"Established wisdom for modern zombie hunters: The only thing worse than a horde of zombies is a horde of
The evil twin of Man on Fire
, Incendiary Exponent
, and Out of the Inferno
, this is where someone sets whatever is trying to kill them on fire... and it then continues to try and kill them. While on fire.
Sometimes it is just a delayed reaction and the fire will prove fatal, but that is little comfort considering it may prove fatal to the heroes first. Might also apply to Nuke 'em
if the target is gigantic. Eldritch Abomination
: Bad. Eldritch Abomination that gets nuked, and stands back up pissed off and blazing radioactive fire? Worse.
A standard form of Taking You with Me
and Video Game Cruelty Punishment
, many who are set alight become...well, hell bent on setting anyone and anything on fire as well.
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Anime & Manga
- In InuYasha, Jaken uses his staff to try to burn one of another villain's attacking pieces. Bad idea.
- Partial example: in Naruto, Sasuke sets the 8-Tails on fire with Amaterasu, which makes it flail around and hit his teammate Karin, setting her on fire (luckily, he found a way to put her out).
- Lupin III: One of the story elements consistent across the franchise is Lupin's encounter with Goemon. The manga, the Green Jacket series and Episode 0 all feature Lupin throwing a special chemical onto the samurai that bursts into flames when it comes into contact with the air. Not content to let Lupin get away with this, Goemon tosses a rope at Lupin, which carries the flames over to light him on fire as well. As it's Lupin, they recover.
- In the Pokémon anime, the battle between Ash's Charizard and Blaine's Magmar seems to end with Magmar diving into lava while holding Charizard in a headlock. However, it turns out that being dunked only made Charizard angry when he explodes from the lava with Magmar in tow and proceeds to Seismic Toss him right back into the volcano.
- Heroic example: A few villains from Fairy Tail have tried to burn Natsu. This ends… poorly.
- In One Piece, one of Smoker's troops tries to fight Caesar Clown's poison Blob Monster by setting it on fire. This makes it it stop for a moment, then it violently explodes, spreading the still living pieces of the monster all over.
Films — Live-Action
- Happens in the 2008 horror film Mirrors. Makes some sense as the "villain" Anna is possessed by some sort of otherworldly evil force and hence probably isn't bound by normal human limits.
- Jason in Freddy vs. Jason is set on fire. It doesn't keep him from killing anyone. To top it off, spraying beer eventually puts him out before it can do any real damage. Doubly ironic as it was being dosed in more highly concentrated alcohol that set him on fire in the first place.
- The General, i.e. the master spider, of the film Arachnophobia gets tossed into some flaming debris at the end...and comes running back out and takes one last go at the protagonist, who needs to shoot it with a nail gun to put it down permanently.
- Mutant beast Kothoga/Mbwun in the movie version of The Relic is set on fire: he just chases the Final Girl around some more. It takes a follow up explosion and its shockwave to pulp him and do him in for good.
- The clerk at the beginning of From Dusk Till Dawn.
- Several incarnations of the monster in The Thing (1982) keep causing trouble even after catching fire.
- In The Thing from Another World, the protagonists attempt to light The Thing on fire. Unlike the Carpenter film and the original short story, the Thing just charges out of the room, setting it ablaze in the process.
- In Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Godzilla spends much of the movie in a state of nuclear meltdown, glowing red and generally causing trouble for everyone, especially Destoroyah. There's also a threat that when he finally does meltdown, the fallout will effectively bring about The End of the World as We Know It. Luckily, the adolescent Godzilla-like creature is there to absorb all the radiation.
- Godzilla Final Wars has Gigan blasting Mothra with his eye laser as she spreads her wing scales, which explode in a spectacular fireball. She emerges from the explosion completely ablaze and rams Gigan, destroying him and herself in another spectacular explosion.
- Ghostbusters. Burning the Marshmallow Man isn't 100% effective. Burning him a lot more is.
- In Ong Bak, during a fight at a gas station, Tony Jaa's character gets his pants soaked in gasoline from the knee down, before dodging behind some barrels, which are promptly blown up by gunfire. After a few seconds, Tony comes leaping out of the inferno and kicks a couple of guys with his flaming legs.
- Halloween II (1981) ends with Michael being blown up in a room full of ether. Cue a massive mountain of man walking through a hospital hallway on fire. It doesn't actually make him more dangerous (he's weakened due to being on fucking fire), but he's still going, the scamp.
- In The Mummy, an attempt to set a determined Medjai on fire has seemingly no effect. Said Medjai, robes aflame, appears almost blissfully unaware of the fact as he tries to take the key artifact from Jonathan.
- Maniac Cop
- Christine pulls this off with one of the guys who vandalized her: After blowing up a gas station, while still burning, she chases him down a road.
- The Russian movie Stalingrad, if the trailer is anything to go by, features a scene where an entire Soviet infantry company charge a German defensive position through a wall of fire. Naturally, they get ignited by it... and keep charging.
- Death Warrant: In the climax, Burke kicks the Sandman (a serial killer) into a furnace. The fight initially seems to be over, but the Sandman then jumps out in flames, still trying to kill him.
- Happens after a fashion in the Lone Wolf book Wolf's Bane. Early on in the story, Lone Wolf is trapped in an otherworldly plant stem. Your options include cutting your way out, shouting your way out, and using magic. The problem comes with the last option, since the player isn't told which spell Lone Wolf will use. He ends up casting his lightning hand spell, which does effectively open the stem up, but it also causes the apparently flammable sap in the stem to ignite and burn furiously. You take damage from the resulting inferno if you're not immune to fire.
- In Stone of Tears, the second book of the Sword of Truth series, Zedd, Chase, and Chase's daughter encounter a beast from the Underworld. The little girl uses a magic wand to set it on fire... and the beast start laughing and presses the attack. It's eventually defeated (but not killed) when Zedd encases it in a block of ice and order guards to chop it to bits.
- The third book in A Song of Ice and Fire has the example of Beric Dondarrion taking on Sandor "the Hound" Clegane with a flaming sword. Despite the fact that Sandor is terrified of fire due to childhood trauma, it doesn't work. Beric dies, although it doesn't stick.
- In the prologue of the book Ghost Soldiers about the Bataan Death March in WWII, a burning U.S. P.O.W. set his Japanese executioner on fire.
- In Gormenghast, Steerpike sets Barquentine ablaze from a candle, and the old man grips tightly on to him, setting him alight as well. The attacker jumps out the window into the moat and drowns him, surviving with disfiguring burns himself.
- Kravh of the Sporewiki Fiction Universe sets himself on fire in combat. It does harm him, but he's too crazy to care.
- The Babylon 5 TV movie Thirdspace has a scene near the end where a Narn security guard's arm is set ablaze during a brawl. Rather than try to extinguish it, he continues to beat on his opponent.
- Warhammer 40,000
- The monstrous Tyranids were damaged as normal by fire attacks, but could continue moving and attacking. In fact, several models (particularly those who were affected by the Frenzy rules) were subject to this. Khorne Berzerkers were as tough as a "normal" Space Marine, had even better armour and ran faster to get into combat, making it quite likely that turning a flamer on one would only lead to him running full pelt into you whilst on fire.
- In previous editions, using any heat weapons (flamers, melta-guns, plasma weapons, and so on) did nothing to the Eldar Avatar... because he is a molten iron incarnation of the Eldar god of war. This has since been nerfed: he is now only immune to flamers and meltas.
- The Necrons, being ancient alien souls sealed inside advanced necrodermis bodies, are not much bothered by fire.
- After Wazdakka Gutsmek found an Imperial Titan, he attacked it by crusing up a ramp, jumping and then chrashing through its shields. He then proceeded to slaughter the crew... while on fire. He then held out his victims through the shields, burning them until only their skeletons remained and kept three skulls as a memento. Said skulls are STILL burning.
- In one tabletop RPG based on HP Lovecraft's writings, there are rules for nuking Cthulhu. He comes back 24 hours later and is now radioactive.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Golems in several editions are often strengthened by some magical attacks. For example, flesh golems are hasted by electrical attacks, and iron golems are healed by fire attacks.
- In Forgotten Realms there is the undead monster "Blazing Bones". It's created when someone under death-preventing contingency magic is killed by fire while using another magic and one clashes with another. It is a skeleton with remains of its living mind, it's aflame, feels it and quickly discovers that hurling or pouring fire into someone else helps it. very soon it's destructively insane. Magical fire damage "heals" it, but it's obviously not going to be grateful for this.
- In the 4th Edition, hitting an elder treant with a fire attack sets it on fire, causing ongoing fire damage... but also lets it do extra fire damage with its melee attacks.
- Frequently seen with inferno missiles (basically napalm rounds for short-range launchers) against BattleMechs in BattleTech. Infernos do not cause actual damage to 'Mechs, they just add to their heat troubles; especially under the old Master Rules, where the amount of extra heat for being on fire from infernos was fixed at a relatively modest six points per turn and additional hits just increased the duration, sufficiently cool-running 'Mechs could play this trope dead straight.
- It's even been canon at least once—Comstar infantry hit Phelan Wolf's Wolfhound with an Inferno missile during the Battle of Tukayyid. His answer was to leap off the cliff, crush the infantry squad, and rampage among the Comstar forces in the pouring rain while on fire because Inferno napalm does not simply wash off. This has the net effect of making his attack psychologically terrifying in spite of his relatively small machine, because he pilots a 'Mech with Anubian stylings that is alternately streaming fire from every limb from the Inferno missile or scorched black from the same while acting completely unfazed, because its Clan cooling technology leaves Phelan unhindered by the flames. The Comstar unit broke in the face of his assault.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse has a Gift, Kiss of Helios, that allows a werewolf to take no damage from natural sources of flame and minimal damage from things like napalm or gas fires. Not only that, but thanks to being aflame, their blows do hideous amounts of damage to their foes.
- A nuke was one of the methods proposed by the SCP Foundation to kill the so-far-indestructable SCP-682. It was turned down mainly because the brass was worried about what SCP-682 could become if it survived, as it generates a defense mechanism against whatever is used on it. One of the pages mentions launching SCP-682 into the sun with a giant cannon. It came back a little while later, on fire.
- In Beast Wars, Megatron, while in a temporarily weakened state due to an imminant Power Makeover, gets thrown into a pool of lava. The result? He emerges in dragon form.
- In the Family Guy episode "Lois Kills Stewie", when Lois assumes Stewie is dead after being caught in an explosion. He's not.
Examples with Zombies:
Media in General
- As established in the page quote, doing this to zombies is a crapshoot. While they may lack the brains to put themselves out, and the thinking is they'd bump into each other and set each other on fire, setting off a chain reaction of sort is fine, it tends to backfire as they can also run into you, or the building you're hiding out in, or any surrounding buildings, in which case you'll set everything around you on fire. Also, zombies aren't scared by fire and don't feel pain, so it wouldn't be as scary as it would for a normal human. The odds are you'll make things worse. Nice going.
Anime & Manga
Films — Live-Action
- Demonstrated in the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004): The DVD has an extra about a guy holed up in a gunshop who tries molotov cocktails on the zombie horde from his roof. All he gets is lots of walking, charred zombies who all smell like smoky bacon (he's running low on food).
- In the actual movie, a group in the parking garage lock the zombies outside a chain-link fence, then set them on fire when they realize that they're getting through. The zombies do burn enough to die, but that may be justified by the group dousing them in gasoline beforehand.
- Notable exception to this rule are the zombies from the original Night of the Living Dead. They did fear fire and setting one ablaze would cause it to run off in a panic.
Myths & Religion
- In one traditional Cree story, two children are being chased by the severed head of their mother, and they start a wildfire behind them to stop her. However, she rolls straight through the fire, and then they're being chased by the flaming severed head of their mother. (Fortunately, shortly afterwards she goes through a river and the fire gets put out, but by then she's a skull.)
- In Halo 3, using fire against the Flood can sometimes lead to this. Sticky grenades had a similar effect in the earlier games.
- It works even worse for the player in Return to Castle Wolfenstein: While flame works well against the sword'n'shield zombies, it turns the unarmed ghost-skull ones into mean firebreathing mofos.
- Their Wolfenstein successors, the Despoiled, are constantly engulfed in magical fire from the start. Naturally, it's not a good idea to get too close to them. And, they're quite immune to the flamethrower.
- In Half-Life 2, while regular headcrab zombies will scream and hold their arms out in agony when on fire, fast zombies don't even notice, right up until the point where they fall down and die from it. The fire doesn't do any additional damage to you, though. Poison zombies also seem to be oblivious to the flames when set on fire. Incidentally, burning, legless Zombie Mooks dragging themselves along the ground towards you, while what's left of the Zombie Infectee screams in terrified agony through a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong...
- A possibility within the Nazi Zombies mode of Call of Duty: World at War. While flamethrowers will generally be a good weapon against the zombies for most of the game, it becomes more dangerous later on as they get more health. However, being careful and just running around, lighting zombies aflame and keeping your distance while they burn usually works.
- In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin striking a zombie (or ghoul) with a fire attack causes them to become skeletons, even if the attack should've reduced their HP to zero.
- Left 4 Dead
- Generally speaking, setting the zombies on fire is a very good idea. But the Hunters, although the flames will kill them eventually, get a huge boost to their attack power while they're burning. Said boost was later nerfed by a patch (and only applies if the survivors set them on fire instead of the Hunter intentionally lighting himself), but is still present.
- The Witch doesn't like fire either: normally, she'll leave you alone if you're not the one who pissed her off, even if you're shooting her. But if you set her on fire while she's chasing the person who did, she'll switch over to attacking you instead, until either she dies, or you do.
- Finally, the tank gains a tremendous speed boost when lit on fire in Campaign mode. This was removed in the second game though, and in both games tanks otherwise are slowed down slightly.
- Doom 3 features a zombie (nicknamed Burnie) that is already on fire when it attacks you. Ordinary zombies, however, seem abnormally sensitive to fire.
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines has the Grout's Mansion level, where you have to find a lost vampire primogen who was studying madness. And of course, he has a lot of human test subjects. When you arrive at the mansion, you will soon realize that all this madmen have somehow been able to free themselves and aren't exactly happy to see you. So, after you punched, shot and sliced your way through the mansion, you come across a vampire hunter, who sets the whole place on fire. And also, it seems like some of the test subjects have survived your fights in the mansion and now are on fire as well. And instead of running out of the mansion (they are insane after all) they decide to try killing you again. They are much more vulnerable now, it usually takes only two shots to kill them. However, considering that vampires are very vulnerable to fire, they can also take out you with two hits. It's helpful to have a machine gun when these guys approach you.
- A serious threat in Saints Row. Burning people can set other people on fire, and burning cars explode, scattering burning debris which can also set people on fire. The zombie homie you can summon is rather nonchalant about being lit ablaze. Potentially dangerous to you, certainly dangerous to your enemies.
- Burn, Zombie, Burn. It's pretty much the whole title. Running around lighting zombies on fire makes them faster and deadlier. On the plus side, it increases your score multiplier.
- Resident Evil 4
- In Marvel vs. Capcom 2, one of Jill Valentine's special moves is a zombie summon. One possible summon is a flaming zombie. Instead of grabbing and holding an opponent in place like normal zombies, these explode.
- In the Fall from Heaven II mod for Civilization IV, which is set in a fantasy world, the bringers of Apocalypse, the Sheaim, have an axemen replacement called the Pyre Zombie, which is, well, Exactly What It Says on the Tin; A zombie inherently on fire. Of course, whenever one of them perish, all enemy units in the vicinity are damaged, which makes the "PZ" the perfect bane of any army that cannot perform ranged attacks or are somehow immune to fire. To be fair, though, it's one of the only early-game advantages of the Sheaim.
- Blood allows you to set zombies on fire, and when they erupt into a zombie torch, they hurt you with touch.
- In the expansion pack of Postal 2, Apocalypse Weekend, setting zombies on fire is about as effective as dousing them in lemon juice. Actually, it's even less effective, as the fire will do nothing (these zombies require their heads to be destroyed before they'll stop attacking), and unless you cut their legs off beforehand, they'll just run up to you and set you on fire too.
- Setting people on fire who are already aggressive towards you will often result in them running blindly in your direction and setting you on fire as well before you can back away, due to the short throwing arc of your matches. The random pathing of a burning NPC makes it even harder to avoid getting caught on fire by a passing burning protestor.
- There is a certain point in Dragon Age: Origins where you have to protect a village from an oncoming zombie horde. You can find barrels of oil, and suggest to the head of the guard to light it on fire, weakening the initial wave. If Zeveran is in your team at this point, he'll wisely snark that it may create flaming undead, instead. Subverted in that, yes, fire does help against the zombies, with no serious repercussions. Although if you push back the waves, the stupid AI will inevitably kill themselves by walking into the burning oil.
- In Minecraft, flaming zombies will burn the player when attacking. Becomes even scarier when you realize that sunlight naturally lights them on fire.
- Viva Caligula allows you to raise the dead to fight for you, along with a flame weapon. Combining the two gets this trope.
- When El Tigre had to battle Santara Of the Dead's grandson; Django of The Dead. El Tigre managed to get Django to drop into a lava pit in the final battle, but came back using the lava around his hands and arms to blast himself back onto the platform and use said lava to retaliate. Until he accidentally touched his own guitar with his lava hands and destroyed himself.