When “Silent House” opens up, Elizabeth Olsen and her father have retreated to their lakeside home in order to fix it up for sale. But when a terrorizing presence reveals itself inside the house, Olsen finds her father incapacitated, and more shockingly, the house completely sealed off from the outside. As she tries to make her way out, she has to match wits with the home invader and explore every nook of an environment she’s only barely familiar with.
It’s a classic horror premise: characters trapped in one place through a force supernatural or man-made, attempting to find an exit with little idea of what to do. In conjunction with “Silent House,” we’ve collected a list of five other memorable scary movies in which there’s no way out, sometimes not even at the end.
“Evil Dead 2”
Purists will go for the first “Evil Dead,” but the remake is better in almost every way. After Ash and his girlfriend head to a cabin in the woods for a romantic getaway, the bridge leading them there is destroyed, trapping Ash and the scholars who show up (his girlfriend is killed early on). While they worry about finding a way out, the evil magic of the Necronomicon turns everything upside-down: the dead rise, the trees attack, and Ash is forced to cut off his possessed hand and replace it with a chainsaw. Technically, the characters never find an exit in this one. At the end, everyone is dead except for Ash, who is immediately warped to the 14th century where the movie’s eventual sequel, “Army of Darkness” takes place.
Probably the greatest movie on our list, “The Shining” isn’t a typical horror movie. It’s long and slow and the presence haunting the Torrance family is never really explained. But when the tension finally builds to its harrowing end game, it’s riveting to watch Wendy and Danny attempt to escape the Overlook Hotel with the murderous Jack in hot pursuit. After the hotel’s communication and transportation systems are destroyed, it’s only tragic luck that has Wendy and Danny eventually heading back to civilization.
“13 Ghosts” is not a great movie. But it’s filled with the type of goofy mythology and overcomplicated premise that can sometimes turn a mediocre horror movie into a memorable one. Especially when you consider that it’s filled with a “Who’s Who?” of actors you sort of recognize from somewhere, like Matthew Lillard and Shannon Elizabeth. If you forgot, “13 Ghosts” is about a group of people who are trapped in an elaborately-designed basement containing 12 violent spirits, who are released one by one while the protagonists try to figure out what the hell is going on and make their escape from the shifting rooms and deadly traps. There’s a plot that only sort of makes sense, but the art direction is awesomely trashy, and the paranormal tension is real enough.
It’s a simple premise: strangers are trapped in a cube-shaped prison, with no explanation of how they got there and no instruction on how to get out. The ingenuity of the concept and the unique visuals are enough to make up for the somewhat weak characterization: opening scenes like this one go a long way toward sustaining our interest, and it no doubt influenced a load of horror films, like the next one on our list.
For a moment, forget everything that followed: the ceaseless sequels, the 3D gimmickry, the increasingly inscrutable plots and back stories, the diminishing box office returns, the actors you couldn’t pick out of a slideshow, the endless copy cats and the crummy traps. “Saw” may not have been a revolution upon its release in 2003, but it was a breath of fresh air with intricate plotting wrapped around visceral imagery and enough twists and turns keeping the audience guessing until its frightful conclusion. Who could forget when Jigsaw rises off the ground and terrifies the absolute hell out of all of us? The setting jumps around, but we’re talking about the bathroom where the movie starts, and the characters who are forced to make an awful decision if they want to escape with their lives.
What are your favorite contained horror films? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!