Fictional and Documentary Films with Urban Exploration
Urban exploration is unfamiliar territory for most people, unexplored mostly because of deplorable safety and legality concerns that most adventurers fear.
Sure, there's those adrenaline junkies addicted to bungee-jumping, skydiving, motocross, and deep sea diving, but most of these people wouldn't dare to dive into a mucky sewer drain, or break in to an old abandoned steel factory, or tread through the murky and rat-infested utility tunnels underground our cities.
Despite being around for a long time, ever since industrialized cities were born, urban exploration is still a novel activity with a small amount of dedicated participants. However, it's almost every human's desire to discover something new, to learn something... to feel something they've never encountered before. And for those of you with enough guts, there's an uncharted world right under your feet in the sunless tunnels, in the bowels of your building at work, or in your town's deserted coal mines.
But for those of you who enjoy the safety of your home and the security of our laws, you might be surprised that you have, in fact, experienced a little urban exploring yourself— right from the couch. There's a ton of movies that depict urban exploration in one way or another, either in fictional films or documentaries, and you're bound to have seen one of them.
To show you some examples, there's a list below of some (not all) of the movies that have a little urban caving, urban spelunking or building hacking in them. So, for all of you who can't explore the unseen parts of your city, for whatever reason, you can still enjoy it all right in front of the television. If you know of any more, add them to the list!
I've never seen either one of these movies, but word is that the aliens hide underground, in the sewers and tunnels beneath the cities of Manhattan and Boston. For the 1986 film, Wikipedia states that a "group of urban explorers are responsible for disturbing the alien spores and beginning the monster attacks."
The actual movies themselves are rather sleazy (the original more than the latter). The 1986 film supposedly has an overabundance of female nudity, where the remake is more of a softcore porn.
Breeders (1986) plot summary from IMDB:
"The Manhattan General Hospital has admitted a string of young women who have been raped by something otherworldly. The perpetrator only attacks women who are virgins. Dr. Pace and Detective Andriotti work together to try and isolate the strange organic material found on the victims, and to try and locate the fiend. Soon the victims begin arising in a trance and leaving the hospital by an underground passage where their fate awaits them."
Breeders (1997) plot summary from IMDB:
"It's an invasion of the most personal and terrifying kind. When a meteorite crash lands onto a Boston college campus and an alien beast is released, only one man understands its mission to mate. From the depths of an all girls college, the grotesque monster stalks his prey in a cat-and-mouse chase until the final conflict where only one species can survive."
From Wikipedia: "...features the heroine exploring tunnels that connect various rooms in some of Chicago's abandoned Cabrini Green tenements."
Directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Transsiberian), this psychological horror film takes place in the ruins of Danver State Mental Hospitalin Massachusetts. The Danver State Insane Asylum was built in 1878 and was possibly the first hospital to treat patients with pre-frontal lobotomy. The hospital was closed in 1992 and demolished by 2006. Luckily, Session 9 was lucky enough to use the actual location before it all was razed.
Session 9 plot summary from Amazon:
"A hazardous-materials-cleanup company has been hired to eliminate asbestos tiles and other toxic material from a gigantic mental hospital that had been shut down in the 1980s. But as one member of the team starts to nose into old files in the office, he uncovers a series of tape recordings of psychiatric sessions—nine of them—related to a notorious sexual abuse case. Soon, toxic materials and dark spirits start to merge."
There are some great scenes in this film that creepily depict the maze of underground tunnels connecting each of the buildings and to the power plant. Today, the only the tunnel leading straight to the power plant still survives. I've always wanted to go there, to see it for my own eyes, but I never ended up making a trip to Massachusetts, which I regret to this day. It would have been a great place to explore! But this movie is all that's left. And this website (below photos taken from there).
From Wikipedia: "...the town of Silent Hill has been abandoned due to a prolonged mine fire, which director Christophe Gans says was inspired by Centralia, Pennsylvania."
This documentary's title says it all. It's a fascinating look into the world of urban exploring. It's a great introduction if you've never heard of this somewhat dangerous hobby, especially when they're rappelling down an old abandoned NASA rocket test site, or when they're navigating the thick and smelly sludge underneath a brewery in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Definitely worth checking out.
Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness plot summary from Netflix:
"Discover the secret world of urban explorers, daring modern archaeologists who seek out the hidden nooks and crannies of cities in abandoned subway stations, long-sealed sewers and condemned buildings, in this captivating documentary. Filmmaker Melody Gilbert joins these thrill seekers as they hunt for the lost trappings of the modern world and, in the process, shines a light on a fascinating subculture that is, quite literally, underground."
Description and video by filmmaker Bradley L. Garrett:
"This video is a 30-minute introduction to the practice of urban exploration. Constructed as a video article for the journal Geography Compass, the article uses footage from the author's own explorations in California, Las Vegas and London to visually depict a theoretical unpacking of the practice by 5 academic geographers."