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Infernal Background

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"Oh, puh-leez. I have no soul."

"The roaring fire behind her... made her glow, as if she'd been sent from hell."

When a character is plotting something wicked, flames often appear in the background. The fire often comes out of nowhere, although the character may actually stand in front of a burning object for the same effect. Either way, it is simply meant for dramatic effect. The use of this trope can vary on the Sliding Scale of Seriousness Versus Silliness: it can be used in a serious way, to make a character seem legitimately intimidating, or it can be used in a silly way, due to its somewhat over-the-top nature.

The character may do an Evil Laugh while the flames appear.

Sub-Trope of Evil Is Burning Hot.

Compare Background Halo (that is, the evil variant involving horns), Battle Amongst the Flames, Fireball Eyeballs, Out of the Inferno, and Devilish Hair Horns. Contrast Holy Backlight.

Not to be confused with having demonic ancestry.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Seen in a few episodes of Tamagotchi.
    • In episode 7b, Flowertchi sees a flower that represents passion and instantly absorbs that personality trait, with the scene accompanied by flames in the background.
    • In a later episode, flames appear behind Himespetchi when she gets angry.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Happy Heroes, Big M. getting mad at Little M. tends to be accompanied by flames in the background.
  • In the Lamput episode "Martial Art", Lamput notices his popcorn has been destroyed and gets mad at Fat Doc and Slim Doc for it. Both the hero from the martial arts film he had been watching in the theater auditorium and a bunch of flames appear as he shrieks at them.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, flames often appear behind Wolnie whenever she gets angry at Wolffy.
  • In the Simple Samosa episode "Meethi Masi", when Samosa is finally sick of his aunt and cousins constantly being an annoyance to him, he gets angry and proclaims he's going to find a way to drive them out. As this happens, a flame can be seen behind him.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Invoked in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein during the Monster's Then Let Me Be Evil moment. After unwittingly scaring away a family and concluding that he really is a monster, he burns down their house. The scene ends with a shot of him, with his back to the burning house, and vowing to get revenge on Victor.
  • In the 1995 film adaptation of Othello, there is a dramatic scene with Iago, where he monologues to the audience about his evil plan while standing over a chessboard, and a fire is burning in the background.


    Video Games 
  • Borderlands: In Claptrap's Robolution DLC, the Vault Hunters are introduced to Mr. Blake, head of Mega-Corp Hyperion's Mercenary relations decision. His introductory splash is backed with flames, which when coupled with his pointy hairstyle makes him look like the Devil. However, despite seeming sinister at first, he turns out to a Reasonable Authority Figure who, despite being sarcastic and dour, deals with the Vault Hunters honestly and pays them well for their efforts.
  • The E3 2014 trailer for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain ends with a close-up of a bloody Venom Snake as flames burn behind him. Subverted in the actual game, as while a similar scene does show up, the context behind it is more tragic than outright villainous.
  • Invoked in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). When Mephiles is manipulating Silver into thinking that Sonic is a dangerous madman, Mephiles gives Silver a vision of Sonic surrounded by flames.
  • In the intro of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario's nemesis Bowser appears standing in a field of flames. With Bowser himself darkened aside from his Glowing Eyes of Doom, the effect is pretty creepy... or badass.
    • In Ultimate, Sephiroth's victory screen is unique in that it depicts him standing among flames, in reference to the Nibelheim Incident of his own game.
  • In The Legend of Zelda games, Ganondorf is often introduced like this
    • In Ocarina of Time The Deku Tree shows Link a vision of Ganondorf riding his horse between two walls of flame.
    • Likewise, The Wind Waker shows Ganondorf standing in a ring of fire when the King of Red Lions explains who he is to Link.
    • Twlight Princess finally has Ganondorf do this first hand during the flashback scene where he meets Zant. Ganon first appears as a giant ball of fire and pulls Zant inside, where he appears as a giant flaming face surrounded by a flaming background.
  • In Octogeddon, each and everytime the titular octopus gets triggered, flames appear in the background while it roars in anger.

    Web Original 
  • Object Overload: A fiery background appears around Pumpkin when he is explaining to Toothy's alliance how horrifying he thinks he is.
  • Rooster Teeth Animated Adventures: The background turns fiery here when Gavin discusses going on a rampage during a lucid dream, and here when Mad King Ryan explains why it doesn't matter if he recaptured the original Edgar the Cow after Michael freed him.
  • Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers: In "THE BOOTLEG DIMENSION", a fiery background appears behind Professor E. Gadd when he warns Mario not to touch his malfunctioning Portal Picture that leads to the titular world.

    Western Animation 
  • Bojack Horseman: "Time's Arrow" does this with Joseph Sugarman when he's implicitly threatening to lobotomize his daughter.
  • In the Gravity Falls first season finale "Gideon Rises", Stan is depicted as wearing a devil costume with a flaming background in a news report.
  • In Kaeloo, when Mr. Cat gets really angry, the background behind him sometimes bursts into flames.
  • The Loud House:
    • In the episode "Toads and Tiaras", Lincoln has Lola's twin sister Lana fill in for her at a pageant while Lola's out with an injury. When Lola finds out, she is absolutely livid, leading to a scene where the background briefly turns into a raging fire behind her.
    • In "Butterfly Effect", Lincoln's Imagine Spot of Lisa getting angry with him over wrecking her experiments has flames appear behind her.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power:
    • In "Fractures", Glimmer is standing before a roaring fireplace when she confines Adora and Bow to the castle.
    • In "Mer-Mysteries", Hordak is shown standing on a rock formation with flames behind him, having just destroyed Salineas.
  • The Simpsons: During Bart's infamous Imagine Spot of Homer graphically melting, the background outside the car window becomes that of Hell.
  • Parodied in Spongebob Squarepants. Spongebob claims that Krabby Patties are "good for your soul", causing him to gain a halo, wings, and a Fluffy Cloud Heaven background as a Cherubic Choir plays in the background. Squidward retorts by saying he has no soul, causing a fiery background to appear, complete with an Evil Laugh. This surprises Squidward, and the background suddenly disappears when he looks around in shock.
  • Total Drama:
    • In "No Pain, No Game", Eva makes a surprise return to the show. Strong as ever and incredibly angry about getting voted off in the first place, her return is accentuated by an infernal background and ominous latin chanting.
    • Gwen's plea for the Villainous Vultures to work as a team in "Heroes vs. Villains" is met with deceitful agreement. As Heather, Jo, Duncan, Scott, Alejandro, and Lightning enter the confessional to voice their real thoughts, a Split-Screen Reaction shows all of them laughing evilly against a backdrop of fire.
    • Flamethrowers are part of the obstacle course in "The Obsta-Kill Course". After Mal throws a tire at Alejandro to prevent him from warning Gwen about Mal, two flamethrowers just so happen to shoot up on either side of the secret villain.
    • As the demonic Mal dummy in "Sundae Muddy Sundae" rises up to laugh at Mike's efforts to stop him, a close-up with flames in the background and in the dummy's eyes occurs when Mal states that he'll never be defeated.


Video Example(s):


I Have No Soul

"Oh puh-lease! I have no soul." - Squidward Tentacles, 2001

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