The Cultural Gutter

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Life is Better Underground

Robin Bougie
Posted December 15, 2005

My obsession with below-ground parking lotsSince the first Cro-Magnon man set foot in the limestone caves of Lascaux, we have has a bittersweet relationship with cool, dank places. They provided mankind with much needed shelter from the elements, yet in their dark recesses they also supplied material for our nightmares — whether they materialised as a flesh-ripping cave bear or a knife-wielding street thug jumping out as you fumble with your keys. Thus the instinctive and primal fear that grips everyone of us anytime we venture into the bowels of our urban sprawl: underground parking lots.

Maybe my obsession with movies featuring underground parking lot scenes is an odd one, but it’s certainly no stranger than countless cine-philes renting/buying various unwatchable pieces of drek simply because the bimbo on the cover has “awesome tits.” In the summer of 1987 when I was a young teen in Calgary Alberta, I would ride my BMX bike down those foreboding impersonal grey declines into the lots under the office towers downtown. It was cool, quiet and eerie, like a huge concrete crypt full of massive smooth pillars lit by flickering blue fluorescent lamps.

I guess admitting that I could spend an afternoon going from one of these to another is basically a confession that I didn’t have many friends and that I was a rather pathetic creepy individual, but I like to think that it had more to do with man’s primal connection to the places we feel safe in and yet scared of.

My interest is always piqued when a movie uses an underground parking lot as a key location, and I’ve been known to go on autopilot with an erection poking out from under my pants, and rapidly hump the leg of the person next to me. This is probably why I still don’t have many friends and am considered a rather pathetic, creepy individual. Here is a short list of some of my favorite underground parking lot scenes:

MANHUNTER (1986) Directed by Michael Mann
The fantastic prequel (screw HANNIBAL, this is the real deal) to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS where once again, an FBI agent (WIlliam Peterson) relies on a caged Dr. Lector (Brian Cox) to supply him with clues as to how to catch a wily insane murderer. The murderer in question this time is Francis Dollarhyde aka The Red Dragon (expertly portrayed by Tom Noonan) who gets pissed off by a tabloid reporter named Freddy Lounds who writes that he feels The Red Dragon may be impotent.

After kidnapping, torturing, and bringing Lounds back to the lot that he was snatched from, Dollarhyde ties him to a wheelchair, sets him ablaze, and sends him careening down a long cement ramp to collide with the camera filming the scene. Fucking awesome atmosphere, and an excellent and innovative use of the underground parking lot location.

RUMBLE IN THE BRONX (1995) Directed by Stanley Tong
Jackie Chan plays a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant visiting New York (which is actually filmed in Vancouver) helping to protect his uncle’s grocery store from a herd of ruthless multicultural ruffians.

In the scene in question, the gang of young kung-fu punks chase Jackie into a underground parking lot — kicking, punching, and avoiding vehicles as they do battle. They eventually end up on the open air roof of the complex where Jackie hides in the back of a truck packed full of rubber balls. The punks discover him and send the truck crashing off the four story parkade into the middle of the street below, right in front of The Cambie — a local bar that has a really yummy “burger and a brew” deal for a mere $5. Check it out next time you’re in Vancouver.

HIGHLANDER (1986) Directed by Russel Mulcahy
A 16th century Scottish immortal warrior battles a bunch of other dudes who can’t die through the centuries, until the sword-swingin’ feud finds it’s way to modern day 1980s Manhattan. Despite the fact that this is a somewhat overrated cult favorite that spawned two dreadful sequels and a shitty-ass TV series, it has a really fine parking lot scene.

In the underground vehicle housing of Madison Square gardens, which is housing a WWF match, Christopher Lambert does battle amongst some amazingly dramatic blue lighting and water that rains down on the swordsmen after they rupture a ceiling water main. Cars and concrete pillars get severe sword-damage, and I watched the entire sequence with a big stupid grin on my face.
undergroundBIG.jpg
THE TERMINATOR (1984) Directed by James Cameron
Michael Biehn as “Reese” comes back through time to protect Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) from Arnold in his role as a unfeeling, unrelenting cyborg assassin. The couple hotwire a car and take a much needed rest in the tranquility of a quiet U.G. lot, where Reese imparts his woeful tale of a future gone mad. But watch out you kooky kids! That’s a Terminator after you! “He does not feel pity, he does not feel remorse, and he will not stop, ever, until you are dead!”.

Sure as shit, he finds their stupid asses and a chilling underground chase ensues full of pulse pounding action and mayhem culminating in a powerful crash against a very hard concrete wall. That put an end to their bellyaching, it sure did!

BURNING AMBITION (1989) Directed by Frankie Chan
Frankie’s unofficial remake of the Kinji Fukasaku’s SHOGUN’S SAMURAI (1978) has action that comes hard and fast via an assload of typical ‘80s Hong Kong cinema stuntwork set pieces, complete with a gruelling parking garage fight.

Yukari Oshima and Kara Hui are forced to fend off a group of thugs who bust out a bunch of car windshields, presenting quite a conundrum as the ladies are barefoot and must fight on the broken glass. But Yukari somehow manages to whip a bunch of ass using a baseball bat, and delivers plenty of hard hits and some jaw dropping acrobatic movies including a mid-air hurricanarana. Hui, not to be outdone, manages some impressive kicks while doing a handstand! A great scene in a very cool looking parking garage.

Comments

3 Responses to “Life is Better Underground”

  1. gruntinMcBockfluff
    December 15th, 2005 @ 9:35 pm

    groovvy. I too am sad and pathetic and will now torrent Burning Ambition cause I love that shit too. I like going into offices that I don’t work at.

  2. GG
    December 30th, 2005 @ 3:39 am

    I’m pretty sure a John Woo movie has an action scene start in an underground parking lot-probably Bullet in the Head. Also, there’s a 1950’s remake of M that has a very nice finale set in an underground parking lot.

  3. Pete
    March 8th, 2006 @ 8:24 am

    Have you seen Day of The Dead yet, Robin? I really liked the underground carpark scene in that film, where Dennis Hopper’s character meets his grisly demise.
    Now I come to think about it, I’m struggling to recall a zombie movie that doesn’t feature an underground carpark – or, at the very least, a man-made underground space – in one or more significant scenes.
    It’s interesting to think that many film directors have linked the primal instinct for survival with that of being trapped underground…

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