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Whispered Threat

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You're in an argument, in an interrogation room, or just trying to let your enemy know that you're not one to mess with. How do you get your point across to them without just laying a smackdown on them? Easy! You just take a step closer and whisper a threat or demand that would otherwise be under your breath, but is said in a way that the other person has to take it seriously.

This trope is popular in your average Police Procedural or psychological thriller, especially among the detective with the Jack Bauer type skills in dealing with the suspect (or, rarer still, with the public in general.) Furthermore, unless they're dealing with a particularly unmoved prep who isn't easily rattled, it's often a surprisingly effective tactic, whether the threat is empty or not.

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Keep in mind that in spite of its overuse in cop shows and films, this can also be Played for Laughs if someone is making a tantalizing comment either to gloat at someone or use sarcasm to irritate them. Bonus points if they say their news really fast or actually grab them (though this is normally to get their attention rather than do them physical harm).

Sub-Trope of Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. See also Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, Empty Cop Threat, Don't Make Me Destroy You, Implied Death Threat, and Just Between You and Me. Has nothing to do with Breath-Holding Brat. Since this is a threat (and both this and menacing are still against the law), please Don't Try This at Home.


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Examples:

Anime & Manga

  • During a City Hunter arc, after Kimiko's grandfather tricks Ryo into peeping at her while she's taking a shower and getting discovered in order to avoid answering questions while Ryo interrogates him, Kimiko decides to get Ryo to pretend to be her fiancee for the purpose of getting her Unwanted Harem off her back. Faced with Ryo's unwillingness to cooperate, she whispers to Ryo that she would tell Kaori about Ryo peeping on her while she was bathing if he doesn't play along. The thought of Kaori going ballistic towards him should she find out about this incident forces Ryo into agreeing.
  • Naruto the Movie: Road to Ninja: When the alternate version of Hinata suspects Sakura is about to ask Naruto on a date, her jealousy causes her to whisper a death threat into her rival's ear.
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Comic Books

  • In The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Whirl tries to make peace with Cyclonus for attacking him earlier, yet still refuses to admit he was the one who started the conflict in the first place. Cyclonus responds by giving him a hug, during which he whispers a death threat into his ear before leaving.
    Cyclonus: I'm going to kill you. Not today. Maybe not for a while. But I will kill you. And don't think you'll see it coming.

Animated Films

  • Balto has proven himself in a test run, but Glory Hound Steele dismisses the result, calling for his usual squad to prepare for a Fetch Quest. When Balto argues that he deserves to be on the team, Steele snarls at him and the two almost come to blows, until the wolf dog is reminded of the critical importance of the sled run. Steele agrees that the mission is paramount, but mutters one parting shot at Balto.
    Steele: And when I get back, I'm going to fold you five ways, and leave you for a cat toy.

Films - Live-Action

  • In Slap Her... She's French, Starla's anger at Genevieve's popularity eclipsing her own comes to a head at a big school dance. She confronts her rival when Genevieve dances with Starla's boyfriend in a suggestive manner. When Genevieve whispers that her "whorish" manner is a turn-on to him, Starla starts a Cat Fight with her.
  • An unintentionally threatening example occurs in the film Always. As deceased pilot Pete's ghost sees his grieving ex-girlfriend Dorinda start to move on with her life with a new man, a jealous Pete whispers in her ear, "Don't forget; you'll always be my girl." Although she can't see him, the remark causes her once-jovial mood to turn sad again.
  • There Will Be Blood: Overlaps with Riddle for the Ages. Daniel Plainview (who throughout the movie has no issue with threatening someone plainly to their face) is publicly humiliated by Eli during his baptism into Eli's church. While shaking hands after, Daniel leans in close and whispers something to Eli; we never hear it, but Eli looks discomfited. The only possible hint the audience gets is when Daniel is chasing Eli at the climax and screaming:
    Daniel Plainview:: I told you, Eli! I told you I would eeeeeeeat you!
  • One of the elements shared by Ingmar Bergman's and Kenneth Branagh's film adaptations of The Magic Flute is their handling of the scene where Monostatos tries to blackmail Pamina into accepting him. Theatrical stagings usually have him Suddenly Shouting, but in both films, he speaks in a whisper during the entire scene, coldly and menacingly (Bergman's version) or passionately and near-tearfully (Branagh's version). Notably, while in theatrical productions Pamina stands up to him, the films have her so terrified she only gasps with fright until Sarastro arrives to the rescue.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Zaphod warns Arthur against telling Trillian about Earth, emphasized when his second head pops up and adds, in a whisper, "I'll pull your spleen out through your throat."
  • Towards the climax of Scrooged while Frank anticipates The Ghost of Christmas Future, he encounters an actor playing the Ghost of Christmas Future for his channel's production of Scrooge. He assumes that it's him and he breaks down and screams until it devolves into a whisper, "You think I'm afraid of you, after the day I've had?! I know what you're here for! Come and get it, you pussy!"

Literature

  • Living Dead Girl: Alice notes that Ray hardly ever shouts and he is actually more likely to whisper when he threatens her. As a result, she's much more scared of that.
  • The Godfather: Vito Corleone learned through his years of developing his family, that to quietly reason with someone rather than making an outlandish threat is more likely to gain one's goals. When for example, his wife asks him to intercede on behalf of one of her friends who is facing eviction from a slum landlord, he simply asks for the man to reconsider his decision and to ask around the neighbourhood so that he knows Vito Corleone is a man of his word. By now, the landlord has caught the subtext of the discussion and disappears from sight for four days whilst letting his tenant to know she is welcome to stay. Corleone also reproves his eldest son Sonny several times for his temper, saying that this is not a good way to do business.

Live-Action TV

  • 24: As a sub-trope of Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique, it's no surprise that there are numerous examples from this series, but the ur-example is likely this classic from s01e11:
    You probably don't think that I can force this towel down your throat. But trust me, I can.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
    • This is a beloved tactic of Elliot Stabler when speaking with suspects. A particularly noticeable (over)usage occurs in the episode "Rage" when confronting a Serial Killer of young teenagers. He asks "Why you go after only teens? Is a grown woman too much of a challenge for you?" and tops it off with "I should do to you what you do to those girls!"
    • Olivia Benson isn't above using this tactic either. In "Bedtime", she manages to rattle a suspect in a long-unsolved murder that was initially blamed on a Serial Killer. When confronting the killer, who fell for a married man and killed his wife to have him to herself, she said how much smarter she was than "all those other bimbos" that the man was seeing and threw in her face that one of them was even going to have his baby.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent
    • Robert Goren uses this trope a lot, but not usually as a threat. One early episode has Goren offering an inmate and his family Witness Protection in exchange for information to put a crime lord away. When the man rebuffs him, citing how strong the latter's reach is, Goren then invokes this trope by saying how he knows people who can put them in the program so deep that even he would be unable to find them.
    • The episode "Playing Dead" had a college-aged girl, forced to move back in with her estranged mother and stepfather due to receiving injuries from an assailant who also killed her boyfriend, end up being molested by her stepfather while she bathes. He soon begins to wash her himself while he whispers "You'll always be my girl" into her ear. The triggering effect of this causes the girl to attempt suicide.
  • In the 1996 TV movie Victim of the Night (also known as Double Jeopardy), the veteran cop tells his mistress flatly that if he ever saw her dating another cop that he would kill her. When she expresses shock and disbelief as his threat, he then leans in her ear, whispering that she'd better not embarrass him like that. At this point, the woman realizes he means business. Several minutes later, he kills her for that and a variety of other reasons, including her trying to get child support from him as well as his wife learning of the affair and resulting child.
  • House of Anubis: When Vera catches Mara snooping around in her room, she approaches her slowly and pauses next to her ear, muttering that if she's ever caught in there again, she will be sorry. A terrified Mara then runs out of the room.
  • In the TV movie Drew Peterson Untouchable, one of Drew's (played by Rob Lowe) many paranoia and jealousy-induced threats to Stacy (played by Kaley Cuoco) is "Don't think I've forgotten what a whore you are. I know you're not the type of girl that lets marriage stop you [from cheating]."
  • The infamous TV movie She Cried No (also known as Freshman Fall) has Melissa (Candace Cameron Bure) confronting Scott (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) about his rape of her and is about to press charges. He then threatens her, saying that if she goes through with this, she'll live to regret it.
  • Game of Thrones, "Second Sons": Cersei and Margaery's Passive-Aggressive Kombat at Tyrion's wedding escalates, all with polite smiles for the benefit of onlookers, until Cersei quietly tells her, "If you ever call me sister again, I'll have you strangled in your sleep".
  • Desperate Housewives: In Season 4, Carlos almost kills Victor while defending Gaby. When she visits him in the hospital, Victor acts perfectly normal...until he embraces Gaby and whispers in her ear that he remembers everything and she better play along or he'll suddenly "remember".

Video Games

  • In Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, the Servant sneaks up behind Komaru to clip an explosive bracelet to her wrist while explaining that it will blow her up if she tries to leave the city. He continues to stand behind her and speaks in a low, breathy voice.

Web Animation

  • At the end of the first episode of Helluva Boss, Blitzo whispers to Moxxie that if he ever screws up on the job again, he will fuck both him and his wife, Millie.

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "The Otto Show", Otto tells Lisa a story about a crazed maniac killer, ending the story by whispering to her that he was that maniac. Cue a blood-curdling scream from Lisa and him trying to allay her fears via a "Just Joking" Justification.
    • In "Trash of The Titans" when campaigning for Homer's run as Trash Commissioner, Bart says on a loudspeaker to vote for him or "he'll beat us". Homer gets angry, tells him that he's only joking...then whispers to him (into the loudspeaker) "You're gonna get such a beating!" to the looks of horrified citizens.
    • In "Black Widower", Sideshow Bob marries Aunt Selma, planning to kill her to gain her savings. While rubbing her feet, he repeatedly mutters under his breath his intent to murder her. When Selma overhears, he passes his statements off as loving compliments made in other languages.
  • American Dad!: In "Don't Look a Smith Horse in the Mouth", Stan swaps bodies with a horse, though he retains the ability to speak English. When a boy starts harassing him, Stan retaliates by whispering that he will trample the youngster's parents, causing the child to run away screaming in fear.
  • Played with in the Bob's Burgers episode "Mutiny on the Windbreaker." After Bob manages to get him removed from his position of authority, Captain Flarty leans in to whisper something into Bob's ear before being taken away.
    Linda: What did he say Bob?
    Bob: Nothing, he just... burped.
  • In a scene from Justice League, Batman takes Deadshot aside and whispers a threat in his ear to keep him in line. It works like a charm, too. In an interview, Kevin Conroy said that the words Batman whispered during the recording session were "I know where you live, Floyd."
    Batman: I'll take it from here. [takes Deadshot away from the group]
    Batman: Let me give you one word of advice... [Batman whispers in his ear.]
    Deadshot: Okay, I'll tell, I'll tell.
    Wonder Woman: What did he say?
  • Played for Laughs in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Smoking Peanut". Patrick, who is trying to investigate why a giant beloved clam at the zoo is crying hysterically, leans towards SpongeBob's "ear" and whispers that "[he's] so close to the truth, I can almost taste it!" and seemingly licks the side of his face...only for him to be shown instead licking a popsicle that just resembles his face.

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