Over the past decade, as horror film budgets drop more and more, productions are always looking for ways to cut costs. One of the biggest means of doing so is to reduce the number of locations. This money-saving trend has forced filmmakers to utilize single settings as a means of enhancing the horror. And some horror films make the restriction work brilliantly. Check out our list below of contemporary (and a few classic) horror films that only use one location for the most part.
FERMAT’S ROOM (2007)
Four mathematicians are invited to the home of a man calling himself Fermat under the guise of solving an ancient mathematical mystery. Once there, they are locked into one room and given a series of puzzles to solve. As they work through each puzzle, the room gets smaller, pushed inward by four industrial hydraulic presses. Although it opens and closes with exterior locations, the bulk of this clever 2007 Spanish thriller happens in one room.
MY LITTLE EYE (2002)
Five strangers are selected as contestants on a BIG BROTHER-style internet show for the chance of winning a million dollars. They must remain in an isolated house for six-months while mounted cameras document everything. The contest takes a sinister turn as they stop receiving care packages of food and start receiving “gifts” designed to torture their psyches. From 2002, MY LITTLE EYE focuses on the early days of the internet when not many people knew its possibilities. Read more on MY LITTLE EYE here.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE (1962)
This classic 1962 horror/ thriller doesn’t really seem like a single location film, probably because watching Bette Davis torture Joan Crawford for two-hours is so god damn engrossing and haunting. Bette Davis plays the titular “Baby Jane”, an aged star still stuck in her younger persona. Fifteen years after her prime, she now takes a back seat to her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford), a successful actress. One night after a party Blanche is paralyzed in a car accident that ends her career. Thirty-years later, Blanche and Jane are living together in a mansion (pretty much the only location) where a wheelchair bound Blanche is tortured by her mentally ill sister Jane. The film was a much-anticipated collaboration between two stars whose bitter Hollywood rivalry was legendary.
Words become powerful weapons when radio DJ Grant Mazzy starts getting strange reports during his early morning on air shift. A bizarre infection is spread by language, turning the small town of Pontypool, Ontario into a population of murderous zombies. This series of events play out entirely inside a radio station as Mazzy and his crew try to comprehend what is going on. PONTYPOOL is an interesting take on the zombie genre and extremely compelling considering that it takes place in just one location and shows none on the carnage happening outside.
Although there are a few brief moments set outside, the bulk of this 2010 supernatural horror film takes place inside an elevator. The film opens with a voice over suggesting that sometimes the Devil comes to Earth to take sinners while they are still alive. We then find ourselves trapped in an elevator with five souls being tormented and killed by an unknown entity, forcing them to turn against each other. Directed by John Erick Dowdle, this claustrophobic thriller has some great scares and a pretty nice twist at the end.
INHUMAN RESOURCES (2012)
Six strangers wake up in an office chained to a desk by insane regional manager Thomas Reddmann. The six are given a laptops and court documents pertaining a murder Reddmann has been falsely accused of. The captives task is to prove his innocence or suffer the dire consequences. This 2012 film didn’t get much attention when it first came out, but deserves a another look for it’s great use of a single room and also the amazing special effects.
Master of psychological horror Alfred Hitchcock borrows from the real-life story of young affluent murderers Leopold and Loeb for this 1948 film. Two young intellectuals, Philip and Brandon, believe that they are smart enough to commit the perfect murder. They choose Harvard classmate David Kentley as their victim. After killing David in their Manhattan penthouse apartment, they are brazen enough to throw a dinner party inviting the victim’s father Mr. Kentley, played by James Stewart. Over the course of the meal, which has been placed “buffet style” on the wooden chest containing David’s body, they hint about their crime as a means of testing their superior intellect. Hitchcock is no stranger to setting his films in one location and was actually quite a vanguard in the arena of one location thrillers. Films like ROPE, LIFEBOAT, and REAR WINDOW showed the auteurs ability to keep things tense and tight.
THE INVITATION (2015)
Set in a Hollywood Hills home, a group of friends are invited to a dinner party where they are treated to a cult-like pitch session from a mysterious guru. Noticing that the bars on the windows, some attendees begin to suspect that the evening may get a bit more sinister. Directed by Karyn Kusama (JENNIFER’S BODY), THE INVITATION is a thought provoking thriller with a very chilling ending.