5. Buried (Rodrigo Cortés, 2010)
Ryan Reynold carries Buried almost on his own, and if anyone still doubts Mr. Deadpool’s talent, here is the best proof. He spends the whole movie buried inside a casket, with nothing but a phone and a lighter, and it’s still very entertaining.
This is the most confined of our picks, and still one of the most riveting, agonizing and fascinating films. Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés makes the most of the confined setting, taking Chris Sparling smart but clichéd script and elevating it through Reynold’s performance and sheer claustrophobic cinematography.
Though it impressed critics and select audiences back then, Buried became a lesser known entry in Reynold’s filmography, which is a shame, because it’s still his best performance to date.
4. The Invitation (Karyn Kusama, 2015)
Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation came from out of nowhere to surprise everyone who watched it. This is a filmmaker who hasn’t been around for around six years after a terrible film (Jennifer’s Body), who was now doing a low-budget, single-location horror film that didn’t really give up that much in its synopsis.
All that it says is that it’s about a group of friends getting together after a traumatic event, when a guy gets invited by his ex-wife to an amiable dinner in the house they both lived in. Once The Invitation starts to unveil itself, however, it clearly becomes a meditation on trauma and mourning disguised as an eerie and effective horror-mystery.
Kusama’s very skillful direction takes Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi’s script to place it wouldn’t go without her, and she conducts her actors with grace through difficult moments of both horror and drama.
3. Cube (Vincenzo Natali, 1997)
This 1997 Canadian horror flick has become quite the cult classic, even warranting two terrible sequels for home video. Vicenzo Natali’s original film is as claustrophobic as it is weirdly expansive, reworking and rethinking the same space to fit its premise and its characters. It’s a complex work wrapped around a simple baseline.
Our characters are defined by their stereotypical characteristics: there’s a cop, a math prodigy, a building designer, a doctor, an escape master and a disabled man. Long before Jigsaw went around playing torture porn games, the guys from Cube went up against an even sicker life or death contest.
The characters are admittedly a bit simplistic, but the film slowly pulls the spectator in and delivers a riveting final hour.
2. Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez, 2016)
Alvarez’s excellent claustrophobic thriller follows three young criminals (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto) who want to rob one final house before they can skip town. Problem is the owner of that house is an unnamed blind man (Stephen Lang), with a knack for violence and a few horrifying secrets.
Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues’ script keeps the twists and turns coming so the proceedings never get boring, but a huge part of it is how the director deals with the main antagonist blindness and the small, but surprisingly fascinating setting.
The blind man’s house never seems to run out of new places and secrets, and Alvarez keeps exploring every possibility with his uncanny ability to explore horror tropes and go the extra mile with them. It’s an 88 minutes film that seems longer, but not worse for it.
1. Bug (William Friedkin, 2006)
After decades of misfirings of various degrees, the guy who made The Exorcist, William Friedkin, delivered one final masterpiece in Bug, the cinematic version of a one-scenario play by Tracy Letts, turned into a rapidly escalating and increasingly uncomfortable horror drama by Friedkin’s uncannily efficient direction.
The story concerns a lonely waitress paranoid because her abusive ex-husband is out of prison. Her new roommate introduces her to Peter, an even more paranoid drifter, and they begin a romance that’s largely based in their mutual fear of “invading bugs”. It’s a race to madness in which both Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon give career-best performances.
The story’s crescendo is agonizing, especially in the last 20 minutes, and Bug remains the best one-set horror movie around.
Author Bio: Caio Coletti is a Brazilian-born journalist, a proud poptimist, and has too many opinions to keep them all to himself.