A most curious title, you most likely have seen one or more of these films. While there have been plenty of films that feature isolation, there has also has been a trend (motivated by the SAW movies success) that directly deals with the premise of locking, capturing, kidnapping or placing a group of individuals into a room (or like-location) for the sake of isolation and observation (hence to study or torment…or perhaps both).
In most cases, there is usually a narrator voice that chimes in to prod them along or advise them of the rules. While some of these films are set up to provide horror to the captives (as in the SAW & Cube films) others are designed merely to let the individuals tear at each other.
This list is directed towards a grouping of films a bit different than the films like “Buried” (which is 1-man trapped), and films like “The Shining” (where the individuals “chose” to be there). This foundation would carry forth into films like “The Experiment” which uses the isolation factor as a premise but behind a different objective.
We would also see this factor used in haunted films or found footage films where individuals would volunteer to lock themselves up in an eerie location (“The Haunting”, “House on Haunted Hill”, “1408”) (“Grave Encounters” or “Ghost Adventures”…for that matter)
(Noted: potential motivation for list of that specific nature as well.)
These films are in fact quite similar in premise if not derivative (some more than others). The SAW influence is surely felt on films like “Death Tube”. It’s worth noting that these films were selected on their obvious similarities and shouldn’t compete with other isolation films that list some of the before mentioned qualities. In many respects they are the “Breakfast Club” of the horror genre. If you are a fan of this style of isolation premise …you should probably seek these out.
(not in ranking order)
01- The Hole (2001)
4 students are locked in a bomb shelter and left way too long. Actually they wanted to be there, till they found out that they weren’t going to get let out on time for school…or something of that nature. A movie that takes on the isolation factor by changing perspectives over the course of the film. pretty decent.
02- Exam (2009)
A unique take on the isolation factor that uses an “exam” to weed thru its participants. The idea is not geared as much to horror as these others (with torture and killing not really its main motive). Rather, it uses the human factor and ingenuity to weed thru its players. There is a bit of psychological horror here that makes it a candidate for this list. There is also a nice mystery behind the whole ordeal designed to keep us thinking. Once you see it, you’ll quickly make the connection to many of these other films.
03- House of 9 (2005)
While this movie obviously was created to capitalize on the isolation trend…I still really liked it. 9 Strangers are kidnapped, drugged, and placed in a house together with no way out. The last one alive gets a cash prize and freedom. This idea will repeat on the films ahead, however this one had Dennis Hopper in it which raised the bar in my opinion. It’s also quite nice seeing how 9 captives will go at each other over the course of the movie..Kind of like these reality shows we watch nowadays on TV…hmm
04- Cube (1997) (including II and III)
What a great 3-movie franchise this turned out to be. Maybe it wasn’t overwhelming the public, but I for one loved it. The concept was simple and scary. A small group (kidnapped) was placed in a high tech cube. They had to figure their way out by crawling thru one into the other. The only problem, it is almost never ending with booby traps waiting to execute pending a wrong move. The film went further into its background as it developed its story over the course of 3 films. Each offers something unique and quickly became a great horror / science fiction mash up. The real horror of course are the captives losing their cool on each other.
05- SAW (franchise)
The SAW movies (which go without saying) are quite a journey and interesting mechanical franchise. The plotlines would grow into a common scenario of small groups held against their will and made to suffer tortures and executions by their own hand (and their own choices, in some respect). What really made this franchise sing was the use of clever gadgets. The franchise direction would also leak out to other films that “hoped” to capture the same market (hence many on this list). SAW films set the bar for a new trend for horror that would arrive on like clockwork, every Halloween.
06- Breathing Room (2007)
A group of folks trapped in a warehouse against their will wearing electronic neck collars. They are all instructed to play the game or die. This idea is certainly derivative, however it fits within this collective like a stamopp and repeat product. In all of these it is the intereaction that really ups the game. A few thrills and a 1 person left will leave scenario ups the anty in tension.
07– The Killing Room (2009)
Somewhere the middle of these model genre films lies “The Killing Room” which caters to the same fear that an agency or government is conducting experiments in an isolated shell. Dr. Philips sets the pace as he executes one in the head leaving the rest to undergo the study at hand. The name of the game here is tension and anticipation.
08- Red Room (1999) (and II)
4 people are gathered in a room with 10 mill yen promised to the winner who can last the longest. This film differs in the fact that the participants agreed to be here though are subjected to a model that is similar to many of the other films on this list. Of course bearing the “Cat III” category, your in for some rough visuals in the way of torturous ordeals…by hey… we have learned that torture films don’t have to be “cat III” to make it to the big screen. The winner of course is the last left. There are some degrading women scenes and “bite your nails moments”…..but hey, we’ve seen everything these days..haven’t we?
09- Death Tube (2010)
Death Tube is an obvious SAW rip, though for an Asian release it still has alot of cool tricks up its sleeve. The bear-looking mascot is a bit odd wouldn’t ya say, but somehow it’s creepy in a cute way…(or is it cute in a creepy way). I put aside the idea that this was a SAW copycat (which it was) and ended up liking it. The film would be followed by a sequel as well…but for now just stick with the first one (our reviewer gave the 2nd one a bad review).
10- Hunger (2009)
5 placed in a hopeless situation with a backwards clock. The real purpose here was to see how many survived without rescue or food in a cruel confined situation. I suppose the premise doesn’t have much in design, though the action here is the gradual breakdown of the captives. Similar to the others but also slightly different scenario.
11- Are You Scared? (2006)
Yep, pretty much a SAW 2 kind of film. I knew full well that this film was borrowing pretty obviously, it even followed much of the same premise. That aside, the kills were cool, inventive and that’s what made me vote for this one. If this list was “10 films that were just like SAW”, this one would be on it. The sequel blew pretty hard and should be forever forgotten in the trenches of crappy films you should never spend time on. However, “Are You Scared? ” …not so bad.
12- Aquarium (2004)
After waking up in a white room with no exit, six strangers discover that they’re about to become pawns in a sick and twisted game. Watching the action through a video camera, an evil mastermind (Pierre-Luc Scotto) compels his victims to follow his rules or die. Knowing that their lives hang in the balance, each of the players complies with the disembodied voice’s unusual demands, praying to be the last person left standing.
This entry directed by Frédéric Grousset was definitely one of the earlier “6 trapped in a room” films to arise. I can’t say it’s my favorite of the group, but at least at the time it was setting a trend that would come to be followed. “Aquarium” uses a game of “Simon Says” but doesn’t really embrace the glitz that others of this design would follow. Partly due to its foreign nature, but mostly due to it simply being dull under the camera eye. Its inclusion fits the genre model to a T, though you’ll be better off looking elsewhere.
13- The Steam Experiment (2009)
A deranged scientist locks 6 people in a steam room and threatens to turn up the heat if the local paper doesn’t publish his story about global warming. You probably know this film as “The Chaos Experiment”
This deranged man is none other than Val Kilmer who plays the role of James Pettis. It seems he wants to make a point to the press by trapping 6 folks in a steam room. Do you think Al Gore was ever considered for the role?
14- Fermat’s Room (2007)
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.
This Spanish thriller was directed by Luis Piedrahita. It centers on a host named Fermat who introduces puzzles they must guess to keep the room form shrinking…clever eh?
15- Vile (2011)
A film that “could” be a SAW film, but yet takes a different approach by letting the captives inflict pain on each other. As the timer ticks down, they must reach a group percentage of 100% which as you can guess can get a bit tense. Tense, daring and crude all rolled up in one.
Got a “group isolation film” recommendation? Comment below and we’ll either update the list or expand it to make room for newcomers! Also make sure to check out the latest new movies such as these as they are added to Cineworld Cinemas!
Top 15 Group Isolation Horror Films