Make Sure He's Dead
A doctor gets a phone call from his best friend, and the frantic voice at the other end says "God, oh God, my wife's dead! I shot her! What do I do!?" The doc tells his friend to calm down. "OK, now the first thing is, you have to be sure that she's really dead." He hears silence at the other end, then a single gunshot. "OK, that did it. What next?"When a character defies No One Could Survive That by making sure the dead person stays dead. Can be done with bullets (sometimes lots of bullets or special types), fire, explosives, molecular disintegration, or a wooden stake, depending on what's available. This is the most effective way of dealing with a Zombie Apocalypse, assuming you can disable the victim in the first place and that you can find the body afterwards. One of many calling cards for the Dangerously Genre Savvy. Justified version of Desecrating The Dead; related to There Is No Kill Like Overkill and Rasputinian Death (if it's only the subsequent attempts that work). Failure to do this causes a response similar to Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him? (in this case, Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him Again?). The Double Tap to the head is a common method of ensuring someone is really dead. You know the deal; it's a Death Trope, possible spoilers ahoy!
— Old joke
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Not satisfied filling Jotaro with knives and dropping him several stories, Dio Brando of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure decides to make sure he's dead by cajoling a policeman into shooting him in the heart. Then he puts his ear to the ground to make sure Jotaro's heart has stopped. Then, just to be sure, he grabs a street sign and tries to decapitate Jotaro's body, which was exactly what Jotaro was hoping for.
- Sometimes, this backfires badly. In Rurouni Kenshin, Makoto Shishio originally worked as a 'manslayer' during the rebellion, but for for some reason, his employers decided to get rid of him. They knew just how tough he was, and sent a small army after him, including firearms. When he finally went down - after killing more than half of his assailants - they decided to make REALLY sure he was dead... They poured oil over him and set him on fire, essentially cremating him on the spot... SOMEHOW Shishio still survived, albeit with third-degree burns covering his entire body, and thus turns into the 'Bandaged up like a mummy' baddie we know.
- Though it is not shown the Blonde in Gunjo is implied to have done this.
- When Naruto attacked Kakuzu with an attack that quite literally tore him apart at the cellular level, Kakashi moved in afterward to ensure he was dead. It's a good thing he did because Kakuzu was still alive.
- The bad guys in Ninja Scroll see the god guys trying to slip across a river, and The Dragon with electricity superpowers sends a massive electrical charge into the river, enough to basically blow it up and flash-fry everything in it, in an attempt to kill the protagonists. The other minions are immediately sure that it must have killed the heroes, but the Dragon, who's already seen the heroes defy death a few times, tells them to check the river and be sure.
- The calling card for Vino, a Mafia assassin from Baccano!. His killings are said to be disturbingly messy, for the purpose of making sure he finished the job.
- In the first issue of the comic book miniseries Black Orchid, this is done to the title character using fire, as a followup to lampshading Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? and shooting her. This is on the second page.
- In issue #6 of the MAX Punisher series, the titular antihero finds himself fighting a mafia hitman who just seems to soak up everything he throws at him. Even after Frank gives the man a brutal beat down and throws him out the window of a seven-story building, impaling him on a wrought iron fence, the mafioso pursues Frank (with a piece of the fence still inside him as he walks). Only after Frank blows the man's head off with a shotgun blast does he finally go down for the count.
- In one of Toyfare's "Big Shots" strips, an assassin justifies cutting a mark's head off to his partner as making absolutely sure the job is done. He then chalks his shooting of the body multiple times after decapitating it up to spite.
- Batman: The Cult, Deacon Joseph Blackfire, the main villain, has a totem in his likeness that in hallucinations appears far taller than it is. However, after Blackfire dies, Batman is genre savvy enough not to take the chance of it being mystical, and proceeds to douse the thing in gasoline and set fire to it to keep the Deacon dead. He came back, but a reboot happened between events.
Films — Live-Action
- Scream (1996), where the Final Girl Sydney, cold as ice, puts a bullet right between the eyes of the killer when he wakes up. "Not in my movie."
- Rule #2 of surviving in Zombieland: Double Tap.
- In Jeepers Creepers, when Trish and Darry are confronted on the highway Trish runs The Creeper over. When Dary asks is Trish thinks she's really dead, Trish shows her Dangerously Genre Savvy nature and proceeds to run him over not twice but five times. Unfortunately, it got better.
- In Trick 'r Treat, Kreeg blasts Sam again with his gun after the latter finally goes down, and it still isn't enough.
- In Sin City, after Hartigan's bullet causes the assassin chasing them -Roark Junior- to crash, he tells Nancy to pull over so he can go back and confirm the kill. Unfortunately, while they're looking for him, Junior manages to sneak past them and stow away in their car.
- In The Godfather, Sonny is killed by a small squad of mafia hitmen. One of these hitmen showers his corpse with bullets, spraying his body from top to bottom to make sure he died, then kicks him in the head.
- In the movie adaptation of Bloodrayne, the protagonists decapitate fallen vampires to make sure they're really dead.
- In The Shawshank Redemption, the man who killed Andy's wife and her lover technically did this, although the prosecutor's point when telling the court that the gun would have to have been emptied reloaded several times was that the killer did so for sadistic rather than pragmatic reasons. Fair point; he just had the wrong man.
- This is done in a kaiju fight in Pacific Rim by a pilot who lost his brother to a kaiju who hadn't really been dead years before and didn't want to repeat the mistake. "Let's check for a pulse to be sure." (BANG BANG BANG) "Yup, no pulse."
- In Olympus Has Fallen, the terrorists attacking the White House shoot all the Secret Service agents who appear dead in the head as they pass, to make sure they don't get up.
- In Blood Diamond, Danny Archer shoots a pair of RUF soldiers at a checkpoint. A third soldier, surprised and unarmed, tries to flee. As Danny goes after the third one, he casually puts a bullet in the heads of both of the fallen soldiers he shot seconds ago as he walks past them.
- Skyfall: After the titular manor explodes, the villain Silva says this to his henchmen regarding Bond, as he himself is still hell-bent on killing M.
- One of the students in Battle Royale took advantage of being issued a bulletproof vest and getting a motorcycle helmet to trick opponents by pretending to have been shot and then taking them when their guard was down. Unfortunately, this trick failed when Kazuo Kiriyama made sure to put a bullet in his brain to be certain.
- In Mage: The Ascension novel "The Road To Hell", the Technocracy soldiers sent after Seventeen are ordered to make sure he's dead. He's not, but with all the magi-tech modifications they did to Seventeen he probably could have survived a few dozen rounds to the brain anyway.
- This trope is invoked retroactively to make Hogfather antagonist Teatime's introduction even more creepy and Badass.
Teatime: I checked his breathing with a mirror, just like you said.Lord Downey: Yes, I understand his head was several feet from his body at that point.
- The World War II novels by Sven Hassel frequently mention that veterans never pass an enemy corpse without putting a bullet through it.
- Subverted in the Knight and Rogue Series. After Michael is tossed of a cliff the mooks are ordered to go down and make that he didn't break his fall with anything on the way down. Not wanting to treck down a cliff and back up again, they pretend to go down and return saying he died.
- After staking Vampire-Lucy in Dracula, Van Hellsing has her head removed and then filled with garlic. It appears, given later Vampire-deaths, that removing the head of a dead vampire removes their Immortal Inertia and they revert to a human corpse of appropriate age. Since Lucy's corpse was too fresh to immediately rot (as, for example, Dracula himself did), filling the mouth with garlic is probably a way of making sure it doesn't come back as something undead in the meantime.
- In an example of Fridge Brilliance, he's actually combining several methods of vampire killing. He didn't know WHICH myth was true!
- Stargate SG-1: After taking down the genetically-altered Monster of the Week, Vala dumps another clip into it "just to be sure."
- Stargate Atlantis: Subverted in "The Defiant One" when Sheppard seems to kill a Wraith, then puts a few more rounds into him for good measure, only for the Wraith to get back on his feet and start shooting back.
- Jack's Advice to Kim in the second season of 24
Jack: Is he dead?Kim: I think so.Jack: Shoot him again.
- The comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? says this: "He tried to murder me. When you kill someone by chopping off their head, wrapping the body in a carpet and lighting it on fire, you better make sure they're dead."
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In a season 2 episode, Buffy furiously smashes the bones of the already dead The Master with a sledgehammer in order to make sure he can't be resurrected. "Make sure he's dead" and "make sure he stays dead" are basically the same thing in the Buffyverse.
- An amusing variant occurs when Buffy knows Dracula will immediately reconstitute himself after being staked so she sticks around to stake him again. When he starts pulling himself together yet again, she points out that she's standing right there and he dissipates completely. In this case, she couldn't permanently kill him but she did make sure he knew she wouldn't tolerate him trying to come back.
- In Angel season 4, Wesley decapitates Lilah to make sure she doesn't return as a vampire. There wasn't any danger of that, but he didn't know that at the time. Then she 'did' come back as one of Wolfram & Hart's Undead Employees.
- In the crime noir RPG Dog Town, player criminals are urged to put three bullets, called "to-be-sures," into the heads of those they kill.
- Any Genre Savvy character (or at least one who's been around long enough) in Deadlands will eventually act in line with this trope, as in Deadlands, literally *anyone* can potentially rise up from the dead. It's even part of the game mechanics for the player characters.
- This is simply sound practice in Dungeons & Dragons, considering how many ways there are for monsters and villains to heal themselves, shrug off dismemberment, negate or simply ignore damage, and otherwise feign lethal injury. At higher levels it becomes a matter of Making Sure He Stays Dead or Making Sure He's Dead Enough, and at even higher levels the matter of Making Sure We Were Even Fighting Him In The First Place.
- Either bleed people out (ground headshot) in MAG or risk an enemy medic getting them back up again.
- At the end of Mass Effect 1, Shepard orders this on Saren after the latter either falls in battle with your squad or commits suicide. Subverted when Sovereign reanimates Saren's corpse as a husk, even after one of your party members plugs him in the head one more time.
- In the multiplayer of Mass Effect 3, the enemies get in on the action. Losing all your health only knocks you down, where you can be revived by an ally or by using medi-gel before bleeding out. However, any nearby first-tier enemies (Cerberus Troopers, Geth Troopers, and Cannibals), if left alone, will execute downed players, killing them off for the rest of the wave.
- Harbinger in Mass Effect 2 is Dangerously Genre Savvy enough to take it to the next level: even after killing and confirming the death of Commander Shepard in the opening sequence, Harbinger attempts to acquire the Commander's body just in case. It fails, and Shepard is resurrected by Cerberus. In hindsight, Harbinger probably knew that resurrection was possible, and wanted to get the body to ensure it wouldn't happen.
- This is generally a good idea in Dead Space. If there's a body on the ground, put a round into it. If it moves, put a few more into it. Ammo's cheaper than medkits.
- After the player defeats Jack Lupino in Max Payne, the next storyboard sequence begins with Max putting another full mag of rounds into Lupino's body. Whether it's an example of this trope (and a sensible precaution given that Lupino was high on something best described as "PCP meets LSD") or Max simply getting a bit carried away is left slightly unclear.
When Lupino finally went down, I wanted to make real sure he'd stay that way. V was a bad monster, turned them into freaking zombie demons from outer space.
- In EP6 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Erika, unable to invoke detective's authority to determine that the "corpses" she investigated were dead or alive, decided to guarantee their death in a different way: by beheading them.
- Note that the 'corpses' were alive and just were people playing dead to play a trick on Erika. But due to Knox's Sevent preventing the detective from being the killer, the story is changed so that they were dead beforehand. Doesn't change the fact she killed five people for no reason if you don't take story conventions into account.
- In evil biomes in Dwarf Fortress, this (via butchering) is an absolute necessity unless you want anything that dies (or the body parts of anything that dies) to reanimate and attack you again. Butchering can be problematic with sentient creatures, as dwarven ethics disallow the butchering of sentients. Plus, if you're not careful, necromancers can still revive butchered skins and bones. Dumping corpses into magma or crushing them with a Dwarven Atom Smasher is more reliable.
- The update to v0.40 has slightly relaxed these requirements. "Pulping" body parts with blunt-force trauma is now possible, which makes them immune to Animate Dead.
- In Fallout: New Vegas addon Dead Money, the main enemies are the Ghost people, who get back up each time you down them... Until you cripple one of their limbs. You heard it, keep bashing them after they fall. That's the only way to really kill them.
- The Evil Within: Much like Dead Space, you're going to find a LOT of enemies who look dead but are just sleeping or playing dead. Even enemies found hanging on a rope. Burning these bodies is a good way of ensuring that they're dead without wasting precious bullets AND looting their burning corpses! Just make sure you don't keep throwing matches on the ground when your enemy is hanged - wastes supplies. Also, most enemies whose heads have been completely blown off are usually dead.
- During the hospital portion of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain there's a bit where you and Ishmael hide among the fallen bodies of those who've already been slaughtered. Except the troops storming the hospital are shooting the corpses too, just to make sure. You're saved mostly by the sudden appearance of the Man on Fire.
- Evil Overlord List Rule 13:
All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.
- From the "The List of Character Survival Techniques v1.5":
31. Confirm your killsIn gun games, ammo is rarely so scarce that you can't spare two bullets to splatter a body's head. If ammo is scarce, refer to fantasy rule below.Fantasy rule: Behead anything you think you've killed...Always confirm your kills if possible. If you didn't confirm the kill, don't be surprised when you see him/her/it walking down the street or crawling through your bedroom window.
- The World's Funniest Joke:
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?". The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"
- In Freeman's Mind, Gordon has explicitly stated he doesn't need to make confirmation kills. Apparently he's not at that stage of his life just yet.
- In Panthera, they never stop to empty a few rounds into the corpse of their old master, even though they could only guess that he was really dead, and if he wasn't he'd be fine in five minutes.
- "When you kill someone, make sure they're dead."
- In Transformers Animated, the first thing Megatron does when he gets his new Earth-mode body is to perform a Curb-Stomp Battle on the Autobots. The second thing he does, is to kill Starscream for betraying him. However Starscream returns and when Megatron puts him down this time, orders confirmation and Lugnut finds that his Spark has been extinguished, thus he is actually technically dead. Also however though, is that Starscream returns to life again, discovering that whilst he should be dead, a piece of The AllSpark had become lodged in his forehead, effectively making him immortal for as long as it remains there. Thus he's free to attempt more attacks against Megatron. Not that Megatron seems to mind having more opportunities to kill Starscream mind you.
- Maschalismos is the real-world zontanecrological practice of preparing a corpse so that it can't rise from the dead.
- Soldiers engaged in urban combat will sometimes employ a technique called an 'Anchor Shot' when clearing buildings of enemies. Enemies that appear to be dead will be shot in the head in passing as a team of solders proceeds further into a building. This is to ensure that said enemies don't get up later and attack the team from behind.
- Another technique is what's called the Mozambique Drill, designed for close quarters combat. In the heat of the moment, put a pair of shots into your opponents chest. Afterwards, when they're either dead, dying, or incapacitated, carefully aim and shoot them in the head to be sure of finishing them off. The big driver for this technique is the development of the Bullet Proof Vest. A common variant on this drill is two rapid shots to center of mass (easier shots to make) followed by a measured shot to the head (more likely to kill a target), without a delay to determine if your first shots did the job or not.
- Although the exact details are disputed, there was a famous confrontation between Robert the Bruce (future King Robert I of Scotland) and his rival John Comyn, who at that point were the only two realistic choices for the throne of Scotland. The two had chosen to meet at a church, in the assumption that it would be truce ground and there could be no outbreak of violence, but nonetheless things got violent between them and Robert stabbed Comyn. Robert then left the church, reportedly saying, perhaps in a My God, What Have I Done? mode, "I'm afraid I have killed Comyn!" His ally and distant cousin, Roger de Kirkpatrick, replied "I'll make sure" and went into the church, and when he found Comyn wounded but alive, Kirkpatrick finished the job. When Robert was crowned weeks afterward, he granted titles and lands to Kirkpatrick, who chose "I make sure" as his family motto.
- A less bloody version than most: Shortly after the adventurer Thomas Blood died, the authorities had his body dug up to check that it was really him. He had a reputation for escaping the inescapable.