With supernatural forces at their fingertips, horror writers have been known to trap characters in some truly sinister situations using whatever means necessary. From time-loops to highways that lead nowhere, some of the genre’s best films have played with characters (and our expectations) by forcing them to deal with a weird scenario they can’t escape.
So while Jigsaw resorted to lock and key, these ten films saw more mysterious forces at work, giving us some of the best horror this side of The Twilight Zone.
Described by producers as a “reverse ghost story”, Haunter sees teenager Abigail Breslin trapped in a house and forced to relive the same surreal series of events day-in and day-out. She can’t leave and she can’t seem to contact anyone on the outside. The worst part is she seems to be the only member of her family who realizes it’s even happening.
Haunter comes from Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) and slipped under the radar when it was released by IFC Midnight. But it’s a well written film that stands as a great example of how to craft a great ghost story in a unique way.
This Finnish horror film was the brainchild of Mr. Lordi , leader of the popular heavy metal band Lordi. In the film, members of the band play monsters who terrorize characters trapped in an inescapable hospital that seems to be trapped between dimensions. Only a strange girl seems to hold the key to their escape and survival.
Notorious for having one of the most confusing endings in horror history, Dark Floors was not well received when it was first released. Lost to obscurity, I hope the internet will help it find a following as it’s got great atmosphere and undeniably cool concept at its heart.
Another film that flew under the radar when it was first released but now has a rabid fan base is Christopher Smith’s time-trapper, Triangle. Triangle sees its lead character shipwrecked in a storm and boarding a mysteriously derelict cruise ship. But before you can say, “Ghost ship!”- the film takes a hard left turn and sends viewers on a wild trip through an endless and inescapable time loop.
Punctuated by a truly fantastic head-scratcher of an ending, Triangle remains a top notch UK horror entry.
No Man’s Land: Rise of Reeker
Dave Payne’s prequel to his original breakout, Reeker, sees a group of band robbers trapped in an off-road gas station/diner by a mysterious force field. One by one they are stalked and killed by a hooded figure that reeks of death.
While the film is not as well regarded as its predecessor, it’s retains the same mysterious premise that made the first such a hit. It also amps up the surreal and often darkly funny tone which, for my money, makes it pretty enjoyable.
Ghost stories don’t usually get under my skin, but 1408 remains an exception. Still one of the best Stephen King adaptations made, the story story sees a paranormal debunker played by John Cusack checking into room 1408 at the fictitious Dolphin Hotel.
The strangeness that follows builds to a thundering crescendo as we realize Cusack is trapped in the room that seems to exist out of time and space with the rest of the world. Even when he’s out, he’s in. It’s borderline brilliant.
Another Cusack joint, Identity kind of shits the bed by telegraphing its twist right up front. But even with that issue, once the film starts moving, it’s easy to get caught up in the mystery of murders happening to a cast of characters who find themselves trapped in a motel the universe won’t let them leave.
One of the best of the recent anthology boom, Southbound uses a nifty Twilight Zone wrap around to trap each of its characters amid endless desert highways all leading to the same demonic nexus point. Punctuated by top-notch writing by all of its collaborators, Southbound uses the scenario to force each of its characters to endlessly face their deepest fears and regrets – a wonderful metaphor for guilt.
Praised as an indie analog to the more bombastic Cabin in the Woods, which was released in the same year, Resolution sees two friends trapped in a cabin, plagued by mysterious clues that seem to lead them towards an inevitably violent resolution to the film’s story.
The inimitable Ray Wise stars in this horror gem about a family trapped on an endless stretch of road that becomes less and less tied to reality as the story unfolds. Terrorized by unexplained and downright unnerving occurrences as they travel, the end result is an intelligent indie that will have you wanting to talk about it with everyone you meet.
We’re saving the worst for last folks, but while Mine Games is admittedly bit thick, it’s time-twisting plot is guaranteed to keep your interest. This one involves a group of party seeking teens who make a shocking discovery in an old mine that sends them tail-spinning into an inescapable time trap that demands to be resolved.
Now, I know there are many others I’ve missed that fall somewhere just outside the realm of horror (Time Crimes comes immediately to mind), but you get the idea. I love these types of supernatural set-ups.