Like these characters, most of us are used to staying put in just one location now
(thanks to the pandemic).
2020 is very much like living in a real-life horror movie. The worst part, it hasn't ended yet, we're still stuck in this pandemic-ridden time. Still, despite being separated by social distancing now, in the new norm era, arguably we've also gotten (virtually) closer as humankind as there is one thing we all have in common this year: lockdowns.
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
At one point or another in 2020, we've all been relegated to staying put at home for a lengthy period of time. In a nod to this unusual yet universally shared experience, why not we take a look at movies that have utilised isolation as their setup. With today being Halloween, we'll narrow the scope down further to just movies from the horror genre.
Being stuck at home is bad enough, but being stuck in a haunted home? That can't be good for anybody. Watch "I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House" to get a feel of that. As a live-in nurse to Iris Blum, an elderly writer with dementia, Lily Saylo doesn't get to spend her days anywhere else but at Blum's remote house. To Saylo's horror, the two of them are not the house's only occupants. A third – mysterious – woman in white can often be seen wandering around the house.
If you're not a believer in the supernatural, how about something more tangible? While the chances of you bumping into an alligator in your house is possibly as slim as encountering a ghost, "Crawl" can still make your skin, well, crawl. Kaya Scodelario ("The Maze Runner") plays swimmer Haley Keller, who finds herself trapped in her old family home in Florida when a Category 5 hurricane strikes the area. Not only does she have to find a way to escape before the water level rises dangerously high, she has to do so as she tries to find and save her father, all the while as she fends off the attacks of vicious alligators.
The title alone probably hits too close to home for most of us right now. "Quarantine", released 12 years ago, is a US remake of 2007 Spanish horror film REC. It did not quite meet the same success as the original, but it did well enough to spawn a sequel, "Quarantine 2: Terminal" (2011). Like the Spanish version, the remake is a found footage horror film. It follows a news crew who tags along with a couple of firemen responding to an emergency call at an apartment building. They end up getting sealed off in the apartment for quarantine purposes after the residents begin falling ill and growing delirious.
As if being stuck at home isn't torture enough for the mind, having someone hunting you down with no way out from the house can definitely break it. Before she was the superpowered Wanda in the "Avengers" franchise, Elizabeth Olsen was just a young woman named Sarah in "Silent House". In the 2011 psychological horror, Sarah falls into unexpected misfortunes at her family's Victorian house. Located in the countryside, she has been helping her father and uncle fix the dilapidated building when the arrival of a mysterious woman named Sophia changes everything. With all exits blocked, Sarah now finds herself in a cat and mouse game with an unknown perpetrator inside the house.
10 years before 2018's "The Strangers: Prey at Night", the world was first introduced to its predecessor, the psychological slasher film "The Strangers". The Tate–LaBianca murders, executed by the Manson family, partially inspired this movie, in which Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman star as couple Kristen McKay and James Hoyt, whose relationship is strained by McKay's fresh rejection of Hoyt's marriage proposal. They have a bigger problem on hand, however, when a group of masked strangers invade their home and begin torturing them.
This Nicole Kidman-starrer is very reminiscent of the world's current predicament. "The Others" sees the Oscar-winning actress starring as Grace Stewart, a mother to two children with a rare photosensitivity disease, which prompts her to keep them safely indoors at all times. But the house isn't as safe as it seems, as the little family and their servants begin seeing glimpses of other people in the house. Some of us have probably begun hallucinating extra companions in our houses too from being cooped up inside for too long.
I Am Mother
While more sci-fi than horror, "I Am Mother" earns a spot on this list for its claustrophobic setting. Sealed off from the outside world in a post-apocalyptic bunker, a teen girl simply called Daughter lives in isolation with her mother – a robot she, of course, calls Mother. Daughter is prohibited from venturing outside, as Mother says the consequences of doing so might be lethal due to contamination. Daughter obediently follows Mother but she begins to question everything when a woman, also identified as just Woman (Hilary Swank), arrives at their bunker and Daughter begins to realise there are other survivors in the world.
Let's shrink our location further. An underground bunker is still pretty expansive, but a panic room? Now that's real isolation. Jodie Foster and pre-"Twilight" Kristen Stewart star as mother and daughter in this David Fincher-helmed movie. They take cover in the panic room when their home is invaded by burglars. Unfortunately for them, the burglars' target is located in the very room they're in and have no intention of leaving the house empty-handed.
Forget being trapped inside a house, for most people, being trapped in an elevator is the real hell. M. Night Shyamalan interpreted this fear quite literally in his 2010 work, "Devil". At a building where a man has recently committed suicide, five people of various gender, age and occupation find themselves stuck in an elevator. As they wait for help, they begin to turn on one another as strange things begin happening inside the small space.
For real isolation, check out Ryan Reynolds' "Buried". Helmed by Rodrigo Cortés, the English-language Spanish movie features only Reynolds throughout it – buried alive, inside a coffin. You must be feeling thankful by now at least your room or house isn't literally as confining as a coffin, that's slowly filling with sand to boot. Reynolds' character, an American civilian named Paul who's working in Iraq, interacts with several other characters but only via phone call. (Replace this with Zoom and this is pretty much how most of the world interacts now, minus the coffin.) This tense movie will keep you on edge all the way through, just the perfect movie to watch this Halloween!
Cinema Online, 31 October 2020