Parking lots are undeniably creepy places. They’re usually dark, t’s easy to get lost, and there’s hardly ever anyone around. But there’s something else that sets parking lots apart from abandoned houses, creepy basements or out-of-the-way backwoods areas. The proximity to safety.
Parking lots are great settings for taking characters away from the hustle and bustle of a brightly-lit shopping centre or office, and plunging them into relative darkness and isolation. And there’s nothing better than watching that “oh shit” moment when a character realizes they are suddenly no longer safe.
6. Cursed (2005)
A woman named Jenny has just left an office party (dressed as a cat) and is about to get into a car when she’s attacked by a werewolf. This scene is incredibly tense, and pulls the old bait and switch by initially having the main character (played by Christina Ricci) enter the parking lot and then drive safely away.
We know from the get-go that Jenny is toast because her death is eerily predicted at the start of the film. But that only adds to the sense of dread as we watch her futile attempt to outrun (and outsmart) the werewolf in question. As Jenny hides behind cars we get great glimpses of werewolf body parts (including some terrifyingly huge feet). Even though Jenny eventually bites it in an elevator, it’s the parking lot that’s the real star of the show.
5. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
This one isn’t so much a chase scene as an awesomely revolting tone-setter for a beloved cult favorite. After denying her an extension on her mortgage, loan officer Christina is attacked by an elderly Romani woman as she tries to get into her car. This parking lot is creepy from the get-go, with hardly any cars around and an eerie green tinge. PS- why does a bank need such a massive parking garage, and why does no-one seem to use it? Needless to say, it’s a relief when Christina finally makes it into her car.
But in one of the best jump scares of the film, the woman is hiding in Christina’s back seat. And she has some serious rage issues. What follows is one of the grossest attack scenes I’ve seen committed to film- complete with toothless gumming and a graphic stapler injury. A definite high point in one of the best horror films of the early 2000s.
4. Scream 4 (2011)
Poor Alison Brie. Sidney Prescott’s ruthless agent is just trying to sell more copies of Sidney’s book, when Ghostface decides to make a graphic example of her. Rebecca’s journey into the parking lot is rough from the start. The elevator appears to be having technical difficulties (how did Ghostface swing that?), and like Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer before her, Rebecca can’t remember where she parked the car. D’oh!
Of course a lost car is the least of Rebecca’s worries when she gets a call from Ghostface and realizes she should’ve taken Sidney’s concerns a bit more seriously. And so she does maybe the stupidest thing possible and gets out of her locked car (yes she did find it in the end) only to be stabbed in the gut and thrown off a roof. Sorry Rebecca – like Tatum I guess we won’t be seeing you in the sequel (if they ever get around to making another one).
3. Happy Death Day (2017)
This is an incredibly tense cat-and-mouse scene that makes great use of its location. Final Girl Tree has just escaped her would-be killer and is en route to a car (the keys for which she has just acquired). But she’s not out of the proverbial woods just yet. With the killer on her trail, Tree still has to find the car that matches her keys – and there’s no way to do that without also alerting the killer to her location.
Tree is nothing if not brave, so she hits the unlock button on those car keys and makes a run for it. I’m sure you can guess how that might turn out for her though.
2. Urban Legend (1998)
You’ve heard the story before. It happened to a friend of a friend of mine. He was fumbling for his keys when someone with a knife who’d been hiding under his car reached out and slashed his Achilles heel. Ouch!
Even though Dean Adams isn’t the most sympathetic character, it’s still tough watching him fall to the ground as his ankles gush with blood and attempt to crawl away only to be run over with his own car.
1. P2 (2007)
This film is actually named after a parking lot (level 2, we can only assume) and features too many scenes in said parking lot to mention. But for those of you who haven’t seen it, P2 follows a businesswoman who gets trapped in her workplace on Christmas Eve and is stalked by the creepy janitor. There are numerous parking lot chase scenes, including one with a vicious dog. It’s also that rare breed of horror film that doubles as a Christmas movie. So give it a go when the holidays roll round.