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Ceiling River is watching you.
"Love it when they don't look up."
A character avoids pursuit or detection by hanging from the ceiling of the room or hallway. Thankfully, the upper reaches of the room have structures (walls, pipes, crossbeams, etc.) that are close enough for the hero to grab onto, even if they have to hold themselves up through sheer friction.
This is frequently used to achieve the Empty Elevator
Luckily, nobody ever thinks to look up
. The only sop to plausibility is our heredity: as walking animals we naturally focus on a horizon ring.
Sometimes the seeker is alerted to the hider's presence above by blood or sweat dripping to the floor.
If a monster is involved it may lead to Vertical Kidnapping
, sometimes preceded by a Drool Hello
See also: Acrophobic Bird
, One-Dimensional Thinking
, Object Ceiling Cling
, He Was Right There All Along
. Frequently used in conjunction with Fakeout Escape
Not to be confused with a Wall Crawl
, which can also involve crawling across the ceiling.
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- Used in this very strange ad for Emerald Nuts. Robert Goulet messing up your stuff is nothing to laugh at. Though, it's probably less of a problem now when there is death involved. No. No, it isn't.
- One commercial had a little kid doing this while playing hide-and-seek with his dad.
Anime & Manga
- Rider of Fate/stay night majors in adhesive acrobatics, with a minor in flight. She prefers to attack from impossible angles, since her actual combat ability leaves much to be desired. Her ceiling cling allows her to stab down into the base of Shirou's neck, from above and behind.
- Ranma ˝
- Ranma frequently tries to escape distressing situations this way, to spy on people, and while sneak attacking — and he can cling to even a smooth, painted wooden surface◊. Once he even did a blanket cling when trying to hide from his mother as she pulled off the covers from his futon.
- At least one antagonist, Kodachi, uses this to get the drop on Akane once.
- The Iemoto of the Daimonji family can sit in the seiza position on the ceiling, and even move, clinging solely with her toes.
- Sōsuke in Full Metal Panic! almost gets away with this. It would have worked if the robots did not have the smarts to: TURN AROUND! Dun dun dun. It wasn't his fault: he hoisted himself up between some ceiling pipes and engaged his ECS, waited until his pursuers passed underneath then dropped down, disengaged ECS and started going in the opposite direction but not before reporting it to his superiors via radio. Unknown to him, the enemy was tapping their communications which means he just gave away his position.
- Claire Stanfield of Baccano! does this from time to time. Of course, he doesn't do it to hide so much as he enjoys delivering surprise death from above, so the victim looking up usually isn't an issue.
- All Shinobi in Naruto who have the mastered the necessary chakra control can do this. As the necessary level of chakra control is considered a rather basic ninja skill, such displays are at least as likely to be played for comedy as they are for ambush or evasion. After all, when everybody can do it, nobody will be surprised by it.
- Silver managed to do this at the start of the G/S/C arc of Pokémon Special, using a pair of flourescent lights as supports.
- One of the missing Kecleon in the Pokémon anime episode "The Kecleon Caper".
- In Akazukin Chacha, it's revealed that the pink ninja Orin was there all along in class even though never shown in the first season — having been clinging to the ceiling the whole time.
- Bleach: Shinji is capable of this. He's shown in one chapter's cover art as pulling a straight example of this against Ichigo. However, in the actual manga, he can pull this stunt on people using only thin air. It's a hint of his special power (being able to reverse things).
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Serenity. As shown in the above picture, River Tam was an expert at doing this when necessary. Also doubles as The Cast Showoff moment, as Summer Glau really was capable of doing this. The only reason the beam on her right foot exists is because she was slightly too short for the width of the corridor, so the beams were used to narrow the distance.
- Used to great effect in The Professional.
- The Bride does this to hide from Go-Go Yubari in Kill Bill Volume 1.
- One of the creepiest moments of the underrated The Exorcist III is when a possessed old woman skitters by the protagonist... on the ceiling.
- Similarly, the witches in the film The Beastmaster slip past and surround the title hero this way.
- In The Movie of Matilda, Matilda clings to the underside of a table this way.
- In the 2007 Transformers movie, one of the giant robots escapes pursuit this way, clinging to the underside of a bridge.
- Parodied in Rush Hour 2, where Lee tries to sneak into a casino's back rooms. He climbs on top of a large safe being wheeled in, and clings to the ceiling once he's inside, letting it move past... then sees he's staring right into a security camera.
- Used by the burglars in the third Home Alone film.
- Lampshaded in Superhero Movie, where The Dragonfly is almost discovered while he's going to the bathroom. Hourglass' search for him launches into a minute-long search where Dragonfly hides everywhere from in a closet, to a drawer, to behind Hourglass, all at improbable speeds. He finally clings to the ceiling, but, unable to hold his pee, he begins dripping, then streaming, then gushing, then spurting like a sprinkler.
- Goldfinger does this quite well, with James Bond tricking the guard into thinking he's escaped, clinging on to the ceiling, and then dropping down behind him once the guard opens the door.
- Tom Cruise hides from Wilford Brimley this way in the movie of The Firm.
- Master vampire Valek does this in John Carpenter's Vampires (1998).
- Trick 'r Treat's Sam is seen doing this in a Meaningful Background Event.
- Cthulhu: "There were 'things', and they were everywhere! They were on the ground, they were on the ceiling, they were everywhere!"
- The Ceiling Cling scene in the Spider-Man movie. Peter Parker is in his own apartment with his mask off but otherwise in costume when friends and family come in and he has to hide to keep his Secret Identity. He clings to the ceiling as they are right under him, including Norman Osborn, his (unbeknownst to him at the time) Big Bad Friend. Just after they leave the room, a single drop of blood falls off a cut on his arm from the battle earlier. Norman hears the drop land. In the time it takes him to turn around, look down and look up, Peter has made it out the window. Norman looks out the window, but Peter is now clinging to the ledge under the window.
- Done in Men In Black II when Jay, Kay, and the worms clinging to the ceiling of an Empty Elevator attempting to break into their headquarters that's under control by the Big Bad and to dodge from a gunner droid.
- In Shanghai Knights, Chon's sister attempts to escape from jail this way.
- Xander does this in xXx, but it is sabotaged by the fact he's doing so on a rock ceiling. He jumps on top of the baddies when he accidentally catches their attention by knocking off some dirt.
- In the Movie adaption of The Cat in the Hat, Cat avoids being found out by the kids' neighbor by flattening himself onto the ceiling.
- In Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Dracula uses this to escape detection. A slamming door causes him to come loose.
- In Jack and Jill, Jill's Craiglist date clings to the bathroom ceiling when she comes looking for him in order to ditch her on their date.
- Burt Reynolds in a Miami public restroom in Elmore Leonard's Stick.
- In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Simza's assassin hides himself in this way. Works because he is described by Holmes as a Cossack, renowned for their acrobatic talents.
- Used by the hero in 3-Iron when trying to escape from his prison cell.
- A rather disturbing variant in Exorcist III when a old lady is crawling on the wall like an insect.
- Lampshaded in Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor.
- The villain in Peter F. Hamilton's sci-fi novel The Nanoflower is able to cling to the roof of a cave (in order to ambush a pursuer) thanks to his Power Armor.
- In Roger McBride Allen's Caliban, the eponymous robot gets past his pursuers in an underground tunnel by doing this.
- In The Wizard Of Lovecraft's Cafe, an alcoholic wizard devised a spell to allow him to catch a nap on the ceiling of his favorite pub. When he and a companion are threatened by thugs, they elude them using this spell; peoples' habit not to look up is Lampshaded.
- In the "Flight of the War Witch" two part episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Buck, Princess Ardala and a Pendaran captive use this to get out of their cell. Well Buck and the third prisoner do, Princess Ardala simply hides under the bed.
- Monica pull this once. If only she'd held on to her comic books...
- Also, when Peter shows up at Mohinder's apartment for the first time, there's a sort of twist on this trope, as Mohinder is telekinetically pinned to the ceiling by Sylar, though Mohinder winds up dripping some blood on Peter, cluing him in.
- Naomi hides from Kate in the LOST episode "The Beginning of the End" by climbing a tree and hanging from a limb. Kate notices blood dripping on her from above.
- Richmond does this to avoid Jen in The IT Crowd.
- An alien soldier in the guise of a preteen girl tries this in an episode of The Middleman. Unfortunately for her, nobody is more Genre Savvy than the Middleman.
- Slightly unorthodox: used by a villain in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Potential".
- Angel: Spoofed when a vampire tries to ambush Angel this way — he calmly steps to one side and the vampire crashes to the floor.
- Kwai Chang Caine does it in Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.
- Sidney Bristow in an early episode of Alias. Unfortunately, she's holding herself up by the hot water pipes just as the Mook walks under her, so she has to very quietly move over to the other, cooler pipe. Being her, she pulls it off.
- Subverted in an episode of Sliders, where the title group slides into a world still stuck in the Old West mode. Quinn and Rembrandt are framed for murder and jailed by the local crime boss and a corrupt sheriff, to be hanged the next day. They realize they could use their knowledge of westerns to trick the guards and escape. Quinn does a ceiling cling while Rembrandt calls for help. Unfortunately for them, the person who walks in is the above-mentioned crime boss, who is also a dimentional traveler (and a Kromagg). He simply walks up to the cell doors without opening them and immediately looks up at Quinn, mentioning that Kromaggs have their own westerns.
- The Silents from Doctor Who love to roost on the ceiling. In packs.
- Stargate Atlantis: Major Sheppard uses a ceiling cling (helped by a smoke grenade) to get the drop on three Genii Mooks in season 1 episode "The Eye". The life-signs detector monitored by one of their officers is of no help, since it cannot tell the exact height of a blip — just that Sheppard is right in the midst of them.
- Henry from Unnatural History does this in "The Fountain of Truth".
- Oliver Queen/The Hood(Green Arrow) does this once in Arrow to hide from police when he broke into a police station.
- In the Supernatural season 6 episode "Weekend at Bobby's" an ōkami demon uses this move to sneak-attack Bobby.
- One of the best ways to avoid (or lose) guards in Splinter Cell games is holding onto a pipe overhead with all four limbs. Your superspy can also do a "split jump" in narrow halls, stretching your legs to opposite walls and balancing yourself thus. By extension, you can also hang upside-down from a pipe to strangle opponents, shoot them with your pistol, or with your assault rifle in a split-jump.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has the infamous Wall Master, which drops from above and attempts to grab Link. If you look up as it's falling though, it disappears...
- Super Mario World has the Spinies and Buzzy Beetles who are able to walk across the ceiling - they attempt to attack by dropping from above. One or two of the Bosses can do it too. It's not as common in 3D Mario games, presumably due to the already-stated fact that most people don't look up.
- In the commentary of Portal, the developers talk about how hard it is to get players to look up. While this is effective when hiding baddies in the ceiling, it's not quite as effective when trying to solves puzzles in twisted three dimensions. Of course Half-Life Veterans learned to always look up.
- Demons do this very occasionally in Doom 3. Generally they just jump out of cupboards and from behind false walls.
- If you thought Pokémon couldn't get away with this, say hello to the deliciously-trained peons of Pokémon Colosseum and XD's Cipher syndicate. Many times a path looks clear, but a Peon will drop from the ceiling and engage you with no warning otherwise.
- Happens again in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2, both during the story and in gameplay. In the story, Chatot and the player are attacked by a group of particularly nasty bandits that drop from the ceiling. Chatot recognizes this just in time and shields the player from attack, taking the brunt of the blow. In gameplay, there are the Monster Houses, which can be deadly.
- Spider Splicers from BioShock do this with a distinct clinking sound.
- The "Going Rogue" Expansion Pack for City of Heroes added the Ghouls as a villain group. They like to cling to the ceilings of the subway tunnels and drop down on you as you pass under them.
- Catwoman does this in Batman: Arkham City in her last mission.
- In Chack'n Pop, this is a basic move for Chack'n.
- In the Master System version of Jurassic Park, Dr. Alan Grant can somehow grab ceilings and move around.
- In Knuckles Chaotix, Espio is the only character that can do this. Fittingly, the series later turned him into a Ninja.
- Wing Commander Prophecy: The boss alien of the invading Nephilim uses this to ambush Commodore Blair, when the latter has boarded the alien wormhole gate to try to shut it down before humans get swarmed over by the Nephilim.
- In Team Fortress 2's fan-made Prop Hunt mode, one team is disguised as various objects in the level and can double jump to get around. The other team are all set to pyros and have to seek out the fake objects. A popular strategy is to hide atop something like a shelf in a room or right in plain sight, simply because players tend not to look directly up for enemies. Not having to look up very often for enemies in the main game mode probably helps to make this behaviour more common.
Admit it; you looked up while reading this didn't you?