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agentorange [Editorials 12.14.10] movie news horror thriller editorial

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The trend towards well scripted, high concept thrillers that take place in just one location is truly peaking, and in anticipation of the claustrophobic thrills of both Devil and Buried on DVD and Blu-ray right away we thought we would countdown our favourite thrillers that take place in just one room.

Grab a pen folks, 'cause you're gonna want to catch up with these claustrophobic thrillrides!






M. Night takes the producer chair in this horror flick about a literal elevator ride from hell, where a group of strangers realize they are trapped in an elevator with the devil!

After the abysmal ratings following the bloated Last Airbender, it was sure good to see M. Night back in the creative environment he's best suited- involved in a little indie with a big concept.




Back in the 50s and 60s the American government conducted a rash of freaky experiments on unsuspecting citizens. The code name for the covert CIA mind-control and chemical research program was called MK-ULTRA and basically it was like an evil version of the Dharma Initiative.

The Killing Room works under the premise that the program was never shut down and people are still being tricked into participating in said freaky experiments in the name of national security. One of the things that makes The Killing Room stand out, is you get to see on both sides of the experiment.

Another reason to check it out is that it's from World Battle: Los Angele's director Jonathan Liebesman.




In this mostly... wait for it... unknown thriller, five men wake up in a locked-down warehouse with no memory of who they are. They are forced to figure out who is good and who is bad to stay alive.

A little like The Killing Room, Unknown sort of fell through the cracks and most people caught it on cable. It has an amazing cast in James Caviezel, Greg Kinnear, Bridget Moynahan, Joe Pantoliano, Barry Pepper, Jeremy Sisto and totally stands up. Peppered with flashback, some may argue this isn't strictly a one-room thriller, but it's close enough in my books.




In new British thriller, Exam, eight talented candidates have reached the final stage of selection to join the ranks of a mysterious and powerful corporation. Entering a windowless room, an "Invigilator" gives them 80 minutes to answer one question. He outlines three rules they must obey: don't talk to him or the armed guard by the door, don't spoil their papers and don't leave the room. The candidates turn over their question papers, only to find they're completely blank.

Thus begins Stuart Hazeldine's powerful debut, a largely bloodless thriller that nonetheless keeps you guessing until the end. One thing I liked about Exam is the subtle way that Hazeldine makes us feel that we're in a science fiction universe full of designer drugs, economic meltdown and evil corporations without leaving this room. Defintiely worth checking out now that it's on DVD in Stateside.




1408 is not just one of the best one-room horror flicks, but it's one of the best Stephen King adaptions yet. It strays a little from the short story by adding a bit of a backstory, but the basic concept of a hack ghost writer who stumbles upon the real thing is examined to its fullest here.

I don't know about you guys, but I generally don't like ghost stories. Probably because I've seen too many of them and they always turn out the same (the ghosts need our help). But somehow this one really got under my skin. Also, Cusack is a strong lead here and handles what is essentially a one man show with great dignity.




If you're reading this and haven't seen Cube yet, just stop reading, go watch it and come back. Vincenzo Natali's first scifi feature is an indie gem that spawned two sequels.

Seven complete strangers are involuntarily placed in an endless kafkaesque maze containing deadly traps. Technically it takes place in multiple rooms - or cubes - but since they are all identical let's agree that it's really the same room.




Buried somehow goes beyond storytelling and becomes an experience. It is so claustrophobic and fast paced that you really feel like you are in that coffin with Reynolds as he fights to figure out what's going on and tries to get rescued. You literally never leave the coffin. I'm glad I caught it on the big screen and hope the experience translates to home viewing. I would definitely NOT advise watching it on a laptop as I know many are prone to doing.

Buried comes out on DVD and blu-ray combo pack in January, so if you missed it during its short theatrical run, you'll be able to catch it then.




In Spanish thriller, Fermat's Room, four mathematicians who do not know each other are invited by a mysterious host on the pretext of resolving a great enigma. The room in which they find themselves turns out to be a shrinking room that will crush them if they do not discover in time what connects them all and why someone might wish to murder them.

quietearth hated this film, but I loved it and have seen it a few times now. Not being great at math myself, I found I missed some of the subtleties of the dialog, but luckily this is a thriller first and math lesson second. If you haven't seen it you should rectify that immediately.



Hitchcock's Rope is famous for a couple reasons. First, it uses long takes - the longest possible at the time it was made - and second, it's all set in one man's apartment.

The plot of Rope is pretty twisted and I doubt anyone but Hitchcock could have got it made at the time. Two young men strangle their "inferior" classmate, hide his body in their apartment and then invite his friends and family to a dinner party as a means to challenge the "perfection" of their crime. Truly classic and demented stuff.




Another Hitchcock classic that took the one room thriller to new levels of effectiveness, Rear Window is so well done that your recollection might even be that it didn't take place in one room at all. But it does.

James "Jimi" Stewart plays a wheelchair bound photographer who spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed a murder. It's films like this that make us say things like "Hitchcockian" when we talk about other films. This is truly a master at work and I would say I like this one even more than Psycho.




Like many of the films above, >The Hunger starts out with five strangers waking up to find themselves trapped in an underground dungeon with no idea how they got there. Frantic to figure out how to escape, the disoriented group quickly discovers another room containing enough water to survive for 30 days…and a razor sharp surgical knife.

The intention of the game becomes quite clear: how long will it take before the hunger inside makes them each do the unspeakable. The tension escalates, old secrets boil to the surface and new alliances result in one bloody question… How far would you go to survive?

The Hunger is better on paper than it is to watch, but it was good enough for Fangoria to put their seal of approval and release it as part of their Frightfest collection.




In his review, Ben Ausrwick said that The Disappearance of Alice Creed is "a minimalist, play-like piece that relies on stellar acting and a devilish plot to carry a slight idea." Very true. The film takes place in only one or two rooms (all right, I'm cheating again) and it's high concept, but the acting and script are just good enough to carry the film and I would reccomend it to indie fans.




Haven't seen this one to be honest, but I remembered it took place in one room. The Steam Experiment is the original title. It was renamed Chaos Experiment when it finally arrived on DVD and Blu-ray. It has a terrible rating on IMDB, but stars Val Kilmer, so I'm actually thinking of tracking it down.




Another Canadian addition to the list, Pontypool (review) is a perfect example of this kind of film done right. It is the tense story of a zombie outbreak told entirely from the point of view of a small town radion DJ and takes place in the station's basement studio. The ironic twist? The outbreak is spread through speech.

Directed by Bruce MacDonalnd of Hard Core Logo and Tracey Fragments fame and based on a novel by Tony Burgess, Pontypool is one of the best Canadian genre films and easily one of the best example of how to construct a one room horror film.

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zenseeker (3 years ago) Reply

Wasn't the first Saw set in just one room? Odd one to miss out.

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Brett (3 years ago) Reply

Hellevator is another one. I believe Closet Land also was a one room film.

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

Yeah, Saw... although there are a lot of flashbacks.

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Hot Fuzz (3 years ago) Reply

Saw doesn't work becasue of the whole cop side plot.

What about Panic Room?

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wtf (3 years ago) Reply

the cube plays in several rooms but was filmed in just one.

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Colonel Mustard (3 years ago) Reply

yeee... another great list!
a few other movies that could have made it:
El Método
The Hole
and a third one I'm particularly fond of The Man from Earth (it does after all take place in one room even though it probably isn't a thriller)

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John (3 years ago) Reply

and a large number of not mentioned Asian movies.

It is as if though we have to be subjected on and on to Hollywood garbage (Hitchcock excluded, Cube also ).

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agentorange (3 years ago) Reply

@John

Which Asian films. I've often admitted to not being an expert, so do tell.

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

How about BUG, mostly all in 1 room

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John (3 years ago) Reply

Red Room 1 & 2 ( Red Room : The Forbidden King Game, Red Room 2 (CAT III)),
Kisaragi (2007),...

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

What about "Headless Body in Topless Bar"??
That one is just great!

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=363302
http://blog.moviefone.com/2010/09/15/the-one-location-movie-trend-films-that-did-it-before-devil/
http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/787836

and more Asian:
The Lower Depths (1957)
Gosa 1 & 2
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1438522/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1703938/

+
non-Asian:
Das & The Eperiment, Moon, and all the mentioned in the upper threads.

So are we to believe, you will delete this too, like the previous post apocalyptic thread?

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agentorange (3 years ago) Reply

Why would we delete this post? Because it doesn't cover every single instance of this kind of filmmaking? THe goal is to spur discussion...

And that post is right here:

http://www.quietearth.us/articles/2010/06/20/Visions-of-the-End-30-post-apocalyptic-visions-of-the-21st-Century

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

he meant yesterdays one.

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agentorange (3 years ago) Reply

Same one. I just bumped it up for the day because I had no other content to post :)

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barker (3 years ago) Reply

Come on guys. Some of these additions from the comments are hardly one room thrillers. The Hole? No. Moon? That's a stretch.

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Fat Legs (3 years ago) Reply

Pontypool surely deserves a place on the list? Almost totally set in radio studio, post apocalyptic und a totally freakin awesome film to boot!

http://www.quietearth.us/articles/2009/02/27/New-PONTYPOOL-trailer

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

Yeah, I vote Pontypool too..

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trogen (3 years ago) Reply

cool list AO, got a few to check out there.

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agentorange (3 years ago) Reply

You guys are right. Pontypool deserves to be here, so I added it.

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Fat Legs (3 years ago) Reply

Pow! to the people etc

At a flexible stretch Right At Your Door should get a comment mention. One small house rather than a single room but it does get pretty boxed in there after the start.

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elson (3 years ago) Reply

I'd nominate The Exterminating Angel (1962), a truly strange and disturbing Spanish film.

"After a lavish dinner party, the guests find themselves mysteriously unable to leave the room... and over the next few days all the elaborate pretenses and facades that they've built up by virtue of their position in society collapse completely as they become reduced to living like animals" - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056732/

Very original, slightly hallucinogenic, and sets itself up perfectly for a sequel at the end (which to my knowledge has never been made).

It does have some scenes outside of the room in question, but the core of the film is about a group of people all trapped, by some kind of shared psychological delusion, in a single room. That fits right?

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

100 Feet (2008)

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Anonymous (3 years ago) Reply

12 Angry Men? (Both versions)
Not horror but still....

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Matinthehat (3 years ago) Reply

9 Dead

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Votre (3 years ago) Reply

Pontypool.
Brilliant.
Period.

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Goldenbrown (3 years ago) Reply

APPOLLO 13 - wasn't that two rooms? Or one tin can and one control room?

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Bill (3 years ago) Reply

Dude, how could you have forgotten Reservoir Dogs?

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jarrod.ward (3 years ago) Reply

One-Room Movie:

What Happened Was
from 1994

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atuinsails (3 years ago) Reply

The Chaos experiment is currently on Netflix's watch instantly list. I haven't gotten a chance to watch it, but I can't wait.

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nathorange (3 years ago) Reply

What about MOON? It is a one room (mostly) classic! Where are the MOON supporters?

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squint15 (6 months ago) Reply

what about "breathing room"?


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