On 24th March, PM Narendra Modi appeared on all our televisions and took a concrete step against fighting the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That meant that no going out (unless it was absolutely necessary), working from home, and spending time with family, friends, and roommates. But my privileged ass thought that we’re still going to have a lot of time in our hands which we can spend watching movies which are similar to our situation i.e. are about isolation.
Now, Modi’s lockdown announcement started a chain reaction of gatherings at various places in our country. The statistics show that the number of positive Coronavirus cases and deaths due to it are on the rise. So, there was no option but to initiate Lockdown 2.0 which was started from 15th of April and will go on till May 3rd. Therefore I have made a list of twenty-five movies that portray people in various kinds of isolation.
1. Climax (dir. Gaspar Noé)
A bunch of French dancers get together for a rehearsal, led by the multi-talented and unimaginably sexy Sofia Boutella, and have an after-party where they dance and drink. However, soon they realise that their drinks have been spiked with LSD and they start to lose their goddamn minds in the most horrifying ways. The movie is made to look like one take and you’ll really start to feel the anxiety and madness as the night progresses.
2. Cube (dir. Vincenzo Natali)
I think everyone who has some idea of films has watched this one-location science fiction horror. I remember it being incredibly popular when I was in school and I am glad to see that it has become such a cult classic because of its simplicity and focus on character growth. Yes, the traps and the gore play a huge part. However, its message about the depths that humans will dive to survive is what will definitely stay with you.
3. The Man from Earth (dir. Richard Schenkman)
I randomly came across this film when I was in college and found it to be profoundly interesting. It stars relatively unknown actors, except for Tony Todd and John Billingsley, and focuses on the low-key farewell party of a professor, John Oldman. They sit down to talk about a lot of things but the conversation veers into John’s history and he reveals that he has been on Earth since the time of the cavemen. That’s all I am going to say. Experience the rest of it on your own because it is mind-blowing.
4. Phone Booth (dir. Joel Schumacher)
Colin Farrell gets stuck in the last phone booth in New York City while Kiefer Sutherland is threatening to shoot him via a sniper rifle if he doesn’t listen to his orders. What does he have to do though? Well, he has to confess his sins to the people he’s cheating on. Sounds simple, eh? Well, actually not because saying the truth is easier said than done. And by the time the movie wraps up, I assure you that you’ll start to introspect as much as Stuart does.
5. 127 Hours (dir. Danny Boyle)
The thing about this James Franco starrer is that it is a true story. Yes, a man called Aron Ralston actually got his hand stuck between a mountain and a boulder. And he spent 127 hours in that situation before doing the needful (I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it already) to get out of there. Most people talk about the unnerving last act but I think the rest of the movie is as memorable especially since it shows why we should cherish the moments of freedom we get.
6. The Others (dir. Alejandro Amenábar)
Nicole Kidman is stuck in a gigantic mansion with her kids who are allergic to sunlight. Since it is customary for mansions to be spooky, you have very frequent scares and hauntings. But in addition to all that there is something off about the whole situation which is revealed right at the end of the film. And when the revelation comes, the plot of the entire movie turns on its head and gives you an existential crisis. It’s a shame that it is being remade. It’s too perfect.
7. Coherence (dir. James Ward Byrkit)
In the last list, we featured The Invitation, which was about a bunch of people getting together for a dinner party and things going south. Nothing supernatural about it. This one here is similar. However, there’s a supernatural twist initiated by a comet. And that’s practically all I can say about the plot. All in all, it is a pretty mind-bending story and one that will make you ponder about the choices we’d make when faced with extreme adversity.
8. Hush (dir. Mike Flanagan)
A woman lives in a remote place and is being stalked by a killer. That is enough to induce a lot of anxiety. Oh, wait. The woman is deaf and mute on top of all that. So, she doesn’t know where the killer’s coming from until he’s right in front of her. She can’t scream for help. She can’t call someone on the telephone. Now tell me how f*cking scary is that? The ending is undoubtedly quite debatable but the rest of it will keep you at the edge of your seat.
9. Gerald’s Game (dir. Mike Flanagan)
Flanagan is obviously a master of one-location movies. His abilities practically touched the skies during the sixth episode of The Haunting of Hill House. Before doing that, he gave us a taster with this adaptation of a Stephen King novel which is truly nerve-wracking. It does make Jessie, the protagonist, judge her life decisions. So, how are you going to relate to it? You’re going to keep all your kinky plans at bay during this lockdown period.
10. 10 Cloverfield Lane (dir. Dan Trachtenberg)
This is one of the best horror films to grace this list. Yes, the twist at the very end kinda undermines the whole suspense about whether Howard (John Goodman) is lying or telling the truth about a deadly virus killing everything and how he’s Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Emmett’s (John Gallagher Jr.) last hope. However, as the story progresses, all the evidence starts to inject doubt into everyone and makes things insanely tense.
11. The Autopsy of Jane Doe (dir. André Øvredal)
Horror movies have always centered a lot of stories around graveyards. But that’s like the last stage and the corpse is pretty deep in the ground and it’ll take a lot of effort for the undead to get out of there. What about the mortuary though? Not that difficult right? This movie takes place there and follows a father and a son (played by Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox) who are trying to power through a night where the entire mortuary is coming to life.
12. Non-Stop (dir. Jaume Collet-Serra)
Liam Neeson is a Federal Air Marshal in a plane that has a killer on the loose. The killer is communicating with Neeson only and is threatening to kill someone every 20 minutes unless his financial demands are met. Given how it’s on a plane and given how Neeson has such a tremendous screen presence, it is one of the most anxiety-inducing one-location movies out there. And considering the current situation where crowded planes have become every traveler’s #1 fear, this will be a tough watch. I am not going to lie about that.
13. The Descent (dir. Neil Marshall)
I think movies like The Descent are basically a huge ‘f*ck you’ to adrenaline junkies who just go wherever the hell they want to go. In this case, a bunch of friends choose an uncharted cave. An uncharted cave! And obviously they get stuck in there. But here’s the kicker. There are some sickly creatures in the cave that are out to get them. It boasts of some incredible acting, riveting cinematography, and a gut-punch of an ending. It is truly crushing.
14. Disturbia (dir. D.J. Caruso)
This urban horror flick is basically an update on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (it was in my previous list, yes). Instead of a fracture, there’s electronic tagging. Instead of apartments full of quirky characters, there are individual houses. And there are some truly amazing performances by Shia LaBeouf and David Morse. There’s a true sense of dread that Caruso instills, despite all the flashiness, by showing how ignorant we can be even though we have all the technology at our disposal.
15. Vacancy (dir. Nimród Antal)
This is one film that you don’t want to watch if you got stuck in a hotel/motel/inn during this lockdown period. Because it shows a couple stuck in a motel which is actually a hotspot for grizzly murders. Do I have to explain any further? I didn’t think so. That said I do want to talk about how underappreciated it is. Luke Wilson is obviously great in it. But it is one of the good movies Kate Beckinsale starred in before getting sucked into the Underworld franchise and the latex suits that came with it.
16. Captain Phillips (dir. Paul Greengrass)
Like 127 Hours, this is another true story. And in this movie Tom Hanks is again trapped in a place surrounded by water. However, this time he isn’t alone. He has a crew full of people and a bunch of Somalian pirates threatening to kill them. It is up to Phillips to survive this attack until help arrives. Hanks obviously delivers a beautiful performance. But it is definitely Barkhad Abdi who steals the show like a boss. Also, please be careful. You might get a bit seasick while watching it.
17. Raincoat (dir. Rituparno Ghosh)
Based on O. Henry’s ‘The Gift of the Magi’, the story revolves around two former lovers Mannu (Ajay Devgn) and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Neeru) who meet each other again after many years. However, both of them put on an act about living happy lives while reminiscing about the time they had spent together. That’s practically it. But both Devgn and Aishwarya put up such compelling performances that you won’t be able to unglue your eyes from the screen.
18. Paranormal Activity (dir. Oren Peli)
Oren Peli hit the jackpot with his first feature film that he had written, directed, produced, shot, and edited! Everything after that went to sh*t. However, in my opinion, the first film in this series is a perfect horror film set in a place which we consider the safest place on Earth: our home. It is raw, suspenseful, claustrophobic, and really scary. I still remember that the first time that I saw it, I legit couldn’t sleep for five nights in a row.
19. Source Code (dir. Duncan Jones)
Can we admit that this is technically a time-travel movie? Because Colter (Jake Gyllenhaal) is able to travel back in time multiple times to find a bomber. Well, okay, it is a simulation made of dead people’s collective memories and Colter has to weave through it in order to find a serial bomber before they strike again. The twist after that might make or break the movie for you. It didn’t for me. Hence, it is on this list. Gyllenhaal gives a terrific performance, like he always does, by displaying genuine frustration of being stuck in a time-loop without their permission.
20. Ready Or Not (dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett)
Entering a household after marrying someone is an uphill battle especially for women. There are new customs, new lifestyles, new schedules, and a whole new culture involved. And of course all of it is high-key unnecessary because there’s always an easier way of bridging the gap between two families/people. Many movies have explored this topic but I don’t think it has been depicted better than this post-marriage Battle Royale-esque story about a bride surviving a deadly family ritual within the confines of her husband’s house. Samara Weaving is just brilliant!
21. Snowpiercer (dir. Bong Joon-ho)
Yes, the internet’s favourite director for tackling classism is here. Here he has adapted a French graphic novel which is set in a train which is traversing the globe. Every bogey represents a certain class and Chris Evans’ Curtis Everett has to make it to the front of the train to survive and break the chain in the process. Bong rarely provides any external shots and forces you to feel the claustrophobia that every person in the train is experiencing. And then he crushes you with that ending.
22. Dial M for Murder (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
The master of suspense, thrill, and horror aced it for the umpteenth time by adapting Frederick Knott’s stage play of the same name. If I say anything about the plot, I will give everything away. All I can say is that there’s an extremely elaborate attempted murder involved and an equally elaborate and intense investigation into it within the walls of a pretty spacious house. However, as the movie progresses, I assure you that those walls will start to feel very suffocating.
23. Martyrs (dir. Pascal Laugier)
This 2008 French film isn’t for the faint of heart. I mean, if you think your heart is even moderately strong, you won’t make it to the end because it is visceral in its depiction of pain, both physical and mental. It does get its point across about abuse and its lingering effects. It also establishes a deep and disturbing lore. However, the presentation is nauseating to the extent that you smell the stench of blood from your screen, or whatever you are going to watch it on.
24. Krampus (dir. Michael Dougherty)
Christmas is one of the most uplifting holiday seasons. However, this film turns that concept on its head and dives into the dark side of Christmas’ lore where an evil version of Santa Claus comes to sh*t on you because of your negativity. The movie revolves around the Engel family who are holed up in their house due to a snow-storm. There’s a lot of amazing practical and visual effects and one hell of an ending!
25. You’re Next (dir. Adam Wingard)
Remember when home invasion movies used to be good and not just a version of Purge? Yes, this is a product of that period and it is sweet. The gore is apt. The fear is apt. The black comedy is apt. The character drama is apt. The twists and turns are apt. It’s a very well-balanced movie that keeps the audience on its toes. Also, on a tangentially related note, this list contains two directors (Wingard and Dougherty) who have done one-location horror films and helmed a Kaiju movie involving Godzilla.