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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 all that delicious blood-jelly bursts into a bloody cloud, which, from a distance, appears to be pink. Usually some part of the cranium 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 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 revolver suicide of R. Budd Dwyer on live TV 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 and Boom, Headshot!. Compare Your Head A-Splode and Ludicrous Gibs. Contrast, of course, Bloodless Carnage and Pretty Little Headshots.


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    Anime and 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.

  • The memorable restaurant scene in The Godfather has Michael Corleone turning both Virgil "The Turk" Solozzo & Captain McKlusky's brains into this.
  • The ending of Chinatown has a disturbingly realistic exit wound where somebody's eye used to be.
  • 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.
  • David Mamet's Spartan has someone's head do this after being hit by a sniper's bullet.
  • 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.
  • There are some impressive instances of pink mist in Apocalypto. All the more so because there are no firearms, only clubs and arrows.

  • 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 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."
  • 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.
  • The result of high-pressure boiler mishaps in Raising Steam

    Live-Action TV 
  • This effect is described in detail in one episode of In Plain Sight, by the main protagonist, Mary Shannon.
  • 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
  • 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 

    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.


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