Subtrope of Improvised Weapon. A character uses an aerosol can, such as hairspray, with a match or lighter as a makeshift flamethrower. A serious case of Don't Try This At Home, because there's a very real risk that the flames will heat the canister up enough for it to rupture and explode, or volatile fluid gets the nozzle itself on fire, give burns to the user and then either overheat the canister or melt the valve (starting an uncontrolled flame fountain). Also, the ingredients list is there for a reason, and is there for anyone to read. Read it before burning. See also Farts on Fire for a smaller, more comedic version of this.
Interestingly but for probably obvious reasons, the BBFC (the British censorship board) doesn't allow this trope to be shown in their films and TV shows, as they are pretty strict in banning what they deem is "imitable" and likely to cause injury and/or death if some dumb viewer decided to copy an obviously dangerous action in a movie or TV show.
- Kagome of Inuyasha did this once.[context?]
- Mousse of Ranma One Half did this to a deaged Ranma and Ryoga once in the manga while trying to learn fire breathing.
- Pretty much the weapon of choice for the Action Survivors of Bio-Meat: Nectar.
- Saburo draws one in the episode of Keroro Gunsou where he was introduced to the Reality Pen.
Comic Books[edit | hide]
- Done by Rorschach in Watchmen.
- Other Beth threatens Yorick with this when they first meet in Y: The Last Man.
Yorick (entering a church): Hello? [...] I need to make a confession.
Beth (pointing aerosol at him): Well, you know the drill... repent or burn.
- Yorick warns Beth that the flame will come back at her. It doesn't.
- Bob claims to have improvised one to drive of a feral dog (or possibly a coyote) in the Knights of the Dinner Table strip "A Fish Story".
- James Bond uses this to kill a snake in Live and Let Die.
- In Mystery Men, this is the Weapon of Choice for Tony P, Leader of the Disco Boys.
- Buffy does this (igniting it off a burning cross) in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie.
Lothos: So this is your defense? Your puny faith? (he grasps the crucifix; it bursts into flame.)
Buffy: No. My keen fashion sense. (she pulls a can of hair spray out of her purse.)
- In True Lies, Arnold Schwarzenegger uses a gas-truck nozzle and the muzzle flash from his assault rifle to make a rather disturbingly powerful impromptu flamethrower.
- In Point Break, the robbers use a gas pump to create a makeshift flamethrower to remove the evidence from their car.
- That guy from The Core did it to demonstrate what could happen to the earth before long if something wasn't done.
- It's done in Dog Soldiers as a last resort weapon.
- In The Blues Brothers, Elwood uses a can of epoxy spray to torch an elevator control panel.
- In Watchmen, Rorschach uses a can of hairspray and a lighter to make a flamethrower to torch the police that are trying to arrest him
- Done in French action movie The Nest (Nid de Guêpes). It works pretty well.
- The flight attendant, of all people, makes one in Snakes on a Plane. Apparently, she went through a pyromaniac phase as a kid. Of course, she's not nearly insane enough to use it, handing it off to Samuel L. Jackson instead.
- Done in Arachnophobia when the hero fights the king spider.
- Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood, where a victim gets chased into her bathroom and attacks the leprechaun with one of these when he busts through the door.
- Charles Bishop Weyland from the first Alien vs. Predator movie does this as a Heroic Sacrifice with a flare and a medicine inhaler. He gets butchered by a Predator hunter because he had a weapon, trumping the fact that he's a sick old man who the hunter would ignore otherwise.
- A variant is used in The Scorpion King, where the Plucky Comic Relief is getting the titular character out of being devoured alive by ants. To do this, he drinks something (that is presumably alcoholic), and sprays it past a lit torch. The end effect is the comic relief temporarily becoming an impromptu living flamethrower.
- The Final Girl of Psycho Cop Returns defends herself with one near the end.
- True Romance: Alabama does one of these to Virgil, aka Tony Soprano, after his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on her. She then finishes it off with a corkscrew through the foot.
- Tomorrow When the War Began. Lee uses one to start a cattle stampede after hissing like a snake fails to get them moving.
Literature[edit | hide]
- Done in The Mist, by Stephen King, in both the book and the movie.[context?]
- The Tango Briefing by Adam Hall. British spy Quiller is being held at gunpoint by Egyptian intelligence mooks, waiting for their Big Bad to arrive. He's next to his car, so he removes the fuelcap (hidden behind his back) and drops a lit match into the petrol tank, turning it into an impromptu flamethrower.
- Used by a naked Nikita when her house is invaded.
- Used in Lost by Locke to kill a polar bear in a season three episode.
- Edgar Hansen, deck boss on the crab boat Northwestern, likes to torment other crewmembers with these.
- Frances' daughters make one out of Dawn's deodorant in a flashback in The Librarians.
- Burn Notice's Fiona Glennane has pulled this trick a number of times, but in "Fast Friends", she combines this with a trashcan full of nail polish remover (which is largely made of acetate and extremely flammable) for a quick - and distractionary - bomb.
- My Name Is Earl, Joy threatens to torch a childhood enemy with this and Earl mentions that she tried to cook a Thanksgiving turkey that way.
- Nate creates one in the Leverage episode "The Zanzibar Marketplace Job".
- Faith made one using a stove lighter and a can of kitchen oil in Angel in order to torture Wesley.
- In the dutch reality TV series Oh Oh Tirol (basically a dutch Jersey Shore) Tatjana uses this to light a cigarette when she can't find a lighter. video at 0:24
- Victoria plans to use a can of hairspray and a lighter on an ex-boyfriend in an episode of Mike and Molly. Mike manages to talk her down and take the can and lighter away from her.
- Sam and Dean of Supernatural have been known to fall back on this tactic when their guns and other weapons don't do the job. Not very often (they've only done it twice), but when the situation calls for fire, they do what they have to.
- In the music video for Bon Jovi's Always, the jealous boyfriend torches the artist's studio with the help of one. The versions of the video that can be viewed online have this part cut out, which results in the place going up in flames for no apparent reason.
- They show up in GURPS: High-Tech but are unreliable, lack range and get five seconds of firing time at best. They're still better than most improvised weapons, scarier too.
- Stories have gone around of Vampire: The Masquerade players doing this. Based on standard game mechanics, this should be a brutally effective tactic against all but the most powerful vampires—if it doesn't outright kill your opponent, it will hurt them a lot worse than it would hurt a human, and will likely scare the living daylights out of them. However, the Game Master may have other ideas.
- In the New World of Darkness setting, Hunter: The Vigil actually has rather in-depth rules for finding the supplies for and utilizing an aerosol flamethrower. Even against creatures who aren't particularly vulnerable to flames, a lucky Hunter can set them on fire which is one of the most effective ways to kill almost anything.
- Link broke Tracey out of prison in the stage musical of Hairspray using this method.
Video Games[edit | hide]
- In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, you have to do this against the final boss.
- A spectacular example in that you have to MacGyver the weapon out of bits and pieces lying around, after being set on fire, all the while being hunted by a machine-gun wielding enemy...whom you then have to burn to death with your jury-rigged flamethrower. An early Crowning Moment of Awesome in Snake's career.
- This is one of the many weapons you can find in Blood. You can either use the traditional method, or light it and toss it like a grenade.
- Of the many weapons in the Die Hard arcade game, the lighter and especially the spray can seem all but useless at first. Then you put them together...
- You can do this with cans of hair spray in Kingdom of Loathing.
- The game Arachnophobia had this as one of your most useful weapons against the spider menace. Getting both the matches and the aerosol can in the same level would make you extremely dangerous.
- In Daxter's self-titled Gaiden Game, he wields a spray gun that can paralyze metal bugs. Partway through the game, he gets an upgrade that lights the spray and makes it function as a flamethrower.
- Resident Evil Outbreak allows you to fashion a hairspray flamethrower together as a weapon.
- It's one of the weapon in the 2008 version of the game Alone in the Dark.
- In Police Quest IV: Open Season, you take out the serial killer this way after you were knocked out and stripped of your inventory.
- Postal 2 gets one with the A Week in Paradise mod. The effect looks more like slow-moving clouds of flame rather than a stream, which actually makes it useful for short-term area denial.
- Toy Soldiers: Cold War, Levels 2 and 3 of the makeshift unit are different versions of these.
- In the Mercenaries Reunion mode of Resident Evil 5, Rebecca Chambers uses an aerosal can flamethrower as her special attack when an enemy is shot in the head. Especially hilarious because she is depicted as a small, weak and fragile girl.
- Something*Positive did this one - it's how Kharisma got her burn scars (being The Ditz and possibly Too Dumb to Live, she ended up doing it to herself).
- While describing how to do it.
- This is the basis for a short arc in the early days of Sequential Art, starting here.
- Used by Bun-Bun from Sluggy Freelance against Mecha Easter Bunny.
- The Class Menagerie had a segment involving fighting man-eating ants with hairspray.
- Last Res0rt has a scene that features a young Celeste trying to threaten an Efreet with one of these. It doesn't work.
- In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Nana uses this technique to light a campfire in the African bush.
- The South Park episode, The Ungroundable, ends with the goths torching down a Hot Topic in this manner.
- In Home Movies, Melissa puts a can of hairy spray in a microwave to explode the kitchen to make a daring escape.
Web Original[edit | hide]
- Torches / power lighters fed directly from cans (normally lighter refill rather than aerosol ). The one most advanced so far was featured on BoingBoing. Aside of overkilling pesky insects, these things give enough heat to dry up a small loose pile of wet firewood and thus are good at starting campfires. Of course, they are very inefficient, and safe only as long as both made  and used  with care - but rather reliable, for the same reason: sheer power.
- The concept is popular enough that now there are ready made clamp-on butane torches for campfires and low grade soldering/welding, though they use special cans.
- Flamethrowers that use gas instead of liquid fuel are basically this, but more controlled and intentional.
- Silly String is prone to this - which people don't always realize. Watch out around birthday candles.
- aerosol cans almost by definition tend to deposit flammable substances where you don't want them
- Good designs have flame offset forward by an external pipe, so fuel nozzle - the most dangerous part, because gas can or hose is right behind it - is kept ice-cold by boiling butane, much like in CO2 fire extinguishers, and the wide pipe can get rather hot on the outside, but is cooled on the inside by air flow forced by the ejector, and as such doesn't overheat anything else and cools down quickly after use. When done this way, it's reasonably safe even for long burns, as long as not touched while on.
- Gas jet bounces off anything it cannot penetrate and may whip in turbulence around anything it approaches.
- with more reliable thick metal nipple instead of long thin plastic typical for lighter refill cans