Digging Through Horror on the London Underground

Digging Through Horror on the London Underground

Digging Through Horror on the London Underground

In a companion piece to her absorbing exploration of The Thames and the horror film, Lauren Jane Barnett essays how London and its underground system are deeply intertwined, in life and cinema, from Quatermass and the Pit to Death Line and beyond...

The tunnels of the oldest underground system in the world unfurl beneath London. The vast tube network is an essential to city life, moving millions every day. Strangers cram together on platforms and in train cars, speeding through the ground in what seems both a miraculous feat and a perfectly normal commute. The tube network is all about connections but lengthy meditation on this underground system can turn the familiar transport into an eerie danger. The Victorian tunnels, even near the surface, are ghosts of the past, while a trip down to the newer Jubilee Line takes one into bowels of Earth. In the trapped heat of the summer, it can feel like a descent into hell. Though familiar, the dark tunnels and screech of the train can still send shivers down one’s spine.

London and its underground system are deeply intertwined, in life and in cinema. Charlotte Brunsdon argued the underground is akin to film, emphasising the similarities in both, including the stark alternation between light and shadow, the compression of space, and the distortion of time.[1] Though she noted that other films make effective use of the space, ‘the underground is recruited to the horror genre in a way that would support the suggestion that London, as a cinematic city, may be significantly shaped by this genre’.[2] Brunsdon’s analysis recognises the importance of the horror genre to the cinematic depiction of London, and goes further to suggest the Underground as a location reveals this relationship.

This may be why film critics and historians have consistently recognised the Underground as a visually and metaphorically rich location for horror. Works including David Pirie’s A Heritage of Horror (1973), David Pike’s ‘London on Film and Underground’ (2013) and as Peter Hutching’s ‘Horror London’ essay all acknowledge the underground as a significant space for British horror cinema.[3] One of the themes of their analysis has been the London Underground is a place of duality and conflict.

As mentioned above, Brunsdon characterises the underground as a space of alternating and dark, highlighting the dual extremes of the space. Dark and light can be knowledge and ignorance, good and evil, and also symbolically represent the passing of time through the flickering inside the cars. Hutchings argues that the clash between historic and modern in the Tube is the defining feature of horror films, again drawing on the duality of the space. For Hutchings, the duality of the underground established a characteristically Gothic conflict in the clash of past and present.[4] This duality, in turn, he suggested, shaped London horror. Pike offers a basis of support to this idea when he argued that the London Underground as an archetypical underground (more so than other country’s systems) because it was the first such transport and, equally, because it is intimately tied to the development and history of London.[5]

Taking duality in a different direction, Pike argues, in explaining the symbolic nature of the London underground on film, that the contradiction of the Tube is an essential part of its filmic identity. He explains: ‘In the science fictional Underground, the space is composed of equal parts of horror and security, figuring in different ways the elemental conflicts dear to the popular genre as unresolved tensions in Britain’s social identity.’[6] Pike focuses on the duality of safety and insecurity that co-exist on the underground, which he perceives as a consistent conflict across films using the London Underground. As a horrific space, then, the underground is defined by its relationship to London’s history, but even more importantly that history makes the underground a space of dichotomy: representing both London’s past and its progress.

I do not wish to insist upon one duality over another, but rather build upon this essential importance of dualism to argue that the underground in horror film is figured as a space of transformation, in part due to these dichotomies. In horror films, the space transforms its character through two avenues of experience. First, in the clash between past and present, which is often presented in a return of the repressed narrative. Secondly, transformation can occur in the journey through the underground, where the underground becomes a labyrinth, into which the characters must delve deeper in order to confront the good and evil within themselves. In both avenues the various dualities of the underground are part of the transformation. But, ultimately, the underground is dominated by the tension between safety and danger.

The clash of past and present as a catalyst for the transformation narrative is apparent in the first horror film to use the London Underground: Roy Ward Baker’s Quatermass and the Pit (1967). This was the third in Hammer’s Quatermass trilogy, based on a BBC television serial of the same name. In the TV version of Quatermass and the Pit, the action takes place on a construction site, but the film moved the narrative underground to the fictional Hobbs End station. The change was in tune with the times, as when the film was released the London Underground was growing to include the Victoria Line.

In the film, a crew expanding the underground comes across mysterious object, which the military believes is an unexploded bomb. However, Professor Quatermass (Andrew Keir) discovers it is an ancient Martian spaceship which contains a dark secret about humanity’s evolution. In an quintessence of the past and present colliding, new expansion of the Tube literally and figuratively dug up the past. Here, as in other horror films set on the underground, digging deep leads to a confrontation with the past which mirrors psychiatrist Sigmund Freud’s notion of the return of the repressed. The return of the repressed refers to the emergence of an ignored past into the present, the confrontation of which usually wreaks havoc on the present as it is forced to accept the reality of this long-denied past.[7]

In Quatermass and the Pit the buried past, represented by the ship, has been eking into the contemporary ‘present’ for centuries. Quatermass’ research ties the spacecraft to stories of hauntings and demonic interference on the site as far back as the Middle Ages. Even the origin of the station’s name, ‘Hobbs End’ (‘Hob’ as a name for the devil), refers to the spiritual interference of the ship on the neighbouring community. The dormant and repressed past (the ship and its energy) in this way haunts the city of London for centuries creating a mythical past for the area.

James Rose argued of Quatermass and the Pit that this return of the past is explicitly Gothic: ‘In this respect, the alien space ship is no different to the Gothic trope of the past returning to haunt the present, bringing with it a terrifying revelation of our ancestry whilst simultaneously acting as a precursor image to our possible destruction’.[8] The combination of the past haunting the present with the portent of doom has its roots in the Gothic, but Quatermass and the Pit updates the tradition.

Rather than generically representing the past intruding on the present, the spacecraft is symbolically bound up in the recent trauma of WWII. The on-going insistence by Colonel Breen – and, later, the government – that the spacecraft is either a Nazi bomb or propaganda device keeps the Nazis present throughout the discourse of the film. The underground location also recalls the Second World War’s use of stations as bomb shelters. This connection is made explicit at the end of the film when a crowd of journalists crush a cameraman on the platform in a rush to escape the awakened ship. The scene vividly recalls the tragic events of March 3, 1945 when a panic spread through Bethnal Green tube station as the crowd entered the shelter during an air raid. As a result, 173 people were crushed.[9] By mirroring the disaster the film forces the audience to remember the recent tragedy and connects the ship’s power with the blitz.

Though the spaceship is revealed not to have any Nazi ties, the Martians’ interference in the history of Britain is comparable to the Nazi’s goal of creating an Arian super race. Through psychic flashes, Quatermass discovers that the Martians came to earth centuries earlier in the hopes of creating an ethnically pure, stronger race. Quatermass’ visions are Martian memories of a violent war, also visually reminiscent of military parades and battles of WWII. The war resulted in a group of Martians using Britain as a petri dish in which to alter evolution and produce an alpha-race of Martian-human hybrids. Something went wrong and the vessel crashed, allowing the British to evolve independently for centuries, but Quatermass warns that this war, and the Martian drive for genetic purity, still dwell within British DNA.

 In the final scenes of the film, the repressed hurls into the present when a Martian entity breaks free of the ship and bursts from the Underground. This moment is evocative of the Blitz destroying buildings in central London, bringing another past into the present in the minds of the viewers. Once above ground the Martian entity releases a form of mind control on the population so that they seek and attack anyone who is genetically different. These outliers would be identified by their immunity to mind manipulation rather than of a specific race or religion, but the scenes of attack evoke the Germans rounding up the Jews in Europe. This violent return of the repressed has the Gothic element of haunting in the spectral figure of the Martian, but it calls on more modern fear by linking the alien with the recent events of the war.

Within this return of the repressed narrative comes multiple confrontations of past and present underground, during the course of which Quatermass transforms, as does his and our understanding of humanity. On the station platform Quatermass makes several attempts to connect with the ship. First, he discovers the bodies of two insectoid Martians inside the ship, and later he melds his mind with the ship so he can have the psychic visions of the Martian past. These encounters lead Quatermass to discover that he, and all of the UK, are descendent from Martians.

This knowledge also fundamentally changes Quatermass, as evidenced at the climax of the film, when the Martian energy exerts its mind control. Normal people suddenly become like a deadly hive mind. Quatermass similarly finds himself under Martian control and begins to attack his non-hypnotised colleague Dr Roney (James Donald). Roney fights back and pleads with Quatermass: ‘Think man! Think! Use your brain; your memory’.[10] As a result, Quatermass remembers his discovery about the ship and breaks free of control. His awareness of his true Martian past allows him to overcome his genetic disposition to the hypnosis, ultimately transforming him from a mindless drone to a hero.

The clash of past and present and the changes in Quatermass and the rest of London all serve, as Pike argued above, to address ‘unresolved tensions in Britain’s social identity’.[11] For a film made in 1967 the prevalence of WWII imagery may feel dated, however the mob violence of the film was equally influenced by contemporary events. The original television script responded to the Nottingham and Notting Hill riots of the early 1960s.[12] The scenes at the end of the film where Londoners turn against each other parallel the street riots, and in connecting these riots and the Nazi/Arian agenda, the riots are presented as flawed and inhumane.

Mark Fisher argued in The Weird and the Eerie that Quatermass and the Pit reflected broad social concerns associated with the failure of promise that the sixties brought with it. He called the series: ‘a dark parable about the thanatropic drives which youth messianism could nurture’.[13] This opens the film to consideration of a different kind of clash between the old and the new: the threat of youth rebellion. In this film, though there are certain authority figures who appear failingly single-minded, the overall tone is conservative, with change and progress representing a threat.

We must recall that the ship, and the violence and memories that came with it, were dug up during an act of progress (i.e., the expansion of the underground). In digging up the forgotten ship, the violence of the Martian war continued, thousands of years later, in London. Progress in this instance, brought with it dangers of the past just in a new format. In many ways Quatermass and the Pit is fearful of progress happening too fast and the young are presented as particularly vulnerable. We see this in the young, liberated, female character of Barbara (Barbara Shelley).

Barbara, a modern sixties woman, is helpful in the film, but only to a certain extent. When Quatermass needs a mind to meld with the spaceship and release visions, he tries his machine on Barbara first, but it fails. When Quatermass, an older male professor, takes her place he is able to connect with the ship with minimal harm to himself. He later explains that Barbara failed because she has a weaker mind. When the MPs are dubious of Quatermass’ findings, Barbara tries to corroborate his story, insisting that she witnessed the spacecraft cause objects to float. While the MP is critical of Quatermass, he does not consider Barbara seriously at all, rolling his eyes and calling her experience ‘hallucinations’, with clearly sexist implications.

The film’s representation of Barbara reveals a hesitancy in response to social change of the time in which educated and liberated women were taking on new roles. Rather than allow Barbara to hold her own or even to shine as a heroine, she is diminished in a move that favours conservative beliefs in establishment figures. Knowledge and the collision of the past and present in this film produces transformation and change, but that change is always looking to the past, as represented by Martians and by Quatermass. Transformation here is conservative and the conflict between ancient and modern, safety and danger in the space of the underground reinforce the social structure of Britain rather than pushing against it.

Quatermass and the Pit was the first in a series of underground-set horror films to use the return of the repressed theme to address British social and class divisions. Recently, social and film historian Linnie Blake argued that the ancient dragon released from the underground in the Reign of Fire (2002) represented Britain’s Imperial past. She goes on to argue that that the film used the release of the dragon in Tottenham Court Station to address the tensions that still exist in global London with relation to former Imperial rivals, including France.[14]

However, the most potent use of the underground as a location of duality and transformation to critique social structures occurs in the two horror films which are set predominantly on the underground: Gary Sherman’s 1972 Death Line and Christopher Smith’s 2004 Creep. Both films highlight the duality of the underground by turning the space into a home and a hunting ground. This allows for a physical being to represent the past and to interject himself into contemporary London on the station platforms. In both films a notable transformation happens before the film begins; that is the transformation of a person into the sub-human creature who haunts the tube lines.

In Death Line, the character living in the disused British Museum station is known in the credits only as “Man”. At the start of the film he lives with his wife (“Woman”) in a cave-like dwelling carved out of the abandoned station. They hunt wayward commuters as their sole source of food. While investigating one such victim, Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasance) discovers that decades earlier, while digging the tunnels around the station, a cave-in trapped several of the workers expanding the tube line. The workers were left for dead when they were considered too expensive to recover by the company who hired them. The audience learns before the inspector that in the intervening 70 years, the workers survived in the confines of the underground, with Man and Woman as their final descendants.

One is inclined toward sympathy for Man and Woman. They live a primitive life in their underground cavern only venturing into neighbouring Russell Square station for a human meal. However, when Woman dies, Man ventures out more often to search for a mate, ultimately kidnapping compassionate London student, Patricia (Sharon Gurney). In English Gothic, Johnathan Rigby asserts that Man’s ‘vengeful forays onto the platform embody the “return of the repressed” theme in its purest form’.[15] Man, for Rigby, represents the poor treatment of Victorian workers, returning to the present to exact revenge by killing and eating the modern middle and upper classes. In this way Man is established as a victim of his circumstance.

Yet, such a description oversimplifies the complex character work set up by the film. Man is not purely a demon of the past impinging on the present, but an ambiguous, if not sympathetic, character. From the start, the audience is encouraged to sympathise with Man, beginning with an early scene exploring his home. Within the muddy and slick walls of Man’s cave we find his ailing, pregnant wife. The primitive environment is homely but made eerie by the presence of a victim’s slumping body. We then watch as Man severs his victim’s throat and drain the blood. This appalling act is immediately mollified when Man brings the bowl of blood to his prostrate wife, hoping to revive her. While we are horrified at the act of violence there is also an immediate sense of sympathy for Man who is doing all he can to save his wife and future child. Unfortunately, the blood does not help, and Woman dies. We watch Man wail over her body, fortifying the audience’s sympathy. This initial setup ensures that while Man attacks other people on the platform, killing at least two others, he is never framed as a purely evil character.

The ambiguity of Man is further bolstered throughout the film by contrasts made himself and the first victim, James Manfred, OBE.[16] Even their names – Man and Manfred – encourage comparison. There is a clear class distinction between the two, which the film emphasises. Manfred’s OBE being is constantly referenced about by Calhoun so there is never any question of the man’s social status, particularly when compared to Man’s working-class origins and impoverished lifestyle. Manfred’s social status lends him gravitas in the world above ground, as Calhoun emphatically declares: “Manfred isn’t just a member of the public, shoved away in a file somewhere.”[17] This social distinction lends a sense of irony and satisfaction to the blood-drinking scene. As Rose points out in Beyond Hammer, because Man and Woman are ignored members of working-class society, when Woman drinks Manfred’s blood, we are watching the lower classes consume the upper.[18]

This is not an entirely unpleasant idea: there is a longstanding history of pleasure at the idea of starving lower classes eating the wealthy going back to the French Revolution. Jean Jacques Rousseau famously said, ‘When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich’.[19] Though Rousseau was speaking metaphorically, the idea remains an appealing one, and ‘Eat the Rich’ is the title of various books on economics, a Motörhead song (1987), an Aerosmith song (1993) and a 1987 black comedy film.[20]

While socially elevated, Manfred is consistently presented as more morally dubious than Man. In the opening scenes, the camera follows Manfred as he walks through the bright lights of Soho sex shops. By his looks and attitude, we can tell he moves in exclusive circles, but seeing him among the ads for dirty movies sullies his standing as a gentleman. Unable to find what he wanted above ground, Manfred attempts to solicit a woman on the platform of Russell Square tube station. When she refuses, he becomes aggressive and she kicks him before taking his money and escaping on the next train. Seeing his behaviour, it is difficult to whole-heartedly feel bad when Manfred is, in turn, attacked.

The most direct comparison between Man and Manfred comes when Detective Calhoun searches Manfred’s home and discovers a hidden room painted in crimson with a television displaying a live feed of the bedroom. This red room, as Rose points out, visually recalls underground cavern in which Man lives, allowing for comparison between the OBE and the cannibal on a human and class level.[21] Manfred’s hidden red room is used for sexual pleasure, where he can watch whatever is happening in the bedroom, if not engage in other activities. In the room, Manfred holds the position of power, metaphorically consuming whomever he invites to the bedroom for sexual gratification. The beginning of the film suggests these would be prostitutes, or working-class women Manfred feels he can buy. By contrast, in Man’s lair Manfred is the one being consumed. On the surface it is a direct reversal: the red room shows the rich consuming the poor and in Man’s lair we see the poor consuming the rich.

Upon further consideration, the dynamic is more complex. Manfred’s red room has been set up as a straightforward upper-class male taking gratification from (most likely) hired working-class females. This is class-based power. Man, on the other hand, consumes indiscriminately. The first victim the audience witnesses is the OBE, however, when the case comes to Calhoun, we learn that there are two further missing persons at Russell Square Tube: Panofsky, a grocer, and Bernard Cohen. The last names add to the variety of cultural and class backgrounds to Man’s victims. Man, unlike Manfred, is indiscriminate in his consumption, and though neither has a moral high ground, this sense of fairness is arguably the lesser of two evils.[22]

Man’s ambiguity is the subject of research by Rose, Rigby, and others but I wish to take this analysis further and argue that Man’s conflicting character as both sympathetic and monstrous is a product of living on the Underground. To best illustrate this relationship between environment and character, it is helpful to consider Man in comparison with his counterpart, Craig (Sean Harris), from Creep. Written thirty years later and influenced by Death Line, Creep’s Tube-dwelling Craig is a noticeably harsher and less humane character than Man. He is presented as predominantly monstrous, with the rare glimpses into his past failing to offer the sympathy Man elicits in Death Line.

Craig and Man’s moments of speech reveal the basic difference between the two characters in terms of their humanity. We first experience recognisable speech from Craig when he is overtaken by Kate and sewer worker, George (Vas Blackwood). As George punches Craig, Kate (Franka Potente) warns George to step back so she can kill Craig with a crowbar. Craig looks up at her and begs: ‘Please, don’t kill me, I’ll do anything you want’, mimicking the pleas heard earlier in the film by one of Craig’s victims, Mandy (Kelly Scott). Kate hesitates at Craig’s seeming vulnerability until he ends his speech the same way Mandy did: calling for her boyfriend, Jimmy. Kate, having met Mandy and Jimmy, realises that Craig is imitating Mandy’s cries, rather than feeling any genuine emotions. Craig ultimately escapes, but Kate, and the audience, now realise that there is no glimmer of humanity in him.

In contrast to Craig, Man’s first words in Death Line are less eloquent but filled with a variety of emotions. Man, trying to replace his lost wife, kidnaps Patricia and takes her to his lair. When she flees, Man corners her and, pleads with her using the only words he knows from a life on the London Underground: “Mind the Doors”. At first Man is clearly begging, trying to compel Patricia as much through his face as his voice but as she resists, his emotions alter into desperation, frustration, and ultimately anger.[23] Eventually Man’s emotions boil over and when his words fail, he tries to overpower Patricia. Her boyfriend, Alex (David Ladd), comes to her rescue, badly beating Man, who puts up no fight. In both his pleas to Patricia and his foetal position as Alex beats him, we see true vulnerability in Man.

Both Craig and Man have killed people, and as an audience we do not want anyone to remain behind with them. Still, within their films, Man is depicted with a greater sense of compassion and humanity. Even within their violent actions, Man is distinct from Craig because his violence is not gratuitous. Man hunts for sustenance and later to replace his dead wife, both actions which are inspired by survival. In contrast, Craig’s victims appear to be chosen solely for his own violent desires. In one harrowing scene we watch him go through a pantomime of preparing for surgery before violating a woman with a surgical saw. Craig’s jutting motions, noises, and the angle of the scene demonstrates his sexual satisfaction in performing the brutal act and conjures up images of rape.

An examination of Man and Craig’s homes underground suggests the vital difference in their humanity is related to their respective environments. Both were born and raised in the hidden tunnels of the Underground, and therefore are necessarily separated from humanity. However, their two homes in the Underground share nothing else in common. Craig’s location is sterile and closer to a hospital than a home. As an adult, Craig sleeps in the station house just off a disused platform, but a labelled cradle in “Surgery Suite 12” reveals that he was born and spent his foundational years in an underground surgery. The room is awash with jaundiced yellow lighting, the walls are lined with foetuses and babies in jars. The adjoining room has the surgical bed, with now-grimy white walls and a white tile floor. These elements suggest how unnatural the space is for a child to live.

 Man’s lair, on the other hand, feels like a primitive home reminiscent of cave dwellings. Amid the clay walls and dirt floors are discreet rooms, a bed, and a separate space to store their food/victims. There is a naturalness to this cave space which Perks describes as ‘womb-like’, with its warm colouring, a long tunnel leading out of it like an umbilical cord, and locus for generations to develop.[24] When we see Woman pregnant in this cavern at the start of the film, their home is further defined as a family space. Man is a more human character than Craig and comes from a (slightly) more human space.

To understand the significance of this dichotomy, we need to consider these respective ‘homes’ in the context of cultural critic Barbara Creed’s analysis of the womb in horror films. Creed argues in The Monstrous Feminine that the womb-spaces – in film, a dark, dank, enclosed space accessed through a series of tunnels mirroring the fallopian tubes and birth canal – are the spaces where horror gestates or are presented as horrific in and of themselves.[25] Drawing on Julia Kristeva’s notion of the ‘abject’, Creed argued that science-fiction horror presents the woman’s womb as horrific, and uses this association to further entrench the belief in ‘the monstrous feminine’ or the abjection of the female and her body.[26] This abject is a combination of repulsion and anxiety, a fear about the way in which a female body regularly expounds its limits, particularly through menstruation or birth.

Though she does not directly discuss the film, in Quatermass and the Pit we saw a prototypical example of Creed’s argument. Digging to expand the underground reveals beneath the tile of the Hobbs End platform the slick flesh-toned layers of clay which makes up the womb-like space in which the alien craft resides. The shots of wet mud in rich colours, slick surface area, and the enclosed space mark the underground area as womb-like in much the same way Creed outlined the physicality of the womb in Alien.[27] While in Alien the womb space contains literal eggs of the alien, the spacecraft uncovered in the underground serves as a kind of foetus or egg within the Underground womb. It is also shell containing lives within: Quatermass uncovers the dead bodies of Martians inside along with a Martian energy which will later control the population.

The presence of the craft both adds to the sense of womb space as the heart of horror. First, we experience horror in the knowledge that aliens once visited earth and altered the intelligence and physical makeup of humanity, giving birth to a new human with potential for evil. Second, later in the film the maleficent apparition burst forward from the womb of the underground in order to control the minds of humanity for evil ends. This makes use of birthing and womb imagery Creed entangles with the female abject. Over the course of the film, Creed’s argument is broadly supported: the underground is a womb-like space and portrayed in direct association with horror, both housing and birthing it.

In both Death Line and Creep, the underground makes use of the horrific womb imagery. Death Line has already been linked to Barbara Creed’s notion of the abject womb by Marcelle Perks, who insisted: ‘Death Line is a particularly rich repository of these abject images’.[28] While I agree that both Death Line and Creep make use of this abject imagery, they do so in a way that critiques the notion of a ‘monstrous womb’, suggesting instead that the womb is not monstrous but rather the attempt to recreate the womb is. The London Underground is a man-made intervention into nature and as such can never become a womb space. In these films there is an attempt by both Man and Craig to turn this inhabitable space into a womb, but it is never realised. Thus, the underground is presented as a mis-used womb space, and the horror of the creatures living within it, at least in part, comes from the failing of the Tube’s twisted tunnels to recreate an adequate womb. To unpack this idea, we must first compare the two different representations of the underground in Creep and Death Line.

Creep uses the old tunnels of Aldwych station as they exist today: disused but identifiable by the clean tiles that cover the walls, smooth metal track, and cement archways. It is a space man has taken over and contained, holding back nature’s mud, dirt, and water. This containment extends in extremis to the Surgery Suite, with its hospital-white palate coating the floors, walls and ceilings of an area once intended to be hygienic. The space is barren. Devoid of colour and personality, it is also missing any touch of the natural in the sense of nature.

When discussing the womb in horror films, Creed references the image of the womb as a source of abjection as described by Kristeva. In Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. For Kristeva, the abject defies the limits that define the singular individual. [29]  The womb threatens our individuality because it was the space where we were once inside the mother, and hence a part of her. Even more abject, the womb is the space in which we move from being part of the mother to being born into our separate self, as Creed vividly described ‘bringing with it traces of contamination – blood, afterbirth, faeces’.[30] The womb’s abject qualities are part of what naturally define it, but in Creep, the supposed ‘womb’ space is sterile: cleansed of its ‘traces of contamination’ to the white of a hospital. Or, rather, it was at the time Craig grew up in it. As a result of this overly clean and sterile environment he is inhuman.

By the time we encounter the Surgery Suite in Creep, the sterile environment has fallen into disrepair, and the abject is returning.  In a carefully choreographed scene we watch as Craig wilfully drags the abject back into his womb space.  In the surgery suite, the audience discovers Mandy, visibly injured, with her feet bound in dirty stirrups and covered in a sheet smeared with blood in the pelvic area. The stirrups and blood on the sheet suggest the womb has been bleeding and possibly violated, moving the physical abject from Mandy’s womb into the failed womb of the underground.  Craig then begins his attempt to unleash Mandy’s womb further. In an eerie mimicry of surgery Craig washes his hands in an empty tap, dons a blood smeared apron, and puts his bloody hands into grimy surgical gloves. The abject is already present, brought both by Craig and by time, but it is evidently not enough.  

In a further attempt to make the surgery more like a real womb, Craig then literally saws Mandy’s womb open from the inside.[31] The graphic nature of Craig’s actions are so seemingly gratuitous that Blake insisted: ‘Beyond even the wider shores of Dario Argento’s imagination, it is difficult to imagine such a horrific violation being committed to celluloid for mainstream consumption’.[32] However, Blake assumes that the act is ‘horrific’ with no aim.

In fact, the violence of this act is intentionally extreme, and it is essential that Craig is seen to perform it. It is vital as an act of returning abject to the failed womb and because it ensures that whatever sympathy we may have for his misappropriated youth is washed away. We are not as ambiguously uncertain of his evil as Man because we see this gratuitous and unsettling act. The abjection of this scene – both in the physical abject presented by blood and dirt, and the literal removing of the body’s encased whole – reminds us that Craig is at the heart of the abjection of the space, as is the failure of this suite to recreate a womb.

Creed argued that part of the horrific representation of the womb was the way in which discourse ‘has been used to represent the woman’s body as parked, impure, and part of the natural/animal world’, and in Creep the natural is missing from the womb but that is what makes it (and him) monstrous.[33] Even within the patriarchal discourse which Creed argues dominates our understanding of the womb, The Underground fails as a womb-space in Creep for its lack of the natural and the impure. Craig’s attempts return both to the suite are facile, for no matter how dirty the suite is rendered, it is haunted by the barren sterility of its medical past.

Creep strongly implies that Craig is a product of his environment, in particular of growing up in in the failed-womb of the underground. In addition to spending time in the suite, and seeing Craig’s name on a crib, Kate also finds a photo of Craig as a child with the doctor from the Suite and discovers his name toward the end of the film, because it is emblazoned on his hospital bracelet. All of these are marks of the overly-sterile hospital space that has produced the monstrous man. This strong connection between Craig and the environment of the underground, principally of the surgical suite, ensures that we do not read the sterility of the space as anything other than a failed womb.

In contrast, Death Line’s underground space keeps some aspects of the ‘natural/animal’ to the womb, which Creed describes. Man’s lair is set off from the platform, carved within the warm and slimy clay, behind a pile of collapsed rubble from the tube expansion. The walls allow the damp, the roots of trees and, of course, the dirt to be part of the underground by extension. As a symbolic womb, Man’s space more closely mimics an actual womb when compared with Craig’s surgery, because it is alive, warm, and lined with muck. There is even a pregnant woman living inside. The similarities between the womb and the cave result in a space and occupant that are strongly ambiguous: both human and monstrous.

Conspicuously, Man is a more human and ambiguous character than Craig, having genuine feelings and human connections like love for his wife and child. In my view, this more human character is causally related to his environment being more like the natural womb. The womb-space of Death Line, as Perks argued is a space of family (through gestation). By living and evolving in this space, Man is someone recognisably human with a family and emotions. Nonetheless, because this is not an ideal womb, he also has aspects of the monstrous. The sickness of the false-womb is reflected in his pustulated skin, his primitive look and demeanour, his cannibalism, and his violence.

If Man’s womb is closer to the real thing, why is he still depicted as monstrous? Because the Underground is not an actual womb and it will always fall short of being one. In part this is a physical reality: even though Man’s space is more natural than Craig’s, it is still connected with the man-made structures of the underground. We see Man traverse platforms and the partially-destroyed British Museum Station, moving through columns, rail stacks, walls, and signs. This space is more akin to a womb than in Creep, but it is still a space of man’s interference into nature.

Further, Man has staid far too long in the womb-space. One is supposed to be birthed out of the womb, never to return. In both Craig and Man, we see the horrors of the underground tied to the horror of not leaving the womb. Unlike like Quatermass and the Pit, where evil is birthed from the womb of the underground, Craig and Man reside there. They leave the womb-space of their lairs, but only venture as far as the tubes (the Tube) leading off from it. Neither character has been above ground nor gone far beyond their nearest stations. They have not been birthed into society, and remain not only as separate and other, but under developed. The womb is, therefore, not the primary source of horror in these films. Instead, these characters become horrific because they continue to live within a failed-womb space. Even more terrifying, they drag others back into the womb with them, and the result is often death.

The effect of the failed-womb Underground on the characters of Man and Craig reflect the transformative nature of the underground. However, the underground is also a transformative space for the characters who live above ground. In Death Line these transformations are temporary – such as student Alex who goes into the underground to save his girlfriend and seemingly devolves into a violent brute, unnecessarily beating the helpless Man. However, in Creep the major transformation is undergone by Kate (Franka Potente), and her change on the underground serves to critique the power and amorality of capitalism.

Katie is an upper-middle class party girl who, on her way to seduce a movie star, gets trapped on the underground with the murderous Craig. In Contemporary British Horror Cinema, Walker, building on Rose and Leggott, explores how Kate’s ordeal transforms her from a symbol of privilege to one of poverty. All three note that over the course of the film, Kate goes from being a spoilt woman who mocks the homeless and seeks out celebrities in her bright yellow dress and high heels, to a muddy mess in borrowed clothes, mistaken for a homeless woman by a morning commuter.[34]

In contrast to Rose and Leggot, Walker argues that Kate’s transformation should not be looked upon with pity because she – along with Craig and a dubious colleague, Guy (Jeremy Sheffield) – has no human depth. Our lack of sympathy toward the ‘vacuous’ Kate is, Walker maintains, essential to the film’s commentary on the moral lambasting of Video Nasties in the 1980s.[35] Walker positions Creep ‘as a metaphorical response to the video nasties campaign, in which Smith can playfully mock and circumvent the era’s inconsistencies and class-based contradictions in his own nasty homage’.[36]

The ‘class-based contradictions’ Walker alludes to were largely those of the middle-class, asserting the superiority of their morals over what they saw as the dangerous glamorization of violence in horror cinema. Kate and Guy suit Walker’s argument because they are middle-class individuals whose supposed moral superiority is undermined in the first minutes of the film. Guy offers Kate coke and demands sex (later attempting to rape her) and Kate is shallow and arrogant in her celebrity-obsession and mocking of the homeless. Because of this, Walker and Rose argue, the audience is satisfied to see Kate slip from her pedestal to a state she would have previously reviled.[37]

However, neither historian acknowledges that film goes further by tying up these moral failings with the slow destruction of capitalism as the film progresses, thus raising questions about how class informs our humanity. This also has the effect of creating a more personal connection between Kate and the audience as the film progresses. Creep begins in a visibly capitalist world above ground. Kate and Guy are upper-middle-class with enough disposable income to use coke, and for Kate to flit off to a club in an attempt to increase her social capital by sleeping with a celebrity. To underscore Kate’s place on the higher rungs of capitalism, she goes to an ATM to withdraw some disposable income and refuses to offer any to the homeless man nearby.

Kate, unable to get a cab, is forced to use the underground where she struggles to use the ticket machine, which only takes exact change. Her difficulty demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the well-known underground, which affirms her ‘privileged’ status. When another woman in line tells Kate that she needs exact change, and asks if Kate needs money it echoes her encounter with the homeless man at the ATM. This brief parallel between herself and the homeless causes Kate to explode in anger. She screams at the woman and accuses her of getting pleasure from Kate’s situation. The woman insists she only wants a rail card, but Kate refuses to calm down. When the homeless Mandy overhears this conversation and offers to sell one of them a railcard, Kate jumps in to assert her capitalist dominance, paying ten times what the card is worth. In this exchange, Kate’s arrogance is demonstrably tied up in her money.

Once trapped on the underground Kate continues to use money as leverage. When she comes across Mandy and Jimmy’s hide out, she asks them for help and is only able to gain their assistance by offering Jimmy £50. On their way to find the guard, they come across a badly-beaten Guy. Kate insists Jimmy move Guy off the tracks and onto the platform, but Jimmy resists, asking why Kate would help a man who tried to rape her. Kate, rather than explain, hands Jimmy another £50 to change his mind. Though it is not explicit, it is reasonable to assume Kate is sympathetic towards Guy because of their shared social class. While she felt no guilt seeing a homeless man sleeping on a cold London street, she does not want to see someone of her own class bleeding on the train tracks, no matter how horrible he is.

Thus far in the film, Kate is able to use her money to get what she wants: the ticket, a guide to the station guard, and some help for Guy. However, as many other film critics and historians have pointed out, her place on the capitalist ladder is visibly shifting.[38] The first sign of this deterioration comes when she calls the station guard to help Guy. The guard resists at first, accusing her of being a crack addict. When Kate asks if she looks like a crack addict, he replies that from his camera he cannot tell. She, in his eyes, is equal to Jimmy or Mandy.

From this point forward, Kate turns away from money as a means of power. Discovering Mandy missing and a trail of blood, Kate decides they ned to go to the next station. This time, she does not offer Jimmy money help, appealing instead to their common concern for Mandy. Later, after Jimmy’s death and Kate’s capture, Kate is held in a series of sewage cages along with fellow victim, George. In order to escape through an open cage, Kate demands that George swim under the dividers between the cages and rescue them both. When George explains that he cannot swim, Kate initially refuses to do this herself, demanding that he go under water. She does everything she can to make George do the work. Ultimately, because George cannot hold his breath under water, Kate swims under the grates and escapes before saving George.

In this scene Kate must release her pride and do something for herself instead of commanding others who are below her in social status. The scene provides further relinquishing of her false entitlement when Kate attacks Craig with a stiletto and abandons her purse so she and George can escape. By the time she crawls back onto the Charing Cross Platform, after Craig’s death, Kate does not look like her former self. Indeed, she is not the same person. When a commuter drops a coin by her lap, Kate is treated as a homeless person for the second time in the film. Unlike her outburst at the ticket machine, where the very thought of mirroring the homeless man’s plea for change enraged her, Kate now laughs. It is a laugh of relief as much of humility, she no longer cares how others see her.

Kate then turns to look at the camera, breaking the fourth wall. Hutchings argues in ‘Horror London’ that Kate’s final glance at the camera is one of exhaustion.[39] While there is no doubt that Kate is physically and mentally exhausted, this exhaustion could be expressed without breaking the fourth wall, and is already present in her slumping to the floor of the platform. I find it more convincing that in breaking the fourth wall, Kate is turning the question of her social fall – from party girl to being treated as homeless – to all of us. It is a look that, moments after she is treated as a vagrant, asks: how far are any of us from such a life?

Creep makes use of the underground to comment on the fragility of class structure and its irrelevance when one’s life is on the line. Interestingly the one person with whom Kate does not interact on in relation to their class is the villain, Craig. Unlike Man in Death Line, Craig is devoid of a class relationship, perhaps a further reflection of his inhumanity. However, his relatively tangential role in the transformation of Kate suggests that the return of the repressed is not responsible for Kate’s transformation so much as the labyrinthine nature of the underground.

Creep is not the first film to highlight horror in the tangled web of tunnels that make up the London Underground. In such films, there is a moment where the audience, and the character, realise that they cannot safely get back above ground. This moment turns the underground from a passageway or even a maze into a labyrinth. While a passage or a maze moves you from entrance to exit – point A to point B – a labyrinth is defined by its confusing pathways which lead to the its centre. In the same vein, characters are left only with the option of going deeper into the underground, changing as they move further into the vast tunnel system to save themselves.

  Essential to the labyrinthine underground of horror cinema is the inability to escape. A particularly vivid example of this appears in John Landis’ comedy-horror An American Werewolf in London (1981). In the film, backpacking American student David (David Naughton) is attacked by a werewolf which kills his friend and turns him into a monster when night falls. After one such transformation the werewolf-David wreaks havoc on Tottenham Court Road tube station, chasing a commuter through a seemingly endless series Tube tunnels to his death.

The scene begins with a man alone on the northbound Northern Line platform. He grows suspicious when a growling comes from the tunnels, and the audience watches as he slowly realises he is in danger. Without ever showing the wolf, the scene grows frenetic as the man flees up stairs, around corners, through seemingly endless corridors between the platform and the city above. The underground here creates the tension, with its never-ending blur of corridors. Finally, the man falls at the base of a long escalator, and possibly a way out. The camera looks down from the top of the escalator where we see how far the man is from potential safety before the werewolf finally comes into view. The man will not escape, and he was never going to.

This depiction of the underground as a labyrinth, where each step moves one forward but never out, forces characters to journey through the space and face various obstacles which will change them. In the case of American Werewolf in London, the man did not survive his encounter with the werewolf. Instead, David’s transformation is at the heart of the scene. Though we have watched him change into a werewolf earlier, on the underground the camera takes on David/wolf’s perspective for the first time, allowing the audience to experience the result of his metamorphosis.

In Creep the underground is equally impossible to escape. When Kate discovers she has missed the last train, she tries to leave only to discover the metal gates of Charing Cross Station have locked her in. Rather than escape, from that moment on, the underground ceases to be a means of transport and is revealed to be, to quote Jimmy in the film, ‘a rabbit hole’.[40] This is made visually clear after Kate sees Guy attacked and sneaks off the back of an abandoned train. As she runs past the platform, the camera cuts between shots of Kate running through the white tiled tunnels of the station, and her jumbled perspective as the walls bounce and turn around her. Between the two perspectives, the tunnels appear endless. The camera then jumps ahead, tracking towards Kate as she emerges into a junction and before circling around her 360 degrees. Behind the panicked Kate we see a series of arches in the intersection leading to still more tunnels, showing the plethora of paths she can take. While she has options, we know she is trapped. Even if she found her way to another station entrance, she cannot escape. As the scene continues, we realise the only real possibility Kate has is to move deeper into the bowels of the underground. This begins the journey that incites the transformation of Kate from vapid party girl to empathetic survivor outlined above.

Central to Kate’s survival is her progress deeper into the bowels of the underground over the course of the film. Once she discovers there is no way to exit, Kate finds a hidden maintenance area which houses the homeless Mandy and Jimmy. By going deeper into the underground, is able to elicit Jimmy’s help in finding a station guard. As the film progresses, Kate’s continued survival relies on moving beyond the platforms into storage units, sewage ducts and eventually Surgery Suite 12. Here Kate also discovers Craig’s origins as a medical experiment. Going deeper, again, offers insight, and after all of this knowledge and experience is Kate able to protect herself and kill Craig.

Going deeper in the underground is also how Alex saves Patricia in Death Line. Following his instinct, Alex runs down the tracks of Russel Square Tube station into the disused platform for the unfinished British Museum Station. He then climbs over a pile of rubble to squeeze through a hole into a series of archways that will lead to Man’s lair. Patricia has fled to this vast network of archways and Alex is able to find her by following her screams. Detective Calhoun, in the better-late-than-never approach, follows the same path, meeting Alex and the freshly-saved Patricia along the way. By going into the depths of the underground, the truth about the murders, and the cave-in is finally uncovered by the police. The same revelation of truth happens in Quatermass and the Pit, when digging beyond the underground reveals the Martian influence on human evolution and in Creep when Kate discovers Craig’s medical origins. Discovery comes from going deeper into the underground than just the platforms we use every day.

In addition to discovery, going into the bowels of the underground is a catalyst for change. In 28 Weeks Later, the underground is the briefly-visited, but crucial setting where Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) confront their rage-infected father, Don (Robert Carlyle). In the film, the Isle of Dogs becomes an infection-free-zone while the US-led NATO forces clear the rest of Britain of the Rage virus. This refers to the previous film, 28 Days Later, in which we discover the virus turned the population into pseudo-zombies. At the start of the film, Don reunites with Tammy and Andy in the safe-zone, and their mother is found later hiding in their old home, half-crazed after being bitten by Rage victims. Don becomes infected after kissing his wife, who we learn is a carrier, and from that moment the virus spreads. Throughout the film Don looms like a ghost, appearing and disappearing as the children follow two military personnel out of the safe-zone and to a helicopter.

Towards the end of the film, an army medic, Scarlet (Rose Bryne), drive Tammy and Andy toward the evacuation when the military begins to bombard them with an aerial attack. Scarlet swerves the car into Charing Cross Underground Station, and they head into the tube tunnels on foot. In the pitch black of the tube, Andy gets separated before Scarlet is killed, leaving Tammy to find her brother. We see Andy wandering the station platform before stumbling upon his infected father. Don attacks Andy infecting him with the virus, and is shot by Tammy, who arrived moments too late.

This scene is crucial to the plot, because after their mother’s death, Scarlet reveals that the only hope of curing the Rage virus is the possibility that either Andy or Tammy inherited their mother’s carrier gene. Once Andy is bitten, he, like his mother, does not become infected, and we know a cure is possible if they make it to the evacuation point. Once Tammy arrives, the scene forces a confrontation between parent and child in which Tammy takes the role as head of the family.

Tammy and Andy have struggled throughout the film with the loss of their parents. Before the film began, they were refugees in France, blocked form their home and their parents when Britain became infected. Once reunited with their father, Don tells them that their mother was dead, only to later discover that their father abandoned her. This realisation undermines the children’s trust in Don as a father and protector and creates a secondary challenge of trying to reform a relationship with their feral mother. For the brief period both parents are alive the parental roles are precarious: the children are quarantined, unable to visit their mother, who is not completely lucid anyway, and their father is no longer someone they can trust. Once Don becomes infected, he then kills their mother, and the children effectively lose both of their parents.

At this point we know the family unit is infected and failing, but throughout the film Tammy and Andy try to keep their roles as children relative to other parental options. Scarlet steps in as one attempt, but her parental abilities are undermined early on when she loses Andy in a panicked crowd. Tammy and Andy are reunited thanks to sniper, Doyle (Jeremy Renner). Doyle and Scarlet become substitute parents for most of the film, sacrificing themselves in turn to save the children. First, Doyle steps into toxic gas to protect Scarlet and the kids, and then, on the underground, Don kills Scarlet. Once Tammy and Andy reach the platform of the underground, they no longer have any parental replacement figures.

The only parent still alive is their Rage-infected father, whom they each face in turn. When Andy is confronted with his father, he becomes paralysed. Neither fleeing nor defending himself, Andy is attacked. Tammy then takes on the responsibility of the parent, and an independent adult in her own right, by shooting her father and saving Andy. Tammy’s story arch shares similarities with the story of Jim (Cillian Murphy) in the previous film, 28 Days Later. Film and cultural historians Rose and Forshaw separately argue that in 28 Days Later Jim’s survival relies on his ability to shed his old family structure and create a new one, with himself as the head.[41] Tammy has similarly survived because she has destroyed the failed traditional family (i.e. the infected father) and becomes the head of a new family with her brother.

By using the underground as the location for the completion of Tammy’s family cycle, 28 Weeks Later suggests the underground is simultaneously a hunting ground, and a space of transformation. In fact, the process of being hunted in this case explicitly insights this transformation. We have already seen that the underground makes for a confining space where the tunnels tease at the possibility of escape but ultimately lead one deeper. Tammy literally moves further down into the station to have this confrontation with the father. As in Quatermass and the Pit and Creep, going deeper into the underground here is akin to looking deeper into one’s self. Tammy must look inside herself and decide if she can kill her own father to protect her brother.

In the depths of the underground, Andy is faced with what lies inside him on a literal level. Once he is bitten the rage has infected his blood, and it is what inside that counts: does he have the genetic mutation or will he turn into his father? When he collapses on the tracks, Tammy approaches and Andy worries aloud: ‘I’m one of them’. She looks into his eyes and sees a physical change that reveals he has been infected, but she insists ‘No. No, you’re not’.[42] In that moment, we realise Andy, like his mother, is immune. Physically, what is inside him could save the world, and what was metaphorically within Tammy saved them both.

The labyrinthine nature of the underground allows for the possibility for personal growth and empowerment through a confrontation with the past – as in Death Line, Creep, Quatermass and the Pit and 28 Weeks Later. In this dichotomy one can see how the horrific potential of the underground also allows the underground to exist as a space of both terror and hope. Brunsdon claimed that ‘the horror genre does penetrate the tunnels [of the underground], but only to discover horror’, but that is not a fair assessment.[43] The Tube’s myriad tunnels provide a hidden space for evil to lurk, but it also provides an opportunity for that evil to be evaded and even conquered. In Creep, Death Line and 28 Weeks Later the evil is defeated underground, and characters can grow, or transform because of their experience. The Underground of horror films, in short, is not a locus solely of horror.

The growth of characters on the underground, and their salvation, ensures that The London Underground is not a deadly space in horror. In fact, it may contain horror, but it is not purely horrific. Good does come out of these experiences; be it social awareness and empathy in Creep and Death Line, or the salvation of mankind from the rage virus in 28 Weeks Later. Looking more broadly at the genre, there are filmic examples of the underground as a space purely of safety. Often this is a reference to the platforms’ historical use as a bomb shelter during the blitz. This is recreated in Tom Harper’s Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2014). The film opens with a crowd of frightened Londoners lining the platform, huddled as the bombs go off overhead. This same sense of shelter is referenced in Eugène Lourié’s 1961 Gorgo in which panicked Londoners swarm into Charing Cross Underground Station to hide from the Godzilla-like creature. These films show going into the underground as a space of safety, and in some ways suggest the value of going deeper into the labyrinth much like Creep, Death Line, 28 Weeks Later and Quatermass and the Pit. These smaller references to the past protection of the underground also remind us that the underground, even at its most horrific, offers good alongside evil.

Even in films where Brunsdon insists the underground only offers horror, there is safety and hope to be found on the underground. In Quatermass and the Pit, for example, the Martian spaceship found off Hobb’s End platform is a threat to humanity, but by encountering it and melding minds with it Quatermass is able to resist the power of Martian mind-control. When the Martian craft uses its telepathic abilities to lift and throw objects around the underground, Barbara and Quatermass are protected by the turns of the tunnels, which provide shelter. We see this same ambivalent pull between horror and safety in Creep, in which Kate’s attempt to kill Craig is only fulfilled thanks to a passing train. Kate stabs Craig in the neck with a hook attached to a metal chain she finds on the floor of the underground. She then throws the chain over the tracks, trying to electrocute him. The chain falls short of the tracks, but just before Craig can kill Kate, a train car speeds by, pulling the chain and severing Craig’s jugular. Ultimately, it was the underground that saved her life

 Each film in this article has found horror on the underground, but also hope, largely through transformation or confrontation. In films which make use of the return of the repressed the collapse of past and present on the underground brings up the horror, but also forces a confrontation that ultimately destroys the dormant horror. The labyrinthine nature of the underground draws the characters deeper to forces change which allows them to face and overcome the terrors found below. As a horror location the Underground is, in fact, one of possibility.

Read Lauren’s essay: The Thames: Uncertain Depths in Horror Cinema


[1] Brunsdon, London in Cinema: The Cinematic City since 1945. p. 132-133. She discusses at length the importance of just missing the tube as a filmic device and the compression of time in the short burst of the tube and the frames of a film.

[2] Brunsdon. p.133

[3] Peter Hutchings, ‘Horror London’, Journal of British Cinema and Television 6, no. 2 (2009): 200–204; Pirie, A Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema 1946-1972; James Rose, ‘Going Underground: Strange Goings on Down Below…’, in World Film Locations: London, ed. Neil Mitchell (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2012), 86–87; David L. Pike, ‘London on Film and Underground’, The London Journal 38, no. 3 (2013): 226–44. See also: Marcelle Perks, ‘A Descent into the Underworld: Death Line’, in British Horror Cinema, ed. Steve Chibnall and Julian Petley (London: Routledge, 2002), 145–55; Paul Dobraszczyk, ‘Londons under London: Neo-Victorian Cartographies of Horror’, n.d.; Walker, Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre, and Society.

[4] Hutchings, ‘Horror London’, 199–200.

[5] Pike, ‘London on Film and Underground’, 2013.

[6] Pike, 236.

[7] Sigmund Freud and James trans. Strachey, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (London: Hogarth, 1953). This is not surprising in a horror film, as the return of the repressed is a recurrent theme in horror’s predecessor: Gothic literature.

[8] Rose, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970, 44.

[9] For more on this event, or on the underground during WWII see, among others: Butler, Toby, ed. The 1943 Bethnal Green tube shelter disaster: An oral history (University of East London, 2015); Inwood, Stephen, and Roy Porter, A history of London, vol. 59. (London: Macmillan, 1998); Merrill, Samuel, “Looking forward to the past: London Underground’s 150th anniversary”, The Journal of Transport History 33.2 (2012): 243-252.

[10] Roy Ward Baker, ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ (Associated British Pathé, 1967).

[11] David L Pike, ‘London on Film and Underground’, The London Journal 38, no. 3 (2013): 236.

[12] Johnathan Rigby, Studies in Terror: Landmarks of Horror Cinema (Cambridge: Signum Books, 2011), 140. Rigby also noted that the director, Roy Ward Baker, had previously directed Flame in the Streets, a documentary on the Notting Hill riots, though there is no direct evidence it influenced Quatermass and the Pit.

[13] Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie (London: Repeater, 2016), 88.

[14] Linnie Blake, Wounds of Nations: Horror Cinema, Historical Trauma, and National Identity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), 164.

[15] Rigby, English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897-2015. p. 234

[16] Though I have no proof, it is likely that the similarity of the characters names (Man and Manfred) encourage a comparison.

[17] Gary Sherman, Death Line (United Kingdom: American International Pictures, 1972).

[18] Rose, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970. p. 26

[19] M.A. Thiers, History of the French Revolution, vol. 3 (London: Ricahrd Bentley, 1838).

[20] A similar feeling of justified cannibalism is used to suggest an empathetic line of portraying Sweeney Todd in the 2007 film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

[21] Rose, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970. p. 46.

[22] The other person who places no importance on the social ‘value’ of people is Patricia. This trait makes her an oddly suited mate for Man, who is violent, but indiscriminate.

[23] Rose argued that this scene demonstrates a compassionate link between Man and the monster in Frankenstein as emotional beings. he explained: ‘both are made of sick flesh, both are capable of emotional expression and both long for an equal’ Rose, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970, 47.

[24] Perks, ‘A Descent into the Underworld: Death Line’. p.153

[25] Barbara Creed, The Monstorus-Feminine: Film, Femenism and Psychoanalysis, 5th ed. (London: Routledge, 2007). p. 49-55.

[26] Creed, 10.

[27] Creed specifically highlights the slimy floor and the tubes leading off from the space, in addition to the space housing eggs. Creed, 51.

[28] Perks, ‘A Descent into the Underworld: Death Line’, 152.

[29] Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. by Leon S Roudiez, European Perspectives (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), pp. 12–13.

[30] Creed, The Monstorus-Feminine: Film, Femenism and Psychoanalysis. p.49

[31] Blake, Wounds of Nations: Horror Cinema, Historical Trauma, and National Identity, 179.

[32] Blake, 179.

[33] Creed, The Monstorus-Feminine: Film, Femenism and Psychoanalysis, 49.

[34] Johnny Walker, Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre, and Society (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016) p. 44. See also: Leggot, Contemporary British Cinema: From Heritage to Horror; Rose, ‘Going Underground: Strange Goings on Down Below…’.

[35] For anyone not familiar, the ‘Video Nasties’ term was coined in the United Kingdom to refer to straight-to-video films which did not have to meet the same censor standards, often horror films fell into this category. At the time there was cultural backlash and fear that such films were inappropriate for young audiences and might encourage violence in real life by those who watched it. The result was the Video Recordings Act of 1984, ensuring censorship on video-released films. For more on the Video Nasties, see: Egan, Kate, Trash or Treasure?: Censorship and the changing meanings of the video nasties (Manchester University Press, 2007); Walker, Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre, and Society; Newman, Nightmare Movies; Fryer, British Horror Film: From the Silent to the Multiplex.

[36] Walker, Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre, and Society. p.45

[37] Rose, ‘Going Underground: Strange Goings on Down Below…’, 86; Walker, Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre, and Society, 44.

[38] Rose, ‘Going Underground: Strange Goings on Down Below…’; Walker, Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre, and Society; Pike, ‘London on Film and Underground’, 2013; Hutchings, Hammer and Beyond: The British Horror Film.

[39] Hutchings, ‘Horror London’, 203.

[40] Christopher Smith, Creep (United Kingdom, Germany: Pathé, 2004).

[41] Rose, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970 p.97-102 ; Barry Forshaw, British Gothic Cinema (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013). p.175. Forshaw, Rose and Leggot note that the role of the father is a larger theme in turn-of-the-century horror films, including Shaun of the Dead. See: Rose, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970; Leggott, Contemporary British Cinema: From Heritage to Horror.

[42] Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 28 Weeks Later (United Kingdom, Spain: Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2007).

[43] Brunsdon, London in Cinema: The Cinematic City since 1945. p.140

Lauren Jane Barnett

Lauren Jane Barnett

Lauren Jane Barnett is a horror ficiton and non-fiction writer and founder of the first London Horror Film Walks. Her short story “The Fog” was shortlisted for the WriteHive Horror Fiction Prize and her book “Death Lines: Walking London Through Horror Cinema” is coming out in 2022 with Strange Attractor Press.

You can find about more about Lauren via her website

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