Single Location Movies

This is a list that I put together to help me define what is a tenuous subgenre of the high concept canon: films with a character or group characters isolated to a single closed location by a fear or inability to leave. It's a narrative trope designed to wring out the maximum amount of drama from it's limitations. It's such a simple recurring trope with similar character types and plot developments that I felt it necessary to document it.

As I see it, the key characteristics is that the location must evoke a sense of isolation and claustrophobia. More often than not the location is a room or a building, but setting a film within these environments does not automatically qualify you for this subgenre. For example, locations such as the sprawling Hill House Mansion of Clue or the vast mall of Dawn of the Dead have been omitted. They allow for too much free wheeling movement from the characters to evoke the same sense of stagecraft essential to this subgenre.

Character movement and narrative screen-time away from the location declassifies a film from this subgenre, unless very brief and enforcing the sense of entrapment. This is permissible in only two ways. The first is by bookending the narrative. External scenes setting the scenario by contextualizing a location or giving a sense of closure as a character finally leaving, are both tolerable and indeed sometimes necessary. The second is a failed attempt to escape. Characters testing the confines of their location should always be pushed back or else exit the narrative (at least temporarily). Attempts at mental escape through dream and fantasy sequences are also permissible, but flashbacks are more troublesome as they tend to offer to much time for narrative outside of the single location.

Prison and asylum movies have also been omitted. Although they can have many of the same narrative features as those films included here, they are a distinct sub-genre unto themselves, explore one or both of two themes not covered by the films in this list - the (un)just nature of institutional incarceration and/or jail break.

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