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Evil Elevator
Italian poster for The Lift. The tagline says: "The stairs... The stairs... For the love of God use the stairs."

Or Evilator for short.

...Sorry.

Unlike the Elevator Action Sequence trope, where it's a fight scene in and around an Elevator, this is just an Elevator, that seems to be out to get you and anyone else that dares to go near it. This trope deals with elevators that apparently have a mind of their own. However, if the elevator fails due to explainable causes (bad maintenance, fire, earthquake), or because someone else damaged it, that's not an Evil Elevator, that's Elevator Failure.

Either the elevator wants to get you because it's vicious, or it has a cruel sense of humor.

The Scary, or 'Evil' version is where the elevator cable suddenly snaps without warning - plunging the riders down, either a few feet to terrify, or to their deaths. Sometimes the cable breaks while someone is inside the shaft, squishing the poor schmuck. Or if it doesn't fall, it makes ominous, creaking noises, or has a tendency to get stuck between floors - the odds of the last increases during an emergency situation.

When it's just mean, it jerk ups without warning, or drops. In very silly settings, this means the riders end up pinned to the ceiling, or flattened into a pancake. Often times, this kind of elevator has an operator that seems immune to the extreme forces that are apparently at work.

And of course, the doors closing can rip a man's arms off.

The main distinction between an evil and a mean elevator is that the evil is never played for comedy and usually results in someone dying, while the mean elevator leaves characters alive - but usually needing a change of clothes.

In Real Life, the modern-day elevator is safer than an escalator. However, if you are in a fictional setting, ride the elevator at your own risk.

The Hellevator is usually safe to ride, but the place it takes you to is decidedly evil and unsafe.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The title "star" of the Dutch-made horror film The Lift is a murderous elevator. Dick Maas, writer/director of The Lift, later remade the movie as Down (a.k.a., in its American DVD release, The Shaft).
  • Resident Evil has a woman getting decapitated as she tries to escape a trapped elevator. The reason she's trying to escape is that the crowded elevator she's in is stopped by the A.I. — then they hears the screams from the elevator next door passing by as it freefalls from the top floor to the bottom.
  • Final Destination 2 had a similar scenario with a malfunctioning elevator. A woman gets her hair caught on a mannequin hook, panicks, and falls. The elevator tears her head off. Earlier it took off a guy's shoe.
  • Spies Like Us. The two Ace Tomato Company (eg. CIA) bigshots enter a drive-in theatre and activate the Pepsi machine. Next thing they know, they're screaming as they plunge down a Bottomless Pit to the Elaborate Underground Base.
    • This was spoofed in Undercover Brother when the hero screams hysterically as he thinks he's plunging down a similar endless elevator shaft... only to realize he's just dropped a single story.
  • Inverted in 2007 horror film Blackout, where all the danger of the elevator is caused by the characters, rather than the elevator just endangering them on a whim.
  • In the second Omen movie a scientist about to expose the Antichrist is killed when his elevator stucks and a cable falls from above and bisects both the car and the guy.
  • Much of Devil takes place in an elevator. Though it's not the elevator as much as who's in it ...
  • In the film They, a victim of the boogeyman-like living night terrors tries to flee his infested apartment in an old-fashioned elevator, which proceeds to jerk up and down and rattle him half to death. Double subverted in that he makes it out of the elevator alive, only to be dragged down the open shaft by the night terror.
  • In Poltergeist III an entire skyscraper is taken over by evil spirits that can travel through mirrors. Of course, the elevators are lined with mirrors.... And if that wasn't enough, a character is pushed into an open elevator shaft by one of these now-corporeal entities.
  • The protagonist of Vamp has a close call with a malfunctioning elevator early in the film.
  • The elevator in Boo will only take you to the hospital's very haunted third floor, no matter what button you press.
  • In Mission: Impossible, the elevator Jack is sitting on top of is sabotaged to cause it to move upwards rapidly, causing Jack to be killed by the machinery at the top of the shaft.
  • In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, the Gremlins commandeer one of the Clamp building's elevators with Kate inside it.
  • In the TV movie Paper Man (1971) a number of college students are apparently being picked off by the college mainframe. One woman, played by Tina Chen, is first terrorised by a terminal printing "Death, Death, Death" and then chased down a hallway to the elevator by the lights going out behind her (creating a gaping maw). Once in the elevator she tries to leave but it stops between floors. When she tries to climb out the doors close and the elevator descends, killing her In the end we learn it's not the computer, or even the elevator, but a person is behind it

    Gamebooks 
  • Common in Give Yourself Goosebumps, notably "Shop Till You Drop ... Dead!" and "Into the Jaws of Doom". Averted in "Elevator to Nowhere", in which the titular "elevator" is actually a dimension-hopping device and doesn't go up or down.

    Literature 
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe
    • There is a variant in Survivors Quest. Survivors in the ruins of Outbound Flight rigged the turbolifts — think elevators IN SPACE, with repulsor beams replacing cables — to imprison the heroes and suspend them between two Dreadnaughts. If they tried to cut their way out, one repulsor beam would shut off and the other one would crush them against a Dreadnaught. The two action-oriented parties immediately block the cameras and gets to work getting out; the noncombatant party talks their way into getting released. The one including Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker gets out of this using Badass Back, a synchronized strike, and a Wire Dilemma. The one including Aurek Seven gets out by siphoning power from one cable and directing it to another.
    • In another of the Expanded Universe novels, Luke Invokes this trope, he has to get a work crew out of a construction mecha during an emergency, and projects the image of a hungry maw over the elevator doors to make the workers take the stairs.
    • During Galaxy of Fear, when things start going wrong on the Star of Empire, Hoole tells the Arrandas they should never take the turbolifts in an emergency. Later some characters go into one turbolift, others into the other - and they both start going down way too fast, "screaming like a bomb being dropped." Dash Rendar manually hotwires the emergency brake for long enough for the people in his car to get out, but the occupants of the other car were not so lucky.
  • In Dream Park, the AI controlling a horror-themed attraction speaks to passengers entering the ride via elevator. It informs them that it's tired of pandering to humans' craving for fake scares, and will see to it that one of them genuinely won't survive the experience. One of the passengers does appear to die horribly, but she's a hologram and part of the attraction.
  • In the The Necromantic Mysteriesof Kyle Murchison Booth series, The Wall Of Clouds has an elevator that has a tendency to break and stop between floors. After several long minutes of terrified screams from the person using the elevator, it will again work and a dead body will be all that's left. It's implied that this has happened many times.
  • Philip Kerr's novel Gridiron, in which a computer-controlled building is taken over by a homicidal AI, has a variation. The evil computer kills a character by moving an express lift upwards at high speed, then stopping it suddenly. The victim is then described as "looking like Frankenstein's Monster".
  • One of the Final Destination Novels has the big disaster at the beginning of the novel take place in a glass elevator on the outside of the building. The elevator gets caught and the gears continue forcing it to move, which causes it to tilt until everyone falls into the glass and it shatters, causing them to fall to their deaths. This continues until the thing is entirely sideways. Of course the protagonist wakes up from her vision in time to save her friends, but as Final Destination does, everyone dies in various ways eventually.

    Live-Action TV 
  • During one episode of Fringe, an electrical manipulator gets in an elevator with several people and accidentally drives it into the ground.
  • One episode of The X-Files involves an elevator that is part of an office building's sentient computer network killing an investigator.
  • Supernatural: In 4.17 "It's a Terrible Life", a security guard gets killed by a malfunctioning elevator in a haunted office building.
  • The Bob Newhart Show
    • Not evil but sort of cruel: after a therapy session, a pleased Bob is telling one of his regular patients (Mr. Carlin) how well he is coming along with his inability to make decisions. As they walk to the two elevators, Mr. Carlin presses the button and both elevators' doors open at the same time. He stares at them for a while and storms out the stairway exit.
    • Bob himself is nearly done in on two occasions by a missing elevator car-and one time sees Death itself waiting in one that does arrive.
  • In the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode "The Devil's Platform", satanic magic sends the Victim of the Week plunging to his doom in an elevator.
  • The pilot of 666 Park Avenue has a woman being nearly killed by the elevator she was about to step off of. And two episodes later, the Devil-Dealer Of The Week is pushed down an empty elevator shaft by the show's Big Bad, Gavin Doran.
  • Parodied and subverted in Perfect Strangers where Balki and Larry ride an elevator without knowing that it is being tested for maintenance. The technician tests the elevator's capabilities making it rapidly go up and down, scaring the heck out of the two. Balki, believing it to be haunted, tries to appease it.
    Balki : "(While gently caressing the elevator) Can I call you Otis?"
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Geordi LaForge once got his ass kicked six ways to Sunday by the turbolift (and lost his VISOR) as a byproduct of a computer virus affected the Enterprise in the episode "Contagion".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Almost every elevator in the Paranoia RPG qualifies; they possess A.I., have very boring jobs, and tend to be very, very disgruntled. Thus appears in the book Extreme Paranoia: Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Shot set in the universe.
  • The card game Hecatomb had a creature type that was all evil animated objects, one of which was an evil elevator.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Fairly common in earlier FPS games, the first Jedi Knight for example, but usually due to the physics involved. If you weren't getting crushed underneath the descending platform, you were being squashed between the lift and the corridor ceiling. And you can basically forget actually jumping while going down.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has one, or at least implied from the character's reactions. Alucard sounded terrified, while Richter sounded like he was dying while riding it!
  • Half-Life has a minor evil elevator moment in which the elevator only drops a few feet, but it's right over a vat of radiation.
    • There's also another elevator early on containing two scientists which drops from a lethal height. The event is timed so that it triggers a few moments after you reach it, so if you hit the button and don't know that's not what triggers it, you feel like a jerk.
  • Halo 3 had this in the second level.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon had a preoccupation with elevators that go about halfway and then stop, forcing you to crawl, bash, shoot and stumble your way through what should have been a 5-second elevator ride but instead takes at least an entire level. There's an evil version too: The player is making his way through the maintenance areas, passing through an elevator shaft. Without warning, an elevator freefalls down the shaft a few feet in front of you. Oh, but there is one (count them, one goddamn time) that you get where you need to go without getting shot at... the doors open just in time to see the person you were chasing driving away very quickly.
  • Every elevator in World of Warcraft that you can die from falling off has inevitably accumulated a kill count, but far and away the most notoriously evil are the Undercity elevators (coincidentally, the obvious way to enter the city), the Aldor Rise elevator in Shattrath City, and the real first boss of Serpentshrine Cavern.
    • Those Undercity elevators really hate Tauren.
    • And with Cataclysm's entry raid "Blackwing Descent" has one so evil that strategy guides have been written for it, and is being tracked on the official armoury.
    • Also, Orgrimmar recently added some elevators to the top of a mesa, where the zeppelins and flight master are now located. However, because of what may be some kind of glitch, you'll occasionally just fall right through the platform.
  • Fifth boss in Radiant Silvergun is an elevator which tries to destroy the player with various components. It is also able to replace each destroyed component twice.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, an evil spirit of Ocean House Hotel tries to drop a lift on you.
  • Variation: In the classic arcade game Elevator Action, the player can control his elevator to squash enemy agents passing underneath. (Unfortunately, they can do the same thing.)

    Western Animation 
  • The Elevator Monster from Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!.
  • In an episode of The Real Ghost Busters, a building becomes so saturated with ectoplasmic energy from the Netherworld that its elevators turn into monstrous faces with gnashing mouths and lolling tongues, and vomiting up a never ending stream of ghosts.

    Real Life 
  • There's a fair amount of people in real life that are so terrified by the possibility of the elevators being of this sort that they take the stairs.
  • And for a reason. It sometimes does happen in real life...
  • Not so much evil as stupid, the University of Chicago's Computation Institute has an elevator that has been lovingly termed the "Bogovator" due to its erratic behavior. Much like the bogosort algorithm it's named after, the elevator (so the joke goes) goes to a random floor when you punch in a number, and if it's right, the doors open; otherwise, it tries again. While this is not quite true, it has certainly been observed to go the wrong direction, and occasionally go to the requested floor, forget why it's there, NOT open the doors, and go to a different floor instead. Possibly the only elevator that gets lost.
  • Somewhat inverted with the dangerous but somehow nonfatal paternoster, or "cyclic elevator", an elevator invented in the late 1800s in England. The paternoster is named after the first two words of the Lord's Prayer in Latin (Our Father) in reference to rosary beads, which the paternoster's string of cars resembles. The paternoster consists of a string of cars that are attached to a chain that circulates around two elevator shafts, one going up and the other going downThe elevator cars do not flip over at the top or bottom - they instead stay upright and cycle over to the shaft going the other direction. The paternoster's main claims to infamy are its lack of doors and the fact that it never stops. Yet despite its frightening setup, the paternoster elevator has killed just five people from 1970 to the present day. However, frightened governments have banned the construction of new paternosters and many building managers have phased out existing ones. Today only around 40 paternosters are left, with none in the US.


Empty ElevatorElevator TropesHellevator
Everything Is Trying to Kill YouHorror TropesEvil Hand
Everything Is an InstrumentComedy TropesEvil Has a Bad Sense of Humor
Parenting the HusbandImageSource/Live-Action FilmsA Little Princess

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