The best pandemic advice out there right now is clear: stay home, stay away from public spaces, don’t go out to see other people. It’s important, but it’s not easy. Being inside all the time and not getting to share air with other people can start to feel suffocating. If you’re starting to feel this way, why not watch a few horror films that really understand what you’re going through?
Here are ten films to watch that will mirror your feelings of being trapped inside a space. Most of them probably won’t cheer you up, but they’ll serve a different kind of catharsis (or anxiety fuel!) than marathoning a bunch of virus and plague movies.
Green Room (2015)
“A punk rock band becomes trapped in a secluded venue after finding a scene of violence. For what they saw, the band themselves become targets of violence from a gang of white power skinheads who want to eliminate all evidence of the crime.”
If you want to crank your stress up to 11 I recommend watching Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room. The pure grit and survivalism of the members of the Ain’t Rights, who’ve been trapped and held in a green room by neo-Nazis and have to fight their way out is nothing short of adrenaline-rushing. Also, this month should have been Anton Yelchin’s 31st Birthday (on March 11), so we can honour his memory by giving his outstanding performance in Green Room a watch.
Fermat’s Room (2007)
“Summoned to a remote warehouse by the enigmatic Fermat (Federico Luppi), four brilliant mathematicians are given pseudonyms — Galois (Alejo Sauras), Hilbert (Lluís Homar), Olivia (Elena Ballesteros) and Pascal (Santi Millán) — and tasked with solving highly complex numerical riddles. As the apparent strangers struggle to solve the puzzles and determine why they are there, the stakes get higher as the walls literally begin to close in around them.”
After a few days of self-isolation, your home might start to feel smaller, but it’s not literally shrinking by the minute like the puzzle room from Fermat’s Room. Hopefully no one’s forcing you to speedily solve math and logic puzzles or face getting squished like trash in a compactor.
“Late-night TV host Angela (Manuela Velasco) and her cinematographer are following the fire service on a call to an apartment building, but the Spanish police seal off the building after an old woman is infected by a virus which gives her inhuman strength.”
The found-footage format of this film makes you feel even more claustrophobic as you follow Angela and Pablo (Pablo Rosso) through stairwells and apartments of a quarantined building. You never know if an infected tenant is lurking just outside of the shot. [REC] is sure to playback your anxieties about being cooped up in your apartment wondering if your neighbours in the units next to you are staying home, washing their hands, and practicing social distancing.
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“When disc jockey Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) reports to his basement radio station in the Canadian town of Pontypool, he thinks it’s just another day at work. But when he hears reports of a virus that turns people into zombies, Mazzy barricades himself in the radio booth and tries to figure out a way to warn his listeners about the virus and its unlikely mode of transmission: the English language.”
This one goes out to everyone who still have to leave their houses and report to work every day during the pandemic. Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) and his studio manager Sydney (Lisa Houle) are stuck at work when their hometown of Pontypool, Ontario is declared to be under quarantine. Every person who comes to the station brings with them the risk of spreading the movie’s strange verbal virus to them. It doesn’t take long before you start paying extra-close attention to everyone on-screen for symptoms.
The Shining (1980)
“Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family move into an isolated hotel with a violent past. Living in isolation, Jack begins to lose his sanity, which affects his family members.”
The Shining feels like a parable for those of us who are trying to be as productive as possible while we have to work from home (or those of us who are not working but feel extra pressure to do something useful with our time). Jack is determined to turn his stint as the off-season caretaker at the Overlook into a writer’s retreat, to the detriment of every other part of his life. Don’t be like Jack. Only bad things can happen when it’s all work and no play.
“A scissor-wielding psychopath (Béatrice Dalle) terrorizes a pregnant widow (Alysson Paradis) on Christmas Eve.”
You shouldn’t be expecting visitors right now. Sarah (Alysson Paradis) certainly wasn’t expecting a strange woman to come knocking on her door. The scariest part of Inside is how relentless this stranger is, finding ways to break into Sarah‘s home, intent on stealing Sarah‘s unborn child.
The Lodge (2019)
“During a family retreat to a remote winter cabin over the holidays, the father (Richard Armitage) is forced to abruptly depart for work, leaving his two children in the care of his new girlfriend, Grace (Riley Keough). Isolated and alone, a blizzard traps them inside the lodge as terrifying events summon specters from Grace’s dark past.”
If you’re in for the long haul with kids, you can breathe easy knowing that — at the very least — they aren’t actively trying to destroy your grip on reality. Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) are perfectly awful to Grace, who is just trying to have a nice time, going to great lengths to both terrorize and gaslight her. For those of us who are in parts of the world that are still in the throes of a snowy spring, The Lodge also captures that bleak feeling of being stuck at home and not wanting to go outside because there’s still snow on the ground.
“Hoping to find the perfect place to live, a couple (Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg) travel to a suburban neighbourhood in which all the houses look identical. But when they try to leave the labyrinth-like development, each road mysteriously takes them back to where they started.”
Gemma (Imogen Poots) and Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) technically have a whole neighbourhood to themselves, but they are mysteriously tethered to house #9. Cut off from the rest of the world, one of their biggest struggles is finding purpose for their time, whether that purpose is raising the freaky child that was left on their doorstep, or obsessively digging a hole in the backyard.
“Best-selling novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is on his way home after completing his latest book when he meets with a car accident. He is rescued by obsessed fan Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), only to discover that he is her prisoner.”
It’s hard to stay motivated to meet word counts and deadlines when one day blends into the next. Paul Sheldon has the threat of bodily harm and Annie Wilkes‘s explosive anger to fuel him to meet his daily writing and fitness goals. I highly recommend that you can find something less terrifying to inspire you.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
“After an accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finds herself in a bunker with Howard (John Goodman), a stranger who informs her that she is safe with him and the world outside is inhabitable.”
Tensions run high when Michelle finds herself sharing a small space with her apparent saviour Howard and another stranger (John Gallagher Jr.). What’s so great about 10 Cloverfield Lane is that it demonstrates that, even with the constant stress of not knowing what’s going on outside and anxiety about the dangerous stranger Michelle is living with, stretches of self-isolation can be dull as heck. There are only so many puzzles you can build, board games you can play, and movies you can watch (or rewatch), especially when you’re stuck with the same people, and especially especially if you don’t like each other all that much.
Got other recommendations for this list? Share your thoughts with the Nightmare on Film Street community on Twitter, in our Official Subreddit, or in the Fiend Club Facebook Group! In the meantime, stay inside and stay creepy!