When a character switches off the last light in the room, a vaguely bluish light slightly dimmer than normal illumination switches on. It's implied that the characters aren't supposed to see what the audience can, which makes sense; a black screen isn't much fun to watch. Funny thing is, most of the time the characters will be unaffected by the supposed darkness, moving about without stumbling over furniture or stubbing toes. In a few cases, a red light will be used instead.
A "Fantastic Voyage" Plot or spelunking adventure often has a highly illuminated environment. Video games provide numerous examples of oddly well-lit caves. And space is always brightly illuminated.
In the past, nighttime scenes were filmed in full daylight, with a blue filter on the camera; this is known in the business as "shooting day for night" and is essentially a cost-cutting measure, since it's much easier to film a scene during the day.note There's a verse in A Visit from Saint Nicholas that goes: "The moon on the crest of the newfallen snow / Gave a lustre of midday to objects below." Day-for-night takes this ball and runs with it. It often becomes a form of Special Effect Failure, shadows don't match the flashlights, headlights or torches involved. In fact, sometimes the shadows of the supposed light sources are clearly visible. In certain cinemaphile circles this was known as "broad daynight." It sometimes remains a necessity even today, though, as with some lenses film isn't sensitive enough to shoot without enough light.
Not the same as Unnaturally Blue Lighting, which turns up even when it's supposed to be just a cloudy day or literal bad blue lights.
There is a trend for dramatic series to prefer real darkness. Similarly, it's common in Sitcoms these days for a "good night" moment with husband and wife in bed to cut to black when the lights are turned out. Someone then says something in the dark — sometimes it's a comment that prompts someone to turn the lights back on, and sometimes it's an entire conversation. And of course, video games often give you a torch for a reason. (If you don't have a free hand, or hands-free light, don't forget the duct tape.)
In black and white films, particularly older ones, there may be no difference between day and night in terms of lighting. Watch Nosferatu,The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or M and try guessing what time something happens. This comes from technological limitations imposed by the film stock available in those days. By which we mean that filming in darkness would have produced absolutely nothing. (In the original prints of silent films, various chemical tints were used to suggest differences in lighting.)
Occasionally this can be justified in cases where the characters are something, such as owls, which have good night vision, because then the audience would be seeing as they see even when in darkness.
Of course, should you find yourself in total darkness (such as a deep cave), you'll be able to 'see' the outline of your hand, but it's literally 'all in your head' — what you're really seeing is a form of 'sensor ghost' generated by your brain as it receives signals from your body.
Inverse of Nuclear Candle, which dictates that anything lit by a single tiny light will somehow illuminate the whole room evenly.
For an aversion, when single point light sources cast shadows as they do in real life, see Chiaroscuro.
Compare Mood Lighting and By the Lights of Their Eyes, in which the scene is quite a bit darker except for the eyes of the characters or the teeth of the monsters. Contrast Who Forgot The Lights?, a bad aversion in video games. See also Rule of Perception for one reason this trope exists. The common practice of using blue to represent "darkness" is directly related to Orange/Blue Contrast (specifically, the "turn up the shadows to the teal end" part).
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In Fullmetal Alchemist, the characters are fighting in a forest in the middle of the night when the nearby town, the only source of light, is plunged into a blackout. The characters can't see a thing but to the audience, the lighting has barely changed.
Toradora! switches to green-tinted night vision mode for this, which makes it clear that it's pitch black for the characters.
Cowboy Bebop where Jet and Spike descend 28 stories below ground into a defunct museum (in search of a Beta player), using just Spike's lighter, and can see perfectly well around them.
Haruhi couldn't distinguish the face of a time-traveling Kyon when she was 13 because they met late in the night, however, in the episode both are clearly recognizable even from afar.
It's not so much the darkness as the fact that it has been several years and Kyon hasn't aged a day. Furthermore, they met only once, and that usually isn't enough time to form a lasting impression of a face. And Haruhi still asks: "Have we met before?" when they first meet.
The Vanishing of Nagato Yuki-chanAlternate Universe spin-off manga's take on that moment shows Haruhi could see perfectly fine and recognizes Kyon right away even after several years, but doesn't let on about it. Haruhi and Yuki also have a similar first meeting where the darkness, Yuki's nearsightedness (she went out without her glasses), and a lack of an impression made on Haruhi really did make it hard for each to identify the other later.
Somewhat averted in Diamonds Cut; it is genuinely dark when 007 switches off the lights to take the terrorists in the opening scene by surprise. The resultant combat is therefore mostly shown through the security cameras feed.
Countless Hammer Horror films, as well as Hollywood films would shoot "night" scenes by simply filming in daylight with a filter. As a result, you would see shadows cast by people of objects when it's supposed to be the middle of the night. As well, the sky—if shown—would be noticeably blue.
As late as the 1950s, night scenes in black-and-white film were usually shot in full daylight, with a blue filter applied to the camera lens. For his legendary Plan 9 from Outer Space director Ed Wood couldn't afford the blue filter, with the result that scenes switch from day to night and back again, adding to the film's surreal charm.
In the silent movie era, the scenes were often shot in daylight and the final print tinted blue for night scenes. Old, unrestored prints of Nosferatu show that the vampire is walking around in daylight, although he shouldn't be able to.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari goes one step further. Unable to afford the tools necessary to produce such low level lighting, the nightime shadows are actually painted on to the set, adding the surreal dream-like atmosphere.
The lair of Shelob in The Lord of the Rings is fairly well-lit. In the book it was pitch black, invoking Nothing Is Scarier and Dark Is Evil (we are told she "secretes" darkness), but here the audience has to see. He does run right into a web he should have been able to clearly see, so it's obvious that the lair is lit in our view, but not in his.
Many successful horror films use pitch black to great effect, and Frodo had the Phial of Galadriel with him to serve as a light source, if it were needed. However, the general trend in film at present is to brightly illuminate the subject of terror.
Averted in the first film, as the Fellowship has no light source aside from Gandalf's staff for most of their journey through Moria.
Meta-subverted in The Hobbit: the "Riddles in the Dark" scene in the book takes place in the dark, but in the movie Bilbo clearly sees the Ring in the ground, and only loses sight of Gollum when he hears some bats(?) and turns around; when he turns back, he's gone.
Scary Movie 2 uses a blue filter to represent darkness in scene where Cindy is in the secret study. Given that this movie is a parody of other movies, it was probably intentional.
In Wait Until Dark, the blind Susy Hendrix tries to even the odds with the sighted Harry Roat by smashing every light bulb in her house; the house never goes entirely dark to the audience. note In some productions of the stage version, they do make the theater dark for that scene.
28 Days Later has scenes of Jim walking through downtown London at night. The film makers shot these scenes using day-for-night effects so they didn't need to worry about trying to get all of the lights in the buildings and on the streets shut off.
28 Weeks Later has the underground train station sequence. Tammy and Andy can't see a thing and are very vocal about this since they keep bumping into corpses and such. But when it cuts away from P.O.V. Cam the audience can see just fine.
The night surfing scene in Point Break is clearly just daytime shot through a blue filter.
A lot of Hammer Horror films didn't even bother with the blue filters, especially during outdoor scenes. This occasionally leads to Dracula apparently wandering around in broad daylight. Even a lot of the interior shots just use a night-time matte painting. This is common to many British movies of the same period: it pops up in everything from The Black Narcissus to Witchfinder General.
Averted in-universe in the finale of The Silence of the Lambs; when Buffalo Bill cuts the lights in his underground basement, Clarice Starling is thrown into complete darkness, causing her to panic slightly and mostly reach out blindly for anything to get her bearings. Meanwhile, the audience can still see, as we are shown Bill's POV through night vision goggles.
Zathura. So they cut off every light and heat source in the house, which happened to be floating in space at the time, apparently far away from any star. Ignoring the thousands of other implausibilities in that situation, the characters shouldn't even be able to see the backs of their own eyelids.
Too many historical films and TV series to list film their indoor scenes with so much light that the candles appear to be just decoration, even if they should be the only light source in the room. For example, the BBC adaptation of Tess Of The D'Urbervilles — especially the scene of Angel and Tess having supper.
E Xisten Z does it deliberately, as a reference to an earlier era of low-tech special effects.
The characters in The Cave might be trapped underground, but lucky for them the titular cave is apparently entirely self-lit.
The beginning of The Man with the Golden Gun has an assassin pitted against Scaramanga. He gets the drop on Scaramanga, but Nick-Nack turns the lights off, causing him to miss. We see the room flooded with red light.
The Bollywood film Koyla has a rather poorly done version of this as the protagonists are hiding by a river in the forest: a filter is applied, but only for the top half of the shot.
Used in the classic Western The Searchers. Not very convincing at all, since they're supposed to be way out in the middle of nowhere in the American West, and yet the sky is dark-to-medium blue.
Inverted behind the scenes in The Godfather. Director commentary reveals that, due to time constraints, some of the broad-daylight wedding scenes (close shots of Michael at the table with Kay) had to be filmed at night. They blasted the area with sufficient light that it's not noticeable.
The German Winnetou movies frequently darkened daylight shots to simulate night. While it mostly works well, it's very easy to spot when the sky is in the frame, which usually is a very uniform light blue.
Averted in X-Men. In the scene outside the train station (where Magneto confronts the police) which, if you watch the making-of video, is revealed to have been shot in broad daylight. It looks like night and the clear lighting of the characters and location is from police floodlights.
Used from time to time in Cast Away, identifiable by the sharp shadows at night.
The Descent Part 2's caverns are conspicuously well-lit, which is especially bothersome when the first film's use of darkness was one of its greatest strengths.
In the 1996 film of Hamlet, the burial-of-Ophelia scene was so light that you might not even realize that it's supposed to be night. It's shot on a set.
The Green Hornet Serials just filmed almost everything in normal lighting and made sure someone called the Hornet "that night-riding bandit" on a regular basis. Justified in that the serials were filmed in black and white.
During the first live-action film of The Hobbit, this happens in the Misty Mountains. When the dwarves are camping on the goblins' front porch, it's night, there are clouds outside, no fires are allowed, they're not in direct sight of the entrance, and there isn't an opening above them. However, it's as light as any normal cloudy day — brighter even than the mountainside was minutes before.
Mostly averted in Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979): the movie's authentic nocturnal setting (shot on the streets of various New York City neighborhoods after dark) is the perfect contrast for all the garish, circuslike colors (especially in the eerie opening sequence), making them seem all the more menacing. When the Baseball Furies chase the good guys into Central Park about midway through the movie, however, the place looks to be flooded with light, even though at that time of night it shouldn't be.
The film version of the musical 1776 averts this in "Piddle, Twiddle, and Resolve," which is clearly shot during actual night in front of the Independence Hall facade. However, the blue filter is later used in "Yours, Yours, Yours," although that one is an imaginary sequence.
The Mask plays with different kinds of blue light for effect. When Stanley is just being Stanley, the blue lighting is plain, ordinary, naturalistic blue lighting. Whenever Stanley's dreaming, or whenever the Mask is involved, though, it turns into this harsh, unnaturally oversaturated cobalt blue (or, as director Chuck Russell called it, "horror movie blue").
Played straight, averted and played straight again in Man-Thing; most of the nightscenes take place in visible darkness, but when Roberts ventures into deeper parts of the swamp, the darkness is initially displayed more realistically, before returning to more visible output.
Lampshaded in Men at Arms, where the narration mentions an underground cave being faintly lit, but the people in it are a dwarf and a troll, both able to see in the dark. But all caves on the Discworld are illuminated by something in case a human hero falls in and needs to see.
In Moving Pictures the nascent movie industry is struggling with night scenes: the camera imps can't see to paint at night. Victor comes up with the idea of explaining the situation away in the dialogue card: "How bright the moon is tonight, bwana." This later turns out to be one of the Laws of Holy Wood: It is always bright enough to see the darkness.
Later on they come even closer to this trope, when it's discovered that they can illuminate the scene with torches so that the imps can see but it's still recognisably night.
The first chapter of Seth Grahame-Smith's How to Survive a Horror Movie, which deals with signs that you may be living a horror film, asks the reader, "Is everything bathed in bright blue light even though it's supposed to be nighttime?"
In the Left Behind books, God with one of His Trumpet Judgments causes New Babylon to be enveloped in complete darkness so that no one among Nicolae Carpathia's loyalists can see any light save for Nicolae's faint aura. Believers in Christ, on the other hand, are able to see with the illumination level of a low-powered chandelier.
Interstellar space is generally pretty well-lit. Whenever the hero ship faces a power disruption, all the systems will go offline except for a few lights here and there and all you see is the ship vaguely silhouetted by its own running lights. In real life, such a ship would be lit as such all the time, at best.
Averted in some of the Trek movies, where the Enterprise has exterior floodlights aimed at the ship's hull, specifically to make it visible.
The Voyager episode "Night" seems to establish that starlight also provides some illumination for ships. The ship travels through a pitch-black area of space and is barely visible except for its exterior lights.
Caves. Always so well-lit, even when there are no light sources anywhere. This was finally partially fixed in Enterprise, which used the blue filter.
In the Haven episode "A Tale of Two Audreys", when the town experiences the biblical Ten Plagues, the plague of darkness is depicted with what seems to be the "full daylight, with a dark lens on the camera" trick or something similar.
Los Nuevos Extraterrestres shown as Pod People was atrocious in this regard. In several scenes, dialog indicates that it's supposed to be night, but it's obviously midday, and it isn't even blue filtered. Joel and the 'bots lampshade the mistake: "Night looks like day any time of day around here." To be charitable, this might just be an atrocious translation or editing error (presumably the scenes in question were shot day-for-night and the effect was never applied).
Ironically, "Manos" The Hands of Fate averts it - the cast later complained that the lights necessary to film at night seemed as though they drew every moth in El Paso, Texas.
MST3KThe Movie, featuring This Island Earthnote which is actually comprehensible if you watch it in non-MST3K form, if not precisely great. features bad Hollywood Darkness that prompts Crow to remark that the characters are sneaking away "under cover of afternoon."
Crow riffed on this in the first ever episode:
Crow: That's very well lit for the bottom of a crater of an abandoned volcano at the bottom of the sea.
Then there was the Werewolf episode which is neatly punctuated by Mike's comment:
Mike: Later, in the middle of blue-filter night...
The Sidehackers did the same thing as Pod People, with the addition of crickets. As the characters are conversing in blatant midday, Crow and Tom end the characters' sentences with "at night," to hang a nice little lampshade on the whole thing.
Boggy Creek 2: The Legend Continues showed a flashback of Otis Tucker's deadly encounter with the creature that was intended to be a nighttime scene, but the sharply contrasted shadows and Otis' dim flashlight mark it as underexposed daylight.
Servo: The night the light-intolerant Eye Creatures' carried out their ill-fated invasion of the earth was actually quite a lovely day! In fact, you couldn't have picked a nicer day to film a NIGHT sequence!!
In the opening multi-part episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers season three, the team is searching through a cave. Billy advises the group to look for any sources of light filtering through. Naturally, the fact that the cave is not even slightly dark and has plenty of light sources unintentionally makes this line freakin' hilarious.
Downright jarring in Kindred: The Embraced, where vampires, walking around outside at what appeared to be 3 o'clock on a sunny afternoon, would urge each other to get to cover quickly, before the sun comes up.
The caves of Fraggle Rock are awfully brightly lit for an underground world. But this is explained in a season 2 episode in which the Fraggles discover the existence of the Ditsies, tiny bioluminescent creatures who feed on music — yet another of the show's many inter-dependencies between species.
A sketch from Bang Bang It's Reeves and Mortimer involving them being stuck in a car overnight at a gas station features an obviously fake blue filter to signify that it's night. Considering that it's Reeves and Mortimer that we're talking about here, it's hard to tell if this is an actual case of this trope or a conscious subversion/parody of it.
Night scenes in Robin of Sherwood were the worst of both worlds: it didn't look like night-time, but the filter made it too dark to see anything!
Appears in Blood Ties when Vicki and Henry enter a barn at night and Vicki starts going on about how she can't see in the (well illuminated) set. There are two possible justifications: 1) Henry the vampire was facing off against a were-panther, both of whom had no problem seeing in the dark, so the audience was seeing it from their point of view, and 2) Vicki has retinitis pigmentosa, so it appeared darker to her than it actually was.
It's always fun in older period shows like Bonanza or Little House on the Prairie to watch for scenes where a character extinguishes a lantern: the bright white studio lighting fades down and the blue "night time" lighting fades up.
There are numerous out-takes from sitcoms and the like where the switching over of the studio lights as a character flicks a switch is mis-timed making the changeover obvious.
On WKRP in Cincinnati Venus likes to have the booth dark when he's on the air, which is usually represented by a red light. On more than one occasion Mr. Carlson comes in and switches the lights on full, which temporarily blinds Venus.
The first episode of the second season of The Walking Dead put a filter on the camera that made everything dim and oddly orange to indicate night was falling. Also, people said "It'll be dark soon." Judging by the shadows the sun was casting, it was about 2 PM.
In the 1960's TV show The Green Hornet the night scenes with the Black Beauty driving through town never looked right. Can't remember ever seeing actual shadows, but it didn't look like night.
In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Empty House", the titular building is extremely dark, but in the Granada Sherlock Holmes series episode of the same name, it is fairly well-lit.
A standard way to portray a night scene in theatre is to use a dark blue filter on the stage lights.
Lampshaded in Mother 3, when power is cut to a concert hall, causing everything to become blue. An NPC in the area comments that it's a "pitiful excuse for a blackout" and asks if you can still see his nose hair in the 'darkness'.
In the original Mario Golf, Overtime holes during match play took place at night with no visible light sources.
Completely lit cave areas in Avernum are generally handwaved with fluorescent mushrooms. Nobody ever mentions why some indoor areas are completely lit, though (maybe they really don't have ceilings?) Unlit cave areas have full lighting a few squares away from the main characters and no lighting at all farther away from them, with no transition. Outdoor nighttime isn't present until the third game, which provides the same level of partial lighting every night with no regard for full and new moons.
In Silent Scope's nighttime level, the sniper scope's night vision is activated (which ironically makes it harder to see through the scope), but you can still see enemies clearly with the naked eye, if the brightness isn't too low.
In the Splinter Cell series, Sam is effectively invisible if he's far enough into the dark. Even if he's standing between a guard and a lit area, as long as he's in the dark, they won't see him. Due to system limitations, especially on the PS2, there were occasionally areas that were "pitch black" yet Sam is still visible to the player.
The console ports of the original Ghost Recon were even worse, to the point of negating the functionality of night-vision goggles.
One particularly bad example in the Medal of Honor series is "Behind Enemy Lines" in Allied Assault, which looks more like foggy dawn or dusk, unless you turn the brightness down to near bottom. In the HD remake of Frontline, The Golden Lion is set at dusk rather than night, but it's still too bright.
All Bethesda Softworks games, from as far back as The Elder Scrolls: Arena to as recent as Fallout: New Vegas, even without gamma correction. The New Vegas aversions became all the more stark, as ambient regional light coloring was used to turn a few cave interiors truly pitch black. Played straight when you take the Friend of the Night perk.
Characters still cast shadows in Higurashi Daybreak, even on the night level.
In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team: the scene just after the credits is supposed to be taking place at night, so the entire screen is dimmed. Including the protagonist returning to life, which should be glowing brightly. The shadows of clouds, light glinting off water, and symbols of astonishment (exclamation marks overhead) are all similarly visible but dimmed.
The shadow difference between day and night in Prototype are minimal, as well as the lighting effects. Just a sky swap and a slight tweak in hue of the air.
Dark areas in Win Back are like this, and using your flashlight only gives away your position to the enemy.
Most visual novels will have this. Compare a background during the day to that same background at night; the shadows will be in exactly the same places.
Caves, crypts and dungeons in World of Warcraft always have enough light to see by, even when no torches, lamps, or luminescent fungus is present.
Also, although the game has night and day corresponding to the local server time, in most zones the night is hardly any darker than the day. Averted in a very few places: nighttime in The Hinterlands is pretty dark, and the Tyrande/Emerald Dragonshrine encounter in End Time is too dark to see your hand in front of your face. Players must sprint for the brief splashes of moonlight to be able to fight off the shadowy attackers.
Nighttime in Fallen Earth is as dark as a very clear night with a full moon and stars, assuming your character has very good night vision. (In other words it works much like Prototype, mentioned above.) It used to be more realistically dark but that was done away with as the game already runs pretty heavy and the lighting effects weren't doing anyone any favors. Mines and tunnels are sometimes much darker, though, actually meriting the use of your flashlight.
In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, when you're outdoors, even midnight looks like just before dawn or just after dusk, due to the sky being quite blue near the horizon. One wonders if that's what night actually looks like in certain parts of Japan (when you're not looking at the millions of blazing lights of a metropolis, that is).
Played with in one of the Secret Squirrel cartoons on 2 Stupid Dogs: When Secret and Morocco infiltrate the pitch black lair of Dr. O (who, being a bat, can see in the dark) and have their last light source destroyed, the screen goes completely black and we hear the narrator say "For the benefit of the audience, a special filter has been installed so you can accompany the action... in complete darkness." The following sequences then appear normally lit, giving the surreal (and funny) sight of Secret acting like he can't see while Morocco tries to tell him what is going on (since, being a mole, he can see in the dark as well) in what otherwise appears to be a completely normal situation.
Featured in The Magic School Bus episode where the gang explores Arnold's digestive system. However, this is lampshaded in the closing And Knowing Is Half the Battle segment where someone calls to ask where did all the light come from. The person answering merely snidely remarks they should have gone with "The Magic School Bus Radio Show."
Very noticeable in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) episode "Darkness on the Edge of Town," in which a total power blackout allegedly renders Manhattan pitch black. Despite this relevant plot detail, the color palette used is exactly the same as the one used for normal nights.
Occurs hilariously in one episode of the Spider-Man: The Animated Series. One character enters a warehouse, and standing in the shadows is the Hobgoblin, coloured all in blue to fit this trope. So far, so normal, except that Hobgoblin then steps out of the shadows and gains his normal colouring, and the scene is directed and scored in an attempt to make this a dramatic reveal. Such a pity that the Hobgoblin is clearly visible, Mark Hamill's voice is very distinctive, and the man he's talking to knew it was him to begin with, making the entire scene excellent Narm.
Gargoyles tends to depict night-time scenes with more color and light than is realistic, even far from city lights. The main characters are nocturnal, brightly-colored creatures who presumably see better in the dark than humans can, and much of the series takes place at night, so this makes sense.
The night sky as seen in any city with enough light pollution will appear to be deep blue.
Similarly, a full moon will light up things quite nicely at night.
Ditto for nights when there is snow on the ground.
Or when it's raining, the sky will appear to to be purple-ish.
Mix heavy cloud cover, light pollution, and snow on the ground and you can get a lit up night that rivals even that of Middle Earth.
White cloud covers are highly reflective. The same place, with same pinpoint sources of light, can be bright enough to see a reasonable distance away under a cloud cover and eerily dark if the sky is clear.
During local summer the nights far enough north and south are practically as light as day, due to the Sun never setting far beneath the horizon; ultimately culminating at the Arctic and Antarctic Circles past which the Sun will not set at all for parts of the year, and not until autumn equinox at the poles.
In almost every "Fantastic Voyage" Plot, the interior of the body being explored is brightly lit. In reality, bright light does penetrate the skin, as seen if you close your eyes during the day you can still see that it is day, but doesn't get much further than that. Places in the body like the heart, the brain, and the entire digestive system would be in complete darkness.
A highly popular issue of The Spirit features a fight scene lit entirely by a flashlight rolling around the floor. Widely considered a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for artist Will Eisner.
In Silence of the Lambs, Agent Starling gets trapped in a pitchblack basement by Buffalo Bill. She stumbled around like any real person would - moving slowly, panicking with her hands stretched out before her. The audience sees the scene through Buffalo Bill's night vision goggles as he nonchalantly follows her through the whole cellar. When he performs a Dramatic Gun Cock with his gun to finish her off, she localises him in an instant, whirls around and shoots him down. One of the shots also smashes a darkened window, illuminating the scene for her.
This is a noticeable Special Effects Failure, though, as Clarice is clearly casting a shadow on the walls of the basement as she stumbles around, revealing that the scene was shot with on-set illumination and then tinted to resemble night-vision footage, rather than being genuinely shot in night-vision.
Equilibrium: most night scenes are well-lit by spotlights or headlights. The opening nighttime gunfight is lit only by brief muzzle flashes.
Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown contains a confrontation between Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson in total darkness (but not just a blank screen; the occasional flash of light proves the camera is actually filming them in a dark room).
Excellently subverted in Kill Bill when the audience watches the Bride get put in a nailed-shut coffin and buried alive. We are treated to a terrifyingly long shot of this as the lights slowly go black. Followed by minutes of panting, shifting, and the sound of dirt loudly covering the coffin and filling the grave. And then more panting and shifting. We only finally see light as she turns on... a flashlight. Apparently, the fear was real.
Pitch Black is well-named, since during the triple eclipse the whole planet becomes astonishingly dark.
Except for two scenes where they cheated, the only lighting in the cave in The Descent came from the caving equipment the characters had on them or in one case, a makeshift torch. This could get very confusing when the only thing you could see was the light on someone's helmet.
In the Spanish zombie flick Rec, we see the action through a two-man tv crew's camera, when the light goes out, the camera light comes on, but when the camera light bites the dust, it gets dark, and I mean dark.
In Ultraviolet, vampires tried shooting out the lights of a corridor they were in, because they were being chased by humans. Unfortunately for them, the humans had night vision goggles, meaning everyone present was still able to see each other. The screen goes black until back up lights go on, presumably because the audience can't see them. Or the muzzle flashes.
An interesting take on it appears in Blade 2, where it's daylight that has a soft bluish hue. Night-time is bathed in harsh yellow light. It's also implied that the darkness is actually portrayed the way vampires see it, since a human character goes to great length to show us he really doesn't see shit in there.
Watching Eraserhead without a well-tuned screen can be frustrating. Thankfully, the DVD release comes with a screen test before the menu.
Similarly with The Fountain, one of the most Chiaroscuro films ever. At least one DVD is quite sketchy, since about half the film contains faces framed in pitch black shadows, making anything less than a perfect transfer hard to watch.
Averted in Harold Lloyd's first talkie, Welcome Danger, which stages parts of a fight scene in complete blackness to showcase the novelty of having sound effects.
Averted for humorous effect in Blazing Saddles, when Lili von Schtupp attempts to seduce Bart.
Collateral was notable for being shot with HD cameras, so they could film during the night.
Averted, although not necessarily in a good way, in AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem. Most of the movie takes place outdoors, at night, and the film is so dark you can barely see what's going on.
Mostly averted in Disney's The Black Hole. The exteriors of the two main ships are completely dark unless lit up by one another (the Palomino uses a spotlight to look at parts of the Cygnus as it flies over it) or itself (the Cygnus suddenly lighting up "like a tree on Christmas morning"). During the Duel between V.I.N.C.E.N.T and S.T.A.R., the realistic darkness of the scene can actually make it hard to see S.T.A.R.. The biggest offender seems to be the titularblack hole itself which glows blue for visual necessity.
Averted in Paranormal Activity as everything shot in darkness was filmed using the night setting on the camera.
There is an old joke to the effect that you need an HDTV to make out what's going on in the average episode of The X-Files, LOST, or Supernatural. In the latter they occasionally they throw the audience a bone and light it up a bit.
And the even older joke about the results of trying to watch any of those shows on a sunny afternoon◊.
X-Files predecessor Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Dark scenes in the show actually are dark, so much so that all one can see are highlights, reflections, and the occasional flashlight blotting out the entire screen.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed on this. A scene in Parts: The Clonus Horror had an almost completely dark room with nothing visible but a lamp. These pitch black scenes frequently cause Mike and the Bots to make comments such as "Filmed inside a deacon's hat!" or "This scene must have been lit by an Indiglo watch," and at one point caused the trio to call and whistle for the movie as though it were an inattentive pet.
The entire Halloween episode of Freaks and Geeks takes place in broad daylight, with the teenage troublemakers home well before sunset, because the directors were unwilling to use Hollywood Darkness and couldn't afford a night shoot.
In the two Doctor Who stories involving the Weeping Angels as the main villains, the Angels are able to move only if they are unobserved.... or completely unlit. When the Angels start disabling nearby light sources in a creepiest possible fashion, the screen goes completely black when they do so, during which time the Angels move. Since the camera usually counts as an "observer" in-universe (i.e. Angels can't move when they are on camera, either) except when it doesn't, averting this trope is pretty much required.
Huge has this problem, which makes the many night scenes a bit distracting.
Hogan's Heroes. The area around them might be black, but the characters themselves are always well-lit.
In one episode of the 1960s Batman the villain of the week had invisible henchmen so Batman turns off the lights to even the odds and the only thing the audience gets to see are the series' trademark ultra-visible sound effects.
The exterior of the Red Dwarf spaceship in Red Dwarf is covered in shadows, and is only very dimmly lit, presumably from distant stars. Space in general is very dark in the show as well.
A common criticism of The Pacific was that the night combat scenes were often dark and confusing (very much Truth in Television, as the Japanese were quite fond of attacking at night). The night attack during the Battle of Gloucester in particular stands out, as the action occurred at night in the driving rain. It was lit almost entirely by grenades and mortar fire, muzzle-flash, and the occasional flash of lightning.
In the 1990s revival of Dark Shadows, many of the night scenes were filmed during the day, and appeared as night in broadcast and on VHS. Unfortunately, transfer to DVD messed up the filter used and turned many of the night scenes into this trope.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey has the ship of the imagination turn it's lights on when visiting the orphan planet and the surface of Titan, which are both otherwise very dark places.
The play Black Comedy concerns a blackout. The first few minutes of the play are done with no lights but the characters act as if the apartment were fully illuminated; then there's a blackout and the lights go up full while the actors pretend they can't see. The very end of the play the lights are fixed and someone turns them "on," at which point the closing blackout occurs. Typically, this is explained in the playbill or program, or in a curtain speech, so that the audience understands what's going on.
Several of The Legend of Zelda games feature caves and dark dungeons which only become clearly visible using a lamp in-game. Only a partial aversion, though, since there are other unlit areas that are perfectly visible without using a lamp...
Some caves in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion have lit areas without any sunlight, lamp or torch, but most of the time a hole is dented through the ceiling to bleed in sunlight. In general lighting is more realistic than usual. One of the challenges of the game is that you can't use a shield a torch and a weapon at the same time — rendering the cave monster almost completely invisible due to sheer darkness. Blocking and attacking become difficult. There are magical aids, but the Night Eye effect is squint worthy ugly monochrome.
In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind caves that didn't have humans living in them (and thus no torches) were very hard to see in. Morrowind had Night-Eye and Light enchantments that could help with this greatly.
Half-Life 2: Episode One has a chapter that is almost completely dark. The player has to use the Ten-Second Flashlight to spot targets for the NPC sidekick to shoot. In the finale of the section the player and Alyx have to survive an endless stream of zombies until an elevator arrives. The room is completely dark, but can be lit by the tiny flashlight beam, or explosions or the burning corpses left by explosions. If you survive said explosion.
Averted in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, where you get stuck in a cave complex, and it is way too dark to see anything. By luck you can stumble around and eventually find a torch. If it takes you long enough, it actually becomes easier to see, probably to reflect Snake's eyes adjusting to the light. You can also use his cigar to help.
In the Pokémon games, the HM "Flash" allows one to see in dark caves. Many people are unable to find the HM in Pokemon Red, and end up stumbling through one cave in the game in complete darkness! The amount of darkness varies by version. In the first generation you get a faded view of the walls (Good enough), in the second you see absolutely nothing but the glowing entrance/exits and yourself, and in the third there's a small lit circle where you can see normally that expands to most (if not exactly all) of the screen with flash.
An interesting take can be found in the Adventure GameIndiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Upon entering an abandoned dig, it is impossible to see anything, and the "look" command is replaced by the "touch" command, until you find a way to turn on the lights. However, while the lighting is at first pitch black, as Indy's eyes adjust to the darkness it becomes easier to make out the surroundings, adding a touch of realism.
Most of Doom 3 is pitch black. The player is forced to use either his gun or his flashlight, but not both at the same time. It was dubbed "The best flashlight simulator ever." and widely ridiculed for being so aggravating. One of the first modifications created for the game was the "duct tape" mod which removed the misfeature.
The original Doom is one of the first games to make use of varying light levels to scare and disorient the player. I.E.: pick up a critical key, the lights go out, monsters appear. The only light sources in these situations were the very rare light amplification visors and the Muzzle Flashlight.
The whole Silent Hill series plays with this like a child does a toy.
In the firstthreeinstallments, with the lights off, you can see your way around, but much less so than in a perfectly straight example, and the characters can't collect items or see the map, though. When your torch is on, however, the only lit area is as far as the beam goes; everything else is pitch black.
The fourth game generally averts it, with the environments being considerably well-lit. The lone exception is in a certain area that must be lit for a keypad to be seen - in that moment, it's just like the earlier games.
Averted in The Witcher where you need a special potion in order to see in dungeons and other underground spaces.
There are two temples in Tales of Symphonia which avert this. In one area of the Lightning Temple, the player must wait for lightning to strike to see the pathways, lest they fall in the gaping abyss. Another is the Shadow temple, where the player is stopped at the entrance when it is realized it is too dark to see. The player then must fetch the blue candle as the only way to get through the temple. Although with the Lightning Temple you can still clearly see the pathway without waiting for the lightning. They corrected this in the PS2 version.
Resident Evil 4 and 5 avert this in different ways. In 4 Leon has a light clipped to his belt. It covers most of the screen and activates in dark areas. In 5 there's That One Level where you must navigate a pitch-black cave using a bulky electric lantern.
The Penumbra and Thief series, both for atmospheric and game play purposes (unless you cheat by turning the gamma way up). Penumbra also plays with this trope, since the protagonist can see in the dark if he crouches and waits a little (his vision apparently adjusting to the darkafter a few seconds) . In Thief, you can sometimes use portable light sources (like flares or small lanterns).
Mostly averted in Minecraft. The player can technically make out shapes in even the darkest of underground caverns without torches, but only just. However, the light during the nighttime never drops below full moon brightness, even after the update that gave the moon phases.
The Catacombs and the Forgotten Tomb in Drakan: The Ancients' Gates were dark to the point all you could see were the glowing eyes of your enemies, leaving you quite helpless to aim your killing blows. You can carry a torch, but you must put it out in order to use your weapon. Most other caves or interiors had ample lighting with or without torches, glowing mushrooms, etc.
Averted in the Myst series; lighting up pitch-black areas is typically a prerequisite for using any passage or equipment therein. Also averted with dim areas; some are so dark that it can be hard to make out detail on some screens.
Metroid Prime has glowing mushrooms to explain the illumination. Justified, since Samus's Combat Visor adjusts for light levels.
In the Metroid series in general, it's very rare to find an unlit area, there are always skylights, equipment, or luminescent flora. The only time it's really, really dark is when the game wants to make you tense and scared (most notably in Metroid Fusion when you're hiding from the SA-X and its visor illuminates dark areas.)
Played straight with Area 7 in Pilotwings, which is at dusk, but visibility is still clear. Averted with Area 8, and the final helicopter mission, which are in near pitch darkness, with only a few lights.
Fallout: New Vegas averts this for many caves and poorly lit buildings, which require your light or night-vision to properly navigate. Other caves (luminescent fungus) and outdoor areas (depending on how believable the moon's lighting effects are) play this straight.
F.E.A.R. encourages averting this: though you can adjust the brightness levels so you can see everything just fine, it recommends playing with fairly dark settings... the reason being that the game is much scarier that way.
The flashlights in the Left 4 Dead series, due to a limitation of the Source engine's technology that they never really bothered to improve on, have the odd property of having essentially no light scattering. Every survivor's flashlight will illuminate what they're looking at and absolutely nothing else, not even their held items' viewmodels if they're right up against a wall. There's the bright center of the light, a slightly lighter ring around it, and that's it for light. This is especially conspicuous if seen in a dark room. Every other light functions normally.
Mass Effect 3 has certain sections which take place in darkness, and the light is handled very well; you can see fine (though with realistically affected colours) within the area of your torch beam, and can see vague shapes at close range outside the beam, but absolutely nothing further away.
In the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series you can't see anything at night other than the sky. With all the anomalies and mutants in the zone it's best not to travel at night. (Especially because some mutants are nocturnal, and really really dangerous.)
Averted in the original Dragon Quest I where upon entering a cave you are unable to see beyond your character sprite without a torch or a light spell.
The PC version of the original Ghost Recon had a number of night missions or pitch-dark rooms that required the night vision goggles, but the console versions played this trope straight due to hardware limitations, thus out in the country in the dead of night you can see almost as well as in a lit city.
The arcade flight simulator Midnight Landing is set at midnight, with only the city lights and runway lights visible. Justified, as the game was released in 1987 when 3D technology was very limited, so the developers chose to use lights in a late night setting to provide a sense of altitude without having to invest in expensive graphical hardware. Since buildings aren't rendered, each stage looks as if you're landing on a bare runway in the middle of nowhere.
In Slender, the whole game is really dark that you can barely see anything in arms reach away without the flashlight.
In Betrayal at Krondor, nighttime and dungeons are dark enough that you really want a torch or light spell to get anything done. (Or, for preference when outside at night, get some sleep and travel during the day.)
The Syphon Filter series has many completely black rooms, requiring either the use of a flashlight or Night-Vision Goggles, the latter of which are automatically equipped in the first three games.
La-Mulana has two areas that remain pitch dark until certain conditions are met: half of the Mausoleum of the Giants (or all in the remake), and one room in the Hell Temple. In the 8-bit version, the only things you can see are enemies and Lemeza, unless you fire the Flare Gun. In the remake, all you can see is a spotlight on Lemeza.
A significant portion of Sin and Punishment: Star Successor's Stage 4 is in pitch blackness, illuminated only by the ninja-like Keepers and a light that points at where you're aiming. Later the stage starts to get brighter, presumably due to the moon.
In Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2, Hakone is very dark at night, with the only things visible other than your opponents' car lights being whatever is in your headlights. However, Maximum Tune 3 plays this trope straight instead, with Hakone being well-lit despite a clear lack of light sources. Maximum Tune 4's Hakone is still lit up, but at least there's street lamps to justify it.
Terraria pays a lot of attention to lighting effects. The surface openings have light diffusing in, which can be obscured by hanging vines. If you venture much deeper than that, you'd better carry an ample supply of torch-building materials or some other light source. Even the surface gets pretty dark at night. Certain parts of the underground do have some ambient light, mostly supplied by glowing mushrooms or lava pools.
Inverted in Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: In one scene it the lighting on everyone makes it seem like daytime but looking at the sky and streetlights the viewer will notice that it is nighttime.
If that's the Brand New Day song, where you can see the sky as the trio leave the laundromat, then that may be because of polarizing filters on the camera.
Marble Hornets doesn't use any other illumination aside from what was available in the various areas where the series was filmed. One particularly scary entry has Alex running through a wooded area at night with the only light coming from his flashlight...which ultimately comes to rest upon a tall, faceless man in a business suit standing completely silent among the trees....
Averted on Batman: The Animated Series - and intentionally, too, as a conscious decision was made to animate everything on black paper precisely to achieve this effect.
Especially effective in "The Forgotten", an episode in which Batman has to bust some slavers who have kidnapped homeless people and are forcing them to mine for gold in the mountains. Once Batman is spotted, the Big Bad gathers all his Mooks (who are wearing miners' head-lamps) and they chase Batman into the mine. He then instructs one of the men to kill the lights by throwing a switch ("We'll see if this bat can see in the dark!"), and for a moment everything is completely black. Then the head-lamps are switched on, and for a while all we can see are the illuminated Mooks themselves or whatever happens to be within a short radius of them.
The British cartoon Danger Mouse was notoriously low-budget, and so the scriptwriters gleefully seized any opportunity to save on animation costs by having the heroes enter somewhere dark and bumble around in pitch blackness for a few minutes with only their eyes visible.
A similar situation for Sealab 2021, particularly "Fusebox".
Screwy Squirrel had a classic scene where a dumb-guy dog chases him into a pitch-black cave. We see only blackness and hear some undecipherable loud sound effects...a moment later Screwy steps out in the light and tells us "Sure was a great gag, folks - too bad you couldn't see it!"
In Titanic: The Legend Goes On, Kirk and Dirk break into a woman's room to steal her jewelry and close the door without turning on the lights. It then makes things very confusing when someone and a pet enter and a scuffle breaks out (the movie was trying to trick the audience into thinking that the woman and her dog returned, when it was the thieves' boss and her rat dog.)
The image at the top of the page is based on an image by so tranish, on Flickr.