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File:River ceiling2.jpg

Nobody ever looks back

Nobody ever looks up

Like some odd human code
Dahlia Seed, "Elevator Syndrome"
"Love it when they don't look up."
Kim Possible, Kim Possible

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 in elevators, where a character hides from the enemy by flattening themselves against the ceiling. Perhaps the enemies all shoot at the lift, riddling it with bulletholes; then when the doors open, the character drops down and attacks. Maybe the doors open and the enemies enter the apparently empty lift, allowing the character to drop down and attack. Or, the character looks like he's going to be caught, the enemy opens the door, sees nothing and leaves -- and then the camera pans up to show the character hidden on the ceiling.

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.

Examples of Ceiling Cling include:


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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 of Ranma ½ 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. In addition, at least one antagonist, Kodachi, uses this to get the drop on Akane once.
    • Once he even did a blanket cling when trying to hide from his mother as she pulled off the covers from his futon.
  • Sōsuke in Full Metal Panic almost gets away with this, would have worked if the robots did not have the smarts to: TURN AROUND! Dun dun dun.
    • 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.
  • Lupin III does this to dodge both Zenigata and avoid a Trap Door in The Castleof Cagliostro.


Comics

  • Spider-Man doesn't even need to grab onto anything but the ceiling itself to hold himself up. This was parodied where the person did look up (thankfully he was a civilian, not a villain) and Spidey was forced to sign an autograph to keep him quiet.

 Spider-Man: You know you're not supposed to look up until a second after I'm gone, right?


Films -- Animated

  • Done twice in the Toy Story series.
    • Toy Story. Woody clings to the underside of a box to avoid being found by Sid.
    • Toy Story 2. Buzz hangs onto the underside of an elevator to reach the floor where Al's apartment is.
  • Helen from The Incredibles does this. And she doesn't need the ceiling to be conveniently conformed to fit her body so she can hold on - she does that part herself.


Films -- Live Action

  • 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 Beast Master 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 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 that 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'.


Literature

  • 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.


Live Action TV

  • A common hiding/lurking tactic of River Tam in Firefly. Notable for the fact that there were no special effects or visual trickery involved (other than Summer Glau as a cast show off effect.)
    • Pictured is her ceiling cling from Serenity. The beam on her right foot is there because the width of the hallway was slightly too wide to accomodate her splitspan.
    • Though, the best one is commonly called "Ceiling River is watching you procreate" or "Why all the Crazy Space Incest fics exist".
  • 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 in Heroes. 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 episode "Potential".
  • 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.
  • Averted in an episode of Sliders, where the titular 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.


Video Games

  • 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.
  • And you thought Pokémon couldn't get away with this, did you? Say hello to the deliciously-trained peons of Pokémon 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. There's one instance where a peon deserves respect.

 Michael: (boards an elevator at ONBS)

(elevator goes to second floor)

Michael: (leaves elevator)

Cipher Peon: (leaves elevator behind Michael)

Michael: "!"

    • 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.


Web Animation

  • Subverted in Stroker and Hoop. The titular Stroker and Hoop were infiltrating the Big Bad's office, when they suddenly hear him coming. They hide up between the rafters on the ceiling. The Big Bad comes in, calmly sits down, picks up his telephone, and says, "Hello, Security? There's two guys up in my ceiling. I don't know why they think I can't see them."


Web Comics


Western Animation

  • Poked fun at by The Simpsons. Mr. Burns and Smithers attempt a Ceiling Cling in Homer's kitchen while trying to steal Maggie's teddy bear. Unfortunately Homer comes in at that very moment, and starts a marathon cheese-eating session that lasts until dawn. (That's when Smithers and Mr. Burns just give up and fall to the floor.)

 Burns (dusting himself off): Good day to you.

  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Blue Spirit clings to the ceiling with two swords and a huge length of chain without making a sound or a move.
  • Hoodwinked, complete with a sweat drop.
  • This list won't be completed without mentioning TMNT 2003. In the very first episode Leo does this and does this good. And thru many episodes Turtles cling to the ceiling a lot. Well justified that all of them are Ninja...
  • Used during an episode of Stroker and Hoop. While on a case, the two ceiling cling in the office of a teddy bear company C.E.O. ...and he immediately calls security because he can see them.
  • Done in the Transformers episode "The Golden Lagoon". The Autobots cling to a prison cell ceiling, dropping down on the Decepticons who enter the cell.



Admit it; you looked up while reading this didn't you?

Notes

  1. My last hope, the "ceiling cling".
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