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Nothing says horror like an oil spill on a heavenly background.

"It is always 3 A.M. in the Filth. It is liquid 3 A.M., black and dripping."
The Buzzing, The Secret World
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In fiction, not all harmful substances take the form of a sickly green poison that eats through anything it touches: indeed, there's a growing tendency for harmful, deadly or just plain evil substances to be depicted as glistening black slime, often reminiscent of oil, tar or even ink.

An offshoot of Dark Is Evil, it's not uncommon for such substances to be associated with much more unpleasant effects than other Technicolor Toxins from across fiction, including agonizing pain, mutations, mind control, a Cruel and Unusual Death, or even a Fate Worse than Death. In some depictions, this substance can even be alive, resulting in many a horrific Blob Monster.

The exact reasoning behind depictions such as these remains unknown, though it's possible that they were inspired by the threat posed by oil spills or tar pits, both of which are well known for being serious hazards - not to mention environmental blights. With this in mind, it may lend itself to depictions of the Muck Monster.

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Whatever the case, if an unidentified black liquid crops up in fiction, it'll probably mean something very, very bad.

May result in Bad Black Barf.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • In "City Of Spires", a visit to 18th-century Scotland reveals that the place is littered with anachronistic pumpjacks owned by the Hirudin Corporation. The Doctor soon discovers that what they're extracting isn't oil, though it looks the part: called "Black Water," it's often seen being pumped into unwilling victims to create Red Caps, the corporation's Superpowered Mooks.
    • The next episode in line, "The Wreck Of The Titan", sends the Doctor and Jamie on a complicated voyage that somehow ends with them aboard Captain Nemo's Nautilus, hunting giant squid for their ink. As it turns out, when refined, the ink is identical to the Black Water. Also, harvesting it is a good way of enraging even bigger squid...
    • The conclusion of the trilogy, "Legend Of The Cybermen" reveals the truth: all three stories are set in the Land of Fiction, and the Black Water is actually ink, a precious resource used to recreate fictional characters killed in battle with the Cybermen. Though more beneficial than the last two instances, it's still played for tension when it turns out that fictional characters bleed ink — revealing that the Jamie who's been travelling with the Doctor for the past few episodes isn't real.

    Comic Books 
  • The eponymous Black Gas starts out as just that, a volcanic cloud of black Deadly Gas, but when inhaled it causes a rapid series of neurological changes, suppressing its hosts' rationality and stripping away all civilized impulses. At the same time, the host constantly weeps black tears and drools Bad Black Barf — if an uninfected person gets an infected's bodily fluids in their mouth, eyes, or an open wound, they'll slowly be overcome.
  • Nnewts has Blakk Mudd, a black liquid that turns any Nnewt it touches into a Lizzark.
  • In all of the Venom Symbiote's incarnations, it is a shapeshifting blob of black gunk that can bond with a host and give them superhuman powers (usually at great cost). However, as a species the Symbiotes vary in color. Carnage is blood-red.
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    Fan Works 
  • The titular Corruption of Friday Night Funkin': Corruption coats whatever it touches in a strange, black substance, including Boyfriend, who promptly becomes a brainwashed Plague Zombie and spreads it across the entire Friday Night Funkin' cast. As of Week 8, the Corruption turns out to be sentient, threatening him when he tries to resist it from inside his own head.
  • In the World War Z fanfic The Way Is Shut, a recon team investigates the ruins of North Korea in the wake of the Zombie Apocalypse, eventually finding the entrance to the Underground City the population retreated to. However, one of the doors is leaking a black ooze that "smelled of death", the result of rotten flesh decomposing to the point of liquefaction and mixing with floodwater. Either because the pumps have failed or because there's no-one left alive to operate them, a huge lake full of corpses has built up behind the doors — and at least some of them are zombies. And if that black slime is leaking out now, it won't be long until the hastily-built shelter bursts open and releases all those millions of zombies back into the world.

    Film — Animated 
  • Hexxus, the primeval spirit of destruction in FernGully: The Last Rainforest, initially emerges from his prison tree in the form of a tiny blob of dark brown slime, gradually expanding his mass by feeding on the Leveller's exhaust until he can metamorphose into a wraith made of black smoke. After losing control of the Leveller in the finale, he goes One-Winged Angel and assumes his ultimate form: a giant skeletal monstrosity made entirely of black ooze.
  • In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible is subdued in Syndrome's Supervillain Lair by dozens of unremovable "balloons" of black goo that expand and completely engulf him.
  • In Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, the Nightmare King first takes the form of a living black liquid that sweeps through the castle and ensnares King Morpheus.
  • In the Winx Club movie Secret of the Lost Kingdom, a black goo makes up the gate to a dimension in which the people of Domino are imprisoned. Said dimension is literally called Obsidian Circle.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Beyond the Black Rainbow, the Arboria Institute has developed an experimental hallucinogen in the form of a black liquid, which seems to induce psychedelic experiences, psychic powers, and mutations. It definitely had an adverse effect on Dr. Nyle — when he is immersed in a pool of the black fluid, he sees "the eye of God", loses his hair, gains Black Eyes of Evil, and goes homicidally insane.
  • Clawed: This appears to be the source of all the death in the movie. One con artist tried to make money off it by stating it has healing properties. Well, it is definitely NOT to be touched.
  • Creepshow 2: In "The Raft", a group of college kids on a raft in the middle of a lake are tormented and eaten by a large, black blob reminiscent of an oil slick floating on the surface of the water.
  • The plot of District 9 first begins to heat up when Wikus finds the cylinder of Mutagenic Goo that Christopher Johnson was saving up, and fiddling with it results in him accidentally getting a spray of oily black gunk to the face. Before long, Wikus is puking up Bad Black Barf and transforming into one of the aliens...
  • In Evil Dead 2, several people possessed by demons are seen drooling black ooze. At one point Ash is hit with a torrent of it after blowing a hole in the cabin wall with his shotgun.
  • In The Matrix Reloaded, when Agent Smith gains the ability to clone himself, this covers the victim’s body before they transform into a Smith clone. Seen again in The Matrix Revolutions
  • The Dark Queen of MirrorMask has the power to create strange liquid shadows by literally vomiting them into existence: first encountered oozing along walls and floors like oil, they can also sprout tentacles or even shape themselves into birds in order to ensnare their victims — which are fatally petrified unless the Queen's taken an interest. They can even be used as part of a One-Winged Angel transformation.
  • Nobody Sleeps In The Woods Tonight: An animated version of this trope, as the black goop is alive. Anyone it possesses becomes a murderous psychopaths with growths appearing all over their body. Oh, and it also comes from an asteroid that landed on Earth.
  • In Overlord, the substance the Nazis are experimenting with is literally petroleum tar. However, it contains a chemical found nowhere else except a little town in France that is the active ingredient in their Super Serum, which is bright red when distilled. However, it's distilled by injecting people with the raw tar and extracting it from their blood.
  • The black liquid in Prometheus, a potently mutagenic bioweapon made up of millions of small micro-organisms that has the ability to mutate any Terrestrial life-form in horrible, parasitic ways into rapidly evolving flesh-eating nasties, deadly parasites and rampaging mutants, and can turn a habitable planet into an all out Death World overrun with techno-organic nightmares.
  • Venom (2018) sees the titular symbiote and its kin naturally take the form of sentient mobile slimes and though all have dark colorations, only Venom is pitch black — even then, the trope is Inverted over the course of the movie, in that Venom, the black one, is the only one of their number to undergo a Heel–Face Turn into something that can vaguely be described as heroic.

    Literature 
  • The blight from the Dark Shores book Dark Skies. At first it is believed to be just a nuisance, a river of foul-smelling black goo flowing through the countryside. Later, however, it turns out that it also brings a Mystical Plague, which turns any living being that comes into contact with it into a zombie-like creature. Not to mention the fact that it can undermine city walls.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, one of the many traps deployed against the rebels in the Capitol is a wave of a black tar-like goo that threatens to engulf anyone in its path — featured in horrific detail in the film adaptation.
  • Skeleton Crew: In the short story "The Raft", four college students decide to take an end-of-summer swim at a remote lake, and find a carnivorous "oil slick" that eats them one by one. This story was adapted in the movie Creepshow 2.
  • In Elantris, everything in the once-beautiful, now-accursed city of Elantris is covered in a grimy blackish substance, and anyone who lives there rapidly gets covered in it too. Unusually for this trope, it’s turns out that it’s not fundamentally harmful, can be cleaned off with sustained effort, and has a mundane explanation: it’s a type of phosphorescent microbe that made the buildings shine during the city’s glory days and that died when the city, in effect, lost its power source.
  • Most representations of H. P. Lovecraft's shoggoths (Blob Monsters that are arguably some of the most fearsome non-godlike entities of the Cthulhu Mythos) usually has them as gigantic masses of black or very dark metamorphic sludge, from which they constantly extrude and retract limbs, maws and sensory organs.
  • "Slime (1953)" by Joseph Payne Brennan: The title creature is a black amorphous blob from the bottom of the sea.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Farscape, Luxans have an unusual biological quirk that causes their blood to become dangerously toxic upon exposure to air; when this happens, the blood turns a shade of red so dark it appears black. The only cure for this is for the wound to be repeatedly pummeled to stimulate the blood flow and cleanse the poison — whereupon the black blood turns transparent and runs clear until the wound heals.
  • The NARVIK-B virus in Helix modifies its victims' behavior so they become super-strong, paranoid, aggressive and biologically driven to infect others via forcible transmission, which entails assaulting and restraining victims and vomiting a black secretion into their mouths. The vectors also develop Tainted Veins as their blood turns black, and adding growth factor to a petri dish of monkey blood infected with NARVIK-B results in an explosive growth of black biomass. The black gunk is such an integral visual motif that it's featured dripping off the "X" in the series Title Card.
  • During season 2 of Locke & Key (2020), Eden's odd behaviour prompts Kinsey to take a look inside her Mental World using the Head Key; her mind takes the form of a glamorous fashion shop, with the perfume counters displaying her memories... except one counter has been almost completely overtaken by a spreading puddle of tarry-black gunk. It's because Eden was possessed by one of the demons behind the Black Door in the previous season finale.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Skin of Evil", an away team beaming down to a planet to rescue a crashed shuttle finds their path blocked by a pool of tar-like black liquid, which moves to bar their passage them when they try and maneuver around it. It turns out to be a living entity called Armus, who is literally Made of Evil: he's the cast-off imperfection of a race that transcended a long time ago, and while he can take on a roughly humanoid form, he always retains his tarry complexion. On top of screwing around with Riker, Geordi, Troi and Data, he also murders Tasha Yar.
  • Supernatural:
    • Ectoplasm is a thick, slimy substance that is only produced by ghosts that are particularly angry or dangerous; the most common form of it is pitch-black.
    • The true forms of both Leviathans and the Shadow are shown to be black sludge, which are capable of possessing people through Orifice Invasion.
  • The Black Oil of The X-Files; a sapient parasitic mind-controlling goo used by the alien colonists to reproduce and take over the universe, it can often be found invading potential hosts through their eyes, mouth, nose or ears. Ironically, the slime itself isn't the danger: "Purity" — as the aliens call it — is actually a virus that thrives in oil deposits deep underground, hence its oily appearance. However, that doesn't stop the show from playing its petroleum-like aspect for horror, with hosts sporting Black Eyes of Evil and Bad Black Barf.

    Podcasts 
  • In The Adventure Zone: Balance, the Hunger, an evil sentient plane of existence, is described as tar-like with the coloring of black opal.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the monsters featured in Dungeons & Dragons is the Black Pudding, a living puddle of corrosive black slime that engulfs anything and everything it can.
  • In the The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse scenario "Under The Skin", the menace of the story is an ancient Puppeteer Parasite unearthed by a mining operation. It takes the form of a tarry black fungal gunk infesting any living thing it touches, gradually reducing its victims to decomposing zombies. This is bad enough, but if allowed to clump together after their host bodies break down, the parasite can form a giant Blob Monster of Kaiju proportions. The stuff is so dangerous that the governments of the world opt to move their people into underground bunkers and nuke the surface to a crisp rather than let the parasite roam free.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, Phyrexian Oil is a black substance that infects and corrupts anything it touches, ultimately consuming the plane of Mirrodin and transforming it into New Phyrexia. However, its worth noticing that in old flavor it came in many colors, with variations including green and gold, all with metallic sheen.
  • Pathfinder has the black blood, a freezing cold, pitch black liquid that seems from the walls and runs in rivers through a vast cavern in the deepest level of the Darklands. Not only is it cold enough to cause harm, it's unholy and mutagenic, causing creatures to become amphibious monstrosities with additional abilities even as it slowly kills all but the strongest hosts. Drinking it also provides a power boost to necromantic spells, assuming it doesn't kill you. Naturally the stuff is a prized commodity among liches, exiled fiends, derro, driders, and nearly every nasty under the earth with either sanity or morals in short supply.

    Video Games 
  • Oozium 238 from Advance Wars: Dual Strike is a slow-moving, black blob-like bioweapon developed by the Black Hole army, and is capable of instantly dissolving anything it touches.
  • The Ruin of Alice: Madness Returns: a noxious black pollutant found splattered across Wonderland, it corrupts and ruins the environment, and it's also capable of molding itself into doll-headed monstrosities for Alice to do battle with. It's actually runoff from the Infernal Train destroying Wonderland — and Alice's mind.
  • The eponymous Ink Machine from Bendy and the Ink Machine seemingly both runs on ink and produces it in infinite — and exponentially growing — quantities. The ink covers the entire studio, and can both bring cartoon characters to life (albeit with a healthy dose of Body Horror) and turn humans into ink monsters, the most common of which are the Searchers, deformed and incomplete beings of ink, and the Lost Ones, humanoid masses of dripping, shifting ink.
  • A recurring element in Call of the Sea. The island produces a mysterious black ooze that either drives people murderously insane or morphs them into a Fish Person.
  • One of the enemies in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is the black panther, which appears only in the Anti-Chapel and appears almost identical to the one encountered in Castlevania Chronicles. However, unlike the other black panthers that have appeared in the series so far, this one isn't a big cat at all, but a blob of oozing black fluid that has shapeshifted into the form of a panther. In combat with you, it will periodically revert to liquid form and slide out of range so it can attack again - and worse still, it's almost indestructible in liquid form.
  • In Episode 4 of Commander Keen, the Isle of Tar is one of the three islands located in the southeastern Three-Tooth Lake. It has many pits of boiling black tar which kills Keen instantly upon contact, and at one point he has to go through the deepest pit in order to grab a blue gem and climb back alive (by using some weak platforms to avoid falling). The tar makes an appearance in other levels in the episode, but it's not as concerning in them as it is here.
  • In the Nintendo DS adaptation of Duck Amuck, the game may start a minigame based on the section where the screen frame is used in an attempt to crush Daffy. However, as it would be impossible to move the DS's screen frame in such a way, a thick black ooze instead is used to crush Daffy.
  • Epic Mickey: The game's main antagonist, the Shadow Blot, is an enormous monster made from an oozing black mixture of paint and thinner by Mickey Mouse himself messing around too much in Yen Sid's laboratory. Its corrupting slime has dripped and spread all over Wasteland, creating smaller enemy blobs called Blotlings and causing all sorts of destruction. Once it's finally destroyed (or redeemed) atop Mickeyjunk Mountain, it turns out to be nothing more than an oversized piece of the actual Shadow Blot, which Oswald inadvertently unleashes during a Third-Act Misunderstanding. The real Blot is best described as a sentient hurricane made of ink, swirling around Dark Beauty Castle as it spawns enormous tentacles to suck up all the paint in the Cartoon Wasteland.
  • Sasha of inFAMOUS has the power to exude a mind-controlling black tar from her body. By force-feeding it to the Reapers, she transformed them into loyal soldiers, and by introducing it to the local water supply, she hopes to recruit the civilians of the Neon District into her growing army. For added horror, the boss battle reveals that Sasha is milking her body to produce the tar in bulk, to the point that it's become part of her ensemble: close examination reveals that she's technically naked apart from the black gunk covering her lower body.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity feature Malice, a black tar-like substance that infects and consumes everything it touches. It spawns from Calamity Ganon, an boar-like demon consumed by its hatred for Hyrule for the numerous defeats it had suffered over the eons, and can only be destroyed by shooting at the demon eyes that emerge from the tar. It's also potent and sentient enough to possess robots and even create harbingers of evil known as Blight Ganons.
  • Metroid Dread shows black goo flying around whenever an X-parasite alters or mimicks an host. Previous games used some kind of distortion/pixelation effect.
  • Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate: The Final Boss of the multiplayer campaign, Gogmazios, attacks with a black, tar-like substance that incapacitates hunters and, if not gotten rid of quickly, will explode and cause them massive damage. Supposedly, the monster got all this substance in its body after a lifetime diet of sulphur and gunpowder.
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012) has cinematics for each car on the Most Wanted list that you race and then take down. The Koeniggsegg Agera R's intro consists of a black spore that starts creeping tendrils, growing in size before suddenly twisting and contorting around until revealing the Swedish hypercar.
  • The Festering Fungus in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard covers many locations in thick sheets of black, oozing mold, and also creates Mushroom Men comprised of tangled ropes of fungal matter. Worse still, it's also capable of infesting people like the Baker family, enhancing their strength, driving them insane, and rendering them subservient to Eveline, who emits this stuff by nature.
  • Thick, foul-smelling black slime is secreted by hosts of the Ourobouros virus in Resident Evil 5.
  • Rogue Stormers features the Goop, an oily black substance that horribly mutates living beings in addition to powering Diesel Punk tech. It's even drilled from the depths of the Earth like real oil.
  • The Filth of The Secret World. This Mystical Plague can take on many forms across the setting, but the most common variant is a tarry black slime studded with writhing tentacles. Forming huge puddles, oily creepers and vast bubbling swamps of the stuff, one touch is enough to kick off infection, resulting in paranoia, delusions, violent insanity, hideous mutations, and subservience to the will of the Dreamers — for the Filth itself is their dream of escaping from captivity made manifest as a disease. Infectees are covered in an oily layer of Filth that only draws further attention to the tentacles and Glowing Eyes of Doom they gradually manifest, and later-stage infectees are actually made of it — transcending humanity to become monstrous entities of pure Filth. Fortunately, the player characters are immune to the mutations and brain-warping effects, so it can only kill them — temporarily. Everyone else... not so much.
  • In Slime Rancher, the Tarr are highly dangerous and widely feared Blob Monsters that eat the other slimes being ranched by the Player Character... and the rancher. Appropriately enough, they're mainly black with subtle rainbow-stripes.
  • Structure Gel in SOMA is a black, slimy chemical that can serve both as an electrical conductor and as Mutagenic Goo that forcibly melds flesh and metal together. By the time of the game, WAU has covered PATHOS-II with Structure Gel Meat Moss in its quest to assimilate the remnants of humanity into itself; as a result, you'll find the gel itself leaking from the ceiling at various points across the station. Simon's half-corpse half-machine body is actually held together with it, and late in the game, he has to acquire more Structure Gel in order to build a new body capable of entering the Abyss.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 has Oil Ocean Zone. The black oil that covers the bottom of the level is thicker and nastier than other liquids, and if you fall in it, it will drag you down unless you make a series of rapid jumps to get out again.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Oil Desert Zone is a remix of Oil Ocean.
    • The original Oil Ocean Zone returns in Sonic Mania, and now it gets set on fire between Acts 1 and 2, resulting in thick smoke that will cause gradual damage unless Sonic periodically pulls switches that dispel it.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: The "black mud" of Angra Mainyu, which resides in the Holy Grail, contains "All the World's Evil" and is basically The Corruption in (mostly) liquid form.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, the Creatures of Grimm are born from pools of black ooze that litter the landscape of Salem's domain. Periodically, a new Grimm will drag itself out of the ooze and continue with their single-minded mission of killing all of humanity. Volume 6 reveals these pools to be the Pools of Annihilation, the liquified essence of the God of Darkness and carry his terrible power.

    Webcomics 
  • As suggested by its name, the Black Touch in Wurr appears to be a glistening, bubbling tar-like substance that occurs in pools within the Crater, and is an extremely dangerous Mutagenic Goo capable of making the hounds that live there grow all sorts of interesting extra or misshapen body parts.
  • The Treasure Monster in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is a jeweled mask that can create and control seemingly limitless quantities of creepy black goop, ususally molding it into a creepy four-legged body for itself.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Inque is a mercenary who allowed herself to be experimented on for money. Whatever the purpose of the experiment, it left her a dark-hued polymorph mutant capable of assuming malleable or even liquid forms, hence why she chose the alias "Inque". However, she remains vulnerable to electricity, which messes with her cells, and water, in which she dissolves.
  • Bojack Horseman: This features prominently in Bojack's dream in "The View From Halfway Down", as a tar-like substance that drips from the ceiling. As the episode climaxes, the empty void beyond the door which people keep disappearing into reaches out as more of the black liquid and consumes the entire dream world, representing not only the darkness and despair of death and depression that seem inescapable to him, but also harkening back to a metaphor of the tarpits in LA symbolizing the toxicity he carries with him and its effect on himself and the people around him, and (more literally) the water getting into his body as he's drowning himself.
  • Centaurworld: The Nowhere King's physical form is made up of a mass of black ooze that he can control as he pleases.
  • Pibby: The Static, a dark force consuming the multiverse, takes the form of a tide of black matter covered in colorful static glitches.
  • The Pirates of Dark Water had the titular "Dark Water", an amorphous blob that roams the seas, devouring anything in its path.
  • Rick and Morty: In "Edge of Tomorty", Morty's attempts at following the crystal's predictions come to a head when he steals some ferrofluid from Rick's lab and uses it on himself. Essentially an oily, black semi-liquid that continuously sprouts roots and tentacles, it envelops Morty in a monstrous techno-organic tree in which he's determined to wait until the crystal shows him the next step to dying in Jessica's arms. Thankfully, Rick, Wasp Rick and Hologram Rick are there to drag him out of it. Unfortunately, it then fuses with Hologram Rick, giving him a physical body and transforming him into a giant. Proclaiming himself a god, he tries to kill the other three — only to be brought down by Wasp Rick's parasitic larvae. Ferrofluid exists in Real Life, by the way, and needless to say, it does not do that.
  • Samurai Jack: Aku spends most of his time on Earth as a pool of pitch black goop resembling a tar pit, though later on a tree-like spire rises out of its middle. Any living thing that touches this goop is slowly pulled in with tremendous force, and their matter is converted into more of the goop, enlarging the pool. It's only when Jack's father fires an enchanted arrow at the substance does it convert Aku into his present-day (and future) form.
  • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo: Brushogun used to be a normal artist until he turned to dark magic to make one of his creations alive. The price was his own transformation into an ink-filled, paper-skinned entity with the ability to create inky minions. Both Brushogun and the minions can look normal, but their true form is pure ink.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) has the Synthezoids, in the final part of the non-canonical "Mutant Apocalypse" arc. They are pitch black-colored, mutant liquid petroleum blob creatures, which are deployed to guard Maximus Kong's rig truck from any attackers who try to raid it.

 
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Belos's Curse

Belos has to feed on Palisman magic to maintain his form. Without it, he loses cohesion and starts to melt, similar to an abomination but some sort of Ominous Obsidian Ooze. It's implied that he is getting progressively worse, to the point they have exhausted all of their reserves of captured Palismen.

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