What lies beneath that sheath of urban banality, Part 2

Way back in March of this year we reviewed After… (2006), a sadly mediocre and very disappointing film about terrors lying beneath the city streets in abandoned subway tunnels.

The corresponding blog was admittedly an excuse to blab about the Lower Bay subway station, a disused station that’s frequently seen in TV ads, TV shows, and feature films because it’s a fully functioning subway platform where full-sized trains can ride and out, and where set decorators can redress the platform into any city station (although every Torontonian who rides the TTC will easily recognize the station, let alone out distinct silver trains).

The subway was recently used by Montreal-based filmmaker Maurice Devereaux for his horror film End of the Line (2006), which played at the Toronto International Film Festival and is now out on DVD via Anchor Bay/Critical Mass.

To read about the film and DVD extras, check out the review HERE, but for more blather on Lower Bay and how it’s used in the film (as well as Montreal’s disused Wellington Tunnel), read on, although be forewarned that the ensuing blather may contain some spoilers.

Devereaux’ film actually gives us the best views of the Lower Bay thus far because the scenes shot on the platform have a measured rhythm. It’s first shown when a lonely character – a nurse finishing off her midnight shift – enters the station from above (if you look carefully, you can discretely see the silver door that seals the stairwell from the active ‘Upper Bay’ station).

Then there’s a montage that has the heroine walking slowly away from a creepy dude, and a subsequent conversation with her love interest. (An earlier scene that has a discharged patient waiting on the platform is more visually stylized, so there’s less to see in the brief opening teaser.)

Up until the train’s arrival, the potential lovers walk a bit down the platform’s center area, and given it takes place late at night, we’re also treated to some brightly lit views of the platform. Certainly noticeable is the station’s increasingly grubby look, as well as the smudges and drill holes from pasted signage and now-removed original signage from prior film shoots. There’s also the odd angle where one can also read the Bay station name.

In the DVD’s commentary track and in a Q&A with audience members at Montreal’s Fantasia Festival, director Devereaux also explains he had to flip the negative for some shots in order to cover the “Bay” name on the outer platform walls (which is why the shots read “Yab”). The subway tunnels as seen from a moving train, and any shots of moving trains are from the Toronto shoot, whereas the train interior is actually an old Montreal train, mounted outside like a museum piece.

As for fans of Montreal’s urban history, Devereaux also makes heavy use of the Wellington Tunnel, which used to be for car traffic, and was sealed off reportedly around 1994.

The locale is generously featured in the making-of featurette, and is effectively dressed to resemble a train tunnel by adding fake rails, and the digital insertion of a train face when passengers are seen running from the religious zealots determined to save their souls before the Apocalypse. (It’s the shot that’s on the main poster and DVD art.)

There are some giveaways, in terms of it becoming clear it’s the same sections of tunnel used in the film’s second half (graffiti, as well as the long rusty railing for pedestrians), but Montrealers and urban spelunkers will probably get a kick out of seeing a lot of the tunnel sections, lit very dramatically.

Some may find this fascination with disused tunnels and buildings all very silly, but there’s something genuinely hypnotic about a hunk of man-made structures – above or below ground – that are now sealed off from the public, and are more compelling when they were used by several thousand citizens every day.

One day it was a major artery, and now it’s a dark hole in the ground visited primarily by city workers or telecommunication workers using the tunnels to ferry fibre optics and electrical goo.

We already listed some Lower Bay links in the March 10th blog, so those interested in Montreal’s Wellington Tunnel can read more at the links below:

- This site features from very artful shots of the tunnels, flooded and quite frozen during a chilly winter - http://www.uer.ca/~nel58/photos/18084/ - and is proof how beautiful something old and disused can be when captured on film.

- Some eerie daytime snapshots: http://www.techienation.com/urban-exploration-the-wellington-tunnel/, as well as http://www.telinpho.com/pictures/Urban%20Exploration/slides/PICT0001.html

- And this site offers some exterior shots of the surrounding canal that was physically overhauled: http://rogerkenner.ca/Bike/Lachine_Canal_lite/Composite_02_Wellington_Basin.html

What’s lucky for us is that with cheaper (and smaller) technology, plus a wider interest in these sites, elements are documented online, which prove these old venues still exist, and perhaps give filmmakers added views of locations they may find compelling for a future film shoot.



Copyright © mondomark