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Lightning Reveal

It's a dark and stormy night. The main character(s) are surrounded by darkness. A sense of foreboding wavers in the air, and the tension is so thick, a knife isn't fit to cut it, and you would instead require a heavy-duty chainsaw.

This is the perfect concoction for the Empathic Environment to whip up a good old Lightning Reveal. There's something sinister lurking in the shadows that the character(s) and perhaps audience is unaware of until lightning strikes. In that flash of lightning something is revealed hence, well, the Lightning Reveal.

Bonus points if the flash is so quick, the audience/characters are unsure if they saw anything at all.

Compare Dramatic Thunder, Stop Motion Lighting, Emerging from the Shadows.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime And Manga 
  • Used in the anime version of Hellsing while half of Alucard's face is in shadow. The lightning flash reveals the other half to look like Vlad the Impaler when his opponent asks him who he really is.
  • In Death Note, Light first sees Ryuk in this way.
  • In Naruto, The Reveal of Tobi's (not really) true identity, Madara Uchiha, as the real Big Bad of the series is done this way.
    • Also, in Shippuden chapter 167, thunderclouds envelop the sky, and a large mass of the Kyuubi's chakra rains from the heavens as Naruto begins his transformation from a 4-tailed to a never-before-seen 6-tailed fox form.
  • Oda Nobunaga in Sengoku Basara's anime adaptation is so evil that, wherever he goes, glowing red thunderstorms follow. Naturally, he gets an introduction through Lightning Reveal, accompanied by Ominous Latin Chanting.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, when Bakura appears wearing a black trench coat in front of Rex and Weevil, we get our first glimpse of his face (well, the first in a while) when lightning flashes.
  • Used for erotic effect in chapter 25 of Mysterious Girlfriend X, when Tsubaki sees Urabe naked for the first time.
  • Unique usage of the trope in Fairy Tail: in the Tenrou Island arc, as Master Hades has wiped the floor with our heroes and is about to finish Natsu off with his Bullet Magic, a bolt of lightning strikes in front of Hades and coalesces into the shape of Laxus Dreyar, much to the unpleasant shock of Hades, and to the joyous relief of Team Natsu.

    Comic Books 
  • Done beautifully in book three of Bone when Fone Bone, Thorn and Gran'ma Ben are on the run from the rat creatures in the middle of a storm. Lighting flashes light up the otherwise pitch black backgrounds, giving brief glimpses of the rat creature horde closing in, as well as when the Red Dragon appears and chases them away.

    Film - Animated 
  • Happens during the climax of The Lion King when Simba reveals himself to Scar before the final confrontation.
  • Used in Tarzan to show Clayton's hanging corpse.
  • Doesn't even involve darkness in Kung Fu Panda. Master Shifu waits for Tai Lung on the stairs to the Jade Palace. Dramatic Thunder sounds and Shifu closes his eyes for a moment against the lightning. When he opens them, Tai Lung is standing before him having run up the thousand-odd steps without even appearing out of breath.
  • In 101 Dalmatians, after Roger saves the fifteenth puppy from death, lighting crashes and everyone turns to the door to see Cruella standing in the doorframe.

    Film - Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • In The Dresden Files: Storm Front, Morgan's appearance at the bar is revealed by lightning.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Reaper Man, Death knows that his replacement is not going to arrive until midnight because he stood on a hill while lightning flashed. He reasons that someone who does that would not arrive at 11:55 if he could make a dramatic entrance at the stroke of midnight.
  • In Lee Lightner's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolf' Honour, when Ragnor and his company meet up with strange, wolf-like creatures, lightning flashes let them see the faces. (Much to Ragnor's horror. These creatures had haunted his dreams.)
  • Found in J. R. R. Tolkien's Silmarillion. After being captured by Orcs, the hero Túrin accidentally kills his friend Beleg whom he mistakes for an Orc coming to torture him (in reality, he was trying to free him). Túrin realizes his mistake immediately when a flash of lightning illuminates the scene.
  • In David Weber's Safehold series, at one point the Royal Guard is desperately fighting assassins in the rain. One moment, there is one Guardsman standing. The next, there is a flash of lightning, a roll of thunder (from the wrong direction) and there are two... One of them is a 24th Century Ridiculously Human Robot. Guess what happens next.
  • Done in Queste, where Tertius Fume's ghost reveals itself to the crowd in the Wizard Tower in a flash of lightning.
  • In the H. P. Lovecraft short story The Lurking Fear, the first chapter ends with the narrator realizing that something other than one of his human companions was snuggled up to him on a cot in a reputedly haunted house when it gets up suddenly and a flash of lightning casts its shadow on the wall he's facing.
  • After fumbling in a dark for a while, the unnamed protagonist in Bram Stoker's short story "Dracula's Guest" catches a glimpse on a vampire countess sleeping in her tomb due to it being momentarily illuminated by a lightning strike.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Smallville, Escape, the silver banshee reveals its true form whenever lightning strikes.
  • Used brilliantly during the opening of an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, showcasing the killer lurking in his victim's bedroom.
  • Parodied in an episode of Friends where Phoebe, suffering from chickenpox, is revealed to her long distance relationship boyfriend by a flash of lightning, causing him to jump. When she asks if she really looks that bad, he replies that he was just surprised by the lightning.
  • Happens in an episode of Only Fools and Horses where the trio are staying in Boycie's cottage. Of course, the escaped serial killer only gets shown when Del turns around, so the whole thing also ends up being a case of a Cassandra Truth.
  • Supernatural. When Castiel first meets our heroes, his claim to be an Angel of the Lord is disbelieved. A flash of lightning then throws the shadow of spreading angel wings on the wall behind him.

    Theater 
  • According to William Goldman's book The Season, there was a Broadway play in 1967 called "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg." The show centers around the toll that taking care of a severely disabled daughter - a girl with cerebral palsy so bad she cannot even communicate - is taking on her parents. In one scene, the mother gives a despairing monologue, and at the end, there's a flash of lightning to show, just for an instant, her daughter skipping rope like any normal child. (You can imagine it being both scary and heartbreaking.)

    Video Games 
  • Very common in horror games for a quick jump scare; like in Alone In The Dark The New Nightmare, where a lightning flash in one of the outside areas shows a massive horde of ghoulish humans surrounding you for an instant.
  • Occurs in the bonus case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Phoenix's current case revolves around a case two years prior that may have been subject to evidence tampering. The primary witness of the previous case recalls two men fighting during a blackout, but remembers one instant, during a lightning strike, where she saw one man about to stab the other.
  • In Jagged Alliance 2 troops may be revealed by lightning.
  • Not natural lightning, but in The Lost Crown, crackling energies from a mystic energy rift provide a similar Reveal of Ganwulf's skeleton in his sarcophagus.
  • Done with "Flying-Neo," one of the Mini Bosses in Alien Soldier. Your character fights this alien dragon zombie helicopter on the top of an airplane. Once you get it to about a quarter of its health, it turns invisible... only the background lightning will reveal its silhouette.
  • The Attract Mode for Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter shows off the fighters, ending with the final boss Apocalypse. The True Final Boss (Cyber Akuma) appears for a frame thanks to a lightning reveal.
  • The Resident Evil remake does this well near the beginning. You're walking down a dark hallway when lightning crashes outside and illuminates the window at the end, making the silhouette of the zombie you didn't know was there finally visible.
  • In Mark Of The Ninja, this is flipped around. You always risk being seen by guards in the flash. However, to prevent nervous breakdowns, the game takes an Acceptable Break from Reality and makes the thunder sound before the lightning flash, so you can predict when it's coming and take action.
  • A gameplay mechanic in the Luigi's Mansion segment of Nintendo Land where the ghost is invisible to the other players, they can only sense the ghost through vibrations and can only see him if they shine a light on him, dealing damage. Every once in a while lightning will strike and illuminate some of the map, if the ghost is in that area they're perfectly visible. Skilled ghost players can make it seem like they're going another way then they are when the lightning strikes, or with a little luck, hide from the illuminated areas so when lightning strikes, the ghost hunters don't see anything. Impossible on the rooftop level which has no walls so the entire thing is illuminated when lightning strikes. Needless to say, winning as a ghost in this level takes a lot of skill.
  • Downplayed in Heart of the Swarm at the end of Kerrigan's transformation cinematic, which suddenly transitions to Arcturus' reflection in the window as he looks out on a storm on Korhal. The camera pans out, the cineatic ending just as a flash of lightning illuminates part of the Xel'Naga artifact.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Occurred in The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror V":
    Marge: What he's typed will be a window into his madness. [reads it] "Feelin' fine." Woah! That's a relief.
    [lightning strikes, revealing "No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy" scribbled all over the walls]
    Marge: Mmm... this is less encouraging.
  • Family Guy plays with this in the episode where the kids find the money clip, showing them in different fighting positions and at one point, suddenly dressed in prim period clothing.
  • The opening theme to Batman: The Animated Series. Batman fights crooks in darkness, and the police wonder who it could be. The theme ends with the crooks tied up and a silhouette of Batman, standing on the roof of a building. A flash of lightning confirms his presence, before he disappears. Take a look at the opening, it's pretty awesome.
    • In the first part of "Two-Face," Harvey Dent is sitting in the psychiatrist's office, discussing his mental problems, with his Face Framed in Shadow. Suddenly, lightning strikes, and the dark half of his face lights up... as Two Face.
  • Subverted in one scene from Gary Larson's Tales from the Far Side. In a dark, candlelit room a woman walks up to a man with his arms out; they embrace and start slow waltzing to Patsy Cline's "Crazy." As they spin throughout the room, lightning keeps flashing, revealing all sorts of large dangerous predators surrounding them ready to tear them to pieces... Suddenly the lights come on and policemen pour into the room whereupon they grab and handcuff the woman then pull her away from the man who is revealed to be frozen in the arms out position and standing on a little board with wheels. As the woman is led out of the building, we see the sign 'Bob's Taxidermy' over the door.

    Real Life 
  • Tornadoes at nighttime can sometimes fall under this trope. A flash of lightning can sometimes illuminate an otherwise invisible funnel cloud or debris circulation, and storm spotters are trained to look on the horizon and under cloud bases for something that is not lightning but might be confused for it and that is far more indicative of tornado danger - power flashes from the tornado itself snapping power lines and blowing transformers.

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