Homebound Horror

When people are housebound in a horror movie, it’s typically due to the snow and not a disease.

And look, I get it, we’re not exactly snowbound due to COVID-19, but, for most of us, this is the closest we’ll ever get to experiencing that type of existential crisis. You’re stuck. Isolated. Cut off from the vast majority of humanity. The only people around you are your family and they can be . . . difficult to deal with, to say the least. And unlike 99.99% of your life, you are knowingly putting yourself in harm’s way if you try to leave your house.

So, in a metaphorical sense: you’re snowbound. And in a very real sense: you’re housebound.

If you’re anything like me—I’ve been in isolation for almost two weeks now—you’re just about ready to rip your hair out from the sheer boredom of it all. Seriously, how did the pioneers handle this? Maybe it explains their short lifespans. They just. Couldn’t. Deal.

It’s time for a personal confession: I never realized how loudly my partner eats and it’s driving me absolutely bonkers. I’m serious. One more slurp of that soup and I swear I’m going to ram my spoon through their goddamn ears. Did they eat that loudly before COVID-19? Or is it just a symptom of COVID-19? Whatever the case may be, they need medical assistance.

But I’m also a glutton for punishment. I like to wallow in a sensation and that’s why I’m counting down my six favorite housebound (and snowbound) horror movies. What better way to spend a pandemic?

The Lodge (2020)

The Lodge may have flown under your radar when it was released earlier this year, but do yourself a favor and seek it out at all costs. It’s unsettling, surprising, and subverts well-worn horror movie tropes. It’s one of the most original horror movies I’ve ever seen, and trust me, I’ve seen way too many horror movies for my own good.

It’s so good in fact, that I don’t want to spoil any of the plot details. Don’t watch the trailer (I know, I know. It’s right there. But don’t do it!), go in blind. You’ll be in it for the ride of your life. It’s a truly unsettling movie.

Rear Window (1954) and Lifeboat (1944)

I’m breaking my own rules here, but I’m writing this turkey, so I’m entitled. And if I get any complaints out of you, I’ll pull this article over so fast. . .

How am I breaking the rules? Well, there’s not a thread of snow to be seen in Rear Window or Lifeboat—in fact, they’re both dripping with summertime sweat—but they’re two brilliant movies about what people do when they’re forced into isolation from the horror master to end all horror masters, Alfred Hitchcock.

In Rear Window, the outside world becomes a source of entertainment for photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) while he’s wheelchair bound heeling a broken leg, but after he discovers that there’s been some foul play at a neighboring apartment, he and his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) work together to catch the murderer.

Rear Window is an absolute delight. Filmed only from the viewpoint of Jeffries’ apartment, it’s brimming to the rim with intrigue, danger, and sexual tension. For a movie released in 1954, it sure delivers a punch.

And the same can be said for Lifeboat. Shot entirely on a lifeboat (another rule broken, there’s no house in sight) that was launched before their ship was torpedoed and sunk by a Nazi U-Boat, Lifeboat explores the paranoia and every-man-for-himself attitude that can appear in a fight-to-the-death survival scenario.

The Shining (1980)

Yeah, you knew this one was going to be on the list and how could it not? It’s a classic. It is, perhaps, the greatest horror movie all time and it has aged remarkably well since it came out.

You know the story: a writer and his family are set to be the caretakers of The Overlook Hotel during the off season, but when they slowly become snowed in things take a turn for the worse, and an axe-wielding maniac is born.

And who is this axe-wielding maniac? It’s none other than Jack Nicholson who chews the scenery—in the best possible manner—as Jack Torrance, a former alcoholic who sinks into the depths of insanity and despair. Or is he possessed? You’ll have to draw your own conclusions.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick and adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name, The Shining is a masterclass from start-to-finish. The steady cam work alone makes it well-worth the price of admission.

The Thing (1982)

John Carpenter. Kurt Russell. A shapeshifting monster from outer space. Need I say more?

Misery (1990)

Another Stephen King adaptation? It’s like this guy is a horror-writing genius or something and, boy-oh-boy, does he have a thing for writing about famous writers.

In Misery, romance author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is rescued by his biggest fan, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), after a horrible car accident. After taking Sheldon back to her house, Wilkes begins to administer care—good thing she’s a former nurse. And wouldn’t you know it? They’re snowed in and Wilkes can’t take Sheldon to the hospital, he’ll have to recoup there while the snow clears. 

When Sheldon starts acting like a “dirty bird,” Wilkes goes “cock-a-doodie” crazy.

Kathy Bates is pure genius as Wilkes, and earned a well-deserved and rare Academy Award for Best Actress for portraying a villain in a horror movie (I’ll say it again: Toni Collette was robbed! She should have been nominated—and won—for her performance in Hereditary).

But what are your favorite housebound horror movies? I’d love to know! Leave a message in the comments below.

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