Subways are a staple of horror. There are long, dirty, abandoned corridors. There are escalators which invite vertigo and all kinds of fatal accidents. There are the endless tunnels, much like the Haunted Castle
, but with the added charm only a Water Level
with poor lighting and escalating claustrophobia can bring. Full of unexplained echoes, dripping water, clanking metal and chains, and the earthquake-like passing of other (functional) subway trains overhead. There is the subway itself, which can be full of criminals, dangerously overcrowded or ominously empty. And let's not forget the platforms, which can be dimly lit and full of hiding places for all kinds of evil.
Fights that take place here usually have the fight on the platform with only way out cut off and trains constantly passing by waiting to chunk the loser with a gory discretion shot.
Expect the Sinister Subway to be populated by monsters
, alligators, Mutants
, mutant vampire alligators
, and good old Serial Killers
...or, alternativey, miles and miles of darkly lit, empty nothing
Where a Haunted Castle
", the Sinister Subway says "art deco" or even "industrial
", and can set the tone of this horror game or movie with the broken promises of an industrial age, rather than the forgotten splendor of a Victorian past.
Compare Absurdly Spacious Sewer
, Locomotive Level
, Subways Suck
, Afterlife Express
(when it's the train itself that's otherworldly)
See also The London Underground
, New York Subway
, Le Métropolitain
(Paris's transit system) and Moscow Metro
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Anime & Manga
- Vampire Princess Miyu, in one of the first episodes. Even after she finished exorcising the Shinma who'd made his home there, the place remained very, very, VERY creepy. Especially as she only killed the villain but did nothing to ease the suffering of his victims.
- Hayate the Combat Butler features one of these. It ended with a barely-fended-off stampede of rats. Considering it was The Ojou's first attempt at taking a subway, not surprisingly she never tried that again, sticking with nice, safe, normal private jet travel.
- Hellsing: Episode 7 of the original anime takes place in The London Underground, battling vampires and a particularly tenacious priest.
- The opening scene of Blood: The Last Vampire takes place in a subway. Subverted in that the person Saya was chasing wasn't actually a Chiropteran.
- Ga-Rei Zero-: Yomi and Kagura are called out to investigate one of these, where Kagura has her first encounter with Category D's. Yomi warns Kagura that the subway is still active, and suggests she not touch the electrical conducting wire unless she wants a "really bad hair day".
- The Big O: Somewhat subverted, as, while the subways of Paradigm City are not used by the residents for fear that they are haunted, they are actually quite safe, and are used by the eponymous robot and Roger Smith for secret transport, however, below the subway are numerous "facilities" that are so scary, even Roger Smith doesn't venture that deep.
- One episode of Pokémon Best Wishes showed Team Rocket running one of these and having Meowth pretend to be fired from them to lure Ash and friends into their subway to steal their Pokemon.
Films — Live-Action
- Moebius is a Argentinean film that features as protagonist the Buenos Aires subway, the "Subte". An ambitious and peculiar layout that tries to connect all the lines ends in an entangling figure akin to a Möbius Strip that ruptures the continuum of timespace, situating the speeding train in a neverending loop out of reach from our dimension... with thirty passengers on board. Corrupt corporate executives and neglectful government employees are involved in this mess, and hire a topologist to fix the problem. Based on a 1950 SF story, A Subway Named Möbius by A. J. Deutsch.
- Death Line and Creep, both horror movies set in The London Underground.
- Then there's Hobbs Lane Station in the film version of Quatermass And The Pit - not exactly abandoned, just closed for renovation, and the focus of unearthly events.
- The Matrix films. While they aren't quite "abandoned", they certainly have an air of creepiness to them.
- Cloverfield has a very spooky sequence in a subway tunnel, which climaxes rather frighteningly when the cameraman turns on the nightvision.
- An early scene of Jacob's Ladder has the title character lost in a New York subway station. Though he doesn't encounter anything supernatural, the atmosphere is almost unbearably dark and creepy.
- Spider-Man 3 includes a fight scene between Sandman and a venom-suited Spider-Man along the Subway tracks.
- Ghostbusters II has a Sinister Subway sequence with a Ghost Train to boot. And severed heads on pikes.
- Blade: Trinity has a
toupe troupe of newly turned teenage vampires try to turn a local subway station into their own personal buffet. It would have worked if their first victim didn't have silver tipped knives and an energy bow.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II
- Inverted as the Turtles' new subway home is bright and cheery with elegant art deco styling and stained glass accessories.
- It's also played straight as April is attacked by the Foot in the standard "dark and dirty" subway.
- 28 Weeks Later has the heroes flee into The London Underground to escape an attack helicopter and the rampaging zombie horde. Naturally, it's full of bodies and only one person has night vision (on the scope of her rifle).
- The Hungarian film Kontroll. Before the film begins, a Budapest subway official assures the viewers that the subway is, in reality, perfectly safe. This was a condition for granting the filmmakers access to the subway.
- Phantom of the Opera: If we are to believe Robert Englund, if there'd been a sequel to his version, most of it would've been in an abandoned subway station.
- Luc Besson's Subway: Inverted. The subway system is a playing ground for some, and to others it's their home.
- An American Werewolf in London: Lucky Briton Gerald Bringsley gets eaten there by the eponymous werewolf.
- French film Buffet Froid is about a crime in the La Défense RER station in Paris.
- The Midnight Meat Train: Leon Kauffman, a photographer, is attempting to find the "real" New York City. He begins to delve into the city's inner "darkness", and while there, discovers a monstrous serial killer roaming the subways.
- The action of Mimic takes place mostly in a subway system.
- Stag Night, which is pretty much Wrong Turn IN A SUBWAY SYSTEM.
- The Tunnel, Australian based horror movie. Similar again, except that it is based on actual events prior. The government did stop talking about the reservoir mysteriously, and film crews do actually go down there where there is hard-to-find hobos. Then add a superhuman stalker who's afraid of the light and you have one very creepy movie. Which could've as easily occurred with a regular stalker.
- The subways of Daybreakers are infested with mutants.
- The Pendragon Adventure has an abandoned subway station as the location of Second Earth's flume entrance.
- Used in one of the Young Wizards books.
- In Sourcery, the genie's fullomyth (a play on the filofax) includes a map of The London Underground with the hidden stations most people don't know about. It's not shown, but presumably they have at least a passing resemblance to the Sinister Subway stations.
- Neverwhere's London Below, which is essentially where everything that has ever slipped the cracks in the real world goes, has a few scenes with abandoned stations.
- Clive Barker's short story The Midnight Meat Train, and its film adaptation.
- The whole point of Dmitry Glukhovsky's novel Metro 2033, where the Moscow Metro stations became shelters for a few survivors after The End of the World as We Know It, with all manners of nasty stuff lurking in the tunnels. All this makes communication between stations quite risky and outright dangerous, naturally setting up The Quest.
- Parts of Reliquary take place in abandoned subway tunnels (and active ones, like when the creatures massacre the occupants of a train)
- In Rogue Male a fight to the death in a deserted tunnel of the now-disused Aldwych London Underground station ends with the "hideous, because domestic, sound of sizzling."
- 24 positively adored this. Many times they took advantage in the Los Angeles subway's middle-of-the-night 90-minute break to blow it up a few times.
- CSI: New York
- The Doctor Who episode "The Web of Fear" sees an alien menace invade The London Underground. With robot yeti.
- Primeval episode 2. No serial killers though, just some giant spiders and a giant carnivorous Arthropleura.
- A TV Movie called The Undead Express, features a group of vampires in New York who live in an abandoned station.
- The opening titles of the TV movie version of The Sunset Limited are set over an ominous sequence of shots of a scary and apparently deserted (but real) subway station in Harlem.
- The title sequence of The Equalizer also played up the New York subway system for all its crime-ridden menace.
- Starling City in Arrow has an abandoned subway system.
- Act 3, Scene 1 of The Saint of Bleecker Street is set in a dim passageway in a subway station.
- Sailor Moon: Another Story features this very early on in the game. However, it is only populated by a couple of level-boosting enemies/bosses. Also, it's a regular train station.
- Half of the first level in Ghost Sweeper Mikami: Joreishi wa Nice Body, for the Super Famicom.
- Condemned: Criminal Origins has one populated by crazy hobos, emo morlocks, Kayako Saeki lookalikes, and freakish firemen with sledgehammers.
- Deus Ex has an abandoned subway section as well, but it's just full of (otherwise) homeless people - which is Truth in Television, as abandoned sections of the New York subway are often occupied by sizable homeless communities.
- Resident Evil Outbreak: File No. 2.
- Silent Hill
- Silent Hill 1 contains a short one, but had all the aspects, including filthy flowing green water, giant chain fences with large gashes, human shaped lumps in the sewage, and short, squat, brown monsters who made horrifying noises in the European version and creepy frog-like burps in the US version.
- Silent Hill 3: With the abandoned subway station that wasn't there yesterday!
- Silent Hill 4: Includes a maze of half opened and closed subway cars... populated by unkillable ghosts who could phase between cars and caused you damage with mere proximity. Fun times.
- Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne had a lot of these, which were usually the entrances to long, annoying dungeons.
- Hellnight, a Japanese first person video game about being trapped and unarmed in the maze-like Tokyo subway system, along with various other scattered survivors, while being hunted down by a demonic creature. Did I also mention the serial killer running around?
- F.E.A.R. Extraction Point (the Expansion Pack) had "Descent", its longest chapter, set in a Subway system (along with some storm drains).
- Part of Project Origin involves moving through a city's subway system after The Squad's driver is forced to veer into a gap in the street to avoid a massive assault by Replica troops. For the most part the subway system is abandoned, save for the hundreds of Replica troops combing it for you specifically.
- Tomb Raider III had a level set in the Aldwych subway station. The bottom of this page includes a description of it.
- Inverted in Hellgate: London, where The London Underground is the only place NOT infested with demons.
- There are still infested portions outside the stations which, depending on the random load-out of enemies, can be more or less sinister.
- Duke Nukem 3D: The "Rabid Transit" level is set in one.
- Left 4 Dead: The second level of the "No Mercy" campaign takes you through subway tunnels.
- Fallout 3: A great number of quests take place in the Washington D.C./Arlington, VA subway lines. Which are filled with Feral Ghouls (read: slavering zombies that run really fast), mole rats (scarier than they sound) and psychotic, sadistic Raiders.
- Max Payne: After the depressing opening level, we skip forward a few years, as Max is meeting up with a DEA agent in the subway. Things don't go well.
- Shadow Man: One level is through a crashed and bashed subway system in order to get to Jack The Ripper. No, really.
- Turok 3.
- The fourth level of The World is Not Enough for the Nintendo 64 (which, in a subversion, has occasional bystanders and operating trains).
- No More Heroes has Travis fighting Mooks in the stations and trains of an abandoned (but still functional) subway system a few times. He falls asleep on one train and dreams a Shoot 'em Up minigame.
- The second level of Final Fight takes place in a subway. You eventually brawl your way through a moving train before reaching the arena where you fight Sodom.
- One of the stages in Moral Kombat 3 is an abandoned subway station, whose stage Fatality, appropriately enough, involves uppercutting the opponent to the tracks on the other side and watch as the train (which was never there before) tramples them. If you uppercut your opponent during the match, however, they'll go up to the Street stage. The stage was revamped for MK Armageddon: now the trains pass by periodically, and the opponent can be dropped into the tracks mid-round, while the player is treated to a much more realistic and graphic death cinematic. It comes back in Mortal Kombat (9).
- The Call Of Duty: World at War level "Eviction" ends with a semi-lit shootout in a dark, dank Berlin metro tunnel, with occasional pauses in the fighting due to flickering lights. The level ends with the Nazis flooding the entire network in an effort to stop you, drowning scores of their own troops in the process. The multiplayer map "Station" is similar, though brighter due to the fact that the tunnel has partially collapsed.
- The fragmented remains of the Moscow metro system, full of toxic air, radioactive water, monsters of all kinds and some other unpleasant "inhabitants", is the setting of Metro 2033, as per the original novel.
- The Spiderman game for the PS1 had a level where Spidey had to ride a moving train from one station to the other. He gets attacked by an endless horde of lizard people for some reason.
- Future Cop LAPD has a level starting out like this, where you fight mainly mutants. It gets kinda crazy as you go further down...
- An early level in Shadow Hearts: Covenant takes place in abandoned tunnels of the Paris subway, complete with Gothic Horror monsters and enemy Mooks.
- Secret of Mana has a subway station populated with zombies.
- Si N has several levels taking place in a fictional subway system.
- One of the dungeons in MapleStory, populated by blue slimes, snakes, and later, ghosts. Also home to one of the most annoying jumping puzzles ever.
- Castlevania Portraitof Ruin: 13th Street
- New Praetoria maps for the Going Rogue upgrade to City of Heroes have large underground subway tunnels filled with the usual roving gangs of bad guys.
- One of the missions in Alpha Protocol involves Mike fighting/sneaking through the Taipei subway system while Chinese Secret Police agents try to stop him, in order to get information on the assassination plot. It eventually turns out that the CSP agents are actually working for a double agent who is working with the Taiwainese government to prevent the same assassination, but are convinced that Mike is the killer.
- The first mission of Soldier of Fortune is in the New York subway. Mission 6 also has a subway tunnel with electrified rails.
- The Washington DC subways are the location of the first mission in Syphon Filter 1 and the last mission in Syphon Filter 3. The fictional town of Carthage in The Omega Strain also has a subway.
- The first dungeon in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter takes place in a network of subway tunnels.
- In Batman: Arkham City, Batman has to go through one in order to find Wonder City.
- Persona has one as one of the early dungeons. And Yog-Sothoth is the boss fight!
- Part of Broken Sword 2 takes place in the (real life) abandoned British Museum tube station.
- The fourth level of Descent 3 has you dodging trains in the futuristic subways of Seoul, Korea.
- On his way to fight the "Big Bad", the protagonist of "Chaos;Head" goes through this. He hallucinates, thinking that there were enemies blocking his path, which makes the trek through the subway scarier. The music doesn't help to alleviate the suspense.
- In "G-Senjou no Maou", one of the endings features this as a "Final Battle" stage.
- In episode 3 of The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, Jane has a terrifying experience with the bus version. The bus terminal is very creepy, and she's actually at the bus stop in the middle of nowhere. It's late at night and she lost her mobile, so she can't contact anybody. Also the person supposed to pick her up didn't show. The video description reveals that they mixed up the times. She freaked out, but survived and was fine.
- The Disney cartoon American Dragon Jake Long has the Huntsmaster's lair like this.
- In the episode "Knock Knock", The Real Ghostbusters and the entire Big Applesauce have to contend with subway trains and graffiti turned into monsters. On one occasion the busters board a subway car, the lights go out, and when they go on again they're surrounded by undead skeletal passengers.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King": Gotham citizens first laugh at Mayor Hill when the ceremonial first train to Gotham Central Station doesn't arrive when he announces it. Then they hear Fugate's voice asking them to "clear the platform", and the lights of two trains at one appear. Everyone panics.
- Aldwych station and the closed Charing Cross Jubilee line platforms are still relatively intact and are rented out for filming every now and then. Wikipedia has a list of similarly abandoned stations.
- Lower Bay station in Toronto sits empty in its Sinister Subway aura 90% of the time...except when it's being used for filming (it even has its own collection of MTA signs to make the station look like New York) or being turned into a Genre Savvy piece of installation art.
- The Berlin U- and S-Bahn tunnels in the latter stages of the battle for Berlin in WWII. Already seeing widespread use as impromptu shelters and field hospitals, they were also the scene of several battles and retreating SS fanatics blew one of the river tunnels to flood the network. This wasn't as effective as hoped, since it only filled some tunnels to a depth of 3-4 ft. Unfortunately one of these was an unused siding holding at least 200 incapacitated wounded at ground level...
- Berlin is this trope's codifier, if not even Trope Namer. Berlin gave birth to the word Geisterbahnhof after all, meaning "ghost station" or "haunted station". When the Berlin Wall was erected, the GDR closed East Berlin subway stations at lines running from the West through the East back into West (modern-day U6, U8 and the North-South S-Bahn) and secured them with all handy technological and of course personell measures (read: armed guards) to combat any remote possibility for republic flight. When a subway train from the West slowed down at said stations, passengers could pick up the silhouettes of the armed guards in these darkened closed station, looking like ghost, hence the name. Of course, all said stations were renovated and reopened after Hole in Flag made their raison d'ętre obsolete.
- Paris has the Haxo subway station, built initially in the 1920s as a connection between lines 3-bis and 7-bis, but later abandoned on account of being considered superfluous. Not so sinister, as special trains packed with enthusiasts stop there every now and then.
- Stockholm, meanwhile, has the Kymlinge station, which was never opened, connected with the legend of the Silverpilen ghost train, a subway train meant for testing that was left unpainted and occasionally used as backup: according to legend, Silverpilen would stop at the Kymlinge station to pick up the souls of the dead, and if a living person boarded the train, he would disappear forever or get off several years afterwards.
- In Singapore, one station on the North-East Line, Woodleigh, was built and completed in the early 2000s but never opened due to lack of much commercial or residential developments nearby (another station that was left unopened, Buangkok (not to be confused with Bangkok), created much controversy and was finally opened a few years later). The kicker? The station is built under a former cemetery. Another station on the still-under-construction portion of the Circle Line, Bukit Brown, is being deliberately left half-finished (and obviously will not be opened), with just ventilation shafts marking the location of the station on the surface. The station is built as a provision for a future residential town that will be built in the area. And the kicker here? That area is yet another cemetery that has not been cleared or exhumed yet.
- Rochester, New York has one, which is surprising given the city's small size. The subway opened in 1927 but was plagued by inadequate resources and the growth of the automobile industry. It was closed after World War II but its wonderfully creepy ambiance (complete with an underground pool and pitch-black passages with no natural light) has made it a favorite of urban explorers and photographers. It's also homeless central.
- The Belgian city of Charleroi had its own subway system built despite being way too small (pop. around 400.000 and dropping) to ever make running it remotely profitable. A result of insane Belgian politics allocating equal amounts of money to infrastructural projects on both sides of the language border (the north built a port that still serves its purpose). The original plans included 8 metro lines, only 3 were built, and one of those was never used despite being fully completed. As a result, some tunnels and stations have been decaying over the past 25 years without ever having seen any train passing, although they are fully operational, including working signage and, occasionally, even the escalators. Unsettling.
- Madrid Metro has the Chamberi station, that was closed in 1966 as it was too close to other two of the same line. During some decades, as trains slowed down when crossing it, it was possible to see from them 60's vintage stuff (posters, turnstiles, etc). It was re-opened in 2008 as a museum.
- A better example, however, would be the Arroyo del Fresnonote station. When the line it belongs to was prolongated it was left without being inaugurated as there were very few people living around the station and continues so.