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Scary Surprise Party

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A character is kidnapped and told that something nasty will happen unless they go somewhere. It turns out to be a Surprise Party. An elaborate Practical Joke. Often the end game of Friendly Scheming; also often a subtrope of Kidnapped by an Ally.


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  • A commercial for the Japanese Hibachi restaurant, Benihana, is done in anime style, and gives the appearance that the hero's girlfriend has been kidnapped. The point was simply to get him to Benihana so they could celebrate his birthday.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Tiger & Bunny, Tiger did this for Barnaby involving Karina, Antonio, Nathan and Keith as a robbery gang. Tiger's plan hilariously failed when they accidentally come across a real gang.
  • Inverted in Umineko: When They Cry: Rosa and the others find the message HAPPY HALLOWEEN FOR MARIA written on the door of the chapel. Oh, so it's a Halloween party for little Maria? How nice! Let's just go on in and - OH DEAR GOD!

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The film The Game (1997) is about a company that arranges this sort of thing.
  • At the beginning of Get Shorty, the mob boss Momo goes to what he thinks is a dangerous sit-down with rival gangsters. It turns out it's a surprise birthday party. He promptly keels over dead.
  • The film Jawbreaker starts out with a girl being kidnapped, gagged and thrown in the trunk of a car on her 17th birthday. Eventually her high school friends throw open the trunk and shout, "Surprise!" Unfortunately, they find that she choked to death on the jawbreaker one of them stuck in her mouth before gagging her.
  • In Mamma Mia!, Sophie's fiancé is "kidnapped" by his friends for his bachelor party.
  • At the end of Miss Congeniality, Grace is called by Victor to examine a bomb of some sort planted at the Miss United States after-reception. Turns out that the girls just wanted to thank her for saving them all and Victor knew the only way to get her to come was "if there was the chance to shoot someone".
  • Tackleberry's coworkers throw a goodbye party for him, because he's leaving his job as a security guard to enter the Police Academy. You'd think they'd know better than to wait for him in the dark, given his predictable reaction.
  • In The Young Poisoner's Handbook, John receives a note asking him to come to stores. When he arrives, stores is empty. He calls out and someone turns off all the lights. Just as the viewer is thinkingg that Graham may be planning to extract an uncharacteristic 'hands-on' vengeance on John, candles are lit on a cake and John's co-workers jump out yelling "Surprise!" Unfortunately for those attending, however, Graham made the cake...

  • A short variant occurs in The Curse of Chalion: On a leisurely ride in the countryside, Cazaril and the princess he's working for are surprised by a band of robbers who turn out to be mostly young nobles meeting them for an unexpected picnic. The bit that scares Cazaril, a veteran of several wars, is how close he came to killing some of those idiots before he caught on.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden gets a party thrown by Maeve. Unfortunately, besides being a sign of respect for Harry, it's also a multi-layered attempt on his life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in 3rd Rock from the Sun, when a surprise birthday party is planned for Dick (at his own request — he's a weird character), and conflicts with a kidnapper's plans. (Actually, the kidnapper wants to cut his head open to find the transceiver that is really buried in Harry's head.) The Solomons are all tied up in the basement and learn what's going on, but guests keep arriving for the party and assume that the kidnappers are "catering", until being knocked out and tied up themselves.
  • In All The Small Things, Esther and Michael see peculiar lights coming from inside the church as they drive past on their way home one night. They stop to investigate, wondering if it's being burgled, when suddenly the lights all come on, revealing that it's a surprise party to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Esther was in on it.
  • Used a couple of times in Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Played with in "Surprise." The Computer Science teacher, Jenny Calendar, whom the audience has just learned has a hidden agenda, intercepts Buffy on her way to a meeting with Giles, and tells Buffy he's asked her to take Buffy to meet him elsewhere. The audience is led to believe that Jenny is up to no good, but it turns out she's just taking Buffy to her surprise party. Though as Buffy runs into some vampires on the way, it's something of an inverted trope.
    (Buffy crashes through the window and dusts a vampire.)
    Cordelia: (leaping up from hiding) Surprise!
    Oz: Actually, that pretty much sums it up.
    • Just as she's about to have sex with her boyfriend Riley, Buffy is railroaded under threat of fire-breathing demons to her surprise 19th birthday party.
    Willow: Guess you won't be killing anything tonight, after all.
    Buffy: Don't be so sure...
  • Done memorably on Castle when Richard Castle, laid up in a wheelchair with a broken leg, is convinced he witnessed a murder in the apartment across the street. Beckett, growing fed up with Castle insisting he saw a murder, goes to the apartment, only to have the tenant grab her and pull a knife on her before the lights go out. Castle meets Esposito and Ryan outside the apartment and charges in...just as the lights turn on to reveal the surprise party.
  • Chuck's friends attempt to kidnap him as practice for his soon-to-be brother-in-law's bachelor party. Which they aren't invited to.
    • They later do finagle invitations and "kidnap" Captain Awesome for the bachelor party.
  • Columbo: In "Candidate for Crime," having just murdered his campaign manager, the murderer sneaks into his own home and flicks off several lights, plunging his wife into the dark. He then sneaks up behind her and claps his hand over her mouth. Then the lights turn on and guests yell surprise. The whole thing was a surprise party he organized as part of his alibi.
  • Spoofed in a sketch by Conan O'Brien, where they showed "foreign Reality TV Shows". One of them was "Surprise Party or Coup?" where African dictators are led to a room, and they have to guess whether it's a surprise party or a coup d'etat. "Yes, it's a party... a murder party!"
  • One episode of CSI has the male leads abducting one of The Lab Rats as he's leaving the building, to take him out for a birthday dinner. Unfortunately for the birthday boy, the "party" keeps going downhill even after The Reveal.
  • CSI: NY: In "Uncertainty Rules," a college student is abducted by two men in scary clown masks who force a gun into his mouth. It turns out to be a squirt gun filled with tequila, and the two clowns are his friends who are dragging him out to celebrate his 21st birthday. However, the party goes horribly wrong.
  • Dexter's buddies bag him up and toss him in the trunk of a car in order to escort him to his bachelor party. Problem is, Dex was already anticipating a rival killer's plot against him, and so he escapes his bonds and deals a fierce punch to Masuka's eye when his friend opens the trunk. Whoops.
  • The staff at ER frequently used made-up medical emergencies as a way to get the victim into the room where the surprise party was being held. And they could never say no and take the chance of it being a real emergency.
  • Forbrydelsen begins like this, as Lund's colleagues fake an entire murder scene just to let her find her farewell present in the most dramatic manner possible.
  • In Glue, Rob organizes a rave for his best friend James's birthday party. The way he decides to get James there is through a kidnapping.
  • Taking this to rather an extreme level, MacGyver (1985) gets taken at knife-point by a disguised Jack Dalton to a birthday party in "Friends."
  • For Monk's birthday, Natalie decides that she will throw him a surprise party, no matter what. After her first few attempts fail because Monk figures out she's planning a party and refuses to go with her, in the middle of a case, she has someone follow them, gets the captain to fake a warning about them being followed and in danger, convinces Monk to hide in a dumpster, getting them wheeled into the surprise party. Monk (and probably the viewers) never saw it coming for once.
  • On Titus, Christopher Titus remembers (in a flashback) the surprise party for an uncle. As the lights came up and people started to yell surprise he started shooting. Then he realized what it was and said "Aw, you guys."
  • The Two Twisted episode "Finding Frank" has a security guard's colleague disappearing and calling out desperately over his walkie-talkie. When the guard goes to find him it turns out to be a surprise retirement party, but it goes terribly wrong when the nervous guard overreacts, firing his gun when the lights come on, killing his wife. But as the guard is being led away, he drops a bit of paper that his colleague picks up. It's an invitation to the party with the exact time, location and everything, showing that the guard knew all along and used the party to kill his wife, framing it as accident. It's even better when you know the actor who plays the guard played a put-upon Extreme Doormat in his most famous role.

    Video Games 
  • In Ao Oni 3.0, this trope is cruelly subverted. The hero, Hiroshi, is suddenly attacked by the monster that has been chasing him and murdering all his friends, only for the Oni's head to pop off, revealing that it was a guy in a suit all along and that the whole ordeal was just a setup for a surprise birthday party. Pity that this turns out to be just a dream, and his friends really are dead.
  • In Bugs Bunnys Birthday Blowout for the NES, Bugs Bunny is attacked relentlessly by every member of the Looney Tunes cast, but finds out after the attacks that they were all just joking, and they set up his birthday party.
  • The computer game Draculas Secret ends like this.
  • Double subverted in Irisu Syndrome!. Irisu plans this sort of party under the guise of this to murder two university students, and depending on which ending you get, she either carries the murders out or plays along with the planned party.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online has a quest in which you're told how an NPC overheard part of a sinister plot and wants you to investigate. When you arrive, a bunch of suspicious characters with gangster-style nicknames greet you as a fellow conspirator. Turns out it's a surprise birthday party ... the guy who's been bragging about how sharp his knife is has been using it to slice bread, and the guy talking about ropes and hanging has been hanging the party decorations.
  • In the third Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game's fifth case, Larry Butz has a crush on the defendant, Iris. However, he's so bad at writing love notes that his request to her to come see him in the middle of the night for a romantic excursion is taken instead as blackmail, especially since Larry believes Iris has a secret love for him. However, Iris took this "secret" to mean something different and much more plot-relevant...
  • Deconstructed in a sidequest in Star Wars: The Old Republic, where an extremely paranoid Imperial officer became convinced his men were plotting against him and had them all executed, despite the fact that they were simply planning a surprise party for his promotion. He then tries to convince you that the woods are full of invisible Kuubaz infiltrators, though this time he's actually right.
  • In the white chamber, the comedic ending which requires you to get six chalk marks (six good deeds) to obtain. As Sarah leaves the White Chamber, she returns to the ship via the vent duct only to see everyone shouting "Surprise!". It turns out it was her birthday and her surprise was being scared to death. Sarah and the crew make no mention whatsoever of the horrors she just encountered (or the fact that she was impaled at one point and electrocuted at another) and sit down to have cake. The ship is then unexpectedly blown apart by an asteroid, but instead of an explosion, a bubble appears that says "BANG".

    Western Animation 
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Tastes Like Chicken", Billy finds his friends and family missing. Being the paranoid peabrain he is, he suspects they were all devoured by cannibals. Eventually, further subtle evidence seems to verify this. Towards the end, he's surrounded by cannibals, but they reveal themselves to be Billy's family, who prepared a tiki-styled surprise party for him. However, when he asks where his friend Irwin is, Mandy burps and his glasses come out when she does so, suggesting she DID eat him.
    "Hmmmm, I wonder how these got in here."
  • The Harvey Birdman "Deadomutt" two-parter where they framed Harvey for murder and let him spend five years in prison.
  • In Hey Arnold! Arnold and Gerald overhear two guys who they believe are attempting to take out Mr Green, but it was all a huge surprise party for him. Or is it...?
  • One episode of Metalocalypse starts out with Toki being kidnapped and threatened by some very scary men. Then the lights come on to reveal that it was all part of a party his bandmates were planning for him. Toki tries to laugh along with it, but you can tell he's still really freaked out.
  • Featured in The Raccoons episode "Surprise Attack!", where Cyril Sneer mistakes plans for a surprise party as a plot against him.
  • In Regular Show, Mordecai and Rigby considered doing this for Skip's birthday party since he didn't want to celebrate his birthday, though they decided not to risk the legalities of it and went with a regular surprise party.
  • The Sealab 2021 episode "Der Dieb". What annoyed Quinn was not only the abuse they put him through to get him to his birthday party (which involved getting the crap beaten out of him after Captain Murphy declared "Martian law"), but also the fact that it wasn't actually his birthday.
    "Broken hands, get it?! Broken hands!"
  • Featured in The Simpsons. In "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind", an episode reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Homer's journey to track down the secret of his erased memories lead to a surprise party on a party boat.
  • A variant in The Venture Bros. has The Monarch's henchmen throw him a surprise party. He's surprised in the wrong way. He catches on only after he shoots one of them in the face with a poisonous dart, thinking it was an ambush.

    Real Life 
  • Legendary jazz pianist Fats Waller was kidnapped on leaving a performance in Chicago in 1926 by four armed men. Given that there may well have been people with serious personal grudges against him, he was naturally terrified. It turned out that he had been appointed "surprise guest" at Al Capone's birthday party. He was allegedly allowed to leave three days later, very drunk, exhausted, and with several thousand dollars in tips.