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12 Most Compelling Movies That Were Shot In One Room6

By Bridgett Michele Lawrence

12 Most Compelling Movies That Were Shot In One Room

One of the most common fears known to mankind is the fear of being in closed spaces. Claustrophobia is defined as an intense and irrational fear of confined or enclosed spaces. But what if that fear wasn’t so irrational? What happens when that seemingly harmless elevator, phone booth or basement does, in fact, pose a real threat? What happens when the fear is not of being in the confined space, but rather not being able to get out? What if getting out meant sacrificing yourself to an unspeakable evil that lurked just on the other side of the door? What if being confined caused you to lose yourself to the demons within your own mind?

Filmmakers, like the legendary Alfred Hitchcock, have acquired huge box office success by playing on some of our deepest fears. Many of these movies were set in a single room or location, heightening the sense that there is no escape and forcing the hero to confront their fears face to face. Whether you are locked in a haunted hotel room with a vengeful ghost, or confined against your will like the unfortunate people in the dramatic series CELL, these movies prove that less is more and in some cases a lot more disturbing.

Cell – One

1. The Hidden Room (aka Obsession) (1949)

Long before Uma Thurman set her sights on killing her murderous former lover Bill in Kill Bill Vol. 1, American Director Edward Dymytrik told the tale of London psychiatrist Clive Riordan (Robert Newton) who plans a particularly sinister revenge against his wife’s lover Bill Kronin (Phil Brown) in the classic British crime noir The Hidden Room. Fed up with his wife’s infidelity, especially after catching her in the act, he kidnaps Bill and holds him hostage at an abandoned bomb shelter that he has transformed into his private laboratory. His evil plan unfolds over the course of months as he has poor Bill chained to the wall giving him only enough leeway to move from the bed to the bathroom. Each day Clive brings a can of acid to the laboratory and slowly begins to fill a tub. His plan? To kill Bill and dissolve his body in the tub full of acid.

2. Rear Window (1954)

Master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, weaves a tale about the tricks of the mind in his classic thriller Rear Window. James Stewart stars as L.B. Jeffries, a New York photographer who cannot leave his apartment after breaking his leg on a photo shoot. Confined to his wheelchair and obviously fighting a severe case of boredom, he begins spying on his neighbors through his rear window. It’s not long before he suspects that his neighbor may have murdered his wife. He enlists the aide of his girlfriend Lisa Freemont (Grace Kelly) and his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) to investigate. The classic film, based on William Irish’s 1942 short story It Had to Be Murder, was shot entirely on one set at Paramount Studios.

3. Twelve Angry Men (1957)

Henry Fonda stars in this Sidney Lumet classic about twelve jurors forced to deliberate what on the surface appears to be an open and shut murder case. A poor, young Spanish-American man with a prior criminal record is accused of murdering his father. The penalty is death and the young man’s life lies in the hands of a diverse group of all white, middle aged, middle class men. It seems that they should be able to easily render a guilty verdict, but when one of the jurors raises the issue of reasonable doubt, the men must stay confined to the small, jury room until they can agree. Tensions rise as deliberation forces them to confront their own prejudices about the defendant and each other. The entire film, which is based on a stage play, takes place in the jury room and explores issues with the American judicial system.

4. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

When radiation from a fallen satellite causes the recently deceased to rise from the grave and wreak havoc on the living, a group of strangers barricade themselves in a farmhouse hoping to survive the night. The film begins with ill-fated siblings Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) arriving at a cemetery to visit the grave of their father. They get more than they bargain for when one of the recently deceased rises and attacks Barbara. Johnny is killed when he falls while trying to defend her and hits his head on a tombstone. This leaves a very terrified Barbara to fend for herself as she attempts to restart their car unsuccessfully. She runs down the road to escape and takes refuge in an abandoned farmhouse only to find that she is not alone. There are other horrified civilians in the house and the undead lurk just outside the door. They are trapped. Terror runs rampant as the relentless zombies edge closer and the strangers begin to fall victim to their appetite. What’s even scarier than trying to keep the undead out is realizing that the people inside the farmhouse are slowly turning into zombies themselves. This George A. Romero classic is synonymous with the zombie genre.

Read: 5 Surefire Signs That You’re a Zombie

5. The Tenant (1976)

Roman Polanski directs and stars in this psychological thriller about a man who slowly goes mad after renting an apartment in Paris where the previous tenant, Simone, committed suicide by jumping out of the window. The new tenant, Trelkovsky, goes to visit Simone as she lay in a coma at the hospital. After she dies, Trelkovsky becomes obsessed with her and begins to believe that the landlord and neighbors are trying to force him to have the same fate. As paranoia drives him closer and closer to the edge of madness, he begins to behave like Simone, adapting her eating habits, smoking her brand of cigarettes, and even buying a wig and dressing in woman’s clothing. The Tenant is based upon the 1964 novel Le Locataire Chimérique by Roland Topor.

6. Closet Land (1991)

Two people. One room. This minimalist film pits a sadistic police man against a young writer in an interrogation room. The interrogator (Alan Rickman) is accusing the writer (Madeleine Stowe) with embedding anarchist messages in her children’s book “Closet Land.” As the interrogator’s tactics become physical and sexually abusive, the young woman escapes the torture by going to an imagined place in her mind with fictional animal characters that help her cope – a survival technique she acquired after being locked in her closet by abusive parents as a child. The film, written and directed by Radha Bharadwaj, showcases the brutal and inhumane tactics used to elicit confessions from the innocent. The original script was Bharadwaj’s winning submission for the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship in 1989.

7. Cube (1997)

A group of strangers find themselves trapped in a diabolical maze outfitted with deadly devices. They discover that each of them has a unique talent or skill that they must use in order to survive and avoid the traps. They begin to realize that they have not been thrown together by happenstance, but rather that each of them has a purpose for being confined to the cube. The group quickly bands together to navigate the maze and try to determine the reason for their imprisonment. As the maze grows increasingly complex, members of the group begin to grow violent, go mad and ultimately turn on one another. This Canadian film, directed by Vincenzo Natali, stars Nicole de Boer, Maurice Dean Wint, Andrew Miller, Nicky Guadagni and David Hewlett.

8. Phone Booth (2002)

A philandering, New York City publicist (Colin Farrell) finds himself between a rock and a hard place when he answers the phone ringing in a phone booth on a busy Manhattan street. Thinking it is his mistress, he is shocked to find that the voice on the end of the line is that of a sniper bent on killing him. The sniper informs him that if he hangs up the phone or leaves the booth, he will die. With the sniper’s rifle trained on him, his life hangs in the balance when the police arrive at the scene demanding that he exit the phone booth. This film also stars Forest Whitaker, Katie Holmes and Kiefer Sutherland (as the voice of the sniper). Directed by Joel Schumacher, the film was originally set to release in 2002 but was pushed back to April of 2003 because of the sniper attacks that took place in D.C., Maryland and Virginia in October of 2002.

9. Panic Room (2002)

This thriller, directed by David Fincher, tells the story of divorcee Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her teenage daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) who end up in the fight for their lives when a band of criminals break into their New York City home. The two take refuge in the panic room, supposedly the most secure room in the house with four inch thick steel doors and an elaborate security system, only to find that what the criminals want is in that very room. Unbeknownst to Altman, the former owner of the home, a reclusive millionaire, stashed his fortune in a safe in the panic room before he died. His grandson Junior (Jared Leto) and his buddy Burnham (Forest Whitaker) have planned a heist to break into the safe and steal the money. The only glitch in their perfect plan is that Altman and her daughter have moved into their new home a week early. Talk about bad timing.

10. 1408 (2007)

John Cusack stars in this thriller about a skeptical writer who stays overnight in a hotel room with a reputation for being haunted. Mike Enslin (John Cusack) makes his living writing books that unravel the mystery behind paranormal occurrences. While working on his latest book, he travels to New York to spend one night in room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel. The hotel manager, Mr. Gerald Olin (Samuel Jackson), reluctantly gives him the room, and Enslin soon discovers that there is truth behind the room’s evil reputation. The room begins to taunt him in the form of visions of his deceased daughter, a radio that ominously continues to play the Carpenter’s song “We’ve Only Just Begun,” a broken thermostat which makes the room unbearably cold, and a clock radio that begins a threatening sixty minute count down. As the clock ticks away, he begins his horrifying descent into madness in this film based on a Stephen King short story of the same name.

11. Paranormal Activity (2007)

When a young couple moves into a suburban home, they find themselves plagued by supernatural disturbances. When Katie (Katie Featherston) confesses to her boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat) that she has been haunted by a ghost since childhood, he purchases a video camera for their bedroom in hopes of catching the paranormal activity on tape. As the camera rolls, it captures only minor disturbances at first in the form of doors moving by themselves and the sound of footsteps running down the stairs. But as Micah begins to taunt the presence, the disturbances grow increasingly worse including loud banging and strange noises ringing throughout the entire house. This thriller from writer/director Oren Peli premiered at the Scream Fest Film Festival in 2007 and won the 2010 Teen Choice award for Best Horror Film.

12. Devil (2010)

A group of people find themselves trapped in an elevator. Oh yeah, and one of them just so happens to be the devil. This is the premise of the latest M. Night Shyamalan thriller. It’s a typical day at a busy office building except for the fact that a man has just committed suicide by jumping off the roof. As the detective (Chris Messina) investigates the death, five strangers with questionable pasts board an elevator. Ben (Bokeem Woodbine), the security guard with a violent past, Vince (Geoffry Arend), a shady mattress salesman, Tony (Logan Marshall-Green), a former marine, Sarah (Bojana Novakovic), a gold digger who specializes in blackmai,l and an elderly kleptomaniac (Jenny O’Hare) don’t suspect anything out of the ordinary when the elevator becomes stuck between floors. Soon strange occurrences begin to happen and they realize there is evil among them. Tensions mount as they try to figure out the demon’s identity before it’s too late. Based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan, Devil, was written by Brian Nelson, and directed by John Erick Dowdle.

Cell – Two

Cell – Three

Watch more episodes of the dramatic thriller CELL.

Bridgett Michele Lawrence is a Los Angeles based screenwriter. She earned her BFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, a degree which she holds near and dear to her heart although it has yet to earn her the multi-million dollar script deal that she anticipated. She fully intends to file a complaint with the alumni association. Bridgett writes for television, film and the web and enjoys spending quality time with her TiVo. In 2009, her award-winning pilot, The Value of Ex, garnered the attention of Executives at the CW and Overbrook Entertainment. Bridgett is also the co-creator, co-producer and co-star of Valley Girls, a comedic web series following the antics of three unemployed friends determined to turn their Hollywood Dreams into reality – by any means necessary. Although the show is loosely based on the experiences of herself and her two friends, she denies having any relation to her character. She is not a deranged screenwriter. She just plays one on Internet TV.

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