"Explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men in battle than a dozen at dinner."
A person or group of people are invited to a social gathering — a party, banquet, or any other form of get-together. However, it's just an excuse to get them all together and kill them.
An Old Dark House
is an ideal place to pull this off.
In Real Life
, this is literally one of The Oldest Tricks In The Book
— it's been played countless times since the beginning of history. It has also always been considered as an especially ruthless and evil thing to do, as it is the ultimate violation of Sacred Hospitality
— transgressing against the latter is frowned upon even by warlike cultures and usually crosses the Moral Event Horizon
. It's a classic nevertheless, because, after all, it is also very effective and convenient.
A subtrope of Lured Into a Trap
. Compare Reunion Revenge
, A Fęte Worse Than Death
, Board to Death
and Ten Little Murder Victims
Nothing to do with
the Conservative Party of Great Britain, occasionally known as "the nasty party" by its critics. Also not to be confused with the Nazi Party
As this trope involves death and betrayal, all spoilers on this page are unmarked.
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Anime and Manga
- Lupin III (Red Jacket) first episode ("The Return of Lupin III") features the gang — including the Inspector Zenigata — reuniting after they all get invitations to a cruise ship. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a ploy by a former criminal mastermind who's out to get revenge on Lupin.
- A variation of this is shown in the Xxx HO Li C movie, although the host doesn't kill them, he simply "collects" them.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni plays with the trope; the party isn't specifically to kill the participants, but the more people that gather there, the less likely it is that someone important will die in the summoning of an ancient witch.
- The opening chapter of Fairy Tail has a villain who uses magic to trick women into going to a party on his boat, then drugging them and selling them into slavery.
- In Maiden Rose, the introduction to the first real villain, Princess Theodora, has her eating a nice dinner with her cabinet ministers on their private train. Or rather, she's eating, and they're are lying dead on the table after ingesting a little too much poison. Apparently the dinner party was "rather boring".
- To an extent, Mewtwo from Pokémon: The First Movie. He sends several invitations to his Island Base for trainers in what appears to be a challenge from the world's best trainer, but it's just a ruse to take the Pokémon to use for his cloning machine (the logic being that the trainers who made it to the island had the strongest Pokémon). Once his plan his complete, he decides to spare his "guests" to give them preparation for their eventual deaths at his hands.
- The "Murderer Party" arc of Murciélago centers around a man named Satori Hyoue who has invited several criminals, including the protagonist, to a party in order to murder them all.
- In Hack Slash, Laura Lochs decides to wipe out a beach party full of kids on spring break as a protest against sexual permissiveness.
- In the EC Comics Shock SuspenStory "Just Desserts!", a man holds a dinner party for the nanny whose negligence led to his son's accidental death, the business partner who defrauded him into ruin, the aunt who refused to bail him out of bankruptcy, and his wife and her lover who were carrying on behind his back. It ends with a Splash Panel showing all the guests seated at the dinner table as decapitated corpses.
- The massacre at the Bar With No Name during the original "Scourge of the Underworld" storyline, where eighteen villains were murdered, was a variation on this, except that the host wasn't behind it. The villains had met there to discuss the danger that Scourge posed, and because they knew at this point that he was a Master of Disguise, they doubled down on security, had everyone searched before entering, and they all checked their weapons at the door. Unfortunately, Scourge had disguised himself as the bartender, and no-one ever thought to search him, leaving them all vulnerable when he made his attack, gunning them all down.
- Goldfinger features the titular villain explaining his villainous plot, Operation Grand Slam, to a group of foreign crime lords just before releasing poisonous gas into the room. Since he didn't need them for his plan anyway, it seems like he built the insanely elaborate room (complete with rotating furniture and scale models) purely to gloat about his scheme. For plot purposes it's to provide an eavesdropping James Bond with the details. The original novel explains it by having Goldfinger explaining his plan to the other crime lords so that he can borrow some of their manpower to help with the job in exchange for a cut of the profits. The ones who don't agree with the plan suffer an 'accident' on their way out of the building, and the others survive to participate in the heist.
- The movie version of Clue. With the twist that one of the guests, and not the host, is doing the killing except in the "true" ending, where it turns out that all the guests save one and the host himself are murderers: they were invited by Mr. Boddy for the express purpose of killing his informants, conveniently cleaning up any evidence against him and ensuring they all had at least one new skeleton in the closet for Mr. Boddy to blackmail them for. Then it turns out that the one guest who was actually innocent is actually a federal agent, and he kills Mr. Boddy just as the cavalry arrives.
- I Still Know What You Did Last Summer has the villain Benjamin Willis concocting a convoluted plot to kill the heroine Julie and her friends; first he has his son Will befriend Julie, then he has a fake radio contest in which Julie's friend Karla "wins" tickets to an island in the Bahamas, and while the group are on the island Willis starts taking out all the remaining employees so he can have Julie all to himself. Of course, things don't work out.
- In Hellraiser: Hellworld the villain simply known as the Host hosts a Hellworld party and invites the friends of his son Adam, who he blames for Adam's death, to the festivities. While the group are partying the Host drugs them, buries them alive and starts manipulating their perception of reality via messages sent through cellphones to make them believe (the thought fictional) Pinhead and Cenobites are killing them, causing them to die in real life from such things as heart attacks and self-inflicted wounds.
- In The Final, a group of outcast students invite the bullies & snobs who have tormented them throughout high school to a costume party. It's not because they want to play Pin The Tail On The Donkey.
- Inglourious Basterds features a Nasty Nazi Party where Shoshanna plans to kill the German high command by burning down her movie theater while they're in it.
- In the remake of House On Haunted Hill, the ghosts alter the guest list of the Prices' party in order to gather the descendants of their murderers into the house to be tortured and killed.
- In Adele Hasn't Had Her Dinner Yet, Baron von Kratzmar invites Professor Bocek and his granddaughter for tea and to watch the feeding of a carnivorous plant. What the Baron didn't say is that... Adele is a Man-Eating Plant and Professor Bocek is to be her first course. Kvetuska, the granddaughter, will be violated by Baron's servant and then sold to a South American brothel.
- Used in a book of The Dresden Files, in which the leader of Chicago's vampires invites everyone she hates to a party so she can kill them all. This was incredibly risky as Sacred Hospitality is very important in the supernatural circles and breaching it would be construed as an act of war. She planned to force Harry to break hospitality and then could offer a Sadistic Choice without any political backlash. She did not expect him to burn the entire mansion down around her.
- This is how the dictator gets rid of all his rivals in Gabriel García Márquez's The Autumn of the Patriarch.
- The climax of Victor Hugo's Lucrezia Borgia has the title character, a notorious poisoner, setting up one of these for the nobles who turned Gennaro, whom they did not recognize as her son, against her. Unfortunately, Gennaro is among the attendees at the party and tragedy quickly ensues.
- The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud features more than one scheme of this type.
- This was the plot of the R.L. Stine novel The Halloween Party.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Edmure Tully's wedding gains the moniker "The Red Wedding" for this very reason. In revenge for a political slight and open treason (respectively), Walder Frey and Tywin Lannister arrange to have Robb, Catelyn, and a large percentage of their bannermen slaughtered at the reception.
- Later in the same book, Lady Tyrell (probably, the culprit is not explicit) murders Joffrey at his own wedding, framing Tyrion for the act.
- Done several times in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Notable ones include Cai Mao's attempt on Liu Bei (unsuccessful), Zhuge Liang drugging a number of Nanman soldiers (they had been planning on using the banquet to make a surprise attack), and Zhou Yu's attempt on Liu Bei (also unsuccessful, as Liu Bei was accompanied by Guan Yu).
- A strategy supposed to have been used by some Pictsie clans. Always seems to fail because everybody gets too drunk to carry the plan out effectively.
- Referenced as a strategy in Interesting Times. However, Cohen points out it would not be appropriate to their situation, as they are up against 700,000 enemy soldiers. He also notes at great length that he would never use poison; his preferred method is to get everyone drunk and then cut their heads off. One of Cohen's fellow octogenarian barbarians says they could still pull it off, if they did something easy for dinner, "like pasta".
- Conan the Barbarian. In one story, he starts a fight in the middle of a victory feast, wiping out the warriors of the tribe they were allied with but no longer need to. Apparently, this form of betrayal is a local tradition and thus not dishonorable (Conan's men were simply faster to act).
- In the short story "Invitation to a Poisoning" by Peter Tremayne, the villain Nechtan invites all his enemies to dinner and then poisons himself since he believes that he is dying of cancer and would like to frame one or more of his enemies for his murder. Inviting the heroine, who happens to be a professional investigator, to the party proves to be a mistake.
- In John Christopher's post-apocalyptic young-adult novel The Prince In Waiting, the protagonist's father (ruler of the city where the action is set) is invited to a gathering and murdered.
- In Saga by Conor Kostick, there is a nasty party with tiers. As each successive group of nobles is killed in creative ways (poison, being glued down and stabbed....), the remaining clever ones who think themselves in the know have a good laugh. Eventually there are only three left, two of whom are killed by the only person left who really knew what was going on.
- Older Than Feudalism: Xenophon records at least two:
- In one the Anabasis, the commanders of the army of ten thousand Greek mercenaries were invited to a banquet by their supposed Persian collaborator, Tissaphernes. He kills them, leaving the army leaderless (until a sneeze inspires them to elect new officers and march back to Greece).
- In The Education of Cyrus, he indicates that Astyages (Cyrus' Mede maternal grandfather), attempting to seek revenge on his brother Harpagus, lured Harpagus' son to a banquet, killed him, and then fed Harpagus his son's flesh at the banquet. Then, in a truly inspired move, Astyages gave Harpagus command of an army sent to kill Cyrus. Instead, when they met, Harpagus joined forces with Cyrus to bring Astyages down.
- Mentioned in The Magician's Nephew by Jadis as how one of her ancestors dealt with supposedly rebellious nobles.
- The premise behind Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.
- Admiral Daala of the Star Wars Expanded Universe fame didn't want to do this at first; she sincerely hoped that the Imperial warlords, whom she invited to a council at Tsoss Beacon, will cooperate and stop their Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. However, they didn't, so Daala picked the Only Sane Man, Captain Pellaeon, and killed the rest with poison gas.
- In the Left Behind book Assassins, Pontifex Maximus Peter Mathews of Enigma Babylon One World Faith is invited to a private party hosted by the ten regional subpotentates of the Global Community to show him a massive ice sculpture made in his honor. However, in playing out what the Book of Revelation says about the "whore that sits on the beast", the ten subpotentates use that party as a united opportunity to kill Peter Mathews with sharp ice feathers from the sculpture, eventually causing Enigma Babylon to fold with the Pontifex Maximus' death and to soon be replaced with Carpathianism following Nicolae Carpathia's death and "resurrection".
- The Martian Chronicles: In "Usher II", Stendhal and Pikes construct Stendahl's image of the perfect haunted mansion, complete with mechanical creatures, creepy soundtracks, and thousands of tons of poison to kill every living thing in the surrounding area. They then invite the Moral Climate Monitors to visit and kill each of them in ways that allude to different horror masterpieces.
Live Action TV
- Angel had a bachelor party where the groom and his family were planning to eat the bride's ex-husband's brains. (Long Story).
- The new Doctor Who:
- In "The End of the World", the villain attempts to create a hostage situation and position him/herself as one of the hostages. When that fails, he/she attempts to kill everyone in order to benefit from shares that he/she owned in their competitors. It is referred in this episode as "the Bad Wolf scenario" (which Silent Hunter thought about using as a title for this trope).
- The episode "The Sound of Drums" sees The Master, in the guise of newly-elected Prime Minister Mr. Saxon, calling a meeting of all his ministers just to gas them to death.
- Young Dracula:
- The Count invites his mortal neighbours to a 'Hunt Ball', with them not realising they are to become the prey for the vampire guests at the end of the night's festivities.
- The Carpathian Feast, where one vampire is roasted to death at the end of the evening. It's used by the Count to kill Erin.
- The Avengers episode "The Superlative Seven" has the eponymous seven thinking they've been invited to a costume party. It's not.
- One early Remington Steele case started when a plastic surgeon shot himself to death while holding an invitation to an island resort's exclusive grand opening weekend. Laura and Steele pose as the physician and his nurse to attend the party, and soon the rest of the guests start dying off one by one.
- In Game of Thrones, the Red Wedding (as it is known in the book series source material) happens near the end of Season 3, and is just as vividly brutal as it is in the books.
- On Vikings Ragnar pulls this on Jarl Borg. He declares that he want to end the feud with Jarl Borg and invites him to a peace meeting. Borg brings a sizable force of bodyguards with him but Ragnar's men trap them in a house and kill them all. Borg is then executed via Blood Eagle.
- Horik tries to pull this on his ally Ragnar after he becomes worried that Ragnar will use his popularity to usurp Horik as king. He comes to Ragnar's village under the pretext of arranging marriages between his daughters and Ragnar's sons. However, he also lands a large group of warriors in a remote bay and they then march to attack the village at night after everyone has tired from the festivities and has gone to sleep. However, Ragnar has figured out Horik's plan long ago and Horik's men walk into a trap where they killed and then Horik's family is slaughtered.
- Whodunnit? (UK): In "Final Verdict", the eight surviving members of a jury who sentenced a man to life imprisonment invited to to a dinner party on the 20th anniversary of the day they delivered the verdict. However, one of them is the killer in disguise, and announces (via tape recording) that all of them will die unless they can identify the imposter.
Myth and Legend
- Towards the middle of the Nibelungenlied, Siegfried is murdered by his wife's brothers. The widow, Kriemhild, then marries the king of the Huns and invites her brothers and all their retinue to a feast. Unfortunately they've been forewarned, and turn up armed; the result is an all-night bloodbath only brought to a close when the Huns burn down their own hall. Oh, and according to some versions of the story this leads to a disgusted Hun taking out Kriemhild with a Diagonal Cut.
- The legendary tradition of Britain, first laid out in the Welsh Historia Brittonum, has it that the Saxon king Hengist, after the Saxons' first quarrel with the Britons had been settled, invited King Vortigern of Britain with three hundred of his nobles to a banquet in celebration of the peace treaty — only to have them attacked and killed in the middle of the feast, sparing only King Vortigern, who was forced to ransom himself with ceding the Saxons further provinces of Britain. The event is also known as "The Night of Long Knives" and, if it ever happened, would have taken place around 460 AD.
- The ancient Egyptian tale of Osiris' death inverts this by featuring a party with one victim and 74 murderers. Set, god of storms and the desert and at the very least not a nice guy,note decides he's tired of always being in his brother's shadow, and it's time for a nice little round of fratricide. He and his human mistress Aso, Queen of Ethiopia, quickly find a whopping 72 other gods who also want to see Osiris go down. To this end they hold a grand where the only guests not in on the plot are Osiris himself, his wife Isis, and Set's innocent and long-suffering wife Nephthys, and trick Osiris into a coffin that Set and his friends seal with boiling lead. This backfires on Set, of course; Osiris comes Back from the Dead.
- In 2nd Kings 10:18-28 from The Bible, Jehu son of Jehoshaphat purposely had a group of Baal worshipers assemble together in the house of Baal for a solemn ceremony, claiming that he wants to worship Baal, but his real purpose was to have all the Baal worshipers slain, thus getting rid of Baal worship in the northern kingdom of Israel.
- Pulled off simultaneously with a fake Heel-Face Turn by Drachenfels, the Great Enchanter, in the backstory of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. He ostensibly repented his crimes, and publicly renounced evil, paid large reparations to his living victims, and abased himself at the graves of many others. He managed to gain the trust of Emperor Carolus and invited the whole imperial court for a feast at Castle Drachenfels. However, Drachenfels poisoned his guests, paralysing them. Helpless they saw how their children, which they had brought with them, were tortured. Afterwards they starved to death with a prepared feast before their eyes.
- The majority of the Solar Exalted were killed by the Dragon-Blooded in a banquet arranged in the Solars' honor.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has a book that increases the player's Alchemy skill called "A Game At Dinner." Guess what the game is.
- An assassin quest in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion actually has you taking part in one of these. You get bonuses if no-one realizes you're the killer, and if you play your cards right you can actually get them to kill each other out of paranoia.
- Mentioned in the bad ending of the first Laura Bow game.
- This is why six of the seven murder victims are in the house in the mystery of The 7th Guest.
- The "cake and party" at the end of the testing in Portal turns out to be a pit full of fire the player gets dumped into. Then they get out.
- In Assassin's Creed:
- In the first game, the assassination of "merchant king" Abu al-Nuqoub takes place at a party where he has poisoned the wine to kill all his guests.
- In Assassins Creed II, Vieri de' Pazzi (Ezio's rival and later assassination target) is said to have served dinners "to die for" to entire families of those who beat him at contests.
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance features a mad man who invited the entire town to his manor just so he could kill them all. For a one shot boss, he's quite memorable.
- Happens in the webtoon Big Bunny; in the story Big Bunny tells about the red, red, RED squirrel.
- Sluggy Freelance has the "Displacement" Story Arc, where a Mad Scientist holds an auction for his Displacement Drive Vehicle. He's not actually interested in selling it; he just knows that anyone who wants to steal the Displacement Drive will try doing so at the auction. So, by killing everyone who shows up, he guarantees its safety! Too bad a lot of the bidders are also Mad Scientists and supervillains who don't take too kindly to this plan.
- Kim Possible:
- Twice at Camp Wannaweep, and both times, it was Ron's archenemy Gill who wanted to kill and/or mutate them.
- Dr. Drakken has twice invited groups of famous scientists to conferences/traps. The first time, he invited Kim's father, a former schoolmate, without connecting the surname "Possible" to his nemesis ("It's a common name! Who knew?"). The second time he intentionally omitted Dr. Possible from the invite list to avoid attracting Kim's attention (it didn't matter, Kim was visiting her uncle at the Possible Ranch right down the road).
- The Venture Bros.:
- The show had an episode where Dr. Venture, Brock, Baron Ünderbheit and Pete White all attend the funeral of a friend from college, only for the friend, who wasn't really dead, to kidnap them all in revenge for their wronging him. It turns out that these slights all had to do with the man's crush on a girl at college; the four "victims" all mock this since the girl never knew he existed in the first place and the whole crush bordered on stalkerish obsession. Then it turns out the friend had died, ages ago, and the scheme was being carried out by a robot duplicate.
- There was the episode that introduced Underbheit where he holds a meeting with his subordinates and subsequently attempts to kill them. A later episode shows he failed, two of them run a resistance against him, a third is being held captive in his bedroom.
- The Futurama episode "Crimes of the Hot" culminates in this sort of gathering, orchestrated by President Nixon, intended to wipe out all robots to prevent global warming. Everyone in Planet Express knows it's a trap, but Bender doesn't care and goes anyway.
- The Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Surprise" has Moltar and Zorak rounding up the Council of Doom so they can throw a surprise party for Space Ghost's birthday. And by "surprise party", we mean "ambush". After suffering through a host of painful distractions, Space Ghost comes back, sees through their transparent attempt at hiding behind a curtain, and blows them up with his power bands.
- Subverted in "The Creeps" episode of Adventure Time. The protagonists are invited to a dark, spooky castle (which is heavily lampshaded), locked in, and then receive a message that a ghost will possess one of them and kill the others. This appears to happen, but eventually turns out to be a prank by Jake targeting Finn. Double subverted (?) since Finn intended to prank Jake and staged the first two "murders" accordingly; Jake found out about Finn's plans well in advance and turned the tables on him.
- Niccolň Machiavelli, in his classic work of political science The Prince, describes just such a banquet hosted by Oliverotto Da Fermo. Oliverotto invited all the nobles of Fermo who might oppose him to a banquet, then invited them to meet with him privately to discuss serious political matters — in a room where he had armed men waiting to massacre them.
- Vlad the Impaler supposedly organized a Nasty Party a couple times, once reacting to a begging epidemic in one of his domains by inviting all of the beggars to a huge Christmas party, locking them in, then setting the place on fire. There was also the time, early in his first reign, when he invited nearly all of Wallachia's ruling nobles to a fancy Easter feast. During the feast he asked them, almost idly, "How many rulers of our nation have you known?" The nobles responded that they'd all known anything from half a dozen (for the youngest) to more than they could remember, all of them taken down by their own backstabbing and conniving. One of these nobles had been Vlad's own father. The enraged Vlad called in his troops, told them that they were ruining the nation by their treachery, and worked them and their families to death building a new castle for him. He promised that the survivors would be "Raised above all other men." And they were... He had them impaled.
- The Banquet of Nyköping in 1317. The Swedish king Birger had invited his younger brothers, dukes Valdemar and Erik, to Castle Nyköping to feast at Christmas. After everyone had gotten drunk, king Birger imprisoned his brothers, put them in the oubliette of the castle and (so tradition says) threw the key into the nearby river. The dukes died from starvation. A large medieval key was found near the castle in 1847.
- It has happened so many times in Islamic history:
- The first time was when the Abbasid dynasty, Abu al-Abbas Saffah, invited 80 princes of the previous Ummayyad dynasty to a banquet and had them all stabbed. His men then covered the bodies with rugs and then the actual banquet, with other guests, commenced. To this day, "saffah" is the Arabic word for "Serial Killer" (or mass-murderer, depending on dialect).
- In 1811, when Muhammad Ali Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Egypt (although "governor" is hardly the right word, since by that time he was de facto independent of the Sultan in Istanbul), lured the leaders of the Mamluk ruling class to a banquet in his citadel. He had them go down a dead end, trapped them, and had them all shot.
- The story known in Toledo, Spain as La Jornada del Foso ("The Day of the Ditch"). In early Muslim Spain, the former Visigothic capital at Toledo often went its own way and paid little attention to the emir sitting in Cordoba. Thus, one day around the year 800 AD, the emir sent a new governor named Amrus to Toledo who invited the most influential nobles of the city for a party to his palace, and placed a pair of executioners armed with axes behind its entry gates. Thus, each time a "guest" crossed the door, the executioners cut his head off and threw the body in the titular ditch. From then on, Toledo remained calm and in a tight leash - until 30 years later, when Amrus died and coincidentally, the sons of the executed found themselves to be old enough to rebel against Cordoba.
- In 1929, Al Capone learned that three men intended to betray him. He invited them to a lavish banquet, and once they'd eaten and drunk their fill ordered his bodyguards to tie the men to their chairs. Capone worked all three over with a baseball bat, before finally ordering his guards to shoot the would-be betrayers and dump the remains.
- Jim "Shanghai" Kelly, one of the most notorious crimps (maritime kidnappers) in the 19th century, was said to have once thrown a "birthday party" for himself in order to attract enough victims to man a notorious sailing ship called the Reefer as well as two other ships.
- Caligula was said to host various dinner parties, only to have his guests executed and/or sleep with said guests' wives and come back to gloat about their sexual performance.
- The Black Dinner in Scotland in 1440, in which the sixth Earl of Douglas and his brother David Douglas were invited to dine with the king, given a rapid show trial, and executed for treason. George RR Martin has stated that this incident inspired the one in A Song of Ice and Fire.
- One of Joseph Stalin's infamous tricks used in the Great Purge is inviting a lot of Red Army commanders to Moscow, supposedly for promotion. They were all either intercepted en route by NKVD agents and arrested, or arrested on arrival. One of those commanders, one Primakov, managed to thwart the agents who boarded his train on a small station in the middle of the travel and hand them to local police as "White Guards in disguise". On arrival, a much larger party of "White Guards in disguise" was waiting for him.
- Those Wacky Nazis' Sonderaktion Krakau. Shortly after the German conquest of Poland, the entire academic staff of the famous Jagiellonian University in Krakow were invited to a meeting on the new regime's plans for higher education in Poland. Those plans turned out to be "wipe it out". 184 of them were beaten up and shipped off to a concentration camp, where 17 of them died before international outrage, even from Benito Mussolini, drove the Germans to release them.
- Technically a really Nasty Afterparty, the St. Bartholomews Day Massacre was basically the Red Wedding taken Up to Eleven. Ivan the Terrible expressed his horror in a letter.
- The shogun Ashikaga Yoshinori came to a bad end at a festive dinner party arranged by Akamatsu Mitsusuke, who, feigning madness likely due to fear of incurring the wrath of the notoriously tyrannical shogun, had the invitations sent out in his son's name. The party, which included three Noh dramas, ended with the decapitation of Yoshinori, the slaughter of most of his retinue and the sudden appearance of a gloating Mitsusuke.