 6 AM or their grisly death, whichever comes first.
  • Zork had a species of monsters called Grues, whose entire purpose was to pop out of nowhere and eat people who wandered around without a light. Earlier versions had Bottomless Pits instead, but it was pointed out that a lot of the bottomless pit locations made no sense; one was in the attic of a house that was otherwise perfectly intact.
    • The bottomless pits were brought back for the prequel, Zork Zero. The game's ending reveals that filling in all the bottomless pits is what caused the grue infestation in the first place.
    • In Ancient Domains of Mystery, if a player is "doomed", they have a small chance of being eaten by a grue when in the dark in homage to Zork.
  • In the Scott Adams text adventures, wandering around in the dark without any lighting for too many turns will cause you to trip and break your neck.
  • Shadowgate employed a similar gimmick, with two torches you needed to keep lit. If they went out, you'd stumble around in darkness until you fell and died.
  • In the LOST video game, in the cave level something would invariably stalk and kill you if you walked around long enough without a light source.
  • Explicitly used in WiiWare game LIT. The objective is to cross the nearly pitch-black rooms of the school by creating paths of light with lamps, computer monitors, etc. Stepping into an unlit area is instant death.
  • Rumia, from Touhou.
    Rumia: Are you the kind of person I can eat?
  • Tumbling down a dark staircase by going in without a light source was one of the ways you could die in the Laura Bow series of adventure games.
  • Used very literally in the first Gears of War game. Whenever you entered a dark patch of the (outside) environment, the Kryll (a swarm of flesh-eating bats) would consume you in around three seconds. Thankfully this also worked on enemies, so you could shoot out lights above enemy positions and watch the carnage ensue.
    • RuneScape has something similar, if you enter a dark area with no lightsource, you "hear the skittering of tiny insects on the floor" a few seconds later, and you will be hit with a constant stream of 1 damage every half second or so.(new players start with 10 hp, the best of the best have 99, to put that in context)
  • Parodied in the Interactive Fiction game Enlightenment, where the goal is to dispose of all your light sources so a grue will eat the troll that's guarding the dungeon exit.
  • Spelunky's dark levels are one of the worst threats in the game, concealing enemies and traps in the shadows just beyond the Spelunker's tiny circle of light. Oh, and you have a limited supply of flares, which go out instantly if you touch water. Fortunately, the developer has mitigated this somewhat by making certain level features function as light sources.
  • In Minecraft (full version), being outside in the dark is a very bad ide-SSSSSSSSS *BOOM*. So is going into caverns without plenty of torches. The game mechanics make things spawn where it's dark, while (sun)light burns the less horrifying ones. And the developer is threatening to make torches non-permanent, so that you might watch them go out one by one around you. It's also suggested to sleep in a well-lit room so you wouldn't be woken up by a zombie.
    • Inverted in The Aether, where the most dangerous common mobs spawn in broad daylight, but none spawn underground except in the Dungeons, and even those spawns are Dungeon features rather than random monsters.
  • The developers of Mirrors Edge deliberately made lower areas darker than the sunlit rooftops.
    • Which just goes to show how well the game mirrors the real life effects of sinlight and solid objects that block sunlight!
  • Darkest Fear by Rovio Mobile is based on this trope; the puzzles all revolve around navigating your way around the shadows (which contain photophobic, flesh-eating mutants) by manipulating various light sources.
  • In Penumbra, there was a perfect example in which you had to run down a hall in which the lights were turning on and off. You had to ALWAYS be in the light, if you stepped into darkness, something launched out of the wall and ate you.
  • Much of the beginning of Half-Life 2: Episode One takes place entirely in the dark, with throngs of headcrab zombies everywhere and a Ten-Second Flashlight and very occasional flares as your only light. Even more terrifying, zombies spawn faster with the lights out!
  • Black Snow had some sort of... pitch black cloud consume anything that stayed too long in the dark, and apparently murdered or consumed everyone on the research station being investigated by the protagonist. Much of the game's suspense revolves around having to enter a dark area according to light patterns, with a limited number of flares, or blind luck and a prayer that the darkness doesn't kill you. It turns out that the ambulatory darkness is a very lethal swarm of fungal spores that cannot thrive in light.
  • Splinter Cell and similar stealth games are effectively a version of this trope, for all your enemies. In one level, the hero's helpers aid the hero in eliminating a squad of enemies by cutting the power. As the lights go out, the player quickly eliminates all the foes. Conversely, an early level in the second game uses this trope against Sam, where he must follow the beam of a searchlight to avoid being One Hit Killed by a sniper with night vision goggles.
  • Implied in the First Encounter Assault Recon expansion pack Perseus Mandate, from what we hear from a recorded message. No light has any effect whatsoever on the supernatural creatures fought by the player, however.
    Nightcrawler Commander: We've lost six men to to the creatures in the shadows. Avoid the dark, if you can.
  • The Darkness is an entity unto itself in Alan Wake. It possesses people and objects that can only be fought off by shining a light at it.
  • In King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, when you fall into the lower level of the Catacombs, it is pitch black. You are likely to be split in half by the Minotaur if you don't produce a light quickly.
  • In Leisure Suit Larry, wandering into dark alleyways results in Larry getting beaten to death by a mugger.
  • Inversion: If you don't turn your flashlight off in the "We Can See in the Dark, Can You?" level of Pathways into Darkness, you will be constantly attacked by Goddamned Rats.
  • Silent Hill. "Don't be afraid of the dark. Be afraid of what it hides."
  • Inverted in Amnesia: The Dark Descent. While staying out of the light too long will reduce your sanity, it is also the only place you are safe when being attacked by the monsters.
  • In Space Quest II, if you go into dark caves without a light source, you will be eaten by a Cave Beaver or Cave Squid.
  • Starcraft, Warcraft, and many other Real-Time Strategy games have the Fog of War. Finagle's Law guarantees that if you run a unit into the Fog without looking ahead, it will get attacked.
  • The SNES Jurassic Park tie-in game had a primitive first-person mode which activated inside buildings. Wandering into a darkened space before obtaining the night-vision goggles meant a swift death, even if there were no dinosaurs inside once the player obtained the goggles.
  • The Ambridge Mansion series plays this trope to the hilt - something as simple as looking out a window or opening a cupboard can get you ambushed.
  • Déjà Vu II: Wandering around the empty bar without a light could randomly kill your character.
  • The Legend of Kyrandia featured a segment that plays the trope quite literally. Just before the darkness, you have access to a bush full of glowing fruit. You have to carry the fruit with you through a maze of caves so as to light them. But they can only be carried through three rooms. Go into a fourth room, and they literally burn out. And if you're caught in one of the caves when it's pitch black, it's game over. You need to find another such bush within the maze to keep going. Gets a little tricky at points because you can be at the point where the next move burns out your fruit, so most players save just before then just in case they take the wrong turn.
  • In Sonic 3 & Knuckles Sandopolis Zone Act 2, you must keep the lights on to avoid being ambushed by ghosts.
  • One of the worlds in Kirby Mass Attack has levels that revolve around obtaining torches and use them to light candles and other appliances, and feature enemies that will kidnap your Kirbies easily, and can only be made vulnerable by exposing them to a light source.
  • Las Plagas in Resident Evil 4 are vulnerable to light, so Ganados are much weaker and can't release them from their bodies in the first part of the game, that takes place in broad daylight. Then first the sky is darkened by a rainstorm, and then night falls...
  • This happens to Brad, one of your allies in Dead Rising. A struggle between him and the main villain ends with him thrown into a pitch black maintenance tunnel. Crawling with thousands of the undead.
  • Averted (to an extent) in Mother 3, as after the end of the game, the world is basically reborn into a much better place. All you can see of it is darkness and the word "END?"
  • In Hydlide, if you enter a cave without the lantern, you will randomly die. And then, after getting the lantern, you see that there was nothing killing you.
  • Castlevania II Simons Quest: "What a horrible night to have a curse".
  • Dark areas in the Descent series often contain Demonic Spiders, especially the invisible type.
  • In Brain Dead 13, the final confrontation takes place entirely in blackness. And since Fritz appears to settle the score once and for all, it can mean death for you if you don't act quickly.
  • In The Darkness and its sequel, the dark is a the protagonist's messiah and his enemy's looming fate. God forbid if they managed to piss him off as much as they did when they killed his Aunt Sarah. Indeed, whenever it is dark in the room, Jackie can fully put those reptiles on his shoulders to good use. However, this can be rather bad considering that any strong light sources will strip Jackie of his power (and eyesight), not helped by the fact that all light sources go from being accidental in the beginning of the games to being strategically placed and very hard to mitigate.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, quests involving Nocturnal and Hermaeus Mora sometimes include sections where straying from the light causes constant damage.
  • Don't Starve has a "Night Monster" that will attack you for massive damage if you stray into the dark for too long. It's commonly called the "grue" by fans.
  • In Guild Wars 2 there is an underwater dungeon where piranhas attack you for massive damage when you leave the light emitted by volcanic vents or portable bioluminescent plants.
  • Fallout 3: Feral Ghouls, especially Reavers if Broken Steel is installed, tend to lurk in dark subway and utility tunnels. In the DLC The Pitt, the darker areas of town are swarming with Trogs, and in one of the solutions to the quest, you disable the floodlights keeping them out of Uptown, so that they massacre the Slavers.
  • In Miasmata, while the monster that inhabits the island will hunt you regardless of what time of day it is, the game's aversion of Hollywood Darkness makes it very dangerous to travel at night where you will be at much greater risk of getting lost, walking off a cliff, dying of illness before finding shelter, or being ambushed by said monster who will now be much harder to see.
  • In Rayman Origins, the level "Swimming with Stars" takes place at the bottom of the sea, where there are Darktoons that will reach out and attack you if you're in darkness. They're repelled by the bioluminescent sealife in the level.
  • In Mega Man X8, Lumine's last attack, Paradise Lost, is a Timed Mission revolving around this. You have 30 seconds to avert this, and the intensifying music outlines just how screwed you are if you don't hurry.

    Western Animation 
  • In Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles: The Dying of Light, a blind gargoyle from a recent surgery and a blind human employ this tactic against attacking Quarreymen. The villains decide to create their own light by crating a small fire.

Alternative Title(s):

Eaten By A Grue