"'To the pain means that the first thing you lose will be your feet below the ankles. Then your hands at the wrists, next your nose... The next thing you lose will be your left eye, followed by your right. [...] No! Your ears you keep, and I'll tell you why: so that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish; every babe that weeps at your approach; every woman who cries out, 'Dear God! What is that thing?' will echo in your perfect ears. That is what 'to the pain' means; it means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery, forever."
Torture. It can be slow, it can be quick, but it is always painful and, like all dastardly plans, goes so much better with a little gloating.
Don't just cut the victim; tell them about it, describe every last detail to make them squirm. You can describe things that you couldn't show on TV, and any villain who would do this you know is either irredeemably evil, totally insane, or both.
If the villain has a more clinical approach to his work, however, there is often a meta version of this trope where the audience is treated to a slow camera pan across the torture instruments, which are laid out neatly on a table. He may describe the history of his technique, or the specific effects on the body. This tends to underscore how cold-blooded and Wicked Cultured he is.
Alternately, the Evil Overlord can describe to the hero just what his Death Trap does: "Every time you drop a bead of sweat on the plate below you, you will be lowered an inch towards the pit. Inside the pit is a ravenous pack of razor-toothed flying lemurs with lasers on their heads who have been trained to kill anyone with your particular blood type. You stand no chance of surviving this grisly fate, as I have just turned up the thermostat."
Expect the rule of Unspoken Plan Guarantee to apply, giving the hero an almost 100% chance of escaping the described fate.
When, however, he doesn't, count on Scars Are Forever.
A third variation is to have the clever assassin who has poisoned her mark describe in every small detail exactly how the poison works, while she sits calmly in her chair watching the victim squirm. This is occasionally subverted when the assassin has not, in fact, poisoned the victim at all, but the description is so vivid that the victim either passes out or dies of fright. Fortunately for the victim, the assassin is often Carrying the Antidote.
The fourth and final variation is common in kung fu stories. Hitting someone in a specific way in a specific pressure point on his body can have any number of effects on his body, ranging from beneficial to outright fatal (though the latter is usually reserved for villains or particularly vengeful martial artists). Once the martial artist performs the technique, he will then explain, in exacting detail, what the technique does to the character in question before leaving the character to his fate. Particularly common among Old Masters.
Historically this is Truth in Television, part of a three-step process to encourage the prisoner to be more cooperative. 'First degree' torture involved verbal threats of what you're going to do, 'second degree' was showing the prisoner the instruments of torture, while 'third degree' was application.
See also Calling Your Attacks, Just Between You and Me, Too Kinky to Torture, Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon. Very popular among characters who practice Revenge by Proxy, especially those who find Forced to Watch a bit too impractical to pull off.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star tends to describe the painful fates that await his opponents after hitting a fatal pressure point somewhere. He doesn't tend to drag it out too much, though. There was one infamous reversal where his opponent performed one of Kenshiro's signature moves, Zankai Ken, on Kenshiro himself, only to fall victim to it exactly ten seconds after he finished describing it — effectively inadvertently performing this trope on himself.
Michonne in The Walking Dead. After being captured, imprisoned, tortured, and brutally raped by the "Governor", Michonne escapes with her captured comrades. However, instead of immediately returning to their camp with the rest of the group, Michonne chooses to lag behind and exact revenge from the sociopath by, among other things, cutting his arm off and scooping his eye out with a spoon. She has a Crowning Moment Of Awesome during the encounter's "to the pain" speech: "I'm — I'm not crying for me. I'm crying for you. I think about all the things I'm going to do to you and it makes me cry. It scares me."
In The Invisibles, Lord Miles reads to a captured King Mob from Physical Interrogation Techniques by Richard Krousher — a genuine Real Life book — which recommends all kinds of horrible things.
Chuck Dixon (who also wrote the Punisher example below) had a scene in Black Terror from Eclipse Comics. The Black Terror injects an underling with Novocaine and tells him that this will dull the chainsaw torture. In fact, the Black Terror just rubs an electric toothbrush on his back while turning on a chainsaw.
In the 2011's Journey into MysteryThor comic, Loki tells a scout from the Serpent that the scout should give Loki and Tyr the information they need, because then they'll kill him quickly instead of torturing him. Loki goes into a few vague details mostly involving how "evil and cruel" his pre-reincarnation-as-a-child self was known to be, and the scout caves, gives them the info, and Tyr kills him. Tyr then angrily informs Loki that he would never have tortured the scout, since he "has no love of torture", leading to this little gem of subversion:
Loki: And I have no knowledge of it! If he had called my bluff, I would have just hoped he was ticklish!
In Concrete: Killer Smile, our hero's assistant and friend is kidnapped and held at gunpoint by a spree killer. In the final showdown in a junkyard, Concrete reveals himself and lets the jerk know what he's up against:
Concrete: Now listen to me carefully. This is an important moment in your life. I'm not a cop. I don't care about rules. Larry there is my best friend in the world. If you harm him, what I do to you will be far worse than dying. First I will twist off your lower legs. Just like you'd twist off a turkey drumstick. Then I'll apply tourniquets so you won't die. Then I'll remove your forearms. Two more tourniquets. Then I will scoop out your eyes with a finger. Then your tongue, and your teeth. They'll have to feed you like a baby. They'll wipe your other end if they notice your diaper is full, or you'll just sit in it. YOU WON'T EVEN BE ABLE TO KILL YOURSELF. ...I'd be out in a few years. YOU, though...you'll be a blind, fat doormat for another forty, fifty. Be smart. Put it down.
In the Russian comic book series Red Fury by Bubble Comics, The Dragon Helga Lemke does the Second Degree version to the heroine. Along with the phrase "With each question you answer, I'll take one instrument away" in a bad German accent.
The Immortal Game: It's a subtle example, but Discord's threat to Titan during their confrontation qualifies:
"I'm going to make you feel, old friend. I'm going to make you feel everything."
"If I could, I would burn your limbs off, centimeter by centimeter. And then I would eat your organs one at a time, until you were begging for death. And once you did, I would let your body regenerate, and start the process over from scratch."
Deus Ex Equine Revengeance: A rare protagonist example. Rainbow Dash gets information out of a guy by describing to him in meticulous detail what she'll do if he doesn't talk.
"First, I'll cut off the stuff you don't need. One at a time. I'll start with your ear. Then I'll pop out one of your eyes. Maybe the other eye too. Or maybe not. If that doesn't loosen your tongue, I'll cut off your balls, one at a time. Then I'll cut your dick off and force you to eat it. After that, I'll start skinning your flanks. Cut off your cutie mark. Then I'll start cutting strips of meat off your hind legs. Tiny strips. Not enough to let you bleed out, but enough to cause you a shit ton of pain. And that cyberbrain of yours? I can sync it with mine and keep your blood sugar and adrenaline levels regulated to where you can't pass out from pain. But you can avoid that. All you have to do is tell me who. Murdered. My. Family."
"And I want you to know, if I ever find out you were lying to me just now, I will kill you. I won't ask if you understand me, because I know you do. I mean this. I will bring your final death, I will dye the straits between us with your blood, and I will ensure nothing ever grows or breathes upon your land again."
In Shining Armor's side story of the Pony POV Series, Makarov goes on a long spiel about what he's going to do to Shining if he catches him alive. He ends up actually giving a summation of what he said, it's that long.
Hivefled: Gamzee tells Equius he will "tear your MOTHERFUCKING HORN out of your MOTHERFUCKING SKULL and SHOVE IT up your MOTHERFUCKING SEEDFLAP". Gamzee was on the receiving end of one in the prequel;
Subverted inThe Punisher (2004). Frank Castle interrogates low-level mob gofer Mickey Duka by making a show of turning on an oxy-acetylene torch and going behind the mook to burn his back, explaining to him that "You won't feel the pain at first, you'll just feel... Cold." He pretends to start burning off his skin as he asks questions, all the while he's just pointing the torch at a raw steak and touching his victim's skin with a popsicle to simulate being burned. Mickey talks. This scene was taken verbatim from The Punisher War Zone comic storyline where Castle infiltrates the Carbone crime family. Using this Mind Screw is described in the SM-How-to book "Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns" as a safe way to simulate a branding scene.
In an odd reversal, Commando has Arnold Schwarzenegger's action hero character tell the sadistic Big Bad just how much slower and more satisfying it would be if the Big Bad didn't shoot Arnold where he stood and they settled matters with a knife fight instead....
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Khan traps our heroes in a space station cave inside a dead asteroid and disables their ability to beam out. He then gloats about how he's done far worse than kill him. "I've hurt you, and I intend to go on hurting you." It culminates in infamy.
Khan's describing what the Ceti Eel does to Terrel and Chekov.
Troy. Achilles interrupts Hector's attempt to make an honorable pact and assure that the loser of their duel will have their body treated respectfully and all the funeral rituals performed with this:
Achilles: You won't have eyes tonight. You won't have ears or a tongue. You will wander the underworld blind, deaf and dumb, and all the dead will know; this is Hector. The fool who thought he killed Achilles.
Mr. Blonde of Reservoir Dogs fame goes to great lengths to explain how he is going to torture the gang's hostage, who is a cop. He starts with the ear. The reason?
Mr. Blonde: It's amusing to me, to torture a cop.
In Taken, Liam Neeson's character stabs a baddie in the legs with a pair of metal needles and hooks him up to the frayed wires of a light switch. He then explains how in other countries, this method he's about to employ isn't always successful because of the lack of reliable current, but here that's not a problem and he could theoretically leave it on until the electricity is cut by the power station by lack of payment. Should have given the daughter back...
Those weren't needles. They were heavy duty nails.
Later in the film it's given a hilarious inversion when Sir Galahad is told that a sister at a local abbey has wronged him. In order to make her pay, he must spank her. Then spank her sister. Then spank every nun in the entire abby. Then the oral sex....
*extending a hardware store razor knife* "This is for your penis. But we'll get to that later. The scalpel. For your eyelids, if you insist on fucking shutting them...OH! And I made this specially for you... *lowers a mirrored ceiling*
In The Long Kiss Goodnight, Timothy threatens to blind Charly Baltimore's daughter and shoot out her knees if she doesn't co-operate with his demands. It's made Harsher in Hindsight by the fact that he's her father, which is revealed later to the audience and Timothy at the same time. Not that he cares.
In Two Fast Two Furious, Carter Verone (the drug lord and film's Big Bad) lures Whitworth (a corrupt Miami PD detective) away from his party and tortures him using a rat, a metal pail and a blowtorchnote He puts the rat on the man's stomach, covers it with the pail, and then uses the blowtorch to heat up the pail. The rat starts to chew the man's stomach in an attempt to escape the heat until he agrees to give Brian O'Conner and Roman Pierce a window to deliver Verone's package for him; he then warns Whitworth that if he fails, his rat will visit his entire family as well.
The meta version occurs in The Matrix. At the start of Morpheus' interrogation, we're given a brief pan across gleaming stainless steel surgical instruments and vials of drugs. Likewise in True Lies, but this serves as a Chekhov's Gun, notably the the Patterson trocar Arnie uses to kill the guard while using the torturer as a Human Shield.
Carver: According to Eastern philosophy, the body has seven different chakra points. The Energy centers, like the heart, or genitals. The purpose of these implements is to probe those organs, inflicting the maximum amount of pain whilst keeping the victim alive for as long as possible."
You Only Live Twice: When SPECTRE Number 11 has James Bond tied to a chair in her cabin, she pulls open a drawer to display a set of cutting utensils, including a dermatologist's dermatome. She takes out the dermatome and threatens to use it on Bond unless he talks.
Licence to Kill: When Sanchez realizes that Bond has been manipulating him, he puts him on a conveyor belt leading to a cocaine grinder.
Sanchez: When it gets up to your ankles, you're going to beg to tell me everything. When it gets up to your knees, you'll kiss my ass to kill you!
On the Arsenic and Old Lace movie, before the insane Serial Killer Jonathan Brewster starts doing the 'Melbourne Method' to his sane brother Mortimer, there is a long lingering shot of him opening a doctor's case full of sharp instruments and pulling one out while describing how much he's going to like doing this.
In Under Siege 2, the villian extracts information from two officers by threatening each with a superheated needle to the eye, casually describing what will happen when he does. His description alone (along with the fact that two are lovers) convinces them to tell him what he wants to know.
The Evil That Men Do opens with Dr. Clement Molloch lecturing a group of army officers on the science of torture.
The meta version is shown in X-Men: First Class. Young Erik Lehnsherr meets Dr. Klaus Schmidt in his wood-paneled office filled with books and antiques, then a reverse shot reveals the opposite wall is made of glass, leading into a white-painted surgery lined with sinister instruments. Unfortunately, Erik's powers aren't controlled enough to use these as actual weapons; they all get thrown harmlessly against the glass.
Django Unchained. After being incapacitated by Candie's men, Django is told in great detail by Stephen about how he'll be thrown back into slavery, worked to death, and eventually killed once his back gives out.
Frank:(admiring blowtorch) Oh yeah. Where did you get this?
Martin: Home Depot, ten bucks. (sorting through briefcase) You want nuts? (pliers) ...nipples? (tinsnips) ...potty trainer?
Jumpin Jack Flash. Terry is being held prisoner in a basement full of storefront dummies, on which the villains demonstrate various woodworking tools, with the implication that they'll be used on her next.
In The Princess Bride, Count Rugen doesn't merely stop at explaining the workings of his agonizing torture device to the hero, but tries to draw out some scholarly conversation about its effects. "Remember, this is for posterity, so... be honest." The hero seems to pick this up, for in the "To the Pain" monologue near the end of the movie that gives the trope its name, he describes in excruciating detail how he is going to dismember the villain and make him suffer if he doesn't surrender. Although providing the Trope name, this is more of a subversion — the Hero was clearly bluffing the villain with this speech, as he was in no condition to actually beat the villain. He was counting on the guy being such a coward that he'd surrender rather than risk the threat he was describing, and as it turned out, he was.
In Animorphs, the majority of The Illusion is spent describing Tobias mental, emotional, and physical torture.
In The Witches by Roald Dahl, there is a scene where one character describes kicking another, "til his own mother doesn't recognise him."
In the original Sahara novel by Clive Cussler, Al Giordino pulls this on the villain's main henchman, after which the henchman is describing as looking "on the verge of a nervous breakdown." We don't get to read the actual exchange though, only the "mention" afterward. Regrettably cut out of the movie.
Al Giordino: I spent the time describing in vivid detail how I was going to dismember him millimetre by millimetre. Dirk Pitt: That's all? Al Giordino: He has a great imagination.
And in the Corum novels, by Michael Moorcock, Glanydeth-A-Krae describes how he's going to systematically lop off all of Corum's extremities. He does managed to get a hand and an eye before he's stopped.
In 1984, the villain describes to Winston in excruciating detail what the rats will do to his face. This one is noteworthy since the whole point is to completely break the victim by exposing them to their worst fear, rather than actually harming them. The threat is made credible by the plenty of Cold-Blooded Torture inflicted on Winston earlier, and because Winston is absolutely terrified of rats.
In Dan Abnett's Xenos, Eisenhorn is captured and tortured by a Chaos cult. They demonstrate the techniques with their threats, including the promise he will never smile again — and the damage to his nerves is so extensive that he never will.
At the end of Shogun: Toranaga buries Ishido up to his neck and invites passersby to saw away at his neck with a bamboo saw. He lasts three days, and dies "very old."
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "You barbarians! I'll sue the council for every penny it's got! I'll have you hung, drawn, and quartered! And whipped! And boiled...until...until...until you've had enough. And then I will do it again! And when I've finished I will take all the little bits, and I will JUMP on them! And I will carry on jumping on them until I get blisters, or I can think of anything even more unpleasant to do..."
-Arthur Philip Dent, after his house is demolished.
Very Bad Deaths, By Spider Robinson, has some horrific deaths described in this manner. This is a case of the book being 'exactly what it says on the tin'. This is compounded by the rather nice first half of the story.
Either played straight or subverted in the fifth book of the Wheel of Time: While interrogating some prisoners, the thief-catcher Juilin tells his companions to bring him some rope, gags, cooking oil, and salt and never says what he's going to do with the oil or the salt. He couldn't, because he didn't know; he was counting on the imaginations of his prisoners to fill in the gruesome details.
In the "Arrows" trilogy (the first Heralds of Valdemar books by publication order) Herald Talia is tortured by someone who loves doing this. Fortunately a kind of Narrative Profanity Filter is employed, so we don't really hear it or see what happens — nor see what kind of shape Talia is in afterward.
In Deliver Us from Evil (the name being a reference to Psalm 23 and not this trope}, Wicked CulturedFaux Affably EvilBig BadEvan Waller, a.k.a. ex-KGB Ukrainian expatriate Fedir Kuchin, is very fond of telling people the details of the many ways he has of torturing his opponents or even his own subordinates, should he find they were attempting to betray or even skim him out of his profits.
Arkadeil from The Acts of Caine does this to teach apprentices while demonstrating exactly what he's saying. in His matter-of-fact, scholarly manner arguably makes him far creepier than many who take sadistic joy in it.
In The Nine Lives of Catseye Gomez, a talking cat threatens another with this trope, promising to rip away eight-and-a-half out of nine lives and leave the other blind, crippled, and dragging itself across the floor. Faced with that prospect, the other confesses to the murder it'd arranged rather than get torn to shreds.
Some of Harry Dresden's darker moments. When he went berserk after some ghouls killed Warden trainees, his torture was so gruesome that the other Wardens talked him down.
Given how long Wizard and supernatural beings' lifespans are, this is actually a really credible threat.
Unable to kill him, Margaret LeFay Dresden neutered the White King with her death curse so he couldn't restock his magical energy. When you're semi-immortal and have made a lot of enemies, that's about as bad as it gets.
Quintus Cassius when he captures Harry.
The Naagloshi feeds off this. Literally.
When Mavra threatens one of Harry's friends, he fetches the item she asks for in return for the evidence impugning said friend. He then tells her that if she ever tries it again, he's going to take up the powers of dark gods and comer after her personally. She hasn't been back.
To clarify: Harry was going to 1. Make a deal with Queen Mab, to be her personal mindslave, 2. Allow himself to be possessed by a True Demon, 3. Perform a ritual that allows him to BECOME a dark god, 4. Make a deal with Crowley the Demon, and 5. Use the knowledge of Necromancy he memorized, against the undead Mavra. All at once.
Combined with I Call Her "Vera" in A Song of Ice and Fire. When Davos Seaworth is held in the Wolf's Den he's treated well, but the turnkey makes a point of showing him the Whore — an iron rod that when heated is used scorching off the testicles, and Lady Lu — a huge axe for cutting off the head and hands, hopefully in that order.
In The First Law this is standard operating procedure among protagonist Inquisitor Gloka and other members of the Inquisition.
Duke Ah! That is my Iron Maiden. Well may you tremble, for -
Nanny Ogg Can I have a go in it?
Duke Your pleas fall on deaf - Wait, what?
Discussed in the second novel of Seekers of the Sky duology. Ilmar admits that he spilled the beans before the monks even started torturing him for information, while they were still showing him their tools.
In Carrera's Legions, newly captured prisoners that are brought to Fernandez for interrogation aboard the Legion's torture ship are given a guided tour of the various rooms, with explicit descriptions on tortures carried out in each room. Many of those brought in who say they won't talk under any circumstances don't need more than taking the tour to make them change their mind and decide to cooperate. One tour shown to the reader doesn't even finish before the previously defiant prisoner decides to spill what he knows.
In Pact, one of the major antagonists is an Anthropomorphic Personification of Conquest. Not of War, which is conflict and may have rules, nor change by victory, which would be the province of an incarnation of Liberty, Conquest, meaning brutal subjugation of the defeated. And he loves to talk about what he does to his victims before he does it.
This is the first step on a journey. At the end of these journeys, I have turned men into beasts, groveling for my favor, debasing himself for my mercy. You are fortunate, in a way, because you are an admitted novice, of limited use. I will use you up for the little knowledge you have, and then I will kill you once that knowledge is exhausted.
Live Action TV
In The Mighty Boosh, a psycho in prison does this to Howard: "I'm gonna cut you up. I'm gonna slice you to shreds... I'm gonna slice your nose off, and throw it at a vicar..." In a possible subversion, Howard teaches him to talk about nice things (e.g. flying a kite on a sunny day), and this terrifies the psycho's next victim even more.
In Babylon 5, Londo visits his old enemy after he is captured on Centari Prime. He tells G'kar the details of his coming torture-execution, basically vivisection for the entertainment of an audience. When G'kar basicly accuses him of gloating, Londo admits, reluctantly at first, that even at their worse hatred, he would not have wished this on G'kar. Londo is rather fond of this one. See the "Poison" section below.
This isn't the first time G'kar has faced something like that. In the first season an old enemy of his arranged for G'kar to be assassinated upon his death. The instructions were that G'kar would "know pain and know fear and, at the appointed hour, would die." Fortunately, G'kar, with the help of his aide, was able to turn the tables in his favor.
The over-the-top torture machine devised by the Hawk in the final episode of The Black Adder is explained in great detail. ("And then these feathers will tickle you under what's left of your arms, which is the amusing part.") Notable because Edmund isn't rescued until after it's activated (off-screen, obviously).
In Prison Break, when Alex Mahone finally get's his revenge on Wyatt for killing his son, he describes pretty clearly just what will happen to him. Starting with a needle pierced through his finger causing unimaginable pain to the defibrillator that will give him a wake-up call when his body begins to shut down due to the pain.
From LOST, in "Whatever The Case May", four episodes after Jack and Sayid have actually tortured Sawyer, Jack uses To the Pain to get Sawyer to give him the briefcase of guns:
Jack: That's the antibiotic I've been giving you for the knife wound in your arm. You're right in the middle of the treatment cycle now, if I keep giving you the pills you're going to be right as rain. But I'm going to stop giving you the pills. And for two days you're going to think you're all good, then it's going to start to itch. The day after that the fever's going to come and you're going to start seeing red lines running up and down your arm. A day or two after that you'll beg me to take the case, just to cut off your arm.
This is the primary tactic used for interrogation scenes in Burn Notice. Michael explains that actual pain leads the subject to try and give them anything (often false information) just to get them to stop. Mind Screw-type interrogation has a higher chance of getting accurate information because the subject is so flustered they can't think up plausible fake-information. One time Mama Westen got a guy to talk by just acting like herself and offering him his "last cigarette" because of what Sam and Fiona supposedly had in store for him.
In the Pilot episode, Jayne Cobb was preparing to torture Dobson for information, telling him "I'm just gonna cut on ya, till ya tell me what they [the Alliance] know." Dobson told him they knew everything, way too quickly; Jayne determined they didn't know a damn thing, and was visibly disappointed at not needing to actually torture him.
Jayne: I was gonna get me an ear, too.
In "Objects in Space", Kaylee is terrified into submission by the bounty hunter Jubal Early. He simply asks her if she's ever been raped before.
Sue: "Schuester! I'll need to see that set list for Sectionals after all. I want it on my desk warm from the laminator at 5:00 P.M., and if it is one minute late, I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then, on some dark, cold night I will steal away into your home and punch you in the face."
The Doctor is generally a wonderful friend and brilliant scientist. When he confronts an enemy, he tends to give them a chance to surrender peacefully. When forced into conflict, he will usually find a brilliant way to end the threat in one swift action. But sometimes...
Missing 2012: Rebecca Winstone does this to Violet to get her to tell where Rebecca's son is. The good news is that the torture will not kill her. The bad news is that the torture will make her wish it did. Rebecca got the information, feels terrible about it, and it's not stated just how far along she got in the torture before she got the information.
Murdoch Mysteries: Mr Pendrick gets tortured in season 6 premiere when an American secret agent wants to find out how to control a prototype of his Aero which they have stolen. His tormentor gleefully talks about how he knows that Mr Pendrick once dislocated his shoulder and how that type of injury never quite recovers.
In the first episode a Hong Kong baddie shows Sidney the tools he's going to use to pull her teeth out if she doesn't talk. Her response? "Start with the ones in the back."
Done by McKenas Cole (played by Quentin Tarantino) after he & his mooks have invaded SD-6 on behalf of "The Man." He talks to Arvin, trying to get him to open the vault in order to get a MacGuffin. It doesn't work.
The rat method is used in Game of Thrones. The rat is placed in the pail, which is strapped to the interrogatee's chest. Then you hold the torch under the pail, which makes the rat rather ... anxious to get out. The process is carefully explained, just in case there's any misunderstanding on the prisoner's part as to what's going to happen.
This is done in True Blood by Violet to Jessica, Addilyn, and Wade. The actual torture doesn't get to happen though.
In Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, an old man threatens the eponymous duo for the... eponymous pick. "I will cut out your eyes, and I will cut out your balls, and I will put your eyes in your ball sack, and I will put your balls in your eye holes!!" Too bad he can hardly move; when JB and KG realize that they could out-run him, they easily escape.
In Warhammer 40,000, the second stage of a standard Inquisitorial interrogation consists simply of explaining the protocol for the next seven stages. This breaks most prisoners. If, indeed, the first hasn't already. First-stage interrogation consists simply of being asked the question by the Inquisitor personally, rather than through an agent. Their (well-earned) reputation precedes them enough to break many subjects right there.
In Mage: The Ascension, members of The Syndicate call this "turkey basting." Since the people using it are mages (whether they know it or not), it actually has the effect of causing unspeakable pain to the interrogation suspect simply via power of suggestion.
Kindred of the East detailed a discipline called "Black Wind," which was simply a variable application speed/strength boost power that was fueled by the standard installation demon riding in the back of every Kuei-Jin's head, which meant that the discipline could only be used for violence. It didn't apply under this trope. However, since the Kuei-Jin seemed like they weren't making a comeback, one fan-made martial art background skill was created for the New World of Darkness line using the same name. Black Wind, the martial art style, is a series of blocks, strikes and momentum redirecting counters coupled with psychological warfare designed to enrage and humiliate an opponent, with the eventual goal of reducing the opponent to a state of utter despair. The rules explicitly state that if an opponent dies from the use of the art, then the practitioner has screwed up.
Hunter: The Reckoning had a particularly nasty version of it; the torturer used strong local anaesthetic on his victim, broke every bone in his hand, and then explained how much it would hurt once the anaesthetic wore off.
Strangely enough, the player party gets to engage in this in Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled in an optional sidequest. After Gavin set off to find Firebeard's tomb after Ravin gathered the map pieces, the party happens upon the Sea Tails' hideout. Kairu asks one of the stragglers for information; naturally, he is refused, so the other group members decide to explain their experience (or lack thereof) in interrogation. I'll cover the methods in order below, but the mere talk of what could have been done is what broke him.
Rogurd is a known adventurer, and has dealt with ruffians of the Sea Tails; he chooses to leave the methods in question to the poor pirate's imagination.
Aurora goes flat-out and states her intentions to (literally) grill him.
Isa explains her training in Genufan interrogation techniques.
Nephi brings up his history of torture as the King of the Dragons.
Think death will keep your intel safe? Nym (an AshenEye) begs to differ.
Final Fantasy VII featured this during a not-so-subtle threat against a pervert trying to have sex with them. The team promises something like "I'll cut 'em off" "I'll break 'em off" "I'll smash them". He ends up giving them the information they want.
LeChuck in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge provided a particularly grisly example shortly after explaining the intricate mechanics of a device designed to lower Guybrush and Wally into a pit of acid: "Do you know what happens next? I will then take your bones, still alive and in great pain, and make them into a chair. I will call it my "Screaming Chair". Every morning I will sit in it and listen to you scream."
Jager Tharn in The Elder Scrolls: Arena, when he contacts you telepathically shortly after you receive the first piece of the Staff of Chaos. "Give it to them, and I will make your death painless, and quick. Resist, and I will see you in such suffering that you will grovel for the sweet release of death!''
Alexander in Amnesia: The Dark Descent uses this to prolong his victim's fear. He even sets up a system of pipes to funnel one victim's screams into the cell of another.
He also uses the terratio verborum technique mentioned in the Real Life folder, by showing the tortured the implements he would be using, and describing precisely how it would work prior to doing so.
Before the third battle against him in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Demon Lord Ghirahim describes to Link just how he plans to kill him and dispose of his corpse. It's also how you defeat him.
This chronicle on the Eve online website is as graphical as text can be (not for the faint of heart!), explaining what every tool does, everything he's going to use... then he does. The AmarrMinmatar and Caldari articles are also quite good. Showing how different varieties of torture can be.
Darkwing Duck: Negaduck describes doing this to Darkwing's allies, and it all starts as soon as he throws... The Switch!
Shows up in Transformers Animated when Ratchet is ripping the grapplers stolen from Optimus Prime on Lockdown, and reminds him that he can't dull the pain since Lockdown also stole his EMP generator.
In the final episode of Justice League Unlimited, Darkseid, after trapping Superman in his Agony Matrix, explains the effects to him (while Superman is convulsing in pain)...
Darkseid: It's called the Agony Matrix — direct neural stimulation of pain receptors. All of them. Imagine the worst pain you've ever felt in your life, times a thousand. Now imagine that pain continuing forever. Oh, that's right... you don't have to imagine.
One episode of Ren and Stimpy saw Ren's cousin coming to visit, and he ends up be exactly like Stimpy. Unable to deal with the antics of both, Ren snaps, and with barely restrained fury, gleefully describes what he's going to do to them.
The Dr. Nefarious example in modern philosophy, in regard to the mind/body theory, which posits the following: You are being held as a prisoner of the evil Dr. Nefarious. He comes to you and tells you that at 1:30, he will take you into his chamber and use his new torture device on you. He then goes on to tell you that at 1:26 he will take his memory machine and erase the memory of the conversation you just had with him; at 1:27 he will erase all of your memories; at 1:28 he will replace your memories with those of Ronald Reagan. (The argument does not state whether or not Dr. Nefarious will restore your memory after that.) You will still be going to the torture chamber at 1:30, of course.
Pick a Bond villain, any Bond villain. ...Except, of course, for Le Chiffre in the 2006 version of Casino Royale, who subverts the trope by saying, "You know, I never understood all these elaborate tortures," before doing something very nasty to Bond with an old chair and a knotted rope (a carpet beater in the original book).
The Saw films. Such a big point that the antagonist makes a puppet to do the talking, and puts a TV in the room with the trap. However, there is a reason for this; the villain wants the person to know what they did wrong to "warrant" getting in such a bad situation and how they can escape.
Edgar Allan Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum. A variant in that the torturer is not present. The narrator/victim figures out for himself (and describes to the reader) how the death trap works. An example of getting the victim to assist in his own torture.
Live Action TV
This was a staple of the live-action Batman TV series every incarnation of Batman
Played for laughs in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, where LeChuck devises a ridiculously elaborate Deathtrap (whose only function is to lower the hero Guybrush into a pit of acid), and then describes it meticulously down to every detail. Then, he asks Guybrush if he has any questions in case he needs clarifications.
In The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, The Hooded Claw would always describe the over-the-top death trap to Penelope, if she was tied up and ready to be thrown into it, or to his sidekicks the Bully Brothers if it was an actual trap — trap that Penny was to fall into without knowing.
Naturally, the villains on Kim Possible often describe what the science-project-gone-horribly-wrong-of-the-week is intended to do, immediately before it does it to the wrong person. Or in the wrong way. Or in an escapable manner.
In one Aladdin episode, Mozenrath explains a death trap to Aladdin and Jasmine before he leaves to destroy Agrabah. Of course, Aladdin had asked for the explanation by saying "How can you destroy us and Agrabah at the same time?"
Anime & Manga
Bleach: Mayuri Kurotsuchi explains his super-serum quite clearly to Szayelaporro Granz. Unfortunately, the words are so streched out and distorted that he can't hear half the speech. When the serum is in full effect, one second seems like 100 years from Szayelaporro's perspective. Which is too bad, because that means he missed out on the best part of the speech.
Mayuri: "Enjoy the next hundred years."
In Teen Titans, Cheshire is very proud of her homemade poisons, and will brag about the horrible effects they have on you.
In Kill Bill, Elle Driver sits calmly reading out the effects of the poison that she has just subjected Budd to via the deadly Black Mamba.
Elle: Now listen close, because this applies to you...
In the Disney filmThe Sword in the Stone, Merlin wins a wizard's duel by turning into a bacterium and inflicting a debilitating (but, since he's the good guy, not actually fatal) disease on his opponent, and his description of the disease's various colorful symptoms coincides with their appearance.
Not present in the book. There, Merlin turns himself into a whole bunch of deadly diseases, doesn't get to talk while doing it, and Madame Mim dies.
Not a villain, but in The Rock, Cage tells Connery exactly what the nerve toxin will do to both of them if they're exposed to it in its highly-concentrated liquid form. Connery, who happens to be holding the toxin in some strings of fragile-looking glass spheres, is suddenly a lot more careful with them.
Partially subverted in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents: After Malicia "poisons" two rat catchers by switching their sugar for something else, Keith goes through the standard list of gruesome effects. After the rat catchers have run off for the "antidote", Malicia reveals that what they switched the sugar with was laxative and the antidote was more laxative. The effects Keith lists, however, are apparently what would have actually happened to them had they instead opted to swap the sugar with any of the innumerable poisons around the room.
Dune: Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen was reportedly fond of this.
In Unto the Breach, the captured Russian microbiologist invokes this trope when explaining why he was bracing for an impact and nervously checking his watch, when riding in a car with the victim of some impromptu biological warfare agents (including botulinus, from an infected can of food from earlier). Afterwards, to his rescuer:
Dr. Arenski: "Let me give you one piece of advice. Take it for what you will. Piss off terrorists, piss off mobsters, piss off your president if you wish. But never ever piss off a microbiologist."
Parodied in Blackadder The Third, in which The Scarlet Pimpernel describes the peculiar symptoms of the poison he's just taken, without noticing they're happening to him.
In season six of 24, Jack tells a man who is about to be injected with poison exactly what the agony will feel like, and how many doses it will take before his heart gives in. Also, that man was his brother.
Londo Mollari from Babylon 5 delivers one of these to Lord Refa after he has poisoned him. Notably, it's a two-component toxin, so Londo's speech is mainly used to coerce the victim into going along with his plan.
In just about every version of Fist of the North Star, after landing one of his deadly Hokuto Shinken attacks on an enemy, Kenshiro describes which pressure point he just hit, and what effect it will have on the enemy. He then ends the speech, famously, with his Catch Phrase, "Omae wa mou shindeiru." or in English, "You're already dead." A few seconds later, the victim typically explodes in spectacular fashion.
Which was then parodied in the 3D Movie Maker movie Enriched Enlightment.
Milo the Scorpio Saint on Saint Seiya was famous for using an increasingly painful attack that targeted various pressure points. After striking the first few hits he'd start describing the various stages of agony, madness, and finally death that would fall on a victim should he hit the 15th Pressure Point. Subverted in that hitting a different set would cure a victim.
In Fantastic Four: The New Fantastic Four, the Wizard and his cronies manage to subdue the Invisible Woman and put her in a power-deactivating harness, then whoop up on Mister Fantastic, the Thing, the Human Torch, Storm, and the Black Panther when they come to the rescue... for a while, until Storm has the bright idea to find Sue and let her out. She promptly dispatches the crap out of those of his goons who are still standing, then get the Wizard with his back to the wall and make his skin and costume invisible enough to reveal his chest cavity. Using anatomical knowledge she later claims to have gotten from Gray's Anatomy, she points out a few of his critical arteries and has him describe the effects that would result from her blocking them with a forcefield, then talks him into believing she might actually do it... at which point he faints. (Immediate follow-up exchange: "You didn't!" "I didn't.")
In Kiss of the Dragon, the title is completely unexplained until the end, where we find out it refers to a pressure point at the back of the neck which causes blood to collect in the victim's head until it leaks out of his nose, mouth, ears, and eyes. Liu Jian, Jet Li's character, with a serious look in his eyes and a touch of regret that it had to come to this, describes in exacting detail the villain's impending death after sticking a needle in there, mentioning that the technique in question is "very forbidden."
The Operative in Serenity did a minor variation, hitting a pressure point that only immobilized a victim... while he expounded at length on how he was going to give them an honorable death. When he goes to finish off the hero, he finds out the hard way that he happens to be immune to that attack due to an old war injury and was just playing along until he could get the drop on the villain.
In Scorpio, Cross (played by Burt Lancaster) catches an assassin sent to kill him, and informs him that he's giving him the "Forget the mortgage pill" and several other euphemisms for a cyanide capsule, ending with "kiss your life goodbye, you've got 30 seconds to live" before forcing it down the guy's throat, and he leaves the man, terrified, on the floor of a bus station mens' room. Later we find out it was actually a cold pill, but the man had been driven insane from the terror.
Live Action TV
Xena from Xena: Warrior Princess often uses a paralyzing pressure point technique that cuts off the blood flow to the victim's brain. She would quickly explain to the victim that they only have 20 seconds to live and would have to agree to help her in order for her to heal them with yet another pressure point.
When Shaka the Virgo Saint from Saint Seiya uses the Rikudo Rinne, he explains to his victims what the Seven Pits of Hell are like as they fall to their perdition.
Naruto has perhaps the shortest version of this trope so far. It is provided by Itachi who simply explains to Kakashi the details of his Tsukuyomi technique, which traps Itachi and his opponent in an illusion world where Itachi controls time, space and matter, essentially making him god, followed by Itachi crucifying Kakashi and telling him that he, and his hundreds of clones, will stab Kakashi with their katanas for the following 72 hours.
It is made far worse in the anime adaption which greatly expands upon the torture scene and culminates with, after what seems like several hours of Cold-Blooded Torture, Itachi divulging to poor Kakashi that 71 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds still remained. That's the deadliest thing about the technique—being under it for a few seconds is days worth of torture, so it's hard for the mind to recover from it.
And Itachi's never used the technique on anyone he actually wanted to die from it...
Think about it. You think your hand hurts? Imagine what you'd feel with my fingers wiggling in your brain. (Tara looks very scared) It doesn't kill you. What it does ... is make you feel like you're in a noisy little dark room ... (Glory frowns and fidgets uncomfortably) naked and ashamed ... and there are things in the dark that need to hurt you because you're bad ... little pinching things that go in your ears ... (Tara begins to cry) and crawl on the inside of your skull. And you know ... that if the noise and the crawling would stop ... that you could remember how to get out. But you never, ever will.
Angelus terrorizes and drives Drusilla insane before turning her.
The commercial for Mercenaries 2: World in Flames features a hilarious song that is essentially a musical To the Pain speech. A full version of the song, along with a making-of for the commercial, is featured on EA's YouTube page, here.
Families: When Twilight confronts the angry mob Rabble Rouser's brought to lynch Spike, she casually comments that she knows about half of all the offensive spells ever made, and lists them. The audience doesn't hear them, but by the time the Sheriff and the Mayor show up, the entire mob willingly turns themselves in rather than fight Twilight.
"I know most of you will be targeting the man who killed that serial killer, Third. In case you didn't already know, that would be me. However, I have a small, tiny little story to tell you all first, just to... clarify a few things. Did you know that it isn't the voltage of electricity, but the current of it that kills? Third didn't. Fortunately, I was there and willing to give him a lesson in physics. I'm sure you all can guess the result. His eye-sockets are quite lonely now that his eyes have... vacated the premises. They now reside in his goggles. They might've stayed in there if I hadn't realized there was a chance he was still breathing and then continued to stab him with his own machete before shoving it through his skull. They might be just soaking that floor even now. Don't worry. I wasn't nearly done with him yet. I then, and this was the fun part, carved open his still warm corpse to inscribe the message 'F*** you, you murdering bastard' along the insides of his heart, in case he didn't already take my words to heart. It was kind of hard to see with all of the blood that came exploding out of it. I had to keep starting over since I kept cutting all the way through. Simply put, stay away from me. That is, of course, if you would like to keep your internal organs inside your body. If not, then I'd be more than happy to remedy your situation." Ryoji said all of this with a rather disturbing smile. As if he actually felt some twisted joy by describing every last gory detail.
In Snatch, London Gangster Brick Top gives a detailed, step-by-step set of instructions for how to dispose of a body (it involves a pig farm) to a Yardie and a duo of Stupid Crooks- the latter of which unwittingly robbed one of his businesses. The Yardie- who knows Brick Top- is clearly intimidated; the other two are too stupid to worry up until they're escorted outside and find that Brick Top's thugs are ready to attempt step 1 on the three of them while they're still alive.
In Disney's adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent has a beautiful example of this. Having captured Prince Phillip and revealed to him that the "peasant girl" he fell in love with is actually the princess he was already betrothed to marry, she explains to him her plan to lock him in her dungeon for a hundred years while the princess lies trapped in ageless, enchanted sleep, awaiting True Love's Kiss to awaken her. She mockingly describes how, after that time, he will be "free to go his way" - as a ghost, the animation heavily implies.
She actually was going to release him in eighty years or so. Being a prince (i.e., of sterner stuff than the regular people) he would still be alive at age ~100. Then, if he chose to awaken Princess Aurora, she would be 16 and he would be 100. If he chose not to awaken her, she and the entire kingdom would remain asleep forever. The real torture would be knowing that she was waiting for him. Fortunately, she didn't have to wait that long.
Jaime Lannister tries to convince an enemy lord to surrender without a fight by describing what will happen if that lord does carry on The Siege.
Jaime: You've seen our numbers, Edmure. You've seen the ladders, the towers, the trebuchets, the rams. If I give the command, my cousin will bridge your moat and break your gate. Hundreds will die, most of them your own. Your former bannermen will make up the first wave of attackers, so you'll start your day by killing the fathers and brothers of the men who died for you at the Twins. The second wave will be Freys, I have no lack of those. My westermen will follow when your archers are short of arrows and your knights so weary they can hardly lift their blades. When the castle falls, all those inside will be put to the sword. Your herds will be butchered, your godswood will be felled, your keeps and towers will burn. I'll pull the walls down, and divert the river over the ruins. By the time I'm done no man will ever know that a castle once stood here. Your wife may whelp before that. You'll want your child, I expect. I'll send him to you when he's born. With a trebuchet.
He then compounds it by having his camp musician play "The Rains of Castamere" to his intimidation victim — a jaunty folk song about what his father did to one of his former bannermen who betrayed him. Let's not forget that (although Jaime doesn't know this) the musician he leaves behind to play "The Rains of Castamere" is the same guy who seduced the victim's first wife when the victim was too drunk to consummate the marriage on their wedding night. And made a song about it.
Actually a subversion: Jaime was desperately hoping that his speech, coupled with his reputation as someone who might actually go through with such threats, would be enough to convince Edmure to back down as he was determined to uphold his oath (unknown to Edmure) not to raise arms against House Tully.
In Golden Fool, Fitz is in a sword fight with Laudwine, a one-handed man (Fitz had chopped his hand off in a previous encounter). When Laudwine threatens to kill him slowly, Fitz responds by threatening to cut off his remaining hand and leave him alive. The idea horrifies him enough that his guard drops for a moment and he ends up dead.
In Going Postal Moist has a To the Pain internal monologue, where he reflects how he's not going to harm Reacher Gilt physically. "I'll kill you in our own special way, the way of the weasel, the cheat and the liar."
The Bible: Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-45 has God giving the Israelites a list of curses He will bring if they choose to disobey Him. This is paraphrased as "If you stop obeying me and start worshiping other gods and doing hideous things [like sacrificing children] that their worship demands, I'll make sure you suffer fire, flood, pestilence, famine and war, and there's literally no place you can hide from me!"
Luther. Annoyed over something Luther has done, manipulative sociopath Alice Morgan grabs his estranged wife Zoe as she's leaving her office and holds an icepick to her ear.
Alice: Don't-look-around. Your husband assaulted me. He touched me. Intimately. He made me do things. He hurt me because of you. And as he touched me he talked about you. He said you were dead. And you'd been very badly burned, your face was cut and your skin was gone. You'd been abducted off the street by a man. A very sick man. He kept you alive for days. He used knives. A blowtorch. He kept pieces of you for seven years. I'm worried...that someone might want to hurt you like that.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spoofed in "The Zeppo" when a Knife Nut zombie spells out exactly what he'll do to Xander, only for Xander to indicate a nearby Time Bomb and ask if he's going to do all that in forty-nine seconds.
1000 Ways to Die thrives on this trope, in general, with each segment featuring a professional (often medical) going into gruesome detail over how the subject of that segment died, complete with a CGI representation of what goes on in the body while dying.
An army-sized variation shows up in Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. Governor-Militant Alexander's speech/boast when his stronghold is attacked outlines the myriad ways the Imperial Guard force is going to reduce its enemy to bite-size chunks. (In order mentioned: legions of infantry, tanks, artillery, and the Titan Cannon.)
One of the male mage character voice sets in Icewind Dale quotes this as one of his battle cries.
Tycho: Don't say another goddamn word. Up until now I've been polite. If you say anything else — word one — I will kill myself. And when my tainted spirit finds its destination, I will topple the master of that dark place. From my black throne, I will lash together a machine of bone and blood, and fueled by my hatred for you this fear engine will bore a hole between this world and that one. When it begins, you will hear the sound of children screaming — as though from a great distance. A smoking orb of nothing will grow above your bed, and from it will emerge a thousand starving crows. As I slip through the widening maw in my new form, you will catch only a glimpse of my radiance before you are incinerated. Then, as tears of bubbling pitch stream down my face, my dark work will begin. I will open one of my six mouths, and I will sing the song that ends the earth.