You know the other guy is three or 30 floors down/up. The only way to here from there is the elevator. But LOOK! The elevator! It's MOVING! The other guy is headed right this way! Suspense builds. The elevator approaches. It stops here. There's a pause. Possibly a bell rings. Then... the doors open to reveal... nothing. There's nobody inside.
It's at this point it's revealed that the other guy is:
(a) on top of the elevator
(b) under the elevator
(c) doing a Ceiling Cling
(d) already on this floor by another route
(e) something even worse.
Depending on the context, the supposed occupant of the elevator may be the hero (in which case there'll be at least a platoon's worth of weaponry pointed at, or possibly already emptied into, the door when it opens), the villain or the monster.
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- Leon/The Professional ("Someone's coming up. Someone serious.") (The hero's not in it, but as in Die Hard he has placed one of the bad guys in there instead.)
- Subverted in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as when the elevator door opens, the "heroes" are very much in the lift, right in the firing line. But it doesn't matter...
- In Time Chasers, Nick and Lisa evade the bad guys this way. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew are not particularly impressed: "They took the stairs! They're masters of evasion!"
- Men In Black II: J, K and the worm guys arrive back at MIB Central, and the garbage can robot neatly peppers the elevator they arrive in with bullets... but they're all doing a Ceiling Cling.
- Played with in The Silence of the Lambs.
- In Deep Rising, the mercenaries are searching through the abandoned cruise ship looking for any passengers or crew members, but none can be found. Then the elevator activates, and they can see it moving to their floor. They keep their weapons aimed at the door, but it's empty. Except for the blood-covered walls inside the elevator, that is.
- Resident Evil: Afterlife. The Umbrella Corporation mooks are pointing their guns at the elevator while Alice slips out of a roof vent behind them. In Resident Evil: Retribution as the elevator pad descends to the level of the waiting mooks, a round frizbee-like gadget is tossed out which fires bullets in all directions. The infiltrators turn out to be lying flat on the pad so the bullets don't kill them.
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, when Scotty beams the elevator's occupants out while the doors are closed.
- Batman Forever: Two-Face's men blast away at the elevator which arrives at their floor, perforating the door and riddling its interior with bullets. The doors open to reveal — nothing. Three seconds later, Batman bursts out, starting the first fight scene. It's not explained how he avoided the gunfire, although he probably just hid above the car.
Live Action TV
- In the second season finale of Being Human, Kemp and one of his men watch the elevator descend expecting Mitchell to be there for them to kill. The door opens to reveal a dead body while Mitchell reveals himself elsewhere in the compound.
- The Fourth Doctor does this to fool the guards in "The Deadly Assassin." Quoth Castellan Spandrell (basically a police commissioner):
- During the Asgard Manor section of Max Payne, there is a point when Max sees an elevator coming up, the doors open, and it's empty. And then a grenade flies out of it. The enemy is actually on top of the elevator carriage, and jumps down through the trapdoor after the grenade explodes.
- The opening cut-scene in Perfect Dark's second mission shows a soldier guarding an elevator. Suddenly the door opens... but the guard doesn't see Joanna hiding on the ceiling, and when he goes to investigate, she knocks him out.
- Near the end of Batman: Arkham City, Batman rides an elevator up to the observation deck of Wonder Tower. The Big Bad's henchmen are waiting at the top with guns pointed at the doors. Fortunately, the access hatch is open, allowing Batman to climb out of the car and walk out onto the glass canopy above the armed henchmen and perform a takedown.
- In Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, Michael has to thwart Cipher's raid on ONBS. During this, he gets on an elevator and rides it up a level - the elevator is completely empty when he boards, but when he leaves, there's a Peon right behind him!
- Hitman: Blood Money has a specific mechanic whereby you can climb onto the roof of any lift in the game to achieve this effect, in probable homage to Leon/The Professional.