Tentative Light

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Must...not...sneeze...

It's dark. The guy we're watching is running out of light. The match is burning down. The candle's nearly done. His flashlight's flickering. In any case, darkness is imminent. These are scenes often played for dramatic tension. Directors use them in horror movies. Other times the lack of reliable lighting might be an inconvenience for the protagonist in a slapstick comedy for whom everything goes wrong.

In video games, may often result from a Ten-Second Flashlight.

Contrast with Blackout Basement. See also Down to the Last Match.


Examples:

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    Film 
  • Used in the horror movie The Cave.
  • The Goonies has such a scene.
  • The movie Shutter Island shows a clip from such a scene in its trailer.
  • Beni's fate in The Mummy is sealed as his torch burns out, leaving him at the mercy of the flesh eating scarab beetles surrounding him.
  • The basic premise of the movie Pitch Black.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indy and Marion are trapped in a tomb of poisonous snakes, and their torches are running out.
  • The Fifth Element: Korben Dallas needs fire to unlock part of the weapon that can take down the Big Bad. He has one match.
    Korben: Nobody breathe.
  • Darkness Falls uses this a lot, as the villain cannot stand any sort of light.
  • Doom does this with Duke's flashlight, shortly after they split up to cover more ground.
  • The Pact: Light fixtures and flashlights flicker and go out. The medium Stevie says that something is "taking the light."
  • Housebound: The lights frequently flicker or shut off. Subverted, when we learn this isn't caused by a ghost, but by Eugene living in the walls and mooching electricity.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Weeping Angels in Doctor Who have the ability to feed on power from a distance, including artificially-generated light. The fact that your only defence against them is the ability to see makes this absolutely terrifying.
  • The X-Files, "Darkness Falls": loggers accidentally release an ancient swarm of killer insects, who wrap the loggers in cocoons and drain them dry. Fortunately, the insects only attack in the dark. Unfortunately, Mulder and Scully end up trapped in the mountains with a dying light-bulb and no other means of light.

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • Emo Phillips: "What I do is hard; they say the #1 fear in the country is public speaking. I would have thought the number 1 fear would be being Buried Alive with a severed head - and just before your flashlight dies, its eyes open. But no, apparently, it's the public speaking thing."

    Video Game  
  • The First Encounter Assault Recon series has lots of setpieces with flickering lights when paranormal activity is involved, including those of the Heads-Up Display itself. Hell, in the Vivendo expansions Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate, your headlamp will flicker along with the HUD, go out completely, and won't be usable until the supernatural moment ends.
  • In Halo, you can turn on a flashlight to see the Flood coming, but in Halo 2 it'll automatically turn off after a while.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, some dungeons are dark enough that a light source is needed. Torches are temporary.
  • In Shadowgate, if you run out of torches or forget to light a new one, you lose.
  • Half-Life in general makes use of dark environments and the old Ten-Second Flashlight but Half-Life 2: Episode One in particular featured zombie infested environments that were often pitch black; In some sections you had to use your torch to light up enemies for Alyx to attack, in others you had to make use of flares, flaming barrels and flaming zombies to try and keep the area lit so you could see attacking zombies who weren't straight in front of you. Things can get quite tense when your last light source it burning out, your torch is out of juice and you've only killed most of the zombies...

    Western Animation 
  • From the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Cave of Two Lovers": Aang and Katara are separated from the others. They haven't found their way out of the cave and their torch is burning down to nothing. Turns out, the key to finding their way through the cave was to let their torches burn out, allowing them to see the dimly glowing crystals in the cave that marked the path.

    Web Video 
  • Played for Laughs in the "Fight Day" episode of Idiotsitter. Housekeeper Joy has taken Billie into a narrow passageway in the Russel mansion, and is talking to her by candlelight-but she holds it close to her face and keeps blowing it out with her words, prompting an irritated "fuck me!"


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