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The Walls Are Closing In
aka: Trash Compactor Scenario
You mean you don't have a Bat-Wall Brace in that Utility Belt!?

"One thing's for sure: We're all going to be a lot thinner."
Han Solo, Star Wars: A New Hope

The Hero finds himself in an empty room, and then the walls start closing in, threatening to squash our hero from the sides.

Like its Sister Trope, Descending Ceiling, The Walls Are Closing In shares many of the same functions and tends to show up in the same situations. This Death Trap can be decorated with Spikes Of Doom to look even more menacing, and it can be used hand-in-hand with Descending Ceiling on a Conveyor Belt-O-Doom (usually with one coming right after the other in sequence). It may also be subject to a type of a Magic Countdown; no matter how much time the heroes take, the walls are juuust far enough for them to escape, even moving back between shots.

Common ways for heroes to escape this vicious trap is to find a means to brace the moving walls, wait for their Sidekick to find a way inside and get them out Just in Time before the walls (or spiked walls) would have surely crushed them, or a combination of the two.

This was commonly used as a stock Cliffhanger in Film Serials of the 1940s, and has appeared frequently in such works. If this occurs in a Video Game, it may be an Escape Sequence.

Compare Advancing Wall of Doom, when the hero has to outrun a single moving wall; and there may exist some overlap between the two tropes if the Death Trap is only one moving wall.

See Also Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom where a character has to run a gauntlet of smashing objects without getting hit by any.

Not to be confused with Deadly Walls.

The trope name was inspired by the pre-chorus lyrics from the Linkin Park song "Crawling."


Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Advertising 
  • A Pokémon Red and Blue commercial had a creepy bus driver take a bus full of pokemon to a car compactor. In goes the bus, out goes a Gameboy with the pokemon trapped in it.

     Comic Books 
  • Gotham City Sirens
    Poison Ivy: Please tell me the walls aren't going to move together.
    Catwoman: The walls are moving together.
    Poison Ivy: Of course they are.

     Film 
  • The trash compactor scene in Star Wars: A New Hope is both a standout depiction of this trope but also a Shout-Out to the cliffhanger serials that George Lucas would watch as a kid, which very much inspired a lot of the story-telling in the original trilogy. It's also the inspiration for this trope's redirect, Trash Compactor Scenario. The Star Wars Musical even has a whole song about this scene called "The Walls are Closing In".
  • Krull includes the spiked walls version, and a gruesome death for one man who could have escaped but went back for his cherished knife.
  • Army of Darkness sees Ash thrown into a pit containing a few demons that he has to fight, as well as this particular Death Trap just to make things more exciting. He escapes by hanging onto the chain powering the closing walls as it moves up.
  • Was invoked in Saw V. Not only does Strahm try and fail to escape by climbing up to the ceiling, but the scene rather graphically shows the perils of trying to "brace yourself" to stop the walls as the bones splinter out of his limbs. In Saw VI, Hoffman retracts the walls and looks over what's left of Strahm. It's really not a pretty sight. Word of God stated that, when they made the trap, they made it with showing just how graphic it could really get.
  • The 2007 Spanish film Fermats Room featured this, with the twist that the victims had to correctly answer logic or math puzzles to stop the walls from advancing.
  • In the 1946 film, Strangler's Morgue (AKA The Curse of the Wraydons), the murderer Philip Wraydon is crushed by the converging walls he has set in motion to crush the hero, Jack Wraydon.
  • There's a non-lethal parody in Toys, where Robin Williams's character and others find themselves in a room that keeps getting smaller as square sections of wall close in one at a time. It's meant to convey that General Leland is expanding other areas of the toy factory for his own nefarious purposes.
  • Another non-lethal parody in Ernest Scared Stupid when Ernest fell in the garbage truck and his dog activated the compactor. Ernest tries to keep the walls from closing in and even removing the batteries fails. He gets rescued trapped in compacted garbage.
  • Blood Sucking Pharaohs In Pittsburgh: Grace tries to kill Deedee in a trash compactor but winds up caught in it, instead.
  • Superman offers a variant in the subway tunnel where Luther keeps his hideout: a section of platform wall that pushes outward suddenly, shoving a police detective into the path of an oncoming train.
  • The Raven (1935) has a Torture Cellar with one such room.

     Literature 
  • Older Than Radio: The archetype is Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit And The Pendulum" (1842), in which the moving walls are red hot and push the victim into the pit.
  • There are a number of callbacks to the trash compactor scene in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In The Thrawn Trilogy, Luke heads into one and as the walls close in he hopes that Mara, who is controlling the trash compactor and previously stated her desire to kill him, won't let her hatred overcome her. She stops the walls a meter apart, and he rock-chimneys up and saves her boss.
  • In Secret of the Sixth Magic by Lyndon Hardy, debtors in the city of Pluton are condemned to death if no one will pay off their creditors to buy them as slaves. This being a fantasy world, the method of execution is magic-powered: they're sealed inside an unbreakable cube, which then magically gets smaller... and smaller... and smaller.
  • The Goosebumps book One Day At Horrorland features a house of mirrors that ends in a room where this happens. The floor drops out at the very last second.
  • Animorphs used this in "The Separation". Visser Three used a moving wall because he thought the group were Andalites, who hate enclosed spaces.
  • Alex Rider, in Stormbreaker, gets trapped in a car inside a crusher in a junkyard. He's able to squeeze out the window and climb out.

     Live Action TV 
  • Lampshaded in Dracula: The Series. The heroes stumble into the spiky version of one of these while sneaking around Alexander Lucard's castle, and escape because one of them had seen how to defeat it in an old movie. Later on, Dracula is showing an invited guest around the place, they come to the (now empty) trap, and he says something like "Do you like it? I saw it in an old movie, and I just had to have one!"
  • The Adventures of Superman:
    • Superman, Lois & Jimmy are trapped in a concrete bunker, with Supes out of commission due to a Kryptonite ray. Then the walls start closing in. Luckily there happened to be a discussion of hypnotism earlier in the episode. Superman hypnotises Lois, which somehow makes him able to levitate her. Her body stops the walls, and Jimmy is able to climb up to the top and redirect the Kryptonite ray.
    • In "Drums of Death", the Villain of the Week tries to use a wine press to dispose of Perry, Perry's sister, and Jimmy. Superman arrived and tore apart the bars, allowing them to escape.
  • Batman (the 1966 TV series): In Catwoman's first appearance, she subjects Batman & Robin to the Spikes Of Doom version (see picture at top of page). But the walls stop just before they'd impale Batman, and anyway the spikes are made of rubber. She was just toying with him. (It wasn't the Cliffhanger of the episode.)
  • RoboCop: The Series placed the title character in a trash compactor. When air pressure almost reached 2000 PSI, a flashback gives Robocop inspiration, allowing him to push back the walls.
  • Estate of Panic played with this trope in the trash compactor, the study (along with a Descending Ceiling), and the wine cellar (coupled with Spikes Of Doom).
  • One episode of The Paul Hogan Show featured a series of sketches in which someone is murdering Australia's greatest sporting stars. Squash player Geoff Hunt was killed when the murderer slowly cranked in the walls of his squash court, causing him to be crushed.
  • Doctor Who, "The War Games". Like the TARDIS, the villains' SIDRATs are bigger inside than out. But if necessary, the interior can be made to shrink, invoking this trope on anybody inside.
  • Kamen Rider Gaim: Sid/Kamen Rider Sigurd is killed when Roshuo, leader of the Inves uses telekinesis to turn a solid cliff face into one of these.
  • CSI: NY: In "Death House" the team are investigating a penthouse that has been converted into a series of elaborate deathtraps. Hawkes gets trapped in a small metal room where the walls start closing in on him.

     Music Video 
  • The Cardigans' video for "Erase/Rewind" shows the band in such a room, and is blatantly inspired by Star Wars. It has two versions: the original one with the Downer Ending, and the 13th floor edition where they save themselves (it's named because it has additional scenes from the movie 13thFloor, which the song was used in).

    Pinball 

    Puppet Shows 

    Video Games 
  • Most late-model Final Fantasy games have this trope, sometimes with only one moving wall in the Death Trap. The wall is a living creature, and must be defeated before it crushes the party.
    • Final Fantasy IV has a bad guy trapping the heroes in one of these during a cutscene as they try to escape his lair after taking him out. Palom and Porom, the two cute kid mages, sacrifice themselves to save the others by turning themselves to stone and stopping the walls.
    • And another sequence where the moving wall was alive and you actually had to fight it to the death as it advanced. If it advanced all the way, your party members would start dying instantly one by one, and significantly faster than you could revive them.
    • Final Fantasy XII has two Demon Wall enemies. The first one you fight presents a twist — it is powered up and offers you little time to defeat it, but it is fortunately a Skippable Boss and you are meant to flee the battle by using the door that it would crush you against, and instead fight the second wall in the next room. The second one (the one you must defeat) is much weaker and offers much more time to win. If so desired, you can come back later in the game to rematch against the first wall. Unless you've done a lot of Level Grinding, in which case you can just off the first one right away and pick up a weapon that you're not intended to have at that point in the game yet (still not quite the Infinity+1 Sword though, but it is one of the games many, many Disc One Nukes).
  • In Half-Life, a pair of mooks capture the player character and toss him in a trash compactor. Which he then escapes via conveniently stacked up garbage.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time there's a room in Shadow Temple where rickety wooden spike-walls slowly close in on you. No worries here, though: if you have Din's Fire, you'll be fine.
    • One dungeon in the Oracle series has a large room with obstacles that must be crossed before its walls crush the player.
  • Used to chilling effect in Nightmare House. You're trapped in a doorless corridor and every time you cross the room and turn around the other wall is closer than it was the last time you looked at it. The only way to get out is to keep doing it until the walls close in completely. Then you wake up somewhere else.
  • Mega Man 4 has the series' first example with Dust Man's trash compactor stage.
    • In Mega Man Zero, Aztec Falcon was fought in a trash compactor stage as well. It's different in the fact that you weren't the one being crushed, it was another Reploid. And you only had 75 seconds to beat the guy.
    • Mega Man X 2 has several sequences where you have to climb up between walls before they crush you. There's actually a robot who triggers this; if you kill it first (try charged-up Sonic Slicer), the walls won't move. Alas, there's no such trick for the similar traps in X3 and X7.
    • X4 has one in the opening stage, which you could accidentally drop down right before the boss fight. It does contain a life and a health pickup, though.
  • Adam Cadre's Lock and Key game about designing a foolproof dungeon includes this trap. If you add the Spikes Of Doom, it turns out they were poorly made and hit each other, breaking the trap and allowing the prisoner to simply climb past.
  • In Messiah, a shooter from 2000, there is that moment, where you trigger a security system, which causes the only available NPC (a worker) to fall and break his legs (meaning he can only crawl slowly), and one of the walls begins to slowly move against you. You're then required to possess the worker and slowly crawl to the switch, deactivating the wall and opening a passage further.
  • Prince of Persia 2 has crushing walls in its later levels, some of which are situated in inescapable pits under Fake Platforms.
    • Newer Prince of Persia games on some occasions feature the inverse: a tall narrow well that has to be navigated by jumping from one wall to another. And it has to be navigated fast, because on of the walls is moving out, making it too wide to jump across and introducing the Prince to a lethal fall down.
  • Rise of the Triad: In early versions, even touching an approaching wall causes instant death. While walls usually were independent movers, there are some places where sections of walls move back and forth to crush the player and one level where it appears the walls are closing in when you hit a touchplate but stop at the last second.
  • In the PC game version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, there is an obstacle course you have to pass through to reach the title location. One of the obstacles is a room with walls which close in on you, although you rather boringly beat them by simply running through the room fast enough.
  • Happens throughout the Tomb Raider series.
  • Appears in Distorted Travesty where The Artist tries this to kill Jerry after he sides with The Darkness.
  • The first God of War has a variant in that one wall moves, except it wouldn't hurt Kratos like an Advancing Wall of Doom but would crush him against the magic enemy barrier if the player didn't kill all the Mooks fast enough. The second game plays this straight with two walls.
  • Happens at the beginning of the last mission in Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time, but Qwark can brace the walls forever, and all you have to do is just blow up some Mooks in the enclosed space before the trap is released.
  • In Cave Story, the walls of Ballos' chamber close in when the hero and Curly Brace defeat him for good. They would be crushed if not for Balrog.
  • In Portal 2, prior to the Disc One Final Boss, you have no choice but to jump into an Obvious Trap, leading to this. However, the walls are not intended to crush you but rather to force you into position over a Trap Door as part of a larger trap.
  • In Breath Of Fire 2, the party is nearly killed by such a trap. Rand holds the walls apart long enough for the rest of the party to escape, but he soon finds his strength fading...his mother Daisy finds him and pushes him out of the trap, taking his place and sacrificing herself. Rand watches helplessly as his mother is crushed between the walls.
  • The deathtrap is featured in Rise of Nightmares for the Xbox 360 Kinect. Two people find themselves crushed in it.
  • The NES game Nightshade used death traps as "lives". The second one was walls closing in.
  • The second planet encountered in "Slipsand Galaxy" from Super Mario Galaxy 2 had several walls that slid toward and away from each other.
    • The last planet encountered in "Bowser's Galaxy Generator" before the final battle with Bowser involved Mario and Yoshi eating Dash Peppers to run through a hallway lined with walls of magma before they close in on them.
  • This also happens in the fight against Roy Koopa in Super Mario World. The most immediate danger is not that the walls will crush you, but that there is less and less room for Mario to evade Roy's attacks.
  • The Waste Disposal area in the Kingdom of Loathing "Bugbear Invasion" challenge path, as an extended Star Wars homage, has these, and frequently warns you that the walls are coming closer. Unlike some of the game's warnings of this nature, these are not a case of Take Your Time - if you don't solve the area's puzzle in time, you are crushed and subjected to the game's death penalty.
  • The very first scene from the Famicom Disk System game Dead Zone takes place in a trash compactor (with bits and pieces of broken robots strewn all over the floor) and then the walls start closing in after several proper commands have been given. When the player uses the move command (kanji: ウエ) several times and the screen changes to the compactor's ceiling, the player must get out by opening the grate on the ceiling before he is crushed.
  • Nancy Drew: The Silent Spy has Nancy and Zoe Wolfe stuck in a trash compactor. The player has to solve a puzzle to free the lock.
  • Thy Dungeonman 3 has walls of spikes that smash the character if they are not stopped with the convenient bone lying around before 12 turns have elapsed.
  • Squeeze Box for the Atari 2600 has the player shooting at bricks in the wall to stop them from advancing towards him while trying to escape.
  • Bally/Midway's arcade TRON video game has the player shooting Tron's disc at a wall that descends towards him so he could enter the MCP before he gets derezzed.

    Web Comics 
  • In Narbonic, when Mell is sent on a mission to kill Helen Narbon (the elder), she falls prey to this after commenting, "Huh, weird floor." Her captor comments that there wasn't time to come up with something original, since Mell made it farther than expected.
  • Appears in the Maze of Many in Goblins. Ends up killing Barbarian Kin and Forgath. Barbarian Minmax died earlier from a Descending Door.

    Western Animation 
  • There's a visually similar scene in The Incredibles, as Mr. Incredible races to get out from between two closing walls of lava.
  • All New Popeye Hour: Popeye and his friends are trapped in a pit with the walls closing in. Desperately, Popeye throws his can of spinach to jam in the edge of the walls on top. The walls crush the can, causing the spinach to fall into Popeye's mouth. Now strong to the finish, Popeye easily forces the walls back and the gang escapes.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons spoofing the story of Moses, Milhouse and Lisa (as Moses and Aaron) are thrown in a room with spiked walls that close in on them. However, the spikes have all been installed opposite each other, so that the walls stop when the tips touch, leaving plenty of room for them to climb to safety (and for Lise to remark, "Eh, slave labor. You Get What You Pay For.").
  • An episode of Ducktales had Scrooge and his nephews trapped in an Egyptian tomb with a wall with spears closing in on them. They're saved by pressing a hidden (belly) button activating a trapdoor.
  • Lampshaded in The Venture Bros.:
    Doctor Orpheus: Spiked walls? How fast?
    Doctor Venture: Uh, slower than "haunted house" spiked walls but not quite as slow as "mad scientist" spiked walls.
  • In Scooby-Doo, the gang discover a locked trap door and an nearby organ that appears to control it. Scooby offers to play it see if they can open the trapdoor, but when that happens, the gang realizes the walls are closing in on them. As the gang tries to hold them back, Scooby desperately plays the instrument more, and then frantically dances on the keys to try to get it to stop the walls, and succeeds by sheer luck.
  • Happened in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode "Michelangelo, the Sacred Turtle" when Michelangelo and the servants fell in the trapdoor and the walls are closing in. They're saved by solving the hieroglyphs.
  • Blurr falls victim to one of these in the first episode of the third season of Transformers Animated. Sadly, he is turned into a cube.
  • Bruce Banner is stuck in one of these in the opening theme to the 80's Incredible Hulk cartoon series.
  • Ice Age did this with a glacier.
  • Inspector Gadget was caught in a death trap of this type at least twice, one involving Spikes Of Doom.
  • Spoofed in a Kappa Mikey cutaway. It is a direct parody of the scene in Star Wars, with Guano dressed as a Storm Trooper.
  • Along with Spikes Of Doom on T.U.F.F. Puppy.
  • In Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf, Scobby, Shaggy and the others get trapped in chamber with Spikes Of Doom when they attempt to flee Dracula's castle.
  • In one episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Daring Do (Rainbow Dash's favorite action hero) is placed a room with this trap... along with spiders, snakes, and quicksand.
  • Danger Mouse: episode 3 of "The Duel" has DM and Penfold in a room at an amusement park with the spiked walls closing in on them. DM stops them with a giant spanner Penfold had on his person.
  • In an episode of The Adventures Of Mr T, a couple of the gymnast kids get stuck in one such deathtrap. They escape by bracing the walls with broken wooden table legs, fashioned as improvised uneven bars, and use them to reach a vent at the top (and very middle) of the room.
  • Adventure Time: Happens with the first room Ice King, N.E.P.T.R., Tree Trunks, Shelby and Lemongrab find themselves trapped in in "Mystery Dungeon".


Walk the PlankOlder Than RadioThe Watson
Trap DoorThis Index Is in the WayForbidden Zone
Voice of the LegionThis Index Is Not An ExampleWe Hardly Knew Ye
To the PainDeath Trap    
Voiceover LetterExample as a ThesisWants a Prize for Basic Decency
To the Batpole!ImageSource/Live-Action TVUtility Belt

alternative title(s): Trash Compactor Scenario
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