Any scene location where the villains do their plotting is invariably dark. This includes, but is not limited to, starship command centers, unethical laboratories, and throne rooms. A more personal effect is when the villain seems to absorb the light around him, presenting dramatic shadows that you could have sworn weren't there moments before the heroes arrived.
In some circumstances, it's obvious. The villains don't want to meet on the street, either to conspire or with a victim of Blackmail, or travel with their ill-gotten and conspicuous goods, or go into their stronghold when it's broad daylight; people will see them. Night is necessary to hide. Also, they may not want the characters they are talking to to be able to recognize them, and gloom helps there.
But they don't turn on the lights once they're inside the stronghold and everyone knows them.
Interestingly enough, it has been produced in a lab: people are more likely to be dishonest/commit moral transgressions in a dark environment. Perhaps it is revealing What You Are in the Dark.
Often the setting for the Omniscient Council of Vagueness. Glowy orange or purple colors are optional. Compare Empathic Environment, Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty, and Face Framed in Shadow. See also Dark Is Evil and Darkness = Death for why this trope is employed, and Chiaroscuro (and the page image) for another reason why. Compare AND contrast Daylight Horror and Light Is Not Good. Compare The Future Is Noir, a setting trope for the Sci-Fi genre.
- An advertisement for Amnesty International had a Secret Policeman reading files in a darkened office about people being tortured, only to quickly put them away whenever someone turned on a light or lit a match. The Aesop is that: When they think they're being watched, it's surprising what they won't do.
- All evil plotting in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- takes place in almost complete darkness.
- Alucard's room in Hellsing is particularly dark, although it could be said that not much of Hellsing could be considered bright. Possibly justified because Alucard is a vampire, and vampires are typically nocturnal.
- Higurashi: When They Cry is interesting in that as the plot gets darker, so does the environment. Go on, see for yourself.
- Father from Fullmetal Alchemist plays it straight with his dark subterranean throne room.
- The Seven Stars from Corpse Princess.
- The senators in Eureka Seven. (Points for a dramatic green light in the center of the room.)
- Akatsuki in Naruto were initially shown to meet in a really dark cave with only their outlines being (barely) visible. This is eventually explainable as security protocol. When all they're doing is meeting, they pick a place nobody (including them) has ever physically gone near to minimize the chances of spies already present and use telepresence to minimize the chance of being followed. Once their meetings start requiring physical supplies on hand, those include lights.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Precia and most of the areas in her Garden of Time.
- In Death Note, Light Yagami's room, where he does most of his evil planning in the earlier part of the anime, is always dark.
- Played with in The Flash, where the Rogues typically do their plotting in a diner or bar and once met in a movie theater.
- Sin City is dark almost everywhere you go, but then again, it's a bad place.
- New Avengers (2015) has a borderline parody of the trope in the form of Mor-i-dun, dark star-wizard of the fifth (aka dark) cosmos, who isn't only fond of lurking in the shadows but a power so dark that its mere presence makes the lights go out, scaring the Maker's henchmen.
Henchman: zzir? We, ah, we can't turn the lights back on.
- Inverted with Batman, Daredevil, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who use the darkness to make themselves scarier to their foes.
- Parodied in The Simpsons: The villains of Radioactive Man, the Secret Bonfire Club, like to meet in an entirely dark room, prompting one of them to ask why, if they're supposedly super rich, they can't afford any lightbulbs.
- Parodied in Alan Ford: Vampire Baron Wurdalak owns a decrepit castle which is dark and creepy because he didn't have the money to pay the bills.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami features this whenever Ami tries to alter the appearance of her dungeon. Coupled with Creepy Changing Painting, Fisher King, and Eldritch Location. She eventually works around the problem by making the lights look like creepy glowing eyes and such.
- In Tiberium Wars, this is invoked by Kane, because making his minions stumble around in the dark is funny.
- Lampshaded in A Cure for Love: after L and Light have a fight (and L reflects that perhaps upsetting Kira like that was a bad idea), L returns to HQ to find Light sitting alone in the dark:
- The Rise of Darth Vulcan: Darth Vulcan admits this is the case with his lair at one point. He says it's good for intimidation in general, but not so much when his audience can't see specific threats.
- Generally Inverted in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse, as you would expect when the Big Bad is the personification of the Sun.
- Deconstructed in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction Between Day and Night when Princess Luna nefariously tries to get her sister married to her student
The cult leader took a few steps in the direction, he thought the voice came from and hit his shin hard on the coffee table. Dignified, he bit his lip until the pain dissipated and kneeled before the starry mane of his princess.
My princess, we are here to...- You are talking to the window. Luna interrupted his greeting.
Oh, excuse me, I can see three starry surfaces and I just took the one to the left. The cult leader apologised.
At the same time, the other cultist hit his head on a statue.
Say, my princess, do we have to keep the light off? We common ponies cant see as well in the dark as you.
Another groan indicated that his friend had hurt himself again.
Luna rubbed her forehead.
* This is why Nightmare Moon worked alone!*
- The Mansions of the Gods: Caesar's palace is huge and gloomy, with the regularly placed lamps barely providing any illumination.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Friendship Games: Principal Abacus Cinch's office is dark save a single lamp illuminating the desk when Twilight visits her, easily pegging as the movie's main villain.
- Strange Magic: The Bog King is introduced shrouded in shadows in his castle. After the time skip, it seems he's had a skylight installed signaling his more complicated portrayal post-time skip.
- The evil owner of the baseball team from The Natural kept his office unlit. That led to a humorous scene when the hero turned on the light on his way out, and the team owner completely overreacted. (Roger Ebert complained about the opposite device in his review, saying that Robert Redford and Glenn Close were frequently lit like angelic beings, just in case you didn't know who to root for.)
- Star Trek:
- The bridges of Klingon ships in early movies were poorly lit, with a red tinge to the lighting. The Bounty shows us that Klingon starships don't have the wiring to be brighter inside.
- Nero from Star Trek (2009) has a particularly poorly lit ship.
- Star Trek Into Darkness: The interior of The Vengeance is this, with lots of dim blues and shadowy hallways. Somewhat justified as it had a minimal crew and it would be pointless to put lighting in unused hallways.
- Star Wars:
- Before becoming the Emperor, Palpatine always appeared as Darth Sidious, hidden in shadow to conceal his identity.
- Averted with the Empire. The Death Star and Star Destroyers are all pristine clean and extremely well-lit. Except for Palpatine's throne room. Clearly, he's got a taste for it.
- The VVitch: Despite all the use of Daylight Horror, the only time we ever see the Witch in her true form and not some form of Glamour is in very dim lighting. And when Black Phillip takes his human form to talk to Thomasin in the penultimate scene, it's so dark all we can make out is the outline of his face, the brim of his hat, and a quick glance of his boot as he walks towards her.
- Conan the Barbarian: In Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon, Conan is taken to such a place.
Whether it was day or night the king could not tell. The palace of King Tarascus seemed a shadowy, nighted place, that shunned natural illumination. The spirit of darkness and shadow hovered over it, and that spirit, Conan felt, was embodied in the stranger Xaltotun.
- Discworld: In The Truth, the evil conspiracy has their dimly lit room described so that it matches the trope well and points out a potential advantage of using it: if the room is badly lit but for one bright light, it's hard to make out anyone's face and learn his identity.
- Harry Potter: Lord Voldemort, a.k.a. the Dark Lord is very fond of this trope. His favorite scenes for evil showdowns include an old graveyard (at midnight) and a vast chamber filled with snake statues built far underground. Also, Slytherin house, which has a far greater ratio of mean students to nice ones, has a common room that is noticeably darker compared to the common rooms of the other houses. Lampshaded by Dumbledore, who believes Voldemort is using the darkness and the death motifs to scare his enemies. From what we heard of Slytherin, he wasn't a very pleasant person, and the students who are enrolled in his house are usually very much like him, so it's somewhat justified.
- Honor Harrington: Specifically averted in The Short Victorious War, in which the future Committee of Public Safety, who have not yet carried out their coup, meet in a tennis court in an abandoned high-rise but while the windows are thoroughly blacked out, the inside is well lit.
- In Robert E. Howard's Kull/Bran Mak Morn story "Kings of the Night", where the Religion of Evil performs its Human Sacrifice:
The Druids of his own isle of Erin had strange dark rites of worship, but nothing like this. Dark trees shut in this grim scene, lit by a single torch. Through the branches moaned an eerie night-wind. Cormac was alone among men of a strange race and he had just seen the heart of a man ripped from his still pulsing body.
- Averted, sort of, in The Man Who Was Thursday, when the Supreme Council of Anarchy meets over breakfast in broad daylight in a very public location. Of course, as with just about any other event in the novel, there's more going on than meets the eye. For starters, none of the Council members are actually evil.
- Mediochre Q Seth Series: The Organisation Which I Represent is seen in one of their meetings at the start of The Good The Bad And The Mediochre. It's in a darkened room lit only by a single candle, which provides enough light for the various members to just about make out where they are, but prevents them from identifying each other.
- In Shaman Blues, the location of the sacrifices and the source of Black Magic driving ghosts insane is a house without windows or lamps, and with walls painted black just to make sure there's no light in there at all.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. somewhat inverts this. S.H.I.E.L.D.s science labs and many of its other facilities are typically dimly lit and have mainly dark colours in their interior design, contrasting with the white walls and bright lights of the HYDRA lab where Jemma Simmons works as a mole in the second season.
- This happens in Asfour when Itzik is taken to meet Saragousti. Justified, as Saragousti has suffered very severe brain damage several years prior, barely moves if at all, and does not speak. Kobi uses him as a dummy boss quite literally; in that scene, he keeps Saragousti seated on a revolving chair with his back to the unwitting Itzik, who is very nervous about the scene.
- Towards the end of Breaking Bad, the Whites' home is commonly shown in darkness with lots of shadows, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere as Walter and Skyler descend further into the underworld. This is contrasted with the Schraders' house, which is always bright, well-lit, and roomy.
- Doctor Who: In "The Stolen Earth", Davros is hidden in shadow for the better part of the episode until he interrupts the heroes' subwave network.
- In one episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, the title character steps into such a lair, looks around, and says that just once, he'd like to meet a villain who demands fresh air and sunshine.
- iCarly: Nevel's blackmail of Carly takes place in the dark dingy alley behind her and Freddie's apartment building.
- Lampshaded in Iron Fist (2017): Madame Gao notes that her secret office on the thirteenth floor of the Rand Enterprises building is a bit dark. The secretary promises to put in an order for some lamps.
- On The Orville, Krill ships are dark inside. Justified as they evolved on a planet that doesn't get any sunlight and are therefore used to darkness. They require tinted helmets and full-body protection to operate in what humans consider natural lighting; exposure to enough UV light to give a human a sunburn is instantly fatal.
- Stargate: averted with the Goa'uld, the Ori, and the Asurans, as all of them had pretty well-lit ships. Played straight with Replicators and the Wraith. Seemingly inverted in Stargate Universe, as the Destiny (and presumably the other very old Ancient ships) was darker than the hostile alien ships were so far.
- Star Trek: Federation starships are definitely better lit than Romulan, Borg, or Klingon ships (even after Klingons became good guys).
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine carried on the tradition with the Cardassians, but also played with it a bit in one episode where Garak complains that from his point of view the public areas of the station are bright enough to cause him considerable discomfort; presumably he's too proud to replicate a pair of sunglasses.
- Terran Empire ships in Enterprise and Discovery. The latter eventually gives an explanation: the Terrans are sensitive to light, which results in Burnham realizing that her Captain Gabriel Lorca is, in fact, Terran.
- Star Trek: Voyager. In "Living Witness", a historian has given the 'Warship Voyager' a Historical Villain Upgrade; in his holographic simulation all Voyager's internal lights are dim and Captain Janeway is introduced with her Face Framed in Shadow, monologuing on how Might Makes Right.
- Studio C: In "Evil Asides", the creepy old lady has dark green lighting and an ominous hum whenever she makes an aside about killing the lost campers who are following her.
- In The X-Files, the conspirators often meet to confer in dimly-lit, smoky rooms.
- The Wyatt Family live in a dark shack in a dank swamp. When they enter the arena, the lights go out, the only light being a lantern carried by Bray Wyatt.
- The Undertaker is famous for putting out the lights just by showing up. One of his trademarks is to slowly raise his arms, causing the lights to come back on.
- In Warhammer Fantasy, several of the evil factions are depicted in dark and shadowy environs for various reasons. The Skaven and Vampire Counts have perfect night-vision and live Beneath the Earth or in windowless castles respectively (Vampires are Weakened by the Light) and so are usually portrayed as shadowy figures with blood-red eyes that signify their night-vision. Also used (and lampshaded) with Malekith, king of the Dark Elves as he dislikes fire (he had a bad experience stepping into one in his backstory) and with fires being generally avoided in his presence his dark tower tends to be quite literally dark as a result.
- Usually why any given Stealth-Based Game is winnable. Proper lighting would make such games Unwinnable.
- In Halo, Flood-infected buildings and Covenant ships are dimly lit.
- Count Bleck's Castle in Super Paper Mario is completely black, with only the walls, floor, and other features bordered with white lines.◊
- In the original Paper Mario, the two main rooms of Peach's Castle are a lot darker when under Bowser's control; this works out to Peach's benefit. Most of the side rooms are still well-lit, though.
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, when you reach the room where the Shadow Queen appears, the plethora of candles go out and a darker flame appears on each.
- Taken to an extreme in Metal Gear: Ghost Babel; a spinoff for the Game Boy Color. The villain Marionette Owl can see well in dark areas.
- Alan Wake's Dark Presence is not only this but Not Well Lit Is Evil.
- Morphix's GLOPP factory in Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project is really dark, especially at the start. The only light you get at that point is the Sickly Green Glow of the GLOPP far below.
- In The Sims 3, sims will get a negative moodlet without proper lighting. Sims with the evil trait won't.
- In the Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series, Brotherhood of Nod bases tend to have very minimal, very stark red lighting, such that 80% of any given shot is black and the rest red (see the page pic for Dark Messiah for a typical example).
- Arachnos in City of Heroes likes the same color and lighting scheme. If you aren't wearing a helmet or mask with integrated low-light optics you probably don't belong there anyway.
- In The Dark Meadow, monsters won't attack you in any room that has light coming in. (Although a little bit getting in through a crack is OK for them, apparently.)
- The BlackCastle in An Untitled Story. Not only is it black, it also has a room with faulty lighting.
- In Wario Land: Shake It, the throne room the Shake King stays in through about 90% of the game is literally completely dark. As in, the bit Wario enters from is pretty much just a black screen and the rest of it seems like only half the lights are on, to the point where you can see the villain's eyes glowing in the dark.
- In the final confrontation in Brain Dead 13, where the room is entirely in darkness, and only the tiny pillars of light are seen, as well as Dr. Neurosis, Fritz, and Lance.
- In Terraria when going into the corruption, the sun will become dim.
- Pirate stations in StarMade are very sparsely lit with red lamps, while the standard generated stations are lit brightly lit with standard white lamps.
- Endless Legend's Broken Lords, a tragic society of honorable knights who bound their souls to armor to survive the end of the world, must drain Dust from living creatures to sustain their bodies. Their once beautiful capital is now a barren wasteland cloaked in endless night, where the only sources of light are the ominous blue glow emanating from the eyes of Broken Lords and the vast beacon atop their castle.
- Inverted in Mass Effect. Compared to the portrayal in the first and third games where it's an Alliance ship the Normandy is extremely bright in Mass Effect 2 where it's being operated by Cerberus, a terrorist group. Also, one of your crew in the third game even justify why having the lights up is a bad idea - in case the ship is attacked then it's harder for the crew's eyes to adjust to the shift into complete darkness. This is only one of many issues the retrofitting team had with Cerberus' engineering choices. Pilot Joker mentions they also made other civilian-friendly changes like making the chairs comfortable.
- Justified in Doom 3: the Mars base has suffered from bureaucratic meddling since its founding, so it was never fully installed with proper lighting and is now severely behind repair anyway. Furthermore, the secret teleporter experiments are wreaking havoc with the power grid, resulting in short circuits, blackouts and outright burn-outs across the base.
- This is very much the case in Darkest Dungeon, although oddly enough the most evil locations - the Courtyard and the Darkest Dungeon itself - are somewhat better lit than the Weald, Warrens, Ruins, and Cove. All four cases are justified: the Ruins are a twisted knot of warped corridors with only a few above-ground windows; the Warrens are long-buried ruins that are inhabited by pig-monsters (pigs have pretty bad eyesight in real life); the Cove is mostly a cave network covered in ancient, eldritch ruins; and the Weald is a claustrophobic forest with an incredibly dense and dark canopy. (As for the exceptions, the Courtyard is mostly an above-ground swamp where there is at least some daylight, and the Darkest Dungeon is given reduced torch consumption as one of the game's few Anti-Frustration Features.)
- The monsters in the Doom mod Lasting Light thrive in the dark: the Screecher can pounce on you with impunity in the dark, the Creeper hates the light and will attack you if lit by your lantern for more than a split second, and the Stalker doesn't need light to see you by.
- The titular Nightmares in Mary Skelter: Nightmares are perpetually shrouded in darkness, and start chasing the heroes if they wander deep enough into the shroud. It's inverted in the sequel, where they are instead shrouded in a white haze.
- Chadam: Viceroy spends his time in a dark, dingy lair. He hides out watching normal citizens from dark places and operates on people from inside a dark room.
- Subverted in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures: Dan finds the Dark Pegasus plotting in a dimly-lit room, but it's not because he's evil - the power went out due to reckless damage caused by Dan's allies.
- Emergency Exit:
- Sluggy Freelance both plays straight and lampshades this one with sinister corporation Hereti-Corp, whose "Evil Room" is kept dark. Lampshaded in its initial appearance and again when the company is dismantled and its leaders take over a fast-food franchise from the bottom up. The rebuilt corporation of later years plays it straight.
- Bob and George here, here, and here.
- Lampshaded via a Running Gag in Pebble Version is the (presumably) Big Bad's search for adequate lighting in his office. When he does get a lamp, it is blindingly bright.
- In Far from Home, lampshaded when the prisoners ask why and the captain answers it's for effect.
- The Order of the Stick:
- There's the deep dark Dungeon of Dorukan in the first mention of plot. Interestingly it doesn't seem to be that dark inside; the PCs aren't even carrying torches. Of course, while the current occupant is evil the original builder was not.
- Subverted with the Monster in the Darkness, which is always shadowed by magical darkness. He is not really evil and wants more than everything get out of the darkness. The problem is that he is the secret weapon of the villains who don't want to reveal him until the dramatically appropriate moment.
- Spoofed in Exterminatus Now, when just prior to The Reveal, The Mole calls his employer, a sinister face in a green glowing darkness... who turns out the be The Mole's poker buddy who was sleeping in bed with a digital alarm clock with a green display, and The Mole apologizes for calling the wrong number. Then we get the Big Bad from a previous arc, cheerfully answering the phone in a brightly lit kitchen, cooking dinner and wearing a "Kiss the Cult Leader" apron.
- In El Goonish Shive, Lord Tedd is shown to be in a dark room in two out of three of his appearances. The third appearance is in well-lit rooms. He seems far more evil in the dark room than in the well-lit rooms to the point of seeming to be a different person entirely (which is not out of the question given the multiversal setting).
- In The Legend of Neil, not only is Ganon's lair poorly lit, but also commonly under the effects of fog machines (fog = power), making it damn near impossible to find anything.
- In The Fantastic Favio Bros, Dr. Lucifer parodies the trope by having his mansion be pitch black in his introduction. He then averts it when he falls down the stairs due to the darkness.
- Subverted in the Creepypasta "Thanks". The monster is unable to find its victim in the darkness. Turning on the nightlight is what dooms him/her.
- Discussed in the DuckTales (1987) episode "Sweet Duck of Youth". Launchpad says that they'll be all right as soon as the sun comes up because "everybody knows that ghosts can only do their haunting at night."
- Parodied in SpongeBob SquarePants when Barnacle Boy goes "over to the dark side" and moves his tray to the side of the Krusty Krab that Mr. Krabs is too cheap to light.
- In Cyber Six, the only sources of light to be found in any of Von Reichter's lairs is the glow from computer screens and tubes filled with Sustenance, as well as the occasional flash of lightning.
- The Decepticon's ship Nemesis in Transformers: Prime is dark and barely provided with light.
- Parodied in Freakazoid!, when Cobra Queen mistakes Freakazoid for another hero because there's so little light in her sewer hideout. Freakazoid suggests that she could brighten the place up with some Japanese paper lanterns; the next time we see her lair, she has taken his advice.