Despite having spawned its very own field of study, "situational awareness" ultimately boils down to a simple concept: being constantly vigilant of everything that's going on around you, so that you won't be caught off-guard and can react quickly and effectively if something were to go wrong. Yet simple as that concept is, many characters simply aren't very good at putting it into practice. They may become so preoccupied with being ambushed from behind that they end up walking backwards, not looking where they're going... only to find themselves backing into the exact threat they're trying to avoid.
Backing into Danger is a perennial horror trope, particularly in the Survival Horror or "monster movie" subgenres, but it can just as easily appear in action movies, or any movie with a strong element of suspense. It can take various forms, but the most basic version is that a character backs into something dangerous or scary because they didn't think to look in the direction they were actually moving.
A less cartoonish variation of this trope can occur when a character isn't obliviously walking straight backwards, but simply fails to protect their blind spots properly. For example, a soldier or police officer may be skulking through hostile territory, but instead of keeping their back against a wall, they simply leave their back unprotected. This can lead to them walking right into danger because they couldn't adequately watch every exposed angle.
Yet this trope need not be limited to horror films. Comedies, cartoons, and less-serious films often play this trope for laughs in various ways, the most common method being two people both walking backwards while searching for a threat, and colliding with each other. This often results in a Jump Scare for the characters, with or without a Reactive Continuous Scream. This was especially popular with Hanna-Barbera cartoons, particularly Scooby and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.
Subtrope of Failed a Spot Check, which is about failing to notice something important even when actively looking for it. Contrast Backing Away Slowly, which is about backing away from an awkward or crazy situation. See also Behind the Black, which is when objects or people outside of the camera's view are assumed to be completely absent, even when they would logically still be nearby.
- The Land Before Time: Ducky walks backward right into an angry Sharptooth.
- Used in Blade: Trinity, though rather than because of a jump-scare, Hannibal King just defeated some Reaper-strain-looking vampire dogs and was backwards-walking while Flipping the Bird. Then fell through a broken skylight.
- The Coen Brothers' rom-com Intolerable Cruelty plays the Scooby-and-Shaggy version dead straight with two lawyers armed with pepper-spray stalking around a darkened house. The moment they enter the house you know what's going to happen...
- In the film Mimic, a redshirt finds a cache of giant mutant cockroach eggs under New York City. He's so horrified (even though he's an entomologist and these eggs were expected) that he backs away, right into a giant mutant cockroach.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: While exploring the raided space station at Regula 1, McCoy gets a Cat Scare when a rat scuttles past behind him. Instead of turning and continuing forward, McCoy walks backward for a bit, and ends up backing straight into a Peek-a-Boo Corpse.
- In Van Helsing, upon realising there's a werewolf in the large armoury with her, Anna does this in true "horror movie idiot" fashion by walking through the middle of the room (leaving herself open to attack from all sides) while brandishing a pistol (which, being a ranged weapon, gives an even more compelling reason to look ahead and try and spot the monster from as far away as possible). She also commits the other stereotypical horror movie mistake of not looking up, despite knowing that werewolves are capable of a Ceiling Cling.
- In Eden Green, the title character explores an abandoned church in search of a harmless, herbivorous alien monster, and finds something terrifying. Then, while backing away from it down a dark hallway, she bumps into something even worse.
- Also parodied in one of the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books. Then he spins around again and winds up face-to-face with a monster.
Arthur backed down the passageway, feeling increasingly nervous. After a while, he realized that this was because, in every horror movie he'd ever seen, when the hero backs slowly down a passageway, he winds up backing into a monster.
At this point he spun round very suddenly, and saw nothing.
He started backing down the passageway in the other direction. After a few moments, he realized that he was now backing toward whatever he had been backing away from in the first place.
This, he could not help feeling, was a very foolish thing to do.
- In Slender, this is a good way to crash into Slendy's shins if he wasn't in your field of vision already.
- Can happen in Team Fortress 2, where you backpedal and bump into your 'teammate', and find yourself unable to walk further. Congratulations, you just bumped an enemy Spy, and he's poised to strike at your exposed back...
- The Simpsons: Lampshaded in the episode "The Lastest Gun in the West". Bart, running from a attacking pit bull, climbs over a fence and backs away from it; when a safe distance away, he relaxes, saying, "Ah, safe at last. Now, I'll just turn around, and confirm that safety," only to find a menagerie of menacing creatures ready to attack.