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"It's not the bath I enjoy, it's the wet, naked lady."
Chandler, Friends

You see it all the time in the movies and on TV: someone's had a hard day, and needs to to relax, to make the cares and stresses of the workaday world melt away. She draws a bath -- it's (almost) always a she -- lights a number of candles (usually in votive holders), turns off the bathroom light, and, glass of wine in hand, settles in the tub for a Candlelit Bath.

This never ends well.

This is invariably the point where the shadow of the serial killer will swish past the mirror, or the ghost will manifest, or a piece of electronic equipment will fall in, or the earthquake will hit, or the scene will abruptly change to bright daylight, with crime scene tape around the tub and someone standing by for a Quip to Black.

It's difficult to understand how anyone could find taking a Candlelit Bath even vaguely relaxing, since its only appearances in popular culture are to establish moments of extreme tension.

Examples of Candlelit Bath include:


Advertising

  • Subverted on two counts in a U.K. advert for Glade Wisp Flameless Candles. See here.
  • In the controversial ad campaign for the Hitman game Blood Money, the "Shockingly Executed" ad features a dead woman who has been electrocuted by a toaster in a romantic candelit bath.
  • Whilst not a life-or-death situation the lady in this WKD advert ends up not enjoying her candlelit bath as her husband chooses to barge into their bathroom for a number two; with the implication he waited for that exact moment via the "Have you got a WKD side?" (WKD = wicked) slogan.


Comic Books

  • The Baroness takes a candlelit bath (without anything bad happening) just before her Lipstick and Load Montage in G.I. Joe: Cobra #1. She hardly seems the type, somehow.
  • FoxTrot: Andy takes a bubble bath, with scented candles, relaxing music... and then Quincy (Jason's iguana) pops his head out of the foam.


Films

  • In the film Stigmata, a woman steps into her candlelit bath to relax, only to be suddenly struck with a vision of the last tortured moments of the Messiah, complete with wounds opening in her hands.
  • Star Trek Insurrection has such a scene involving Riker and Troi. They are interrupted by a communicator page.
  • In The Big Lebowski, the Dude is seen smoking a joint in a mood-lit bath. Then the Nihilists bust in and threaten him with cricket bats and an angry ferret, which the Dude mistakes for a marmot, before then threatening to cut off his johnson.
  • A gentle parody in Short Circuit. Stressed out over the whole incident with NOVA Robotics, Stephanie draws a candlelit bath and tries to relax, only to have Number Five burst into the room, still trying to camouflage himself with a hedge.
  • In Mirrors (American remake of a Korean film Into The Mirror), the main character's sister draws herself a bath.... guess who dies in one of the most painful and gruesome scenes of the film? A bath is used again but this time all the taps in the house have been turned on and the mother goes to turn the tap off...
  • The heroine in City of Angels takes a candlelit bath, and while she is nothing but relaxed and nothing bad happens, some viewers might be freaked that the angel played by Nicolas Cage turns out to have been watching.
  • The "girl goes to take a shower with the psycho in the house" variation is subverted in Hard Candy. When the man holding the knife bursts into the bathroom and pulls back the shower curtain, he finds it empty. Then the girl runs in from behind and stunguns him into submission.
  • Played with in Addams Family Values, when Fester's new Black Widow wife draws him a candlelit bath, then when Fester is in it she throws a radio plugged into the wall in. All the lights burst and the scene goes dark, then slowly a single bulb lights up, in a still living Fester's mouth. Fester just smiles.
  • Played straight first in a flashback in The Princess And The Warrior, when a mental ward patient throws a hair dryer into a bathtub with a nurse he's in love with. Later, a fugitive hiding from the law in the same mental institution is relaxing after a botched heist in the same bathtub, and the same patient throws a toaster at him. He instinctively catches it, and both stare in shock at each other for a moment before the fugitive leaps up with murder in his eyes.
  • A character in Cabin Fever attempted to soothe her Gorn-battered nerves with a lantern-lit bath. As the gruesome disease in the film is water-borne, this was not a wise move ... nor was shaving her legs while bathing.
  • Played straight in Poltergeist, where a silent scene of Diane taking a bath is intercut with shots of the children sleeping alone to build tension for the start of Round 2 with the ghosts.
  • The second Hostel movie offers a very twisted example where the woman taking a candlelit bath actually is the psycho killer. She actually seems pretty relaxed after she's done cutting her victim up, letting her bleed to death, and bathing in her blood.
  • A rare male example occurs in Sherlock Holmes. The trope's use would also be justified, seeing that the lightbulb wasn't yet invented at the time the story takes place.
  • In Children of the Corn: Revelation a stripper/exotic dancer decides to take a candlelit bath... it dosn't end well.


Literature

  • A rare non-horror, non-serial killer example occurs in A Mango Shaped Space: Mia takes a candlelit bath while listening to music when she learns that it will enhance her experience with synesthesia.


Live Action TV

  • While it's actually a bath in the dark, otherwise happens in the episode of Supernatural "Dead in the Water".
  • CSI New York, where a woman who has filled a bath with rose petals and water (why?) ends up electrocuting herself.
    • Don't forget an episode of CSI where a woman was drowned in a bathtub by her employer, just because she was causing him to lose by messing up his Feng Shui.
      • Note that both she and her employer had apparently enjoyed such baths on many previous occasions without incident.
    • Averted in another episode of CSI, where the bathtime preparations do lead to a bloody corpse, but all the damage was self-inflicted.
  • Inverted in Castle, where Beckett goes home, lights the candles, pours the wine, and sinks into the bath to read Heat Wave, Castle's new book.
    • Castle is never allowed to know that.
  • Varied in an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, where a beautiful woman has drawn a perfumed, candlelit bath, not just for relaxation but to entertain her married lover. They have a quarrel, she threatens to tell his wife about their relationship, and he drowns her in the bath.
    • Another CI episode dealt with a woman whose son was accused of pushing a heater into her bath, and though the water was cold, there were candles and the tub was full. She, of course, is electrocuted, and while they try to decipher her murder they find out that she knocked the heater into the bathtub herself.
  • Subverted in Friends: Chandler and Monica, who at the time are secretly dating, are taking such a bath, when Joey pops in. Monica hides under the bath water. Joey asks if he wants food. He refuses, then Monica emerges and informs Chandler that she could eat something. Chandler calls Joey back and makes his orders.
  • In Brothers and Sisters, Justin (having sustained a not entirely-clear leg injury in Iraq) is starting to take a bath. His gay brother starts lighting candles. Justin complains that his masculinity is being compromised. The candles stay, but the meditation music is changed to something more rock.
  • In Bones Agent Booth takes a relaxing bath after faking his death (although not candlelit) with a twin beer can helmet and a comic book. Bones busts in on him and is upset because she didn't know he was faking his death.
  • Both subverted and played straight in The X-Files on several occasions. Scully's penchant for taking these led to a straight use in "Squeeze", a subversion in "Chinga" (the music builds, we're sure something creepy's going to happen, the phone rings and... it's Mulder, he's bored), and an extremely creepy straight use in "Irresistable" ("Is your hair color-treated?").
  • An episode of Scrubs has J.D. taking one of these, as an more extreme example of his girliness. Surprisingly, it is cut short merely by him being called in unexpectedly to work.
  • Played with in an episode of the 1994 revival of Burkes Law, entitled "Who Killed the Starlet?" A woman is relaxing in a candlelit bath while listening to some music. A killer sneaks in and drops her boombox into the bathtub, killing her. It turns out that the killer and girl are merely actors on a movie set, and they're filming a murder scene. Then it turns out the boombox was plugged into a live outlet by an unknown party, and the actress in the bathtub is really dead.
  • Another non-horror version in Sex and the City, where Aidan and Carrie take such a bath.
  • A variation of this trope was put into historical context in Desperate Romantics. Elizabeth Siddal is posing for Millais as Ophelia in a tub of cold water heated by candles. She almost drowns when the candles go out, the water cools down and she loses consciousness. Her parents are understandably not too happy.


Web Original

  • Parodied in John Dies at the End when John and Dave are trapped in a Haunted House and want to draw the ghost out of hiding: "You light some candles. I'll go stand in the shower naked."


Web Comics

  • And a nonlethal variant: an Ozy and Millie strip features Millie's mother trying one of these. The last panel? Millie asking about something she'd forgotten, but it's not one of the poisonous kinds. Ms Mudd wonders if she brought enough wine.


Western Animation

  • Not actually candelit (although the lights in his room were dimmed), but Megatron of Beast Wars occasionally relaxed with a soothing jacuzzi bath while plotting evil schemes. The rubber duck helped.


Real Life

  • Jean-Paul Marat could be taken as a real-life example; he was stabbed while taking an herbal bath. Granted, it was because he had a skin disease and not because he was trying to relax, but the principle's the same.
  • The trope of the candlelit bath has been cited by fire departments as one modern cause of fatal house fires, especially in homes where the bathroom walls aren't tiled. Lighting a bunch of candles and sticking them next to a painted wall, then falling asleep...how relaxing!
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