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"Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits! The first will... mess with the lights!"
[flips a light switch on and off rapidly]

An event where a villain darkens a room (seemingly) at will, either by sucking the power from the lights, or just plainly and inexplicably making them go out, making things scarier. It's usually a device to raise suspense quickly, signaling the arrival or beginning of the danger, usually in the form of lights flickering off or the power getting cut. The lights may demonstrate Slow Electricity when they go out.

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This could be accomplished any number of ways: shooting out the bulbs, cutting the power to a building, casting a magical shroud of darkness over the area, dousing the hero's torch... Whatever device is used, the end result is the same: the targets have been plunged into darkness leaving them at a distinct disadvantage, and quite possibly terrified. Sometimes a character would wonder if someone forgot to pay the electric bill if this happens.

Also, it's notable that this isn't just used by villains. It's a popular trick for anyone who uses unconventional tactics, including Terror Heroes and Guile Heroes.

Note that this is not about weakness or aversion to light, it's about turning off the lights. The monster might make the lights go out because they hurt it, but being hurt by light is not this in and of itself.

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Sometimes overlaps with Nothing Is Scarier when someone (or something) kills the lights as a psychological warfare tactic, leaving the hero(s) staring into the dark for a prolonged stretch wondering where the attack will come from, and what exactly it is that they're fighting.

Might be caused by Casting a Shadow powers, it often leads to Darkness = Death, and is followed by Light-Flicker Teleportation, where a character is replaced by the criminal after a light-off. Compare Step into the Blinding Fight, where this darkness is used to blind the darkness's victim's ability to fight in order to gain an advantage, and Monster Closet, which has the criminal appearing out of a seemingly normal wall (which wasn't a wall in first place). Contrast Blinded by the Light, where it's the light that blinds an opponent.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Takumi of Initial D will sometimes turn off his headlights in the middle of a race (which are always held at night) when overtaking his opponents. This serves to both prevent his opponents from blocking his approach and to freak them the hell out.
  • Naruto: the Second Hokage has a technique called Kokuangyo no Jutsu (Bringer of Darkness Technique) that shrouds the target's perception with darkness.

    Comic Books 
  • In Dark Nights: Metal, this is the Dawnbreaker's M.O., as his corrupted Green Lantern ring can promptly "blackout" his surroundings by swallowing all forms of light, including the light from other Lantern Rings. However, clever use of a Lantern Ring can subvert this effect, as shown by Hal Jordan.
  • The Ghost Rider villain Blackout suppresses all light sources in his presence.
  • In Legion of Super-Heroes, Shadow Lass can manipulate darkness and see in the dark, and so often blinds enemies with darkness. Night Girl can also see in the dark, and carries smoke bombs and devices that can shut off lights both to blind enemies and allow her to use her Super Strength that only works in the dark.
  • Marvel Star Wars issue #33 has Baron Tagge try to thwart Luke Skywalker's escape from his ship's hangar bay. Tagge takes a lightsaber to a junction box, killing the lights in the hangar, aiming to keep Luke unable to see his adversary, while Tagge's cybernetic visor can see Luke perfectly. It goes much differently than Tagge has planned.

    Fan Works 
  • In the video for Let Me Through, a Five Nights at Freddy's fan song by artist CG5, during the climactic part of the song, Funtime Foxy switches off the power as he prepares to enter the security guard's room. Probably justified in that, in the games, the security guard needs electrical power to defend himself from the animatronics, so Funtime Foxy probably wouldn't have been able to get the security guard without doing that.
  • In My Huntsman Academia, Jose Cuervo, a White Fang officer, tries to do this by shutting the power down so he and his subordinates can abuse their Faunus night vision. It's subverted when Ruby uses her Super Speed to cut off the grunts trying to do this as her teammates rush in.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Aliens. When the xenomorphs are preparing to attack, they cut the building's power supply.
    Ripley: They cut the power.
    Watson: What do you mean "they cut the power"? How could they cut the power, man? They're animals!
  • The Chronicles of Riddick:
    • In the last act of Pitch Black, the more intelligent of the creatures appear to be trying to do this by attacking those holding light sources.
    • There's a scene in The Chronicles of Riddick where Riddick is accosted by a group of necromongers, and he puts out two candles with the palms of his hands, plunging the room into darkness. Since Riddick can see in darkness just as easily as in light, he easily defeats the necromongers as they fumble around in the dark.
  • Constantine. When the horde of flying demons is approaching the title character and Angela Dodson, all nearby lights (including the street lights) go out, leaving the main characters in darkness.
  • Inverted in The Dark Knight Rises: Batman whips out a new gadget in the form of the ability to turn off the lights. It works on some reporters' cameras, but utterly fails to give Bane pause.
  • Happens twice in The Fog (1980).
    • During the attack on the weather station, the ghost fog (or the zombies) cut the building's power supply, causing the man inside to open the door and get killed.
    • Later on the ghost fog enters the town's main generator and shorts it out, cutting off power to the entire area.
  • Jaws. During the shark's night time attack on the boat the power supply goes off, leaving the crew in darkness.
    Hooper: He ate the light.
  • In the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:
    • When Gandalf intimidates Bilbo to convince him to leave the Ring behind, the room darkens and his voice gains a menacing reverberation. He also seems to grow, though he may simply be standing up from a slouch.
      Gandalf: Bilbo Baggins, do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks!
    • A similar effect happens during the Council of Elrond when Gandalf breaks up the squabble by reciting the ring couplet in Black Speech, though as this scene is outside, the darkening is less noticeable.
  • The Matrix Revolutions. As the Agent Smiths invade the Oracle's building, the lights go out in the hallways.
  • Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: When the Lonely Hearts Club Band break into Dr. Maxwell's office to retrieve one of Sgt. Pepper's instruments, he turns the lights out for no other reason than to engage in a faux-lightsaber duel with Billy Shears.
  • Silence of the Lambs. When Clarice Starling is hunting Buffalo Bill in his house, he kills the power and leaves her in darkness. He then dons his Night-Vision Goggles and The Hunter Becomes the Hunted.
  • The Terminator goes hunting for Sarah Connor through the precinct station when he notices the electrical closet. The Terminator switches off the power, plunging the building into darkness, a tactic to make it harder for Sarah to escape, and easier for the Terminator to massacre the police opposition.
  • In Ultraviolet, the final villain plunges the room into total darkness, explaining that he can see in the dark. Violet counters by lighting her sword on fire.
  • An explicit ability of the main villain of Lights Out (2016). Diana can make lights fail, as she's only visible when the lights are out.

    Literature 
  • Justified in The Dresden Files with hobs, faeries that hate light and can generate a sort off magic smokescreen that blocks it.
  • The Fionavar Tapestry: When the shapeshifting demigod Galadan ambushes Paul and Jennifer on Earth, he smothers the room in complete darkness with a gesture and gloats that he can see in the dark. They immediately retreat via Dimensional Travel, knowing they wouldn't stand a chance against him.
  • In The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Thor uses his powers to completely black out Kate's entire neighborhood in order to get her attention, inadvertently terrifying her in the process.
  • A non-villainous example occurs early in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone when Dumbledore turns off all the streetlights on Privet Drive with his Put-Outer — later known as the Deluminator — so he can deliver Harry to his relatives without being seen by Muggles.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: When Commander Sinclair awakens to find the station completely abandoned, save one other, he goes to find out what's going on, only to have the lights start shutting off right before he's confronted by the one responsible.
  • Deadliest Warrior: During the Spetsnaz vs. Green Berets battle, the last Spetsnaz shoots out the lights to throw off the Green Beret following him.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Weeping Angels can drain power from lightbulbs. Justified, since their natural defence mechanism means they Can't Move While Being Watched, so if you can't see them...
    • The Vashta Nerada are Living Shadows. As such, when they advance in large numbers they blot out all light sources in their way, presenting the image of a spreading darkness creeping towards their prey.
    • In "The Bells of Saint John", the bad guys, who can hack anything, plunge all of London into a blackout, except for the street that the Doctor and Clara are on. After a moment of confusion, the Doctor realises this is to provide an easy target for the oncoming plane that has also been hacked.
  • Arya uses this in Game of Thrones, when she is wounded and cornered by the Waif. It works for her because she was until recently blinded, and was training to fight while blind. Her opponent has no such experience, and is suddenly at a massive disadvantage.
  • Hannibal: When Beverly finds Hannibal's Torture Cellar and realizes the truth about him, Hannibal quickly turns the lights off before lunging for the kill. It's a tactical decision, since Beverly has a gun but Hannibal knows the room's layout, and it lets him kill her.
  • In Jekyll, the eponymous Superpowered Evil Side draws from nearby electrical sources to power his transformation. As such, when Dr. Jackman's in a room and the lights flicker and go dark, it's a sign that the psychopath is about to show himself.
  • The titular detective in an episode of Monk fights a killer who strikes during power outages with a pair of night-vision goggles. When the police come in and turn on the lights, he demands they turn the lights back out because he is winning.
  • In the episode "Say Again Your Last" of SEAL Team, Bravo Team infiltrates a university in Mumbai that's under siege by Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists. To rescue the students and extract them safely, they inform Mumbai Police to switch off the lights from the outside. With this and the use of night vision goggles, they were able to take out the terrorists since they can't see and the team was also using suppressed rifles.
  • Happens several times in Teen Wolf, in which any supernatural entity — the alpha, the Kanima, etcetera — seems to have the ability to turn off the lights in order to freak out whichever character they're targeting at the moment.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Ravenloft adventure Adam's Wrath: While the PCs are infiltrating the underground caves, Adam will touch the luminescent fungus that provides the only light in the area. When he does this, the light will immediately turn off throughout the area, leaving the PCs in darkness. Adam knows the area much better than the PCs and will take less of a penalty while fighting in darkness than the PCs will.
    • The 5th Edition Warlock Character Class can gain both the ability to create magical darkness and the ability to see clearly in darkness, making this a popular tactic for them to put their enemies at a disadvantage.
  • Beast: The Primordial: the fittingly name Death of the Light Atavism allows a Beast to do this, shutting down all the lights in a given area.

    Video Games 
  • The Darkness: At the end of the game, when the Darkness becomes superpowered by a solar eclipse, it gains the ability to shatter any lightbulbs it gets close to by sheer force of will.
  • The ultimate skill of the Succubus class in Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories is called 'Nightmare', and it involves surrounding the enemy with darkness and launch an unseen beatdown.
  • Picking up the blue key in Doom's second map extinguishes all the lights in the room, and opens a Monster Closet full of imps. The imps are as accurate with their fireballs as ever; the player character, not so much.
  • Happens in a few James Bond video games. In the first level of Agent Under Fire, there's a greenhouse area that goes dark, and a henchman even says "KILL THE LIGHTS!!"
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • In Kingdom Hearts II, the Illuminator Heartless assists Captain Barbossa by shrouding the area in darkness. This not only conceals them, but makes Barbossa invincible because he can only be harmed in the moonlight. The Illuminator has to be killed first to lift the darkness and make Barbossa vulnerable.
    • In Kingdom Hearts III, a Heartless boss called Sköll is based on the Norse Mythology of a wolf chasing the sun to eat it. Sköll intends to eat all light in worlds starting with Arendelle, and plunges the party into a void without light to crush them with darkness. It makes sense, as Sköll is actually Prince Hans, whose failure to conquer Arendelle, ruled by two Princesses of Heart, results in him becoming an Omnicidal Maniac.
  • League of Legends: Nocturne's ultimate "Paranoia" turns the whole map dark blocking the enemy team's sight of their enemies and each other for 4 seconds. During this time Nocturne can choose one of the enemies and launch himself at him/her, attacking from the darkness.
  • Ganondorf, from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, drains all the light out of the room when casting his evil magic. To the viewer, this almost silhouettes Ganondorf in darkness.
  • Ōkami: Yami has the ability to plunge the whole battlefield into darkness, draining the player of all of their celestial power. The inverse works, however, if you shine light onto the battlefield to Yami, draining it of its energy.
  • A heroic variant in the first Covert Front, spoken in German. Secret agent Kara tells her driver to turn the car's headlights off when approaching Karl Von Toten's mansion.
  • Psychonauts: The Den Mother boss in the Milkman Conspiracy threatens to pluck out your eyes, only to find out that that's what your goggles are for. So she turns out the lights and makes you fight in the dark.
  • Quake features an area in the first level where picking up the Nailgun darkens the light, then some possessed soldiers appear to gun the player character out.
  • In the Splinter Cell franchise, this is a tactic that can be used by Sam Fisher by using his small arms to shoot out anything that emits light ranging from light bulbs to the lighting sign in order to reduce chances of him being caught out in the open. On the other hand, this can be used by Sam to sneak up on an enemy and grab them from the side or from the back.
  • Unreal series:
    • Unreal: after Prisoner 849 disables the force field to enter the Rrajigar Mine, they have to return from where they came from, and at a turn, two barriers rise up and the lights start to turn off one by one. A few seconds after everything goes dark, the alarm lights turn on, a Monster Closet opens, and you're faced with your first Skaarj Scout.
    • Unreal II: The Awakening features a similar sequence: in the first mission, "Elara V: Sanctuary", John Dalton is going down in an elevator when it suddenly stops in the middle of the trajectory, then the lights go out, and a Light Skaarj falls from above, damaging the counterweights and sending Dalton plummeting to the lower floor.

    Web Comics 
  • Parodied in Bob and George. Shadowman's lair is pitch-black, so that when his enemies adjust to the dark, he can flip the lights and destroy their vision.
  • In Goblins, Thaco attempts to exploit the fact that he can see in the dark by luring Dellyn into a sewer before fighting him, and blocking off all the manholes so the sewer is pitch black. Dellyn, however, subverts this by casting a spell that provides him with a light source, rendering Thaco's advantage moot.
  • The Order of the Stick: The Order are walking through a cave network when they're abruptly plunged into darkness. By the time they work out that, because it overwhelmed Durkon's Innate Night Vision, it must be magical darkness and therefore constrained to a small radius, they've stumbled out of it and into the dragon that cast it.

    Web Videos 
  • Marble Hornets: The Operator can interfere with electronic equipment. At one point during the filming of the student film, the Operator causes a blackout at Tim's house.

    Western Animation 
  • In her debut episode, Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender fights against seven powerful Earthbenders all on her own. She takes out several of them by conjuring up a huge cloud of dirt. Because of her Disability Superpower that allows her to see by sensing vibrations in the ground, she could "see" them, but they couldn't see her.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Jellyfish Hunter", the lights in SpongeBob's house go out when a blue jellyfish snips the electrical wires.
    SpongeBob: I guess Gary forgot to pay the electric bill.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man and White Tiger turned off the lights and used night-vision to get an advantage over Taskmaster. Taskmaster boasted that he could easily navigate the room with his Photographic Memory, only to find that the two heroes moved everything in the room after turning off the lights.

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