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It's dark. The guy we're watching is running out of light. The match is burning down. The candle's nearly done. His flashlight's flickering. In any case, darkness is imminent. These are scenes often played for dramatic tension. Directors use them in horror movies. Other times the lack of reliable lighting might be an inconvenience for the protagonist in a slapstick comedy for whom everything goes wrong.

In video games, may often result from a Ten-Second Flashlight.

Contrast with Blackout Basement. See also Down to the Last Match.

Examples of Tentative Light include:


  • Used in the horror movie The Cave.
  • The Goonies has such a scene.
  • The movie Shutter Island shows a clip from such a scene in its trailer.
  • Benny's fate in The Mummy 1999 is sealed as his torch burns out, leaving him with nothing to fend off the flesh eating scarab beetles surrounding him.
  • The basic premise of the movie Pitch Black.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indy and Marion are trapped in a tomb of poisonous snakes, and their torches are running out.
  • The Fifth Element: Korben Dallas needs fire to unlock part of the weapon that can take down the Big Bad. He has one match.

  Korben: Nobody breathe.

  • Darkness Falls uses this a lot, as the villain cannot stand any sort of light.

Live Action TV

  • The Weeping Angels in Doctor Who have the ability to feed on power from a distance, including artificially-generated light. The fact that your only defence against them is the ability to see makes this absolutely terrifying.
  • The X-Files, "Darkness Falls": loggers accidentally release an ancient swarm of killer insects, who wrap the loggers in cocoons and drain them dry. Fortunately, the insects only attack in the dark. Unfortunately, Mulder and Scully end up trapped in the mountains with a dying light-bulb and no other means of light.

Video Games

  • The series F.E.A.R. has lots of scenes with flickering lights.
  • In Halo, you can turn on a light to see The Flood coming but it'll turn off after a while.
  • In Morrowind, some dungeons are dark enough that a light source is needed. Torches are temporary.
  • Half Life in general makes use of dark environments and the old Ten-Second Flashlight but Episode One in particular featured zombie infested environments that were often pitch black; In some sections you had to use your torch to light up enemies for Alyx to attack, in others you had to make use of flares, flaming barrels and flaming zombies to try and keep the area lit so you could see attacking zombies who weren't straight in front of you. Things can get quite tense when your last light source it burning out, your torch is out of juice and you've only killed most of the zombies...

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Cave of Two Lovers": Aang and Katara are separated from the others. They haven't found their way out of the cave and their torch is burning down to nothing.
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