"Heh heh! Take
that, egg! Shit, this movie's dark."
A character wields something in a threatening manner, the music builds, and then... the character does something utterly benign with that thing. It is often Played for Laughs
It can overlap with Mistaken for Murderer
. While that trope is an entire plot leading up to the reveal, this trope does it in less than one scene. The overlap is that such a plot can have several moments like this.
Compare Stab the Scorpion
. Not related to Stab the Sky
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Anime and Manga
- Used in a DiGiorno commercial parodying Psycho, in which "Mother" raises her knife.... and cuts the pizza.
- There was a Halls commercial in which someone raises his knife seemingly to use it to attack another person who's coughing, and then uses it to chop a piece off from the pack.
- There was a commercial (can't remember what it was for) where a man buys meat from a butcher and leaves in a hurry (the place was rather unsettling) and the butcher is seen stepping outside the shop with what looks like an evil glare on his face. The man runs and is pursued by the butcher, who is holding a huge knife the entire time, and is eventually cornered in an alley. The butcher reaches down then lifts up the knife and...simply says 'You forget your wallet.', which he then returns to the man.
Films — Animated
- The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: When Lady Tottington asks what Wallace and Gromit are going to do with the bunnies they have caught, the next shot has Gromit holding something on a cutting board and raising a big knife...and then he starts cutting up carrots for the bunnies.
- The Road to El Dorado: At one point during the song "It's Tough To Be A God", Miguel and Tulio have their suspicions that the villagers may realize that they aren't actually gods, and we see the villagers raise their swords to them and bring them down while they scream and we see what appears to be blood spray, it turns out they cut open some watermelons.
Films — Live-Action
- Creepy, Nightmare Fuel inspiring Nazi Torture Technician Toht does this in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He comes into the tent where Action Girl Marion is being held, effortlessly disarms her, then pulls out a strange chain and wood instrument. Everyone who remembers Toht holding a red hot poker inches from Marion's eye earlier in the movie holds their breath...then lets out a relieved sigh as it turns out to merely be a portable coat hanger.
- Hell, even Belloq, Toht's own ally, lets out a relieved sigh at that point.
- This was actually based on a gag from a deleted scene of Spielberg's previous film 1941note . He swore he'd try to put it in every later movie he made until it stuck and luckily got his wish right away.
- Parodied in Family Guy by the Russian prime minister who uses a crossbow bolt to hang his tie and lights a cigarette with a lighter that looks like an assault rifle aside from doing the above gag.
- The movie version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has this. The executioner raises up his axe, the music plays as we hear a wet "thunk" and crows fly off... Later it's revealed that he only chopped a pumpkin in half out of frustration because Harry and Hermione went back in time and freed Buckbeak. The same trick is used in the book, except the axe is swung into a fence.
- Used in Disturbia where the suspected killer sneaks up on the woman with a knife and cuts off the tag on her dress.
- In Mars Attacks!, the aliens toss an ominously glowing sphere into the White House's War Room. They shake the object, revealing it to be a snowglobe, point, laugh, then shoot everyone anyway.
- The Monster Squad pulls this off on the audience: After the kids are confronted by the Scary German Guy, the next scene shows him wielding a large butcher knife and threatening that their time is almost up...because it's their last chance for more pie. Scary German Guy is bitchin', indeed.
- M might be the Trope Maker: near the end, a beggar witness points out Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) as being the child murderer; unfortunately, Beckert has already ensnared his next victim and is taking her to a candy shop. A criminal follows them, hoping to corner Beckert and save the child, and starts forward in horror as Beckert pulls out a knife... only to use it to cut the peel off an orange. Audiences at the time, familiar with the all-too-fresh string of murders which inspired the film, were not amused.
- A particularly dark form of this shows up in Trick 'r Treat, in which the "innocent" explanation is almost as bad as what the audience had first assumed. It really looks like Serial Killer Steven Wilkins just knifed his own son, Billy. But no, he was just helping Billy carve a jack o' lantern out of a human head.
- In their final fight in Rush Hour 2, Dragon Lady Hu Li grabs a pair of chopsticks and then uses them to tie her hair back before she takes on Carter.
- Diamonds Are Forever. While pretending to be a waiter, Mr. Wint raises a icepick-like device high in the air next to James Bond. He then strikes down but not to stab Bond: he drives it into the cork of a wine bottle, then uses it to extract the cork.
- Something similar happens in Loaded Weapon 1 where Spinach Destiny takes an icepick and stabs a block of ice repeatedly saying "I! HATE! VIOLENCE!!!"...as Jack Colt and Wes Luger look on. Moments later, she turns around and offers them "Snow cone?"
- And still something similar happens in Hot Shots! Part Deux as Topper Harley and Michelle Huddleston "reenact" a scene in Basic Instinct. After tying Topper to the bed, Michelle slowly grabs a screwdriver under the mattress. She raises it over Topper's head and stabs...a loose screw on the bed's frame which was squeaking loudly. Michelle tightens the screw and oils it even. She then tests the bed and once assured the squeaking had stopped, Michelle proceeds to romance Topper.
- In Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, the duo end up in a black neighborhood and crash their car into a fire hydrant, spraying water everywhere and causing general havoc. The residents silently and purposefully collect tire irons and similar implements and march towards the accident scene. H&K flee in panic. Turns out the residents were planning to help fix the car.
- Played with in The Professional. Jean Reno is teaching a young Natalie Portman how to be an assassin. They set up a sniper rifle on the roof and shoot a politician jogging in the park, only for us to realize that it was a paintball gun.
- In The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, evil nanny Peyton sneaks into baby Joey's room late at night. She menacingly approaches his crib - pillow in hand - as the music builds. She ends up just placing the pillow under the baby's head.
- Whacko, a Psycho parody, opens with one of these, done by an actual serial killer who uses a halloween pumpkin motif.
- In Crash Peter, who is hitchhiking, is picked up by officer Hanson. They awkwardly try to bridge the gap between their cultures but Hanson, at one point thinking that Peter is drawing a gun on him, shoots and kills Peter. It turns out Peter was actually going to show him the St. Christopher figurine he always carries with him.
- Slight variation in Romancing the Stone, since no prop is involved. After bring the villain the map he wanted in exchange for her kidnapped sister, Joan Wilder has nothing of value left to keep said villain from eliminating her. With the music playing menacingly, the villain growls "Joan Wilder ... you and your sister........are free to go!"
- Men In Black. While facing the Mexican immigrant, K pulls out a knife in a threatening way. He swings it forward toward the immigrant - and slices open the immigrant's clothing, revealing an alien hiding inside the clothing and holding up the immigrant's "head".
- The opening credits of American Psycho.
- The Wrong Box begins with the establishment of a tontine - a contract where a sum of money gets inherited by the last surviving member - at a boys' school. A series of quick vignettes shows the members dying off over the decades until it settles on a bedridden, elderly man, one of the last two survivors. His grandson picks up a knife, walks up to him - and hands it to him to open a letter.
- Predator. Dutch is standing facing the prisoner Anna, who has her hands tied in front of her. He pulls out a knife while talking to her and then slashes down with it...to cut the ropes securing her wrists and free her.
- In Kill Bill Vol. 2, Bill has the Bride effectively at his mercy, picks up a particularly large and sharp-looking knife, then uses it to slice the crusts off a sandwich for his daughter.
- Much of the Black Comedy in the 1989 film Parents is this.
- Older Than Print: In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Magnificent Bastard Cao Cao, on the run from the law (long story), takes refuge with a friend of his father's. Said friend runs off for a while, leaving Cao Cao to wait. Cao Cao overhears the sound of a knife being sharpened and a whispered: "hurry up and make the kill!" Cao Cao charged into the kitchen, murdering everyone in sight... before discovering that the intended victim was a pig.
- As mentioned above, done in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where the executioner swings his axe into a fence instead of Buckbeak.
- In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, when Shirley has just started school in America, she notices a huge stick by the window and thinks it's for beating disobedient children, like how her teachers in China used a bamboo cane. That same day, she agrees to sneak off of the school grounds with some other students, so they can buy lunch elsewhere. When she returns to class, she sees the teacher getting the stick and thinks that her escapade was discovered and she was going to get beaten for it... only for the teacher to use the stick to open the window.
Live Action TV
- In the Angel episode "Bachelor Party", when Angel is spying on Doyle's ex-wife's fiance, he sees him taking on a demon aspect and drawing out a knife. One Super Window Jump later, it's revealed that she knew about him being a demon, and that the knife was to cut the strings on a parcel.
- In what may be a subversion Holtz draws a knife out of his sleeve when one of his followers questions his orders; when she ends up agreeing with him he uses it to peel an apple.
- Arguably, this trope is the whole point of the Dexter title sequence, the difference in that everything he does is in plain view, while still keeping the menace.
- The season two opener repeats the season one opener, ending with the words "This is the only way I know how to survive. I'm coiled and ready to strike..." - zoom out to show Dexter bowling and missing a pin - "Although a Spare will do."
- At the beginning of an episode in season four, we see Dexter wielding a large knife and making threats about how his target's days are numbered. Pan back the camera to show Dexter addressing a thanksgiving turkey.
- On a Halloween-themed episode of That '70s Show, Fez is spying on Bob from Eric's bedroom while in a wheelchair. He starts to think, based on a garbage bag, an dirtied apron and a butcher knife, that Bob killed Midge. However, it turns out that Midge is out of town and Bob is just carving pumpkins and taking out the trash.
- In ALF, Alf spies Mr. Ochmonek burying what turned out to be a side of beef in his back yard, while Mrs. Ochmonek was out of town. The beef also accounted for the bloodiness of his bathtub.
- In Reaper Nina, who was previously trying to kill Sam, lunges across the table towards him. It turns out she's going for a steak, and just has (literally) demonic table manners.
- The Buffy episode "All the Way" features a creepy-looking man wielding a knife and talking about how he's going to give Dawn and her friends "something special" for Halloween. Turns out it's a baked dish.
- Another episode in Season 2 does this. The group is together in the library preparing and sharpening weapons. Buffy pulls out a knife... and the camera zooms out while she chops vegetables.
- Subverted in El Chapulín Colorado. We see a woman with a knife as the music becomes intense, just to cut some cake, then she proceed to hide a gun in it.
- Used in The Teaser of an episode of CSI when David takes a knife from the block in his kitchen and slowly and menacingly walks into the bedroom to where his very pregnant wife is lying down. He asks her "Why must you force me to do this?" in a suitably menacing tone ... then proceeds to use the knife to cut the tags off a new dress shirt. They were talking about him having to go to his high school reunion without her because she's too tired to stand.
- Community - in "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps", Troy's scary story has him and Abed sewn together by Mad Doctor Pierce. After their initial horror they realize they now have magical psychic powers, and levitate an iron skillet, clubbing Pierce with it. Then they levitate up a big kitchen knife and...cut a sandwich in two and happily share it. Then they conduct mad surgery on Pierce.
- Dollhouse. Dr Saunders reaches for a scalpel, apparently to cut up Echo's face like her own...then picks up a lollipop instead, sucking on it herself when Echo reaches for it.
- MAD #395's novelization of Emeril Live In the Style of... Stephen King plays this for mock horror, with tomato juice as Symbolic Blood:
The tomato was plump, sensuous. He felt the firm smoothness of its skin. He quickly, harshly held her down on the table and brought the blade down into her yielding flesh. Her essence spurted onto his white apron in one gush, then slowed to the merest trickle as, like someone possessed, he deliberately moved his knife back and forth into her. What goes through your mind, Emeril? Is there any twinge of remorse as you bring the knife down?
- "Italian Leather Sofa" by CAKE is about a woman who's more interested in her man's money than in him. It includes this odd little bridge in which she's either doing something sinister or maybe just preparing dinner:
She's got a serrated edge that she moves back and forth. It's such a simple machine, she doesn't have to use force.
When she gets what she wants, she puts the rest on a tray... in a Ziploc bag in the freezer.
- A Dilbert comic (which later gave its name to one of the collections), "Bring me the Head of Willy the Mailboy" involves Dilbert being asked to complete this request. Dogbert freaks out when Dilbert shows him a bag obviously containing a head-sized, roughly spherical object, but it is then revealed to be a bowling ball.
- One FoxTrot Sunday strip set things up like a scene from a horror movie, making it look like someone was being stabbed to death. It turned out to be Roger doing a poor job of slicing up a turkey.
- The opening for Disgaea 4 shows the vampire tyrant Valvatorez stalking and murdering his latest victim: sardines. Fenrich is not amused by these shenanigans.
- In Tekken 3, Kuma/Panda's ending has Kuma waiting behind a wall, only showing a sinister-looking shadow, looking like he's getting ready to attack Panda. But as she and Xiaoyu walk by, Kuma lunges forward with a bouquet of bamboo leaves, attempting to court Panda. Not noticing him, Panda and Xiaoyu just keep on walking.
- In a possible allusion to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms example (see Literature), at one point in Dragon Quest V you can choose to stay at an obviously sinister-looking inn in a cave with a creepy old lady while travelling with your new bride. She hears something in the night and asks you to investigate but you've become paralyzed and from upstairs you hear the sound of a knife grinding...In the morning, it turns out that the old witch was just making sure you slept soundly while she sharpened your sword which gains a permanent attack bonus.