"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."There's a group of people held up in a building or house somewhere partying, shopping, or just minding their own business, when all of a sudden, there's some random injured and bloody guy/girl who shows up giving an ominous message that someone/something's trying to kill them, and that it's following them. Sometimes the bloody stranger dies before they can be specific about the threat. Thus the group of friends/family starts to argue and debate among themselves about what he or she could have been running from. And of course, the threat eventually shows up... Can also involve when said threat doesn't even leave time for the heroes to debate what they are up against and attacks immediately resulting in a Surprisingly Sudden Death. A side note for authors to avoid a Rouge Angles of Satin situation, there are only two "r"s in harbinger. "Harbringer" is not a word. Subtrope of Herald. Compare Vagueness Is Coming and Doomsayer.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In the "Zodd The Immortal" episode, a badly wounded Hawk Raider escapes the castle and only has enough time to choke out the name of the demon in question before dying, prompting Guts to enter the castle and take him on alone.
- In the manga version, Guts is perpetually enacting this trope, due to the brand on his neck that attracts demons.
- In Nico Robin's backstory from One Piece, she is finally reunited with her mother after a traumatic childhood raised by abusive relatives. However, her mother is on the run from the Marines for the dangerous knowledge she, and her entire civilization possesses. Guess who followed her...
- Kotaro's return in Mahou Sensei Negima!.
- In episode 19 of Heroman, the government scientist who shows up just minutes ahead of the tentacle monster.
- The priestesses in Fushigi Yuugi are regarded as this, particularly in Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden.
- In Barefoot Gen, the day before the atomic bomb is dropped, several characters are at a restaurant discussing the tough times they are going through, and one person has his chopsticks standing up in the middle of his rice bowl. (A big taboo at a Japanese dinner table, because of its resemblance to the incense burners used in funerary rites.)
- Pariah from DC Comics whole gimmick is this. His main trick is popping up, stating "I'm Pariah and I'm doomed to go from world to world to see them get destroyed!", ad nauseum.
- This was also the Silver Surfer's gig. Depending on which version, he'd either go around picking out likely worlds for Galactus to devour, or show up to alert said worlds that Galactus was on his way. Or both.
- The Vision plays this role in Ultimate Marvel, both for Gah Lak Tus, and the actual Galactus.
- In Child of the Storm, Doctor Strange notes that people don't like to see him because he usually only turns up when the shit is about to hit the fan in the most spectacular fashion possible.
- Crazy Ralph in the first two Friday the 13th films is a classic example of this trope.
- In the Horror Parody film, There's Nothing Out There, in which a group of teenagers stay at a cottage in the woods and then get attacked by an alien, one character recognizes an investigation of a bloody car crash and missing girl as a warning to turn back. Of course, they don't and the film progresses.
"It's logically stupid for you to be worried by this."
- In the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), the protagonists pick up a bloody female straggler who appears to be in shock. She warns them that they're going the wrong way (the route she was fleeing from). But they ignore her ramblings and try to calm her down. She then proceeds to shoot herself in the mouth, rather then go back to where she came from.
- Vincenzo Natali's short film Elevated had a guy come into an elevator screaming about a monster that killed everyone on his floor, and tells them they need to get out of the building.
- Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) had a similar trope where a guy goes into a precinct that was in the process of being shut down. He tries to warn them about a gang of murderers that's trying to kill him. But he's in too much shock to get the words out.
- Played mostly straight in the film Feast when a man, soon followed by his wife, stumbles into a bar in the desert carrying the severed head of a monster they had hit with their car and informing the patrons that there are more of them outside. And proclaims "A storm of hell is coming down on this place any second..."When asked who he is he proclaims, "I'm the man who's gonna save your ass." He is then promptly killed and yanked out a window by another of the monsters
- The film Demon Knight has a man being tracked by a demon making his way to a small inn a nowhere town. Hell is literally coming with him.
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). The last not-a-pod-person in a small town gets to the city going on about the invasion, trying to get people to act. He gets locked up right around the time that we hear about a truck with these great big pods that somebody found on the highway...
- John Woo's The Killer had this as the prelude to the big church shootout that would end the movie. Sidney returns to the church with Ah Jong's money, and he's all bloody because he got the living shit kicked out of him by Johnny and his men, who followed Sidney to the church following his escape, and when he gets shot, he has to ask Ah Jong to finish him because he didn't save his last bullet for himself and doesn't want to die like a dog. Then all hell breaks loose.
- The Invisible Man has a disturbing moment where someone that Dr. Griffin has tried to utilize runs screaming into a small town: "The invisible man is coming!"
- The plot of Legion appears to put a spin on this with the archangel Michael arriving at a diner shortly before an army of angels from Heaven come to assault the survivors of the Apocalypse. Started by God.
- 28 Weeks Later has the little boy the survivors let in from outside. Several minutes later the infected chasing him smash down the door.
"Who were chasing you?" "My mum, my dad... They're trying to kill me. There's others too." "How many?" "Loads."
- "There's something in The Mist and it took John Lee." The panicked man is too busy making a Title Drop to mind his profusely bleeding nose.
- In Zombieland: the initial girl from Apartment 406 that comes to Columbus's apartment after being attacked by a "homeless person". Somewhat different by the fact that technically hell really didn't come with her. But instead ''She'' will be the Hell in a few minutes.
- The western film, Pale Rider uses the page quote as part of its narration. A subplot of the movie is whether or not the pale rider is actually a live person or a walking dead man who has come to exact his vengeance.
- In 30 Days of Night, a creepy human arrives in Barrow to pave the way for the vampires (stealing and destroying satellite phones, killing sled dogs and trashing the only helicopter), letting Sheriff Oleson know that his day is about to get much worse, but not specifying precisely how.
- The Cabin in the Woods has the bluntly named "Harbinger" (real name Mordecai) who gives the typical warning about the area and cabin to the teens. Since the movie lives, breathes, and parodies every single horror trope, this was intentional. That said, he's totally Played for Laughs during the infamous speakerphone scene. During which, ironically, he warns those laughing at him of their own fate, which they choose to ignore.
- Gaunt from Oblivion (1994) is notorious in-universe for this. He has Psychic Powers that tell him when and where a death will occur and give him a compulsion to go there. He has no idea how or to whom the death will occur, so he's not in a position to really do anything about it.
- Siren (2010): After the yacht runs aground, a shipwrecked sailor swims aboard from the island. Deaf and bleeding from the ears, he babbles an incomprehensible warning before dying on the deck.
- In the Stephen King story and film The Mist, a bleeding man runs into a grocery store and warns people about the monsters that are in the titular mist.
- It happens too in The Stand. At the beginning of the novel, the first infected almost blows up the gas station where one the main character is spending the day with some friends when he loses control of his car.
- A majority of Doc Savage novels begin this way outside Doc's reception room. The cleaning costs must be enormous...
- In The Riftwar Cycle: Literally. When the last city of their once multi-planet empire is close to falling, the taredhel retreat to Midkemia, their ancestral home - and the horde of demons pursuing them means to follow.
- "The Ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming."
- In The Maltese Falcon, the shot and badly wounded Captain Jacobi manages to stumble into Sam Spade's office and press the eponymous MacGuffin into Sam's hands before expiring on the office floor. Trouble quickly follows.
- Lampshaded in Far North, by Marcel Theroux. A ragged, starved woman drags herself into the extremely isolated frontier town and dies in front of the grocery store. Makepeace reflects that they should have known she wouldn't be the last.
- The Way of Kings (first book of The Stormlight Archive): A man shows up at the gates of Kholinar with a truly massive Shardblade, crying for the guards to "sound the alarm." He names himself as Talanel'Elin, Herald of War, and proclaims "The Desolation has come. Oh, God...it has come. And I have failed." Then he collapses.
- The Bridegroom has a pale, skanky horse, drawing a cart with a dead man in it. It shows up just in time to scare evryone present at a midsummer party. After that The Black Death ensues.
- In Babylon 5: Ambassador G'Kar becomes this in the second season, warning representatives from the other governments that an ancient enemy spoken of in his religion's holy book are returning, but nobody seems to listen. Of course, of the other four members of the Babylon 5 Security Council, one of them was unwittingly working for the ancient enemy, and two more were fully aware of it already but trying to keep the enemy from knowing they were aware. It didn't help that G'Kar had a well-earned reputation as an instigator and trouble-maker due to his actions in the first season, due to his status as a recurring minor villain at the time.
- Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere introduced Door this way. Richard thinks, "Oh, a bleeding and wounded girl; I'd better help her." His girlfriend thinks, "I'm going to be late for my meeting and she's probably drunk."
- The New Avengers: "Trap" opens with an agent being caught eavesdropping on the villains. Despite being shot by a guard, he manages to escape and survives long enough to deliver a cryptic message concerning a drug deal to Gambit.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor, being a Doom Magnet extraordinaire, varies between being a harbinger of doom and showing up after the bad stuff has already started. For this reason, he is seen as The Friend Nobody Likes by some who view him as this trope.
- In the opening cinematic for the original Descent: FreeSpace game, the sole survivor of a patrol wing arrives outside a space station and starts screaming about 'death black' ships coming after him. Before he can calm down, the Shivans have already arrived. In the sequel, the sole survivor of Kappa wing, which disappeared a dozen or so missions earlier, shouts down the radio, warning to get out of the nebula. He's destroyed shortly thereafter, and the threat to which he refers is made plain some sorties later.
- In Prey (2006), a Coast to Coast AM listener calls Art Bell and frantically tries to explain the proof he collected about regular alien abductions since 1995. Before he can calm down, the aliens abduct him.
- This occurs twice in NieR, first with Emil and then a Man of the Mask from Façade. Respectively, they bring warnings of an attack by Shades and the Knave of Hearts/a wolf attack during the King and Fyra's wedding. In both cases they're too late.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it's revealed that the events of the previous Elder Scrolls games were all pre-ordained, having been prophecied millennia beforehand as the signs heralding Alduin's return and the arrival of the Dragonborn.
- Booker DeWitt in Bioshock Infinite is feared as the "False Shepherd" by the people of Columbia, having been prophesied by Comstock as the one who will lead Elizabeth astray and bring destruction to Columbia. He's right on the money, as Columbia is in tattered ruins and Elizabeth is suicidal by the end of the game, and then wiped from existence via a Time Paradox.
- Turns out that it goes even deeper than that; Booker and Elizabeth are instrumental to the Rapture Civil War.
- In the Ace Combat series, the entire enemy armada thinks YOU are this, so much that in some games they think you are, respectively, possessed by a demon (and later, they think you are Razgriz himself) or a LITERAL demon lord. For your allies, though...
- In Dota 2, this trope is Outworld Devourer's role, as his very presence is an omen of doom. Bonus points for his real name being Harbinger.
- In the slasher parody "KITTEN II" in Sluggy Freelance, a dying soldier staggers into a building and warns the people inside about the monsters after him. Not many seconds after that, all but one of them have been slaughtered by an unstoppable killing machine (which also happens to be a kitten).
- In Impure Blood, their watches all announce, and Mac arrives with news, that the town in under attack. Dara and Caspian lead the charge to find out what it is, it's bad, and fortunately Dara can take command.
- More of a Heck's Comin' With Me: on Ben 10, a young camper is found frightened and babbling on the road after fleeing an alien mushroom-monster in "Camp Fear".
- This is pretty much the entire plot of the short film The Chubb Chubbs!. The hero, Meeper the janitor, desperately tries to warn the patrons of the bar that the terrifying ChubbChubbs have arrived. But since he just got fired for electrocuting The Chanteuse, no one listens to him.
- This is the plot of The Secret of Kells: Aidan of Iona shows up with the Book of Kells and Vikings on his tail. The rest of the film is about how to finish the book before the Vikings burn the abbey.