"I walked into a hotel... I say, 'Listen, could you direct me to the elevators?' (in a snooty voice) 'You mean, the elevators to the rooms?' 'No, I mean the elevator to Hell!'"
—Tom Waits, Big Time
"We're on an express elevator to Hell -- going down!"
—Private Hudson, Aliens
The Hellevator is an elevator that serves as a bridge between the world of the living and that of the dead. And that's really about it.
The main advantage of the Hellevator in fiction, particularly visual fiction, is that's it's an obvious way of letting the audience know that they're going deep beneath the surface of the Earth. A mystical hell-traveling elevator is surprisingly plausible because people, especially children, often don't understand how elevators work. This was certainly more true back when the trope was first introduced with early film (back then only employees of elevator buildings were even allowed to operate them) than it is today, but the trope lives on largely because of its obvious visual appeal. When an elevator goes down for several hundred floors, it's pretty difficult to come to any other conclusion as to where it's going. Even better, it's cheap to make the set.
Not to be confused with the Hellevator, the lunar-based Space Elevator in Schlock Mercenary.
See Stairway to Heaven for its sister trope, and Evil Elevator for when the elevator itself tries to kill you.
And yes, this trope title and Stairway to Heaven could both be considered Fridge Brilliance since it's easier to be immoral (and stand in an elevator) than it is to be moral (and climb stairs.)
Anime and Manga
- An elevator ride to a mysterious place miles underground features in The Big O's ending, but oddly the elevator continues going down for several seconds after the floor counter is shown to reach B666.
- One Jack Chick comic has two demons goofing off so that one guy ends up being converted to Christianity. As punishment, Satan forces them to go down another level of Hell for every time this guy ends up converting someone else. They end up going down several thousand, using the elevator to get there. And the operator is Josef Stalin in a hazmat suit.
- One recent[when?] spoof of Journey to the West has the Hellevator overshooting and ending up in outer space.
- The "Springfield in Hell" segments in Simpsons Comics Heebie-Jeebie Hullabaloo feature one of these.
- In Nil: A Land Beyond Belief" an express elevator goes from Nil to the Infernal Realm; the entrance is surrounded by protesters denouncing eternal punishment as unfair.
- Parodied in the "first mock-fic" of Transformers Armada on the TF Lexicon. In it, a guy in real life enters an elevator and presses "ALL THE BUTTONS AT ONCE" (echo, echo)! This transports him to the world of Armada, which becomes Hell enough for him.
Films -- Live-Action
- Used in Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror.
- Used in Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry.
- Angel Heart has Mickey Rourke take the long ride down in an elevator.
- Things are normal in Dark Floors until the elevator the characters are in starts acting up, trapping them between floor six and seven -- "Not Hell, not Heaven".
- Don Ameche's character in the film Heaven Can Wait from 1943 takes an elevator to hell to convince the devil that he deserves to spend eternity there.
- The Kirstie Alley TV movie Toothless features one. Kirstie ends up riding it back onto the mortal coil.
- Spoofed in Undercover Brother. The protagonist is sitting in a barber's chair when it suddenly drops. He starts screaming that he's falling all the way down to Hell, but it turns out he's only dropped a single floor and the apparent "endless levels" are actually a strobe light flashing in his face.
- Frank Cross takes one of these, operated by the Ghost of Christmas Future, in Scrooged.
- Inverted in Percy Jackson and The Olympians: a mysterious elevator in the Empire State Building leads to the realm of the gods, instead of the infernal realm.
- Big Trouble in Little China: Jack and Wang are riding down an elevator to their final confrontation. It's taking a lot longer than they expected:
Jack: Feel pretty good. I'm not, uh, I'm not scared at all. I just feel kind of... feel kind of invincible.
- The MST'd horror(?) movie Soultaker features one of these, although in this case the Hellevator actually goes up to get to the afterlife, which is apparently on the top floor of a hospital for easy access to dying people. Apparently Joe Estevez doesn't like to walk around too much.
- Metaphorically, in Aliens. See the page quote above.
- There's an urban legend/stock horror-story plot that goes like this: Someone has a recurring nightmare that a horse-drawn carriage driven by Death stops in front of her house. Death opens the door to show that the carriage is packed with people and leers, "There's room for one more." But the protagonist doesn't get on and the death carriage of doom goes on its way. One day, the protagonist is waiting for an elevator. One stops that is packed with people and the operator, of course, says there's room for one more. All the little hairs stand up on the back of our protagonist's neck and she shakes her head vehemently. As she waits for the next elevator she hears a terrible crash; the cable's snapped and everyone's dead. The end!
- There are many versions of this story. The way I first heard it she went to an amusement park and it was a ride (the ones that spin you around really fast so you stick to them and lift you up in the air) that there was room for one more on. I've also heard the ride wasn't at an amusement park but merely on a board walk.
- Supposedly, this happened in Taiwan, and in Taipei's city hall no less. According to a local news report, a security guard patrolling the building was making the rounds late at night, using the elevator to get to every floor. When he was going from the third to fifth floor (no fourth floor because Four Is Death) by the elevator, the elevator actually somehow stopped at the non-existent fourth floor, and when the doors opened, he saw hell, as in the nether world, outside.
- Several on The Holders Series, both down and up, but in particular Holder of the Rails.
- A nightmarish variation of this trope's explored in the classic short story "Descending", featuring a mysterious escalator that goes down... and down... and down.
- Piers Anthony 's Incarnations of Immortality novels feature a Hellevator which connects Hell, Earth, and Purgatory, but not Heaven (God wouldn't allow that).
- Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, the sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, has Charlie and Willy Wonka riding the eponymous elevator to Minusland in order to rescue one of Charlie's grandmothers (her soul went there after she took so many age-decreasing pills that her age became a minus number). Charlie describes it as being like "hell without heat".
- In Hell by Yasutaka Tsutsui (author of Paprika) there is a subplot about a writer and an actress sharing the ride in the elevator that goes down to 666th floor below. It makes sense, because novel utilizes Mundane Afterlife trope and some characters arrive in Hell by means of transport they were using at the moment of death, for example a plane that crashed in real life. Also, you may argue, the elevator IS, in fact, personal hell of this pair
- Used in Angel... sorta. At some point during the "Wolfram & Hart" arc, he's invited to finally enter the "Home Office", the source of Wolfram & Hart's power, and gets into an elevator... which goes down. And down. And down. And down... and finally arrives at street-level, the exact same spot. Even Angel has to point out the Anviliciousness of the "Our world is Hell" moral.
- The underground-dwelling Rubber Forehead Aliens in the Cousin Skeeter made-for-TV movie use such an elevator to reach the surface. They turn out to be malevolent, and have a viewhole to the magma core, to boot.
- Maybe more of an Ironic Hell entry, but there was a Saturday Night Live sketch with Paul Simon where he died and got on the Hellevator. It was playing a Muzak version of "Sounds of Silence." After a few minutes he asked the elevator operator how much longer it would take to get to Hell and he said "Get there? You're already here!"
- Used in Reaper, when the Devil takes Sam to the 75th floor of his corporation. An elevator door (complete with a hellish design and symbols) opens up to a very nicely done CGI wall of flame.
Sam: What the Hell was that?!
- Used in The Middleman to get to the surprisingly tolerable Hell.
- Charmed has had at least one Hellevator, probably because several demons pose as businessmen or lawyers and therefore need transportation between hell and office buildings.
- Features in the final episode of Ashes to Ashes.
- In the British children's comedy series Rentaghost, ghosts arrive on Earth from the after life in the invisible "astral lift".
- In the Doctor Who episode "The Beast Below", riding the elevators without permission (such as when you got a zero in class, for example) takes you to the aforementioned beast. It isn't hell exactly and the beast turns out to be not much of a demon, but a voluntary captive of the travelling starship, which came to save their children but it certainly looks like it.
- There's more than a feeling of this about the elevator in "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit" too.
- Riget has one too.
- Several portals to the Netherworld in Feng Shui take the form of elevators. The Netherworld is just a rather weird Portal Network, though—the Underworld is what you would actually refer to as Hell.
- Sarah Ruhl's modern stage version of the Eurydice myth features characters descending into the Underworld via elevator.
- Disney gave us The Twilight Zone -- Tower of Terror, a semi-nightmarish ride which takes the classic freefall ride, turned it into one of these, and randomized it so that each ride has a different drop pattern. The story of the ride (except for the Tokyo version) is that back in the 1930s five passengers boarded an elevator in the Hollywood Hotel, which is struck by lightning that transports the elevator and parts of the hotel into the Twilight Zone......and it's going to happen again, this time with the ride's current riders.
- In Playland, a theme park in Vancouver, BC, there is a "drop tower" type ride actually called the Hellevator. It's still standing and operating as of 2011, despite an accident in which a girl lost her feet.
- The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland has an example of this, even though you're supposed to think the room is stretching.
- Silent Hill
- Silent Hill 3 has several transitions from Regular Silent Hill to Darkside triggered by riding an elevator. The first of such transitions is an example.
- The first Silent Hill game had an UP Elevator to Hell. It takes you to the fourth floor of a three-floor hospital.
- Don't forget the elevator that takes you to the final level (appropriately named "Nowhere").
- Literally ALL the elevators in the franchise could be considered Hellevators, though they usually lead from lesser hell to a worse one. And Silent Hill 2 even has Stairway to Hell.
- Also in Silent Hill 2, don't forget that one elevator that suddenly stops, followed by the hero's radio making him participate to a game show (the right answers are the code to a box that contains ammo and health bonuses). As if that wasn't unsettling enough, the host promises a very bad punishment if you get the answers wrong.
- One of the PC Gamer CDs came with a Myst-style adventure game, and the elevator passed through hell and ended up in their offices, even lower down.
- The elevator into the Undercity in World of Warcraft is sometimes referred to as this, both due to the Undercity's tomb-like nature and the elevator's tendency to accidentally send players falling to their deaths.
- Some fans have referred to the elevator to Tourian in Metroid, Super Metroid, and Metroid Zero Mission as the "Elevator to Hell".
- In Persona 3, Igor makes his residence in an elevator that's constantly going up, which he claims will eventually end when the main character reaches his "destination". It's actually a rather charming place, and while not a Hellevator in the sense that it goes directly to hell, it finally ends up stopping right as the Main Character realizes he's going to have to kick the bucket in a Heroic Sacrifice.
- In Terraria, the term is used to describe any pit, shaft, or tunnel of any kind that leads directly from the surface (or very close to the surface) straight down to the very lowest level of the game world; Hell itself. No map is really complete without one.
- In The beginning of Cry of Fear, the pedophile rendered the apartments elevator unusable for everyone without a access code. The children had to bear it and take the stairs, where he would wait and pull them into his apartment. When Simon finally finds the code and take the elevator, it goes down. Deep in the earth it stops, forcing Simon to take the stairs even deeper.
- Players in a Bad Moon run in Kingdom of Loathing can use one of these in Hey Deze. Doing so grants additional Monster Level, which makes monsters more difficult but has various benefits.
- Sluggy Freelance once featured an entire house as an elevator to hell... with ghosts in the gas-tank! (Please don't say that elevators don't have gas-tanks—it'll only make it worse...)
- One Schlock Mercenary strip (link) has an escalator to Hell in the background. The same strip actually has a thing called the "Helevator", but it's a Space Elevator between the Moon's Helena Plains and lunar synchronous orbit. In case you science geeks just noticed something odd, understand that 31st century Luna has been spun up for the comfort of its citizens.
- Chainsawsuit has one.
- Referenced in this The Mansion of E strip, though whether the elevator actually goes there is yet to be revealed.
- Several old MGM cartoons. The elevator there tends to be the most popular way of getting to the surface world.
- There's one of these in Robot Hell in Futurama. Also a slide.
- On the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Carnival Knowledge," the Hellevator (called "Elevator to Hell" with no use of weak euphemisms like "heck" and "Hades" or a scenery censor to cover up the last word) was shown as an amusement park ride that Rocko and Heffer try to get on, but are turned away when the carny tells Heffer he's too heavy for the ride.
- Tiny Toon Adventures also has a TV movie, in which a Disneyworld parody has both the Stairway to Heaven and The Bullet Train to Heck.
- Darkwing Duck took one of these to the Bad Place in an episode. Then went back into it, blew off Satan, and took said Hellevator back up to Heaven. Satan followed, protesting.
- in the Looney Tunes short "Satan's Waitin", it was not an elevator that took Sylvester to Hades, but an escalator which seemed to go in an endless downward helix.
- Woody Woodpecker cartoon "Wet Blanket Policy": Buzz Buzzard has just been crushed by a large object, and he arrives at a lobby with elevators to both heaven and hell with Woody as the doorman: one opens and the angelic operator says "Going up" and woody forces it closed, the other opens and the demonic operator says "going down" and woody gives Buzz Buzzard a kick in the rear forcing him into the elevator.
- In Tom and Jerry, Tom goes down the Hellevator. Except it was more of a hole in the ground. After he went through that hole, he fell quite a long fall to hell.
- Filmations Ghostbusters, of all things. Except this elevator—the Skelevator—doesn't go down, it goes up... and up... and up, until it reaches an otherworldly, ghost-filled dimension, the centerpiece of which is an enormous Rube Goldberg Device our heroes use to change into uniform.
- Used in the pilot episode of Cow and Chicken.
- Appears at the end of The Simpsons episode "Simpson Bible Stories" where the Simpson family find themselves in the Apocalypse, and while everyone else goes to heaven, they go to hell. According to Homer, there's a buffet in hell.
- A cat-shaped cave (resembling the Cave of Wonders from Aladdin) actually serves as the entrance to Hell in "Pluto's Judgement Day", during the scene where Pluto is arrested.