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Ground by Gears

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Not what I meant when I said "Put your nose to the grindstone"

A particularly Cruel and Unusual Death where a character ends up trapped in a mesh of large machinery, which crushes and grinds them into a pulp. Oftentimes, given the purpose of the devices, it features someone being wedged between two of them at once. If this happens in a cartoon, chances are the character involved will simply be Squashed Flat.

Often goes hand in hand with a Conveyor Belt of Doom. Places where this can happen are often guilty of No OSHA Compliance. Surprisingly has nothing to do with Gears of War. Often involves a Gory Discretion Shot. Not to be confused with what grinds your gears. Compare with Deadly Rotary Fan and Fold-Spindle Mutilation.

This is often a Death Trope, so all spoilers are unmarked.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • One of Count Cagliostro's mooks is crushed by the workings during the famous Clock Tower climax of The Castle of Cagliostro, though each time a Gory Discretion Shot hides the gruesome details from the audience. An unusual variant happens to the Count himself when he's caught in between the gigantic hour and minute hands of the clock face itself as the special mechanism causes them to both rapidly converge on 12.
  • In the True Devil Chojin arc of Kinnikuman, Benkiman loses the match against Gear Master by getting crushed in Gear Master's Genocide Gears.

    Comic Books 
  • In Lori Lovecraft: Repression, Thalia Dubois attempts to kill Lori inside Big Ben during a film shoot. In the struggle, she falls into Big Ben's gears and is crushed to death.

    Films — Animation 
  • This is also the fate of the Seamstress in 9, trapped by the heroes and dragged between two massive gears in the factory; we even get to see her head go 'pop' between the teeth, though as she's a Mechanical Monster, this isn't as gory as it sounds.
  • The Brave Little Toaster: Toaster commits a Heroic Sacrifice by jumping into the gears of a trash compactor to stop it from killing the Master. Fortunately, the Master is able to repair him good as new.
  • Cars 2: Around the climax of the movie, Finn and Holly are tied to the giant clock gears of the Big Bentley by the bad guys, with them edging closer to being crushed by another gear each minute. Holly manages to save themselves by making the clock run in reverse.
  • In Disney's The Great Mouse Detective, Basil flips The Villain's cape into some bevel gears while the two were fighting inside Big Ben. Basil then rushes to rescue the Heartwarming Orphan, who is poised to be crushed by much larger gears meshing, leaving The Villain to tear off his cape to free himself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Climax of 2012, Gordon ends up caught in the gears of the Ark's door mechanism and is brutally (though not explicitly) crushed to death. A minor Chinese character also ends up getting a leg caught in the machinery.
  • In Cold Pursuit, Avalance gets sucked into Nils' snowplow and is turned into a bloody red pulp that is sprayed along the side of the road.
  • The Final Destination: After barely escaping an explosion in the mall, Lori is pulled into the exposed machinery of a broken escalator and is torn to shreds as Nick looks on. Of course, this turned out to be another premonition and he is able to prevent it. In an alternate scene, he ends up getting pulled in as well.
  • In The Funhouse, Gunther dies when he is caught in the gears of the funhouse after being electrocuted.
  • In Holmes & Watson, Watson is strapped to a giant gear in the Titantic's engine room, so his head will be crushed by a cog when the engines start turning.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. At the end of Indiana's fight with a Giant Mook, the villain is dragged into a giant rock crusher by his scarf and squashed to death.
  • James Bond:
    • Licence to Kill: The Dragon Dario attempts to drop Bond into an industrial pulverizer that is being used to crush cocaine. After a tough fight, Bond manages to yank Dario so he falls into the pulverizer and is turned into a fine pink mist.
    • Tomorrow Never Dies: During the fight in Carver's headquarters in Hamburg, Bond tosses one of Carver's goons into a running printing press; resulting in the papers coming out black and white and red all over.
  • Subverted in Modern Times. Charlie gets caught inside the machinery, but the gears only move him around without harming him.
  • Happens to a mook in Snowpiercer, when he gets pushed over a railing during a fight scene and is then eaten by the train engine's gears, thanks to No OSHA Compliance.
  • In When Evil Calls, a girl wishes she could lose a stone in weight. Her wish is granted by having her arm ground off when it gets trapped in the garbage disposal.


    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Pathfinder, the signature move of the Clockwork Golem is to pop open and drag someone into its transmission.

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue
    • Carl Clover's updated Astral Heat in Chronophantasma has him trapping his foe in a pocket dimension where they are ground to dust by giant gears.
    • One of Relius Clover's Distortion Drives, Req Vinum, has him trapping the foe in an energy field and chipped away by large gears and cogs.
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance: There's an enemy called Guardian Armor. It resembles the many Living Armor monsters encountered in the game, with the difference being that it carries a huge shield that makes it impervious to damage. To destroy it, one must push it into the rotating gears affixed into the back of the room. If the Guardian Armor is pushed all the way onto them, they will trap and pull him in, destroying him completely and sending the pieces of its armor flying all across the room, that Juste can equip.
  • Crash Tag Team Racing: In one of the "Die-o-rama" cutscenes, Crash is killed by being crushed by giant gears.
  • There are two obstacles in Duke Nukem 3D that are composed of two enormous gears meshing, with one gear missing a tooth. Duke can travel between these gears if he occupies the missing tooth's space. Or he can mistime it, and get squished, giving himself a Bond One-Liner.
  • In God Of War 3, Kratos uses Poseidon's princess to keep a gate mechanism open, but her strength eventually gives out and she's crushed by the gears, her mangled body keeping the gate from closing completely.
  • This can happen to Norman Jayden in Heavy Rain during the junkyard fight if the player doesn't guide him out of the car thrown into the grinder fast enough.
  • The ultimate of Urgot, the Dreadnought, from League of Legends fires a long-ranged harpoon out that locks onto the first enemy champion it hits. If their HP is low enough (making them too weak to resist him), he reels the harpoon back in, dragging the hapless champion into a set of grinding rollers set into the front of his cybernetic body and gruesomely ripping them apart and not even leaving a body behind. Not only is it effectively a guaranteed kill (it does 9999 damage), it's such a horrible death that any of the hapless victim's teammates nearby are briefly terrified by witnessing it.
  • Limbo: The sprawling late-game factory includes several Clockworks Areas where the Player Character has to navigate giant, moving gears, threatening this trope as one of The Many Deaths of You.
  • Paper Mario: The Origami King: During his search of Shogun Studios, Luigi ends up getting caught in the gears behind the scenes of the ninja house attraction. Fortunately, this is the continuity where everyone is made of paper, so he's able to be freed and good as new after getting unfolded.
  • Pokémon: The move Gear Grind, learned by the Klink evolution line, uses gears to crush targets.
  • Clock Tower: This is how the Scissorman is eventually defeated in the good endings. After the title location gets activated, the bells ringing seem to mess with him mentally, causing him to wander off the edge of the platform, seemingly falling into the gears below. On a more unfortunate note, if the player gets the A ending, then they’re presented with a Hope Spot of one of the protagonist’s friends arriving shortly after, upon which Mary suddenly appears and throws said friend into the gears as well.

    Web Animation 
  • DSBT InsaniT: This is how Blake defeats Darkness Robo in 'VRcade'.
  • In the BGA (background art) for Lea F's 2018 song MARENOL, this is one of many ways in which the protagonist does in her dreams.

    Western Animation 
  • The Batman has a Mêlée à Trois between Batman, Catwoman, and Ragdoll take place inside the Gotham clock tower over two legendary jewels supposedly hidden inside it
    • Batman is about to be dragged into one of these deaths by way of a Cape Snag from Ragdoll, prompting a Sadistic Choice between losing his hooded cape (and thus making a Dramatic Unmask) or this trope. He is narrowly saved by Catwoman on the grounds that she doesn't want his mysterious allure ruined.
    • Just after Batman is saved by Catwoman, the enormous bells of the clock tower strike and the vibrations send Ragdoll tumbling into the gearwork, prompting a bloodcurdling scream from Ragdoll as the gears swallow and grind him with both Batman and Catwoman looking on in horror as the scream dies... and gives way to a relieved sigh with Ragdoll emerging on the other side no worse for wear, prompting Stunned Silence from both Batman and Catwoman. The real kicker? While he was undergoing what, to him, was essentially thorough impromptu massage therapy he somehow managed to spot and grab the two jewels while inside the gearworks.
      Ragdoll: Really irons out the kinks... oh! And lookie what I found! [holds up the jewels with a shit-eating grin on his face]
    • Batman later abuses Ragdoll's immunity to this trope to get around his Thou Shalt Not Kill rule - by kicking him into the gears (much to Ragdoll's enjoyment) only to jam the gears with a Batarang, causing Ragdoll to get helplessly stuck and taking him out of the Mêlée à Trois.
  • This almost happens to Donald Duck in How to Have an Accident at Work when he accidentally starts the machine he is eating lunch on and the napkin tied around his neck is snagged in the gears. In freeing himself, he completely derails western civilization.
  • The Villain from Hanna-Barbera's cartoon series Josie and the Pussycats episode "Never Mind A Mastermind" seeks to eliminate the meddlesome Alexander, Melody, and Alexandra by letting a cogged rack act as a Conveyor Belt o' Doom, taking the three toward the point where it meshes with a large drive gear. The Team Pet saves them from being meshed to mush, however.
  • The "Campus Commandos" episode of Mega Man involves Dr. Wily attempting to kill Mega Man, Roll and Rush by tying them to the gears of the campus clock tower.
  • The Pixar short cartoon Mikes New Car from 2002 has Mike Wazowsky from Monsters, Inc. show off his new car to his best friend James Sullivan. At one point, Mike ends up in the car's engine bay with the hood shutting above him. The engine compartment seems composed solely of large gears meshing precisely to create this hazard. Mike survives due to Plot Armor and the Rule of Funny.
  • The second Roger Rabbit short cartoon is Roller Coaster Rabbit, which sees a desperate Roger attempt to save Baby Herman from harm at a carnival. When Baby Herman clambers aboard a Ferris wheel, Roger tries to snag him from the car, but his feet become enmeshed in the wheel's many exposed drive gears. Toon Physics make this mightily painful for Roger, but neither injurious nor fatal; even his outfit emerges intact.
  • Narrowly averted in the Silly Symphonies short "The Old Mill''. A bird has made her nest on one of the spoke holes of a grindstone of the abandoned mill. That night a storm starts moving the gears and the rope holding the main gear breaks. The bird and her eggs are only saved by the fact that the corresponding spoke is missing.


Video Example(s):


Luigi gears

Luigi is trapped between the gears, and Mario has to rescue him. One of the few examples of this trope where the victim doesn't die.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / GroundByGears

Media sources:

Main / GroundByGears