Social Distancing Horror Movies: You’re Not Alone (But You Should Be)
There are certain phrases that become synonymous with different points in time. If I said “hanging chads,” for example, then you’d probably think of late 2000. And for years to come, we’ll think of this year when we hear words like “pandemic.” And phrases like “flattening the curve.” Or “social distancing,” which is somehow controversial, even now. So in that spirit, here are some social distancing horror movies to give you more reasons to stay away from other folks.
Don’t Leave Home: Social Distancing Horror Movies About the Dangers Outside
image from Carnage Park via IFC Midnight
As someone we used to know once said, the night is dark and full of terrors. And so is the outside world occasionally, as seen here. These movies are about people who, through no fault of their own (usually), find themselves in a killer’s cross-hairs. Sometimes literally.
I mentioned this in my roundup of Christmas horror movies, but it also fits here. Because while it is set after a work Christmas party, it’s also about an anonymous killer. (Just like a pandemic.) But in this case, the killer is a real person, who targets a trio of coworkers as they stop by an ATM. They don’t know who he (?) is or why he’s after them and he never gets close enough for them to tell.
(available for rental on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play Movies & TV, and Prime Video)
After a botched bank robbery, hostage Vivian (Ashley Bell) ends up in the titular Park. Vietnam veteran Wyatt Moss (Pat Healy) has constructed the nightmare assembly line where he hunts down anyone foolish or unlucky enough to end up on his land. Although the story isn’t much more than that, an impressive performance by Bell and beautiful cinematography–I once compared it to Andrew Wyeth‘s art–pushes the movie into something worth watching.
(available for rental on Vudu, Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and iTunes)
Car trouble is already anxiety-inducing enough, especially if it happens somewhere remote. But when you’re stranded and someone’s also shooting at you? Uhhhh, check, please!
(available on Shudder, whether through the service itself or through Prime Video.)
image from Downrange via Shudder
The Hills Have Eyes
Then again, sometimes folks go out to remote areas on purpose, apparently. Can you imagine? That’s the deal with the Carters in this film, who decide to drive from Ohio to Los Angeles for vacation. On a stop in rural Nevada, a local tells them to stick to the main road, but they know better. That’s how they end up running into some much less friendly locals. The 1977 Wes Craven film would spawn a sequel in which a dog has a flashback to this movie. Truly remarkable. There is also a 2006 remake, which Alexandre Aja directed, along with its own sequel.
(available on Vudu for rental and on Prime Video; the remake is available on Hulu and for rental on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, and Prime Video)
This movie is another variation on the same theme. But in this one, it’s a group of college students just trying to go camping who run into trouble. Somehow this film resulted in five sequels, with a sixth due this year. You’d think they’d put up a bigger sign or something.
(available on Max Go and for rental on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, and Prime Video)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Leatherface, a sheet mask pioneer, in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (image via Warner Bros)
And for another, other variation on the theme, this little flick. Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) has heard that someone’s been vandalizing her pepaw’s rural grave. So she and a group of friends head out to the sticks to investigate. Yeah, that’s…a thing people do. Anyway, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, if you didn’t already know, the neighbors are an eccentric bunch.
Fun fact: I saw this movie for the first time at my friend’s very isolated homestead. On my way home, later that night, my tire blew out. I had to walk through the woods in the dark to a stranger’s house so I could use the phone. As I stood on the front porch after knocking, I whispered, “Please don’t be Leatherface, please don’t be Leatherface.” (It was a very nice old lady, who was probably also hoping I wasn’t Leatherface.)
(available on Tubi and for rental on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, and Prime Video)
Wait, Home’s Not Safe, Either: Social Distancing Horror Movies Coming From Inside the House
image from Hush via Blumhouse Productions/Netflix
While the first section of social distancing horror movies was an edited selection of extrovert nightmares, this section is very edited. Because this is an extensive subgenre. Our homes are supposed to be sacrosanct, so the idea of their being violated is irresistible to filmmakers, even outside of horror. Whether it’s ghosts, as in The Shining, or just a really obsessive person, as in the When a Stranger Calls series, it’s always unsettling to know that you’re not even safe in the place where you keep your stuff.
Kate Siegel, who also co-wrote the film with director husband Mike Flanagan, stars as Maddie Young, an aspiring writer. She lives alone in the woods. Through sheer bad luck, a masked killer takes notice of her, thinking perhaps that she’ll be an easy victim. Why? She’s deaf. Cat, meet mouse.
(available on Netflix)
After a failed ATM robbery, twentysomething Kylie is sentenced to house arrest with her mom and stepfather. However, they may not be the only ones there. Her mom is convinced the house is haunted, while Kylie thinks the intruder might be a little more corporeal. Housebound, out of New Zealand, was released the same year as The Babadook, but for my money, it’s the better Antipodean horror. (I am far too Southern for that hollerin’ child.)
(available on Tubi for free and for rental on iTunes)
image from Housebound via XLrator Media
A gal named Gorgeous–sure–goes on a visit to her aunt’s home with six of her besties in tow. To their undelight, the home is a psychedelic supernatural trap that contains, among other things, a hungry piano and a malevolent cat painting. You know, classic horror movie cliches.
(available on disc through the Criterion Collection and for rental on Tubi, iTunes, and Prime Video)
There are a few horror tropes that never fail to get my spine tingling. One of them is the idea that the horror that ensues is inevitable. (Like the “I would have found her” part in American Psycho, which made me sleep with the light on.) Another is the idea of randomness, which is perhaps summed up best by the line in The Strangers: “Because you were home.” You can be in your home, minding your own business, and the nightmares can still meet you halfway. I legitimately get chills thinking about it.
The 2008 movie was followed by a sequel, The Strangers: Prey at Night, ten years later, which is less effective, even if it did prompt my sister to punch me in the thigh while we were in the theater.
(The Strangers is available on Hulu and Sling TV and for rental on YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Prime Video. The sequel is available for rental on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, and Prime Video.)
Along the same lines as The Strangers films, Ils is also about a couple menaced in their home. And as with The Strangers, the danger isn’t supernatural and it’s about as scary as it can get. (That’s all I wanna say to avoid spoiling any surprises.)
(available for rental on Prime Video and Vudu)
A wealthy couple invites their semi-estranged children to celebrate the couple’s wedding anniversary at their remote estate. However, some uninvited guests (with crossbows) also attend.
(available for rental on YouTube, Tubi, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes, and Prime Video)
No One Lives
This movie is directed by Ryûhei Kitamura, who also directed Downrange. He just wants you to be scared everywhere, I guess. On that note, this movie. In it, a couple is traveling when they cross paths with a gang of unsophisticated burglars. The couple looks wealthy and soft–you know, easy pickings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, nothing is quite what it seems and neither home nor the outside is safe in this movie. Please refer back to the title.
(available for Tubi and Vudu and for rental on iTunes and Prime Video)
Please Stay in with These Social Distancing Horror Movies
I hope I’ve given you a wide variety of movies to keep you indoors. And as with any of my posts like this, this post is by no means exhaustive. To that end, I want to hear about your “hell is other people” horror movies. So share your thoughts here or on our social media.
featured image from Hausu via Toho
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.