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Pink Mist

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"Everything above yer' neck's gonna be a FINE red mist!"
The Sniper, Team Fortress 2

This is the polar opposite of Pretty Little Headshots, usually found in military fiction and gorier video games. As the above quote says, it's after a sniper has shot someone, and their head "pops" into a bloody cloud, which, from a distance, appears to be pink. Usually some part of the head is blown off in the process. This type of headshot is almost invariably seen from the sniper's point of view.

The thing that keeps this from falling into Ludicrous Gibs is that it actually happens, although it requires a sufficiently high-velocity bullet, usually a rifle bullet, to produce the effect. Typical pistol bullets can (and often do) produce a blood-splattering exit wound in headshots, but the vaporization of enough blood and brain tissue to produce an actual mist requires a supersonic velocity of the sort most typically found in rifle bullets (thus partially validating the Pretty Little Headshot, at least if the shooter is using a pistol). The .357 Magnum suicide of R. Budd Dwyer on live television could be clearly seen to produce no visible pink mist, despite involving a powerful pistol caliber to the brain at point-blank range.

The most easily accessible real-world evidence for Pink Mist is surely the Gross-Up Close-Up provided by the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination. A 10.5 gram rifle bullet traveling at 2,300 feet per second into a large, homogenous mass with the consistency of a custard pie can be clearly seen to support the trope, although not quite as strikingly as one might expect.

See also Chunky Salsa Rule, Gorn, Boom, Headshot!. Compare Your Head A-Splode and Ludicrous Gibs. Contrast, of course, Bloodless Carnage and Pretty Little Headshots.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baccano!: The conductor who takes a bullet to the head splashes blood all over the place and is later shown with a substantial hole in the back of his head.
  • In the opening scene of Ghost in the Shell (1995), the Major shoots a programmer attempting to defect several times in the head, causing him to explode seconds later. It's suggested that she was using explosive bullets.

    Fan Works 
  • In the epilogue of the Zootopia fan comic Never Say Goodbye, there's an impressive spray of blood and brains when Judy, who's become mayor of Zootopia, is sniped in the head by the radicals who oppose her policies, in a reference to the JFK assassination. However, this is a subversion, as the bullet turns out to have been filled with cherry jam, and Judy is left unharmed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • There are some impressive instances of pink mist in Apocalypto. All the more so because there are no firearms, only clubs and arrows.
  • The ending of Chinatown has a disturbingly realistic exit wound where somebody's eye used to be.
  • Deadtime Stories: Volume 2: In "On Sabbath Hill", Allison commits suicide by blowing her brains out in the middle of Professor Weaver's classroom. The shot showers her classmates in blood and brains, and even sprays Professor Weaver, who is at the front of the class, with a fine pink mist of blood.
  • The memorable restaurant scene in The Godfather has Michael Corleone turning both Virgil "The Turk" Solozzo & Captain McKlusky's brains into this.
  • Sadly (maybe) the lead characters of Jarhead never got to see the pink mist they so longed to see due to a airstrike taking out their targets just before they took the shot.
  • Happens in The Matrix when Trinity challenges an Agent to dodge a bullet at point blank range. The resulting headshot produces this.
  • David Mamet's Spartan has someone's head do this after being hit by a sniper's bullet.
  • In Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, this occurs when Darth Maul is slashed across the waist with a lightsaber and sliced in half in the film's climatic duel.
  • The first Young Guns has a scene in which Emilio Estevez shoots an accused traitor in the head. Unlike the usual modest blood-splats found in Westerns, another character flinches when a huge splash of gore hits his hat from about ten feet away.

  • Since most Mechs have head-mounted cockpits, this sometimes turns up in BattleTech fiction. One short story poetically describes a Griffin whose pilot's remains sprayed out the back of its head after being shot in the face by a Royal Highlander's Gauss Rifle as looking as if it were a flesh and blood knight in 55 tons of medieval armor being introduced to an early renaissance handgonne.
  • Oh so very used in military fiction. Case in point: Tom Clancy. The shootout sequence that opens Patriot Games actually describes "a wet, pink cloud" as Jack Ryan shoots one of the bad guys.
  • In The Crossing, "Bosch felt a fine mist of blood hit him full in the face" after another cop puts a bullet through the skull of the bad guy.

  • In the fourth Alex Rider book, the Big Bad Damian Cray is killed when he is sucked into one of the engines of Air Force One. His remains are described as this:
    Cray was mincemeat. More than that, he was vaporised. In one second he was turned into a cloud of red gas that disappeared into the atmosphere. There was simply nothing left.
  • In Inside Delta Force, the narrator describes a mission in which he and a teammate are tasked with sniping enemy shooters that always fired from within groups of children. Once the shots were fired and the guns came back down from recoil, all that was visible in the scopes was a mist, a "fading pink chimera in the sunlight."
  • The Expanse plays with this, combining it with Pretty Little Headshots. When a character is shot by a railgun round passing through a ship, it leaves nothing save a hole where the round entered the room, a hole where the round exited the room, and a gap where his head was. There's not even a trace of blood, right until it starts gushing from his neck.
  • The result of high-pressure boiler mishaps in Raising Steam. One second there's people working on an engine, the next there's just a spray of mist, bone shards and a large clearing in the surrounding forest...

    Live-Action TV 
  • One of the last episodes of Dollhouse has Bennet shot in the head by whoever Whiskey is at the time. The pink mist surrounds a stunned Topher.
  • Explained to Christina Ricci and later demonstrated by the bomb squad guy on the season 2 Super Bowl episode of Grey's Anatomy.
  • This effect is described in detail in one episode of In Plain Sight, by the main protagonist, Mary Shannon.
  • The X-Files would mostly use Pretty Little Headshots, but when Mulder shoots John Lee Roche in "Paper Hearts", it's this trope: lots of blood spattered on the window.

    Video Games 
  • Averted in America's Army due partially to the need to avoid a rating higher than T, and partially to the fact that 5.56mm bullets rarely cause that level of dismemberment. Plus, it's a recruiting tool; people are likely to be less open to joining the Army if their death was just rendered in agonizingly gory detail. Those to whom such things would appeal are generally more unstable than Army recruiters would like.
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare features this kind of effect when enemies are hit by gunfire, as does Call of Duty: World at War.
  • The result of scoring a killing headshot with a hammer or mace in Chivalry Medieval Combat.
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Most of your foes in Mass Effect 2 have some variety of helmet/shield/hard carapace, so a headshot will cause a mist of blood (in whatever color is appropriate, red for humans and Vorcha, bluish purple for Asari and Turians, green for Salarians, orange for Krogan and Collectors, etc.) but will leave the outer shell of the head intact.
  • The Metal Gear series uses a cloud of particulate-rendered blood whenever someone takes a hit as well.
  • This happens in Sniper Elite after you shot everybody at both entry and exit.
  • Soldier of Fortune has this plus splattered brain matter and shattered skulls.
  • The Sniper of Team Fortress 2 refers to this trope by name repeatedly ("Everything above your neck is gonna be a fine red mist!"), but the in-game effects for most of his primary weapons are Pretty Little Headshots — except the Hitman's Heatmaker and The Classic, which skip straight up to decapitation and full-body explosion, respectively.
  • A confusing one in Tomb Raider: Legend. In the flashback level, the wraith grabs Kent and leaves behind a red mist: it is debatable whether this is the creature's presence, or Kent's blood.
  • Vietcong featured this effect whenever a character is shot.

    Visual Novels 
  • Some of the deaths by sniper shot in Rose Guns Days are depicted this way most notably Stella's death at the end of Season 3.

    Real Life 
  • Tragically Truth in Television, as anyone who has seen the Zapruder Film (the film of John F. Kennedy's assassination) can attest.
  • The term was coined during The American Civil War, describing the effects of canister shot on oncoming infantry. Cannon in the Civil War typically fired either solid shot, which was deadly only if it hit you directly, or exploding shells, which sent shrapnel flying and could kill more soldiers than solid shot. When the enemy got close enough, the artillery would load canister, which was tin cans filled with lead pellets — thus converting the cannon into a giant shotgun. Pink Mist was often the result.
  • The name of Shaka Zulu's favorite impi (regiment), the uFasimba, translates to "The Haze". It's likely that this could refer to the cloud of blood that comes from a grievous battle wound.