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Past Victim Showcase

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"You know, Carl... These people who pass through here, they all tell pretty good stories. A surveyor making a map... A botanist cataloguing plants... An old man taking his house to Paradise Falls... Well, that's the best one yet — I can't wait to hear how it ends."
Charles F. Muntz, Up

A hero in the hands of the villains receives an indirect threat (and a spur to their own personal feelings of impotence and despair) by being shown evidence of a past ally's suffering at the same villain's hands.

In fantasy, this is often put across by the display of an heirloom that the previous character owned and which was taken from him by the villains. In more modern or realistic settings, they are shown photographic or video evidence of the unpleasant changes the villains put the last hero through, often with a taunt of "Not very pretty now, is he?"

A frequent component of Revenge by Proxy since the point of that is to make the hero, not the victim, suffer.

The villain may actually display the ally or his corpse. If he is still alive, this may provoke a Mercy Killing on The Hero's part.

See also Finger in the Mail, Creepy Souvenir, and Forced to Watch.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: Kurotsuchi showed Uryu a picture of his mentor's soul after Kurotsuchi had finished experimenting on it. Made more horrific by the fact that said mentor was also Uryu's grandfather, and by the careless manner in which Kurotsuchi talks about it; to Kurotsuchi, he's just making conversation, and when Uryu informs him about his relation to the victim, Kurotsuchi isn't bothered in the slightest.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: Jail sent a taunting broadcast to the Time-Space Administation Bureau showing the rise of the Saint's Cradle, including a video of Nanoha's daughter Vivio being tortured to power it. This was most certainly among the worst ideas in the entire history of bad ideas, contending with heavy-weights like marrying Jocasta. Later, Nanoha makes sure to give one of Jail’s subordinates her regards- by blasting her with her Wave-Motion Gun.
  • Berserk: Griffith, after a year of torture. While his horribly mutilated body is displayed, what is left underneath the iron mask that he wears is never revealed — but it makes even the battle-hardened Guts recoil in horror.
  • Battle Angel Alita: A variation: when the protagonist wakes up after her Heroic Sacrifice, she is asked by the Neglectful Precursors to become their agent on the surface. When she refuses, they show her a picture of what's left of her real body.
  • Hunter × Hunter: Kurapika goes to a mansion looking for a job that will make him able to attend a secret meeting of the crime lords. Once he gets employed, he passes by a corridor that has a former bodyguard's dead body partly visible from a painting. That was the punishment for getting deceived by wrong information and placing the boss's life in danger.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: This happens when Yamori first brings Kaneki to his Torture Cellar. His previous, dead "toy" is still chained to a chair with a bag over his head, and a bucket of severed fingers and toes in front of him. Kaneki is understandably horrified to realize the "task" his new superior has in mind for him.

    Fan Fic 
  • In "Pride Comes Before The Fall", a Ranma ½ fanfic, Ranma delivers Ryouga's shredded, bloodied bandanna to the Tendos.

    Film — Animated 
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children: Kadaj does this with the bloody I.D cards of two of Rufus's former agents, saying, 'Fine, swear on these!' Both agents show up unharmed near the end to rescue Rufus, but no explanation is given as to how that's possible.
  • Up: Carl is horrified to realize his childhood hero, Charles Muntz, has gone off the deep end when Muntz starts bragging about some aviator helmets belonging to past "visitors" to Paradise Falls. Muntz apparently killed them all in a fit of paranoia, believing they were trying to steal his discovery out from under his nose.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Bloodsport: "You are next." Said after the "Big Bad" pummels a fighter the main character befriended briefly beforehand.
  • Galaxy Quest has a video of the aliens' former commander being tortured.
  • Khartoum: The Mahdi has a meeting under truce with General Gordon, to convince him to surrender. Gordon still thinks an expedition he sent down the river to get help has reached safety until the Mahdi lifts several heads out of various boxes — all the expedition leaders.
  • The Last Starfighter: The assembled good guys were forced to watch a broadcast by the villain of the torture and execution of the good guys' master spy.
  • The Little Shop of Horrors: All of the people who were eaten by Audrey Jr. have their faces emblazoned in the center of the plant's flowers. This was referenced in the musical adaptation, where the plant's victims sing the finale number through the flowers.
  • The Scorpion King: Memnon gets a message by carrier bird, and everyone thinks the Akkadian is dead. When he opens the message, he discovers that it contains Thorak's amulet instead.
  • Showdown in Little Tokyo: The bad guy cements one of his Kick the Dog moments by forcing himself onto the singer of his new club after showing her a videotape of him previously decapitating one of her friends.
  • 68 Kill: The shelves in Dwayne's workshop are lined with glass jars containing body parts from his previous victims. That fact Dwayne and Liza are so sanguine about this is what finally convinces Chip to free Violet and flee.
  • Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi: C3PO is told that Jabba the Hutt "became displeased with his former protocol droid and terminated it". We are shown its mutilated remains. The worst part was that it was still sufficiently functional to scream. The Expanded Universe book Tales from Jabba's Palace states that the droid in charge was actually adding pain sensors to the tortured droids and relishing their anguish.

  • Able Team: When the Team is first briefed on Neo-Nazi Corrupt Corporate Executive Unomondo (the closest thing that series had to a reoccurring Big Bad) they told how one of his accountants who turned state's evidence got a big set of pictures — his wife and children being lowered one inch at a time, one picture at a time, into tubs of acid. The man killed himself the next day.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: In the first trilogy, Lord Foul sends a tortured and broken Waynhim back to Revelstone as a messenger, with a threat to make the entire Land as broken as the wretch.
  • The Draka: In Under the Yoke, the second novel, an Alliance agent is captured by the Draka, who send him back in a shipping container — horribly mutilated but still alive, with pictures detailing his torture and "Thanks for the lovely chat" carved on his forehead.
  • Dragon's Winter: After torturing Azil for three years, Tenjiro sends him back to Karadur broken in both body and soul.
  • The Executioner: Mack Bolan finds that The Mafia has prepared a room to show their Sex Slaves what will happen if they've got any ideas of disobedience. It contains the tortured body of a federal agent (and former lover of Bolan) with photos showing all the stages of her torture. Bolan still has to put her out of her misery.
  • Forgotten Realms: In one novel, Entreri had stolen the statue that allowed Drizzt to summon Guenhwyvar, and let Drizzt see it just long enough for him to figure out what the small object was.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts: The Guns of Tanith has the Chaos commander Sagittar Slaith broadcast footage of the captured and tortured Ghosts on screens in his captured city to the other Ghosts he knows are still out there.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Sauron's messenger at the Black Gate shows Frodo's armor and cloak and Sam's sword to his companions; Sauron (who doesn't know about the Ring or that there were two hobbit infiltrators) wants to imply that their spy will be tortured if they do not surrender. Gandalf doesn't take the messenger's offer, but does take the hobbit's things. Especially meta-effective because at this time the reader doesn't yet know about the real circumstances, and so is as clueless as the characters about the hobbits' and the Ring's fate.
  • Redwall: Emperor Ublaz "Mad Eyes" does this to a pirate captain under his command when he reveals the body of the captain's brother. The captain immediately decides to go through with the revolt he was planning.
  • Swellhead. The titular villain's Supervillain Lair includes a hallway where the heads of former enemies and childhood bullies are displayed like hunting trophies, along with the means of their demise — usually a Karmic Death that fits whatever grudge Swellhead had against them.
  • In Velocity, by Dean Koontz, the primary villain has a collection of faces and hands removed from past victims, which said villain proudly displays to the protagonist during their climactic confrontation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story: Hotel: John Lowe realizes that he is the Ten Commandments Killer when Hypodermic Sally shows him a room filled with symbolic body parts from his previous kills.
  • Firefly: Niska is very fond of using this trope. As a means of getting Mal and Co. to cooperate, he shows them the mutilated hung corpse of his wife's nephew!
    Mal: No... I'm sure he was a... very bad man.
    Niska: My wife's nephew. At dinner, I am getting earful.
  • Underworld: A crime boss takes the protagonist to see the garden of his Big Fancy House and shows him the spot where they buried a previous rival who was into being Chained by Fashion. The metal leaching into the soil is apparently quite good for the plants.

  • Ruiner Pinball: The "Tower" board includes a previous victim who is shackled spread-eagled to a rack.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The 2nd Edition supplement The Complete Book of Elves includes several stories about elven attitudes and their Time Abyss mindset. One of the most disturbing is about how an elf's children hunted down and captured the dwarf who'd killed their parent, then left a severed dwarf limb on the killer's doorstep every year as a warning to anyone who would dare to threaten an elf. The worst thing is, the vengeful children had also acquired a ring of regeneration. They've been invoking this trope each year for more than three decades and counting...
  • Magic: The Gathering: The transformed form of Panicked Bystander, Cackling Culprit, depicts a serial killer gloating over a collection of glass jars holding bones taken from his victims.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock:
    • Andrew Ryan does this to Jack by showing him a room filled with those who'd opposed him previously, some of which Jack had learned about and gotten to know through the audio diaries but never met.
    • Dr. Steinman has a gallery of his failed attempts at making a "Masterpiece". We never learn if the women volunteered for these surgeries or if Steinman kidnapped them.
  • BioShock 2: Your friendly Mission Control is strapped into a Big Daddy suit and only has control of his mouth and part of his mind. You need to Mercy Kill him.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Ganondorf holds up Midna's broken helmet to demonstrate that he just defeated her — just before shattering it.
  • Dawn of War: the Dark Eldar can upgrade some of their buildings to hang mutilated corpses outside, this causes constant morale damage to nearby enemies. Chaos buildings, what with their human-skin decorations, provide a similar effect (prevents enemy morale regen and increases your own).

    Web Animation 

    Web Original