12 Reasons Why LA Is The Most Terrifying City In The World

AKA To Live And Die In LA - but mostly the latter…


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John Carpenter had it right. LA is definitely a city to escape from – at least as far as the movies are concerned. And you don’t have to be Snake Plissken to need a reason to head for the hills: this is basically the most dangerous place on Earth. If there were any rules – and there aren’t – they’d probably read: if it moves, it’ll run your over; if it walks, it’ll rob you; and if it’s an ex-policeman with a grudge, it’ll try to blow up your bus. Like the bit at the back of The Lonely Planet that no-one really reads – only way more important – we’ve drawn up a list of 12 dangers, hidden, and in the case of new sci-fi Skyline, not-so-hidden, that lurk in the City of Angels. Here, in no particular order, are just some of the things that will kill you in Tinseltown.

Movies: White Heat (1949), Rebel Without A Cause (1955), Dragnet (1987), Die Hard (1988), Colors (1988), Boyz N The Hood (1991), Menace II Society (1993), Boogie Nights (1997), LA Confidential (1997), American History X (1998)

Even before you start dealing with Cillian Murphy’s weaponised subsconcious in Inception, LA in the movies is a hellishly scary place to hang out. If do decide to up sticks and move there after everything you’ve read, you’ll be wanting at least a couple of pieces of Kevlar in your wardrobe: specifically, the top half and bottom half. If you can’t make yourself bulletproof, steer clear of the following areas: Venice Beach (the neo-Nazis!), South Central (the gangs!), Mulholland Drive (the dwarves!), Long Beach (the exploding chemical plants!), Orange County (the freaky cults!), Griffith Park Observatory (the teens playing chicken!) and, of course, Nakatomi Plaza (the Germans!). Obviously Beverly Hills is a no-no, too. And if all that isn’t bad enough to keep you indoors, violent crime is sufficiently rife to attract the odd Predator. They’ll rock up and start using the place as some kind of glorified laser quest. Our advice: cover yourself in mud and hide under your bed.


Movies: Deep Cover (1992), LA Confidential (1997), Training Day (2001), Lakeview Terrace (2008)

“Woop, woop, it’s the sound of da police,” as a wise man once sang, and he didn’t mean it in the way you might joyfully greet, say, the crash of waves on a Santa Monica beach or the approaching tinkle of an ice-cream van. You can see why if you watch any crime thrillers set in LA. These are not good police. In fact, there’s only a handful among them you’d trust to rescue your cat from a tree. For every Bud White, there’s a Dudley Smith; for every Al Powell, a Special Agent Johnson. And, while we’re on it, the chances are that’s not a traffic cop but a mimetic poly-alloy killing machine sent from the future specially to ruin your day. So while it’s tough to pick out the really bad egg from the rotten omelette that is movieland’s LAPD, we will say that if you should find yourself pulled over by Lakeview Terrace’s Abel Turner, Deep Cover’s Russell Stevens or Training Day’s Alonso Harris you’ll want to exercise your right to run away fast.


Movies: Zombieland (2009), Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

The zombification of LA is a fairly recent development. Normally the drooling undead like to hang out in places where they can blend in more easily, like post-apocalyptic London or the Midwest, but no longer. Not to be left out of the death party that is movieland Los Angeles, however, they’ve moved west, and can now be found garr-ing and blurgh-ing their way around Orange County to their tiny, rotten hearts’ desire. Should you ever find your way around the city blocked by the hulking frame of The Executioner or a zombie Bill Murray, you can thank the T-Virus and Mad Cow disease for that, before you make yourself very scarce. Actually, if you bump into zombie Bill Murray, it’s probably just corn starch and berries. Please don’t shoot him.


Movies: Point Break (1991), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Heat (1995)

God invented internet banking specifically for the good people of Los Angeles. Contentious? Well, consider this: have you ever seen a movie in which anyone who goes into an LA bank and doesn’t end up face down on the floor praying the funny man in the mask won’t use their head as a gun rest? Doesn’t happen often. Banking is basically Hollywood’s equivalent of skydiving without a parachute: it offers a 100% chance of catastrophe and guaranteed impact with the floor. Unless of course your name is Johnny Utah, in which case you’ve probably just come from a robbery and fancy giving that skydiving lark a shot as well. The moral? Keep your money under the bed. And if you’re in Bonaventure Plaza and see a group of serious-looking men in suits lugging large bags, just run.


Movies: Chinatown (1974), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Rising Sun (1993), Collateral (2004), Iron Man 2 (2010)

You’ll have to go out of your way for this one to be a problem, even in a city as likely to kill you as Los Angeles, but we’re still saying be careful who you work for, and don’t – repeat don’t – ask too many questions, especially if you don’t want to know the answers. Look where it got Jake Gittes. Look at where it got Mike Hammer. Look where it got Roger Rabbit. Actually, don’t look at the rabbit, it worked out okay for him – but only just. Remember: in LA big business = bad; small business = good. Even less obviously evil, Fortune 500-bothering millionaires like Justin Hammer, Jeffrey Lebowski, and, um, Marcellus Wallace should be given a wide berth. Unless you really want to share a bath with a ferret or explain yourself to a couple of pipe-hitting gentlemen.


Movie: Magnolia (1999)

Along with swarms of killer locusts, getting conked over the head with a stone tablet and discovering you have the power to turn water into Ernest & Julio Gallo, the frogstorm is a classic fate for the more Biblically-minded Angelino. Magnolia’s froggy downpour lands firmly in the Valley, giving John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman et al a taste of what the ancient Egyptians had to put up with. It’s the Quiz Kid, Donnie Smith (William H. Macy), though, who cops the full brunt of the unlikely downfall, taking one of the frogs square in the kisser and plunging from a utility pole. A frog storm just like this one actually occurred in Kansas back in 1873, but in this day and age any amphibian with a compass and serious career aspirations is bound to land in LA. You may think of LA as the sunniest of cities but, trust us, buy an umbrella. Ribbit.

Movies: Sunset Boulevard (1950), The Player (1992), Swimming With Sharks (1994), Get Shorty (1995), Ivansxtc (2000)

The movie business is a tough-as-old-leather profession. If you’re not finding rattlesnakes in your car (The Player), getting tied to a chair and covered in hot sauce (Swimming With Sharks), or mired in Mob business (Get Shorty), you’re propping up the ego of a delusional silent cinema diva, as William Holden discovers in Sunset Boulevard. Delusional, and, as it turns out, surprisingly well-armed, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is preening proof that, in the movies, gun-toting isn’t just for LA gangs. Holden’s struggling screenwriter finds that out to his cost. He’d have been better served dodging the entertainment business altogether. After all, LA’s record industry and fine arts boast more bad apples than a five year-old’s still life. While their mums glowed proudly when they announced their creative ambitions, Terry Valentine (The Limey) and Victor Maitland (Beverley Hills Cop) end up racking up a surprising body count for a record producer and an art dealer respectively. Our advice if you land a job in the arts? Keep your head down and don’t mention herpes simplex 10.


Movies: Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Terminator 2 (1991)

Picture the scene: you’re at the playground, having a go on the swings, whizzing around on the carousel and generally thinking all’s well in the world when suddenly, “KA-BOOM!”, and you’re California’s answer to peking duck. Yup, it’s Judgement Day. Even wearing that LA staple – factor gajillion sunscreen – there’s no surviving Skynet’s bombe surprise. Of course, all of the world’s major cities end up mushroom-clouded on T2’s Judgement Day, but you can bet your ass that ‘nuke LA’ was near the very top of Skynet’s to-do list, nestled somewhere between ‘Kill John Connor’ and ‘finish plans for easily penetrable HQ’. You don’t need to be a sentient artificial intelligence system to know that it’s just a logical place to start blowing stuff up.


Movies: The War Of The Worlds (1953), Independence Day (1996), Predator 2 (1990), Skyline (2010)

Aliens are fairly predictable when it comes to destroying major world cities. It’s almost like they’ve produced their own travel guide to Earth and then immediately ripped out all the pages except ‘LA’, ‘Paris’, ‘New York’, ‘Washington’ and ‘miscellaneous Asian city’. LA, though, is usually the first stop on their list of Earth Shit To Blow Up. Flying saucers, mahoosive motherships, spaceships with giant blue spotlights: the list is (almost) endless. Hell, we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that District 9’s aliens were only using Jo’burg to break up the journey to the West Coast. Why are they so determined to death-ray the City of Angels into the middle of next week? Beats us. Maybe they got wind of that Valentine’s Day sequel.


***Movies: ***Earthquake (1975), Volcano (1997), 2012 (2009)

You knew all about the earthquakes, but did you know LA had its own volcano? Us neither. It does though – they made a movie about it – and it’s surely the last nail in the coffin of the city’s real estate market. It also makes Tommy Lee Jones’ Office of Emergency Management possibly the most overworked department in the town, aside from the anti-narcotics branch and whoever’s in charge of clearing up after a Neil McCauley bank robbery. The molten magma isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence – seismic activity causes a fissure in the, er, fault line and, um, whatever Anne Heche said – but the threat of earthquake hangs over the metropolis like some kind of giant hanging thing. Just ask John Cusack’s dog. It’s next to the San Andreas fault, don’tcha know, and in our book that puts it at a solid ten on the Brick-ter scale.


Movie: The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

If the earthquakes don’t kill you, the weather will. We’re not talking about skin cancer from sunny days on the beach without wearing enough sunscreen or blazing forest fires in Malibu – horrific as they are – but twisters ginormous enough to make buildings shake and Bill Paxton shout “we’re all gonna die, man!” over and over again. Yes, that miscellaneous Asian city and most of North America may follow it into meteorological meltdown, but is anyone surprised to see LA first against the wall? Are they heck. As with 2012, Roland Emmerich shows his appetite for statistically improbable West Coast destruction in The Day After Tomorrow, but nothing could possibly surprise the good people of LA. After all, they’ve been robbed, shot, stabbed, ‘quaked, ray-gunned, hit by amphibians, caught in a crossfire between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, robbed again and run over by Jason Statham. Hey, what’s a little high wind?


Movies: Reservoir Dogs (1992), Falling Down (1993), Bowfinger (1999), The Italian Job (2003), Crank 2: High Voltage (2009)

“Beep. Honk. Change radio station. Move out the way for the careering bus with the bomb onboard. Roll down window. Roll it up again when men in black suits try to car-jack you. Honk again. Move forward five yards. Try not to make eye-contact with nutter with the broken glasses, shotgun and briefcase. Narrowly avoid car crash involving racist cop, aggrieved yuppie and serious amounts of emotional uplift. Blink through smog. Put on sunglasses. Watch as swarm of gold-laden Minis zooms by on the sidewalk. Take off sunglasses. Rub eyes in disbelief as traffic links blink red and green. Curse loudly. Dodge short-sighted man running through the traffic. Curse even more loudly as aggressive bald man attempts to jumpstart his nipples. Make note to move to San Francisco. Remember Bullet; settle on North Dakota.”

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