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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) already on this floor by another route
(d) 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 the door when it opens), the villain or the monster.

Examples of Empty Elevator include:

  • Evolution
  • Leon/The Professional ("Someone's coming up. Someone serious.")
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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...
  • 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.
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