A-List: Confinement Horror

By Sean Collier

October 10, 2008

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As much as we all like to rag on Stephen "I write novels in my sleep" King, he's responsible for a laundry list of genuinely compelling books, and many near perfect films. The Shining, Carrie, Stand by Me – these are some of my all-time favorites. Not to mention Misery. We like to trust that in an emergency situation, those strangers that come to our aid can be trusted and have only our best interests in mind. Misery poses the threat of someone preying on us when we are at our most weak and vulnerable. It turns "do no harm" upside down. Kathy Bates is excellent and haunting, and truly deserved her Oscar for this one.


In this divisive cult hit, the location is both prison and predator. A group of prisoners finds themselves dropped into a network of nearly identical rooms, some containing deadly traps, others containing safe passage to more and more rooms; the challenge is in identifying the threats and breaking an elaborate code for escape. While certainly more than a bit contrived, Cube is unique and compelling, with intricate character arcs and intense terror on a small scale. It's a truly one-of-a-kind project, and worth a look.

The Descent

The Descent really came out of nowhere in the summer of 2005. Directed by Neil Marshall, who's well regarded in horror circles but little known to the public at large, this otherworldly escape story was (in my opinion) not only one of the best films of the year, but one of the best horror films in decades. If you're a fan of the film, you've probably gotten bogged down by a debate over which is the better ending to the film, the hopeful version or the doomed version; the truth is, both are chilling. The decidedly believable creatures in the film's subterranean hell were believable and chilling – a refreshing break from the CGI ghouls that have been running mainstream horror for a little while now.


The Abandoned

This little-seen Spanish haunted house film, a product of the After Dark Horror Fest, is a personal choice for me. I went into the theater looking for a quick horror fix, knowing little about the movie, and quickly discovered that I was the only one to buy a ticket. Sitting alone in the middle of the theater, I was utterly, utterly terrified. The film just worked on me that night, for some reason. The plot concerns a woman inheriting a home deep in the Russian countryside. From there: zombie doppelgangers. There's not much more you need to know after that, I think. Seriously. Zombie. Doppelgangers.

One To Watch For

As I have in the past, I'm going to flip this category and recommend an upcoming film to avoid. Much to the chagrin of...everyone, we're nearing pre-production on Hostel Part III, another chapter of the budget-tourism-leads-to-torture franchise created by Eli Roth. Despite his less-than-perfect track record, Roth has gone on record to say he'll have nothing to do with this edition; realistically, there's only so far that the premise can go. There's less chance of plot advancement here than in Saw V. Even if you liked the first two gorno flicks, for everyone's sake, take a pass on this one.

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