21 Terrifying Horror Movies Featuring Isolated Environments
A reader recently posed the question on our site asking what are the best closed environment horror movies around. It’s a loaded question since like all sub genres of horror there are literally thousands of films which makes it tricky to answer.
But we are always up for a challenge!
I have compiled 21 horror films I think are outstanding examples of closed environment horror movies where the isolation plays into the terror of the overall film.
That said I will concede this may not in fact be the 21 best but we should all be able to agree whole heartedly this is 21 movies that any horror movie fan should check out.
When it comes to sci-fi horror there is no higher standard then Ridley Scott’s science fiction masterpiece ALIEN. Sigourney Weaver stars as Ripley the captain of a commercial space mining ship that is suddenly assaulted by an unknown creature with a penchant for gestation.
ALIEN is one of the greatest horror movies of all time and its isolation factor is one of the many ways it succeeds.
Sam Raimi’s original masterpiece from 1981 set the stage for isolation horror movies and even inspired a remake which some fans adored and others despised. In this 1981 Classic Bruce Campbell stars as a man with a nosy penchant for reading old scholarly books he can not understand. In doing so he unleashes great evil and must fight to survive with his girlfriend in a Cabin in the Woods.
Jamie Lee Curtis is best known for her work on Halloween but she has done quite a few other films not least of which is the 1999 sci-fi horror film VIRUS co starring Donald Sutherland and William Baldwin. Its the story of a crew of salvagers who board an abandoned military ship and soon encounter unholy hell and complete terror as an alien signal from space turns the ship they are stranded on into a living breathing nightmare.
Adam Green is best known for HATCHET but for me his best work is definitely SPIRAL And Frozen. Hatchet was a tribute to old school American horror but was far from genre bending. Spiral is the greatest psychological thriller since PSYCHO and Frozen which makes this list brings new meaning to environmental terror. When I was interviewed by the NY Times I spoke highly of FROZEN so it should come as no surprise it makes this list.
Frozen takes a normal routine trip to the ski hill and turns it into a life and death affair with the most unexpected of villains a ski lift.
Adam Green is without question one of the most talented up and coming directors and FROZEN is a film that proves it.
If you have never heard of this 2013 horror film from Jeff Renfroe dont be surprised. I found it by sheer happenstance while snooping through video rentals. Mainstream critics seem to have nothing good to say about the movie but for me its a gem starring two greats in Lawrence Fishburne and Bill Paxton.
The Colony is the story of a group of people forced underground by the next ice age who must struggle to survive in an old Norad bunker against the bitter new global catastrophy. True to form they soon find that their is much more to fear then just the snow. A truly outstanding film !
Dawn of the Dead
Really you can pick your poison as to which one you prefer. I loved George Romero’s original and Zack Snyder’s reboot starring the incredibly talented Sarah Polley is a great tribute to the original while bringing a whole new angle to the story.
Dawn of the Dead is the story of a group of survivors who hole up in a local shopping mall to wait out a zombie apocalypse. Romero’s version released in 1978 is one of the greatest zombie movies of all time and Zack Snyder’s 2003 remake of it is also a solid flick.
Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza shot to fame with their spanish horror film REC which is one of the truly great modern horror movies. Set in an apartment building it is the story of a reporter doing a story on the fire department who goes on a call to an Apartment building and finds herself trapped with its occupants and something much worse.
It was remade in 2008 by Screen Gems and Vertigo and frankly even the remake was a solid film.
The Day was released in 2011 and stars Shawn Ashmore ( Lost ) and is a really unique apocalyptic tale that features non stop carnage, a great plot and a polished ensemble cast of relative unknowns. The Day takes risks and it works resulting in a real treat!
In The Day a group of five people are fighting to stay alive in a post apocalyptic future. They seek shelter in an abandonded farmhouse looking for food and soon find themselves matching wits with bloodthirsty predators bent on making them lunch.
Xavier Gens is an incredibly talented director and his 2011 film The Divide is just another star on his cap. Starring Michael Biehn and Milo Ventimiglia its the story of a group of survivors who are caught in a Nuclear attack.
They take shelter in a basement apartment building and with supplies, wits and courage dwindling the group quickly turns on each other. The Divide is a powerful movie with a believable and powerful story but it is also brutal and unforgiving. The Divide is a truly terrifying movie and one that everyone should experience.
Toby Wilkins is a really talented director. His film SPLINTER was shot on a shoestring budget and is about a criminal who car jacks a couple and ends up trapped with them in a gas station as a ‘thing’ comes out of the woods.
Splinter should have gotten a theatrical release and in my books is one of the best horror movies of the last 10 years much less one of the best isolation based horror movies. It’s the closest thing to THE THING you will see and its also a completely new and terrifying story that pays tribute to the classic horror of The Thing without ripping it off.
Night of the living dead:
Night of the Living Dead set it off for the zombie genre. I know it’s a bit sacrilegious to say but I would encourage you to not just checkout the 1968 version which George Romero directed but also checkout the remake which Tom Salvini directed and George Romero produced. For me Romero’s was better because it was the first but just too really stir the pot I think Salvini’s version offered more for Zombie fans.
Tom Savini is a complete jerk from my experiences meeting him but he is one hell of a talented FX guy and Director. Night of the Living Dead is of course about the end of the world as the dead walk and a group of stranger’s band together in a farmhouse to survive the end of the world.
The descent is the perfect movie to scare the hell out of you if you have a fear of small spaces or are severely claustrophobic. I am not sure if I have severe claustrophobia but I can tell you I do not like tight spaces and The Descent made me sweat.
Add to the fact that when a group of rock climbing women get trapped in the caves they encounter a new species bent on making them lunch and you have one hell of a creepy film of terror, isolation and claustrophobia. I would also encourage you to check out the sequel Descent 2 which just hit DVD and is almost as good as the first one.
Right At your Door
Right at Your Door is a truly fantastic indie film of apocalyptic destruction. The film is entirely based around a small house where a man barricades himself in after a dirty bomb goes off in downtown LA. Unfortunately his wife was at work and soon returns home where he must make the decision to let her in and face infection or keep her out and try to survive.
The film is a fantastic character piece with a ton of thrills, great dialogue and an ending that will impress you. Really one of the best lesser known films or isolated terror.
A lot of people did not like The Mist but I for one thought it was a fantastic film. It’s the story of a storm that hits a small community and a mist that rolls in and brings an evil with it. The community bands together in a local shopping mart and tries to survive what could very well be the end of the world. The Mist is a fantastic sci-fi-horror tale with an ending that literally had me gasping.
Blindness stars Mark Buffalo and Julianne Moore and is about a plague of blindness that is running rampant throughout the world. Those who are infected are quarantined into a small prison like facility and must try to survive as the world around them collapses. If they try to leave the army will kill them but if they stay inside worse things are waiting as humanity slowly leaves their prison as desperation and viciousness settles in. A truly disturbing and intense horror film that is one of my personal favourites of the last 10 years.
Pontypool is the closest thing to Night of the Living Dead you will get without ripping it off completely. It tells the story of a Disc Jockey who is on the air as the world comes to an end due to a strange virus spread by the sound waves which turns people into zombie like maniacal killers. This film is quite similar to the new film DEAD AIR which starred Bill Moseley accept PontyPool plays out quite literally like a well thought out stage play. Intense characters, very little action and literally only 3 rooms in the entire film but it’s a movie that will stay with you and impress the hell out of you. If you liked CARRIERS you will definitely want to check out PONTYPOOL.
Jack Nicholson starred in this film about a boy and his family who go to a hotel to maintain it in the off season only to have dear old dad go absolutely bananas and try to kill the family. Jack Nicholson put himself on the map with this role and quite frankly he plays crazy a little too well for my liking. The Shining is one of those movies every horror fan should see.
Day of the Dead
This was a tough one I couldn’t decide between Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead for quite awhile since both are such fantastic films. I ended up going with Day over Dawn mainly because in Day of the Dead they focus on survivors of the zombie apocalypse living in an underground bunker and for me it felt more isolated then the mall setting of Dawn of the Dead. I am of course talking about George Romero’s originally Day of the Dead here. You can check out the sequel starring Mena Suvari or Day of The Dead 2 Contagium but only if you like being stabbed in the face with a rusty fork. Where Romero’s original story is genius the remakes/sequels are REALLY REALLY bad.
End of the Line
End of the Line is a low budget Canadian horror film about a group of religious nuts who conspire to set off the end of days and actually manage to pull it off. Shot on a very small budget it takes place primarily on an underground subway and is both creepy and disturbing and really felt like a throwback to classic horror where characters and story were the focus. From creepy murderous kids to evil religious cult leaders and frantic running through subways… End of the Line delivers it all. A great film that every fan of isolation horror should see.
The last film on my list is the mother of all isolation films and also in this case a remake. John Carpenters remake of The Thing starring Kurt Russell tells the story of an isolated research camp in the arctic which is attacked by ‘the thing’. Easily the most isolated of locations possible it features fantastic visual FX, great characters and intense action. The Thing is one of the Top 10 Horror Movies of all times according to our Horror tomb and fan reviews and is clearly a movie every fan should see.
The only thing worse than being trapped in a box is being trapped in a puzzle box that tries to kill you a hundred different ways. 1997’s Cube directed by Vincenzo Nitali is the story of seven strangers all from different walks of life who wake up to find themselves held captive in a maze of cubes of deadly traps.
Long before JIGSAW put people into traps in SAW their was ‘CUBE’
Now that you have seen what I consider to be the Best please take a minute and share your own in the comments below.