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Kill the Host Body

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"Analysis: Stiffening... of limbs. Difficulty... in movement. Assessment: Onset... of rigor mortis... in host body... imminent. ...No! Get.. up! Get up... Luthor! I... will not be betrayed... by your... human weakness..."

A form of Shoot the Hostage where the characters deal with a Body Snatcher in the simplest and most brutal way they can: by killing the host. While this obviously negates the need for a lengthy and complicated Banishing Ritual or surgical procedure, it shows a particular disregard for the life of whatever hapless fool's body was taken over, so this is usually only performed by Pragmatic Heroes or other Anti Heroes. Sometimes, it doesn't even work as intended, causing the possessing force to "float freely" and go on its merry way to finding another body to hijack, perhaps even the people who killed the previous host. Naturally, such an act is frequently seen as a form of Shoot the Dog.

One common twist to Beat the Curse Out of Him is that "he" dies alongside the curse, i.e this trope. Sometimes, if the host is lucid enough to say something with their own mind, they might ask to be killed so that the thing possessing them would also die. The people targeting the inhabitant may also try to trick them into taking a body they're more willing to kill. If there were better alternatives available at the time, it overlaps with Murder Is the Best Solution. May overlap with Driven to Suicide if the host body and the individual doing the killing are one and the same.

See Possession Burnout where a possessed host dies automatically after a certain amount of time. Compare and contrast Trapped in the Host.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Subverted in Ayakashi Triangle: When Suzu is possessed by an ayakashi, Matoi starts fighting without expressing any concern for her life, and Shirogane outright questions if she planned to kill Suzu. Despite holding a grudge and being suspicious Suzu was herself a threat, Matoi instead aimed to incapacitate the body to force the possessor out. When that fails, Matoi seems disappointed in herself for trying to save her.
  • Bleach: Rukia Kuchiki's lieutenant Kaien Shiba is possessed by a Hollow. When Captain Ukitake realizes that he can't save Kaien, he decides to kill his body. However, he starts spitting up blood and can't carry out his decision. The possessed Kaien attacks Rukia and she stabs him through the chest with her zanpakuto, killing him.

    Comic Books 
  • Hellblazer:
  • Judge Dredd: In the "Necropolis" story, the Sisters of Death are manifesting in Mega City One from another dimension through a psychic host. Judge Dredd severs this connection by blowing up the building where the possessed body is being kept.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: Inazuma dies after Jei is exorcised from her body, giving her a brief moment to die as herself.
  • Superman:
    • Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?: Brainiac takes over Lex Luthor's body, but Lex is still able to ask a super-empowered Lana Lang to kill him. After Lana reluctantly complies, Braniac is able to survive temporarily until rigor mortis sets in. Once Luthor’s body is unusable, Brainiac dies almost immediately afterwards.
    • In Red Daughter of Krypton, Supergirl cannot seem to get rid of the symbiotic parasite who is taking over her body. Knowing that Worldkiller-1 intends to use her powers to spark off a universe-wide genocide, she decides to kill herself by removing her Red Lantern Ring (which is an automatic death sentence for Red Lanterns, since their Rings provide life support after rendering their hearts useless). Fortunately, she was near from the Sun, and the sudden influx of solar energy restarts her heart.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: Besides all the instances of this from canon...
    • Alloran is shot in the head in several chapters in order to kill Visser Three along with him.
    • In "What if Marco was the one split in half in #32?", Robot Marco kills Tom, Eva, and many other human-controllers as well as Alloran.
    • In "What if Tom was infested by a member of the Yeerk Peace Movement?", Rachel shoots Eva through the chest just before Visser One can tell everyone that the "Andalite bandits" are human
    • In "What if Eva was never a Controller?", Marco kills Allison Kim and Visser One together without hesitation.
  • AWE Arcadia Bay (Rogue_Demon): While a Hiss-Possessed Rachel was fine with destroying Arcadia Bay to get to her killers, she ends the storm and dies all over again when she realizes that Chloe would be a casualty.
  • Dæmorphing: It happens a lot. The Animorphs don’t really have the ability to kill Yeerks any other way, and Aftran reveals that not killing but inflicting severe damage is actually worse - the Yeerk will survive but the host will be killed as useless. Not doing this to human-controllers gets called out for the specisism it is and is one of the things that leads to them being identified as humans.
  • Eleutherophobia:
    • The entire series hinges on a subversion of this; it diverges from canon when Tom doesn't die with his Yeerk.
    • In Total Recall, Tom recalls a human-controller named Vicky Austin who committed suicide on live television after warning people about the Sharing. However, it's mentioned in Ghost in the Shell that her Yeerk survived.
    • In How I Live Now, Tom shoots Rachel to stop her from killing a host.
  • At the end of Heart of the Forest, Hawthorn tells Applejack that an eternally-recurring evil entity named Nightmare has the power to possess people, and can only be stopped by killing her hosts; when she possessed Princess Luna, Princess Celestia banished them to the moon because she couldn't bring herself to kill her sister.
  • Tales of the Canterlot Deportation Agency: It's how Bree exorcises a Wraith from her friend's corpse, by damaging it too much.
  • In What Tomorrow Brings:
    • After Tom is freed, he thanks Jake and Rachel for doing this to him in the original timeline, relieving some of Jake's immense guilt.
    • Cassie accidentally kills Visser Three while he's in Alloran's morphed body, so the Drode is able to bring the original timeline's Alloran over as well. Then the newly-transplanted Visser Three blows up a Nova ship, and Edriss-in-Eva along with it. Oops.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • End of Days:
    • Jericho tries to kill the Devil by throwing him in front of a subway train. This proves fatal for the guy he's possessing, but the Devil leaves the body so he can possess Jericho instead.
      Satan: Fool! You are but a man, and I AM FOREVER!
    • Jericho does it again when he regains enough control from Satan to throw himself onto a statue of Michael's sword, denying the Devil a host before the deadline to conceive the Antichrist passes.
  • The Exorcist: At the end, Father Karras performs a Heroic Sacrifice by inviting the demon Pazuzu into his own body to save the young Regan, before killing himself by jumping out of a window.
  • Fallen: Hobbes' final, desperate plan to stop the demon Azazel is to lure his current host out to a remote location, then killing Azazel's body and then himself to deny him a new body, since Azazel can't survive for long without one. Unfortunately, it turns out that Azazel can possess animals as well, and escapes in a nearby cat.
  • In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Egon Spengler ends up doing this on himself to deny the Terror Dogs a host needed to summon Gozer back into the world.
  • In The Matrix, Agents operate by possessing anyone who hasn't been "unplugged", and killing them kills the host body. Unfortunately, all the Agent has to do is possess someone else in order to come right back after you. This is best shown when Agent Smith overwrites the body of a bum on a subway platform to fight Neo. After an extended fight where Neo holds his own against him, Neo manages to throw Smith into the path of a oncoming train. The victory is short-lived since Smith possesses the train operator, stops the train, and emerges re-vitalized, full clips of bullets and all. Neo, still hurting and with no ammo, has no choice but to beat feet out of the station.
  • Sputnik. At first the alien inhabiting the cosmonaut Konstantin is believed to be parasitic and it's assumed it will abandon him (dead or otherwise) once it's fully adapted to Earth's environment. However their relationship turns out to be symbiotic with each sharing the same consciousness and dependent on the other. When Konstantin realises this, he shoots himself so the alien will die as well.

  • The Animorphs don't seem to have any qualm with killing their opponents, even though most of them have been enslaved by the Yeerks to serve as their hosts. Cassie eventually notes this during her 10-Minute Retirement. Marco tries to kill his mother (Visser One's host) at one point, but fortunately, she survives. Jake isn't so fortunate: the war ends with him having no choice but to kill his brother.
  • Michael Shea's short story The Autopsy features a particularly grisly form of the suicidal variant: as the possessing creature has already demonstrated the ability to reanimate dead hosts, its victim methodically cripples himself before cutting his throat to make sure it won't be able to escape.
  • In the cancelled BIONICLE book Invasion (the events of which eventually made their way into the released BIONICLE Encyclopedia Updated), Matoro's body becomes possessed by Makuta Teridax while the former is using the Kanohi Iden. The other Toa Inika force Makuta out by threatening to destroy Matoro's body, showing what lengths they would be willing to go.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion series, this plays out in a number of different ways:
    • It is the standard method used by the Roknari. They either ritually bind the demon to the sorcerer-host and then burn the sorcerer, or else toss the sorcerer-host overboard at sea with a leaking cushion and sail away to let the sorcerer eventually drown. One problem is that these methods don't always work.
    • In Paladin of Souls, a demon in a ferret is dispatched by killing the ferret in the presence of a dying divine. The demon jumps to the divine, and the divine takes the demon with her when she then dies.
    • The animal spirits bound to spirit warriors and shamans cannot be removed at all except by the host's death. A further complication is that the soul of the dead host is Barred from the Afterlife unless another shaman releases the animal spirit from the ghost.
    • A purely villainous example in Penric's Fox, when the sorceress Learned Magal is murdered. Her killer wanted vengeance against her demon for actions taken by its previous host, the now-dead Learned Svedra.
  • Inverted in The Chronicles Of Wormwood, where the evil Pope Jacko possesses Paul Carnovitz (Wormwood's worst enemy), who ends up catatonic. Death would allow Jacko to return to Hell, but Paul is in a clinic where he's guaranteed to be kept alive for a long time.
  • In Dead Beat the Corpsetaker switches bodies with Captain Luccio, upon realizing that Harry Dresden puts a bullet in her head before she can figure out he's on to her. Which leads to a minute of Morgan trying to kill Harry for his "treachery" before the other Wardens discover that Luccio is in the Corpsetaker's previous body.
  • Stephen King's short story I Am The Doorway ends with the suicidal version of this trope. The protagonist, an astronaut possessed by an alien Eldritch Abomination during a trip to space, plans to kill himself to prevent the entity from controlling him.
  • Rai Kirah: Aleksander attempts to Invoke this by offering himself up as a demon host and immediately performing a Heroic Sacrifice, believing it would kill the demon. The possessing demon doesn't give him the chance to kill himself, and wouldn't have suffered any personal harm if he'd succeeded.
  • The Machineries of Empire:
    • The Hexarchate tries to kill the legendary, mad undead general Jedao by launching a Phlebotinum Bomb at the human to whom his wraith is anchored. However, he shields the host from the bomb's effect, and the attack convinces the host to absorb his memories and continue his crusade against the Hexarchate.
    • The first person to be placed in the Black Cradle couldn't bear "immortality" as a Virtual Ghost. When he was anchored to a human, he convinced them to commit suicide and died with them rather than return to the Cradle.
  • Comes up in The Stormlight Archive with regard to the Fused, the spirits of long-dead singers who reincarnate by stealing the bodies of common singers. Kaladin mentions that he hates fighting the Fused because "killing" them actually just kills whatever random singer civilian was sacrificed to give that Fused a body, and the Fused will simply take a new body and be back in a few days.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 5 finale, Giles finishes off Glory by smothering her human host to death.
  • In Constantine, this is the only means of defeating a powerful hunger demon. A human vessel must be chosen for the hunger demon to be held captive in, before the hunger demon consumes the host and ends up killing them as well as the demon along with it. After Gary mistakenly exorcises the vessel of the demon, John has Gary take the vessel's place where the demon consumes him over several days.
  • In Crusade, the crew encounters an energy being that can possess living beings by touch and can divide itself to possess multiple people. Since it needs a host to survive, they trick it into consolidating itself to survive and possessing a crew member who had been rendered a vegetable in a accident, leaving the entity trapped in a paralyzed body. Then they toss the body into space and blow it up.
  • Doctor Who episode "The Twin Dilemma": another Time Lord working for the Big Bad is possessed by it. Helpless, the Time Lord dies because he was out of regenerations, killing himself and the Big Bad.
  • Grimm: Captain Renard is brought back from the dead by his mother. However the spirit of Jack the Ripper comes back with him and starts to take over his body. Nick and Hank find out that Jack can only leave the body willingly. They use tetrodotoxin to poison Renard and then shoot him when that doesn't work. Jack leaves Renard so he won't die with him. Subverted when the poison was a non-lethal dose and they were using rubber bullets to trick Jack.
  • In Stargirl (2020), Eclipso is sealed inside the Black Diamond and requires a host to channel his powers. The only way to keep Eclipso in check is to make sure he doesn't have a host. The Justice Society of America reluctantly killed his host at the time when all other methods failed, which fundamentally broke the team because it violated their rule against killing. In the present, Eclipso learns his lesson and instead tricks Courtney into shattering the Black Diamond and setting him free, removing any restriction on his powers.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Daniel actually brings this up in season 5 when Jacob/Selmak want to involve him in a mission to kill all the major Goa'uld at a summit they plan to infiltrate, which would inevitably mean killing the hosts. Jacob points out that the host of a System Lord has been possessed for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years and have been exposed to the sarcophagus many times, so killing them is really just putting them out of their endless torment. However, the mission later has to aborted for other reasons.
    • Invoked and averted in "48 Hours" when the Goa'uld possessed Adrian Conrad tells O'Neill that if O'Neill shoots him, he would kill the host. Jack tells him that Conrad kidnapped Carter to perform medical experiments on her, nearly killing her and doesn't care a whit about the host, but does find another way to get the information he was looking for.
    • Defied in season 10 when Ba'al possesses Adria with one of his clones. While it does give the heroes the opportunity to kill both of the Big Bad Ensemble in one fell swoop (Teal'c in fact immediately suggests they do this), Adria's forces are not a Keystone Army and would simply continue fighting to the bitter end in spite of her. The whole point of the mission to capture her, before Ba'al interfered, was to negotiate and/or turn her over to their side.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "Return to Tomorrow", Kirk resorts to injecting Spock's body with lethal poison to destroy Henoch. Subverted when it turns out that Sargon arranged for them to think that the hypo was deadly so that Henoch would flee and render himself vulnerable, and that Spock's consciousness was hidden within Nurse Chapel.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Man of the People," Dr. Crusher injects Deanna with a compound that stops her heart in order to stop Alkar from possessing her, as she can revive her within thirty minutes.
  • Supernatural: At first the Winchesters, on the rare occasion that they encountered a demon possessing someone, would go through a lengthy ritual to force the demon out of the body and banish it back to hell. Eventually this was dropped when they acquired a demon-killing gun, and later, a demon-killing blade. The first time Dean ever kills a demon and its innocent host, he's notably rattled afterwards. As the series goes on, killing the demon and their host becomes their default move. They never address the sheer number of innocent people they've killed by killing demons in this fashion, showing that they've become more callous to collateral damage the longer they've been fighting the forces of evil.
  • Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger: A later episode had Ban's nervous system being hijacked by a jellyfish Alienizer, so Tetsu resorted to electrocution to force the Alienizer out, stopping Ban's heart. However, Tetsu then used the same technique to revive Ban.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dark Heresy, if someone manages to kill the possessing daemon component of a daemonhost without killing the host body, the possessed individual can survive, albeit highly traumatized. Given that Daemons are Made of Iron and tend to possess Squishy Wizard Psykers, this is incredibly unlikely. A daemon can briefly survive the death of the host body, but will eventually have to abandon a dead host.
  • Warhammer 40,000: One of the commissar's duties (other than shooting heretics, cowards and the insufficiently-motivated) is to keep an eye on the psykers as they call on the powers of the Warp, as they are particularly susceptible to being possessed at that moment, and shoot them in the head before they are fully possessed and/or erupt into a portal that will spit out more daemons. Psykers carry "mercy blades" for this exact purpose, but this depends on their still being sane enough to kill themselves.
  • In Werewolf: The Forsaken Uratha often don't bother trying to exorcise a spirit from a Claimed who has been possessed longer than a month or two, because the longer one is possessed the more likely it is that the exorcism will kill them anyway. Hosts on the other hand, always kill the humans they possess and drive around their corpses.

    Video Games 
  • Arcanum: The Whytechurch Murderer is an elf wizard who tried to banish a demon and ended up sharing his body with it, and is now forced to kill for the demon's amusement. The only way to end his killing spree safely is to find a specific dagger and kill him with it, banishing both him and the demon to hell, and doing so will cause a What the Hell, Hero? moment from any good party members who see you kill him, since despite his actions, the wizard is still treated as a "good" character by the game's alignment system.
  • Discussed in BlazBlue. Ragna's sister, Saya, has the "Goddess of Death" Izanami occupying her body. As Izanami is "death" itself, she can't be really killed, and thus it is suggested that Ragna should kill Saya instead to deny Izanami a body. Later, however, as the heroes learn the true nature of Izanami - i.e the "other half" of Noel (long story) - the heroes go with a plan of absorbing Izanami into Noel's body to "neutralize" her. This act doesn't kill Izanami, but instead completes Noel into "Saya" with her inheriting Izanami's memories.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2: Subverted. Satan, having his plans foiled by Dracula/Gabriel and his son Alucard, decides to possess the latter to defeat his old enemy. However, Drac is able to overcome the Prince of Darkness, and is goaded into stabbing Alucard with the Combat Cross to eradicate Satan once and for all. In a twist, Gabriel does attempt to stab his son with the Combat Cross to finish him once and for all; the mere thought of dying forces Satan out of Alucard's body milliseconds before it reaches him (so that Gabriel would stab Alucard instead), but Gabriel's quick enough to take advantage of his cowardice and run the real Satan through.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: Many victims of Demonic Possession throughout the game can only be dealt with by killing them. If the player character uses Spirit Vision near their remains, some of their spirits will express their gratitude for being killed, as they'd been trapped helplessly in their own bodies as their possessors ran rampant.
  • In Ever Oasis, sapient beings possessed by Chaos can never be freed of it, so the heroes have no choice but to Mercy Kill them.
  • Final Fantasy VI has the boss Wrexsoul; at the start of battle, it randomly possesses one of your characters, and the only way to force it out and actually defeat it is to kill one of your characters. This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that you have access to Phoenix Downs and the Raise spell, or you can cast X-Zone/Banish to end the fight instantly.
  • Attempted in Final Fantasy X-2. Nooj intends on forcing the game's Big Bad out of its current body, getting it to possess him, then blow himself up in a Heroic Sacrifice. Yuna, tired of everyone picking the sacrifice option, shoots the idea down.
  • Geist: Any living being you possess can be killed by somebody or something else. If the host killed is important to a task you need to accomplish, or is the last available host in the area, it's Game Over.
  • Grim Dawn's opening cutscene has the player character narrowly escaping this fate: the Aetherial (one of the antagonist faction who invaded the world, made of incorporeal beings with possession powers) possessing them leaves the body just before the character is executed by hanging by The Resistance. Fortunately, the Aetherial leaves the player character's body right before they die, and the execution is stopped. It does bear mentioning that other instances of this are shown to not kill the Aetherial spirit proper, but it does roll back on any modifications the current host body had and generally puts them out of commission for a while; the one returned Aetherial you find, Warden Krieg, was initially killed as a Wakeup Call Boss near the beginning of the base game and is only found again at the very end of Ashes of Malmouth, and even then had to be provided a pre-mutated body to catch up.
  • Near the climax of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Zelda needs to come to terms with the fact that it might not be possible to kill Malladus without killing her body as well. However, this is less clear in the American English translation. Fortunately, she gets better.
  • Overwatch: Okoro, who is an omnic, is nearly hijacked by Anubis, a God Program, but performs a Heroic Sacrifice of shooting himself to prevent Anubis from using him to harm his teammates.

  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja the McNinjas are hired to assassinate a Ghost Wizard, which includes killing the guy it's possessing so they can fight the exposed spirit with holy weapons. It re-possesses Sean, Dan and Mitzi are fully prepared to kill their own son, but Gordito stops them and shoves a blessed bullet down his throat before it fully takes hold of him instead.
  • Darken: The Archdevil Baal possesses Gort's brother to enact his endgame. When his plan is foiled, he tries to force Gort to kill his host, both for the pain it would cause Gort and to dispatch himself back to Hell to continue his schemes. Defied when Gort and his allies exorcise Baal and trap him in a gem instead, inflicting a much worse fate on him and saving the brother's life.
  • Daughter of the Lilies: When a greater Drath inhabits an elf's body, taking complete control of it and inflicting a nightmarish Transformation of the Possessed, Orrig's mercenary crew decide they have no choice but to kill it to end its rampage, despite their misgivings over killing the host. They're spared the choice by an archmage who exorcises the host without harm.


Video Example(s):


Jesse purging the Hiss

While Jesse (with Polaris) can purge the Hiss's influence from anything, she can't do it with a possessed person without killing them.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / KillTheHostBody

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