This is when somebody uses some sort of dangerous animal as discreet murder weapon. There's the old trick of leaving a snake in their hotel room, for instance, or the one where you drop a spider near their bed, or perhaps the one where you hide a scorpion in their suitcase. Whatever the animal, it's being used as a subtle but deadly surprise for the intended victim. The reasons for doing this vary: maybe the villain hopes that the murder will be deemed an accident (since sometimes, the animal could have gotten there by itself), although other times, it seems that the villain just likes doing things the difficult way for no good reason. Sometimes it's supposed to be some sort of trademark such as a villain with a snake theme. Sometimes it can be an ordinary house pet trained to cause an "accident" like leaving on the gas (read: turning it on after the victim is asleep).
Often, the murder animal will even be Genre Savvy enough to know its role in the story. Rather than waste time hiding or just wandering around aimlessly, as a real animal might do, it gets straight to the point and attacks the hero by the quickest route, despite having no apparent reason to do so. No matter how big the bedroom is, the spider will almost always end up crawling onto the face of the sleeping hero—and not, say, scuttling into the wardrobe, which is arguably more likely but rather less helpful for the plot. Don't expect a lot of sympathy for the animal, either. The ones chosen as assassins are generally a species which people consider Exclusively Evil like snakes and arachnids.
Not to be confused with a Shark Pool or other up-front use of animals as a means of execution. This is just about the animals which are delivered to the victim (rather than the victim being delivered to the animal) and which the victim isn't supposed to know about until its too late. Compare Attack Animal for when someone directly commands an animal to attack, rather than leaving it as a trap.
Contrast Assault with a Deadly Antler, where an animal part is used as part of a murder, but the animal itself has no personal involvement.
Grammar Nazi Note: Several of the animals mentioned below are "venomous"—they inject some toxin in their victim. It is rarely relevant if they are "poisonous"—that is, toxic if you try to eat them or if toxin is absorbed through the skin.
Anime & Manga
- Detective Conan
- Done once with a dog that pushes the victim down the stairs. The man is quite smart about it, training the dog to respond only if the command phrase is spoken over the phone at the same time the downstairs clock chimes.
- Later used again when a girl sneaks a snake inside her beltbag and releases it to kill her stepbrother's fiancée, since she was jealous of her. She also was very Genre Savvy, only doing the deed when they're both in the sea so it'll be harder to find her "weapon".
- In Black Butler, Phelps's death from poison turns out have resulted from Snake having sent one of his snakes down a ventilation duct. Phelps wasn't the intended target though.
- This trope is parodied (maybe even double-subverted) in the French comic book Rona : L'Or du Macho-Fichu. The Intrepid Reporter protagonist, while investigating in a Banana Republic where he has enemies, is advised to "offer more" to the hotel tenant before getting a room. After doing so, the tenant accepts to remove "Eugène"—a venomous snake that's "part of the house"—whom he's been paid to put in Rona's bed. The same night, though, Rona finds another deadly snake in his bed, and the tenant is outraged—it isn't Eugène, so it's utterly illegal since he's not getting any money from this.
- Several of these appeared in the original stories (i.e. not based on Fleming's novels) in the James Bond newspaper strip:
- Vampire bats (with venomous fangs) in "Flittermouse".
- Boa constrictors in "The Snake Goddess".
Films -- Live-Action
- James Bond runs into some of these.
- In Dr. No, someone drops a venomous spider (in the film) or centipede (in the book) into his room—he manages to beat it to death. Note that scolpendra gigantea can be fatal to humans. The producers changed the creature from a centipede to a tarantula for the movie because they didn't think audiences would realise centipedes could be fatal. This was no comfort to the arachnophobic Sean Connery, who had to have a body double for the spider to crawl over.
- In Live and Let Die, somebody tries much the same thing with a snake, which he fries with a quickly improvised flamethrower.
- In Diamonds Are Forever, Wint and Kidd kill the dentist by dropping a scorpion down the back of his shirt.
- Snakes on a Plane. That is all.
- In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, an assassin tries to kill Senator Padmé Amidala by way of some deadly-looking alien centipedes called kouhuns. Fortunately, Obi-Wan and Anakin come to the rescue and slice the kouhuns in half, saving her.
- In Aliens, Burke lets loose a pair of facehuggers in the room Ripley and Newt are sleeping in, hoping to impregnate them with alien eggs for the trip home as a way of smuggling the creatures past customs.
- In the film version of Agatha Christie's Death in the Nile, the murderer tries to kill Poirot with a venomous snake. Nothing remotely similar happens in the book.
- In Kill Bill, Elle Driver gives Budd a briefcase containing a black mamba.
- Two of the attempted murders in Murder By Death involve a venomous snake and a venomous scorpion.
- In The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the title doctor kills several of his victims through the use of animal assassins: bees, bats, rats and locusts.
- Parodied in Johnny Dangerously where the title character has an enemy killed by having him run over by a bull.
- The aliens in The Arrival try this on Charlie Sheen's character by filling his hotel room bed with scorpions.
- The comedy film Leonard, Part 6 is about a formula which turns animals homicidal when they hear a code word.
- In My Super Ex-Girlfriend, the spurned G-Girl attempts to kill her ex-boyfriend by flinging a live shark at him through the window of his new girlfriend's highrise apartment.
- In The Mummy Trilogy Returns, Meela throws a venomous snake at Rick, and also threatens Alex with them.
Alex: Lady, I don't behave for my parents. What makes you think I'm going to do it for you?
Meela: Because your parents wouldn't slip poisonous snakes into your bed while you were sleeping.
- Done with a snake to the token moderate senator during The Purge in Gladiator.
- In what is almost certainly a Shout-Out to the Sherlock Holmes story "The Speckled Band" (see Literature examples below), Carry On Screaming has a scene were the villains attempt to murder the "heroes" by lowering a snake down the bellpull into their bed.
- In If Looks Could Kill, a Femme Fatale tries to murder the protagonist by dropping a scorpion on his lap while his eyes are closed in anticipation for a blowjob. The protagonist doesn't notice and jerks up, flinging the scorpion into her dress, killing her.
- In the Lone Wolf book 12, The Masters of Darkness, while dressed as the enemy and hitching a ride on a giant land vehicle, the hero is attacked in his cabin by a Plaak, a small jelly-like horror with venomous fangs. Ironically, this isn't because Lone Wolf's disguise has failed; the target of the assassination attempt is the creature he usurped the identity.
- Fu Manchu is the acknowledged master of this method of killing. He is especially fond of this in the earlier books when he has access to venomous arthropods "unknown to Western science".
- Wizards at the Unseen University have a history of advancing their careers by the principle of Dead-Mens Pointy Boots, and therefore have a saying: "When a man is tired of checking for scorpions in his boots, he is tired of life."
- In Lords and Ladies, an elf tries to invoke this trope on Hodgesaaargh, siccing one of the falconer's own fearsome birds of prey on him. Subverted in that the raptor attacks the elf instead, because that's exactly what it does to Hodgesaaargh when he handles it.
- In the same book, Magrat also uses Greebo (Nanny's Ogg cat) against another elf as one would a claymore mine.
- Snuff mentions a filing clerk by the name of Arachne who pleaded to be assigned to the embassy of Fourecks because she's particularly attracted by venomous spiders. Vetinari gives her the task of taking care of Gravid at the end of the book. Not all sins are forgiven.
- Sherlock Holmes
- In the story The Adventure of the Speckled Band, the speckled band in question is a deadly snake the murderer sends down the bell cord, and is commanded with a whistle. Wouldn't work in real life, snakes are stone deaf.
- There's also The Hound of the Baskervilles, where the Magnificent Bastard villain breeds a ferocious dog to scare an old man to death, and later tries to use it against his victim's nephew.
- In Children of Dune, some sort of saber-toothed tiger things are trained to attack sets of clothing impregnated with a certain chemical. The clothes are given as a gift to Ghanima and Leto II, and the tigers are sent to kill them. The worst part: the tigers were conditioned to attack two children wearing those clothes and matching their description. How were they conditioned? With carefully-selected pairs of children, of course. Pair after pair after pair until they got it right.
"Tell our buyers they can stop sending us pairs of children who fit the description."
- A snake in the Ben Snow story Suddenly, with Fangs. Subverted in that the snake wasn't that interested in attacking, and the intended victim ended up using it on the assassin.
- Happens at the beginning of the Alex Rider book Scorpia. An old gangster has finally decided to retire from a massive international terrorist group, but you don't retire from massive international terrorist groups. So one of the members gives a "parting gift", which is actually a briefcase full of scorpions, which climb all over the man and sting him to death. Apparently his heart gives out long before the poison kills him.
- A Song of Ice and Fire features at least one of these (the animal in question is merely referred to as a "manticore"). There is also an anecdote told in the book about the occupation of Dorne. After King Daeron conquers Dorne, he appoints a lord loyal to him to suppress dissidents and chase rebels. While guesting at the castle of a disgruntled Dornish lord, he is given a room with a rope beside the bed, and told that if he pulls it his host will have a girl sent to his bed. When, feeling amorous, he pulls it, it rips open the canopy above his bed and dumps an unreasonable amount of angry and venomous scorpions on top of him.
- The Faceless Men sometimes use drugs to drive animals into vicious rages to have them kill their owners. Jaquen H'gar is implied to have used this to knock off one of the people on Arya's hit list, who was savaged by a beloved dog.
- The second book of Bernard Werber's Ants trilogy has robotic ants sent to guide real ants to kill scientists working on an insecticide (and later, the cop that investigates the case).
- Harry Potter
- Werewolf Fenrir Greyback is a self-induced animal assassin. He cannot control himself in werewolf form, but he gets around this by deliberately placing himself near his intended victims' home shortly before full moon so that, upon his change, those victims will be the closest human targets he can attack.
- For that matter, consider Salazar Slytherin, who left the basilisk at Hogwarts for centuries so it could eventually get activated by his Heir (Tom Riddle, a.k.a. Voldemort) and kill the Muggle-borns. And for that matter, Voldemort using Nagini. Both of these examples are unusual, however; as Parseltongues, Slytherin and Voldemort can both communicate with snakes, and apparently have no problem getting them to do their bidding.
- Not to mention the Dementor sent to kill Harry at one point is considered an animal. This could count.
- Worthy of mention due to the utter madness: in Tangled Webs, one Jerkass tries to kill a young lady by dropping a venomous (deadly for a human, that is) spider on her bed. Nevermind she's... a drow. As in "sneaky people who check where they go and hold spiders for sacred animals". Of course, when she saw it, Crowning Moment of Funny ensues. She horribly suffered from sharp venomous bites of nostalgia for a few minutes.
- In Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure, the main villains are fond of using snakes and scorpions to do their dirty work. Justified Trope in that a) they have special connections with these animals and b) they're too lazy to do it themselves.
- In the Vorkosigan Saga, Barrayaran history includes an "incendiary cat plot". The exact details of it haven't been revealed yet.
- Done with green mambas twice in The Poisonwood Bible. The first attempt fails, the second one ignores the intended target and kills one of the heroes.
- In State of Fear, the main murder method of the bad guys is to get a team of ninjas to burst in, and restrain the target, while someone presses a blue-ringed octopus against their armpit. The point is an untraceable means of murder: the bite mark is barely noticeable and the species fairly obscure.
- Attempted on Jame in Chronicles of the Kencyrath, during To Ride a Rathorn. Jame makes friends with the swamp adder and then returns her to her owner.
- The Big Bad in the Doc Savage novel The Fantastic Island uses venomous centipedes for this purpose.
- The Case of the Grinning Gorilla features a gorilla hypnotized to perform murder. It's actually a human in a gorilla suit.
- Septimus Heap:
- In Magyk, DomDaniel tries to kill Marcia with his Magogs, unsuccessfully.
- The Aie-Aie of Queen Etheldredda in Physik carries a plague and is used by the Queen to kill those that displease her.
- Semi-used in Safehold while arranging for Cayleb to go hunting for a slash lizard was mostly just to get him away from most of his bodyguards, the assassins were hoping the creature would do the job for them. It didn't so they had to attack him the usual way.
- Get Smart:
- An episode has a gorilla who had plastic surgery and mental conditioning(!) to make it look and act human, but would turn ape and kill when given an auditory cue (and a banana).
- Another episode has an assassin drop a venomous spider in Max's suitcase while he was unpacking. Max fails to notice it clinging to the coat as he puts it in the closet where another assassin is waiting. Hilarity Ensues.
- Lodz kills Ruthie with one of her own snakes in Season One of Carnivale. She gets better.
- Pushing Daisies uses this trope in "Pie-lette" (a dog), "Bzzzzzt!" (bees) and "Kerplunk" (a shark).
- In an episode of Frasier, Frasier tries to help his father resolve an unsolved murder case and comes to the conclusion that one of the suspects trained a monkey to stab the victim. He's wrong.
- In the special The Real Wolfman, the specialists believed at the end that a man had trained a hyena to attack women and children and the villagers believed it was a werewolf or a large wolf.
- In an episode of Monk, it turns out that the killer, a Howard Stern-esque radio DJ, had trained the neighbor's dog to turn on the gas in the bedroom where his wife, the victim, slept whenever the dog heard a certain phrase during his radio broadcast.
- One episode of Columbo has the killer training a pair of guard dogs to attack the person saying a specific word, which he then induces the victim to say through a phone call.
- In The Avengers episode "The Hidden Tiger", house cats are turned into man-killers.
- The title character of Sledge Hammer! is being menaced by a cobra throughout an entire episode. The snake finally has him cornered when Sledge says, "I've been wanting to do this for a long time," and clocks the snake in the face with a vicious right-cross.
- In Once Upon a Time, Regina in the fairy tale world had a pair of Agrabahn vipers sent to her room to kill herself with (a la Cleopatra) until her lover, the Genie suggests that there's another way. He uses the vipers to murder the king. It later turns out she planned the whole thing.
Myths & Religion
- Older Than Feudalism: A vase (c. 480 BCE) and a poem by Pindar (476-472 BCE) are the first sources for the story of Hera sending serpents to kill the infant Heracles. Of course, it didn't work. Baby Herc just strangled the snakes and used them as rattles.
- The plotline of Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon revolves around Tsukigata family, otherwise known as the 8th Fukoshi Clan, a lineage of assassins who use insects to kill.
- In Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden, after Dekim Barton is defeated, Khamen Khamen deemed him useless and promptly snuck a king cobra to bite and kill him, without Khamen being on the place. It almost bit Isaac, but Haran Banjou shot it dead in the nick of time.
- In the Total War games, animals are sometimes used by Assassins in cutscenes, i.e. an assassin slipping a snake into someone's bed in Medieval II.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you can fling scorpions at unwitting soldiers, watch them dance around in a panic, and then die from the poison. Shame on you for laughing.
- Nancy Drew
- In the game Secrets of Shadow Ranch, Nancy's hosts at the ranch aren't there when she arrives, as a rattlesnake somehow got into their bedroom and sent one of them to the hospital. Possibly a subversion, as it's never confirmed that the culprit actually put it there.
- Also, in Lights, Camera, Curses!, the Show Within a Show movie Pharaoh supposedly ends when the female lead (playing Nefertiti) tries to murder someone with a venomous snake. The ophidiophobic actress who plays Nefertiti isn't pleased when the director insists she hold a live (harmless) snake in this scene.
- Mentioned in Assassin's Creed. A female Egyptian assassin eliminated Cleopatra with a planted snake.
- Darths and Droids, due to using footage from the Star Wars prequels, features the same attempt as in Attack of the Clones. The Rant questions the logic of this, pointing out that if they could get a droid close enough to the window to cut it open and put animals inside, it could probably also have just been filled with explosives and blow up the room.
- One of the villains of Starslip Crisis claims to have set off some sort of interplanetary incident all by himself. With six trained goldfish.
- Schlock Mercenary had this done with hormonally tweaked elephants.
- Evil Overlord List item 119:
I will not attempt to kill the hero by placing a venomous creature in his room. It will just wind up accidentally killing one of my clumsy henchmen instead.
- In Survival of the Fittest v4, one of the weapons handed out was a tank full of scorpions taken from one of the terrorists. It is currently unknown whether or not they will be used this way.
- The Venture Brothers
- The show humorously lampshades this trope. One Mook releases a scorpion into Dr. Venture's room while he is sleeping just as a competing mook let a tarantula loose. Instead of killing their intended target, the two creatures just fight each other.
- Also there's an incident where Dr. Venture is checking mail and he opens a box containing a cobra, poised to strike. However, it turns out the box was very old and the cobra simply turns to dust.
- The Monarch's solution to Dr. Venture's group therapy sessions taking away from their, er, time together? Have Henchman #21 drop a venomous snake onto the therapist. Notably, it works.
- Jonny Quest
- Serpentor of G.I. Joe often threw live snakes as missile weapons. Subverted in that the show couldn't actually show anyone being bitten, so these allegedly-venomous serpents wrapped themselves around their targets' necks and choked them instead.
- In a Minoriteam episode, the White Shadow laments that his goons keep attempting this.
White Shadow: Honestly, why do we keep trying to kill these guys with snakes? Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, snakes have to be the worst way to kill someone!
- Family Guy: OH MY GOD, THERE'S A BEAR IN MY OATMEAL!
- Cleopatra successfully killed herself by having a venomous snake snuck in a basket into her room. Although scholars dispute this account due to the difficulty of forcing a snake to strike and the non-lethality of most snake bites. It is nonetheless the official history.
- According to Lost Tapes a man tried to use a centipede to harm his neighbor. It didn't really work.
- Some versions of the Assassin live-action game, as played on college campuses, allow this tactic. To make a "kill", the attacker must place a toy snake, spider, or scorpion in the target's bed, backpack, or the like; if anyone but the intended target finds the plastic or rubber Animal Assassin first, the "kill" fails.