We are living in terrifying times. So terrifying that sometimes, 2020 highlights sound more like movie plot twists than reality. And yet people are still drawn to scary movies. The past months have seen the rise of quarantine-horror or ‘quar-horror,’ films that intentionally or indirectly capture people’s current fears. Isolation. Infections. Lockdowns.
Apparently, watching these movies can be cathartic. A study found that people are able to release negative feelings and worries about the real world while watching horror films. Unlike real life, movies are scary but are contained to a couple of hours and don’t have real consequences.
Watching movies is also one of the few things people can actually do at home. With Halloween coming up and most parties cancelled, below are some quar-horror films to binge-watch.
Some are over the top, others are so bad they’re good, but many will get you thinking even after the end credits roll.
“#Alive,” dropped globally on Netflix in September, is about a livestream gamer (Yoo Ah-in) stuck at home as a gruesome virus rips through Seoul. Like many people this year, he is forced to learn to survive in a city under lockdown. The only difference is, the virus in the movie turns people into flesh-eating zombies.
“Cam” is a tech-driven psychological horror film that centers on artificial intelligence and webcams. Streaming on Netflix in various regions, it delves into the concept of online identity and how petrifying it is to lose it.
A cam girl (Madeline Brewer) who goes by the online name Lola tries to figure out what’s going on with her cam girl account, then realizes that it has been hijacked by a doppelganger who regularly performs live broadcasts in her name.
“Cam” is about how vulnerable people can feel when their online identities are ripped away from them. It’s a scary possibility that hits too close to home now that people are confined to their houses and highly dependent on social media.
Starring Martin Freeman, “Cargo” is a post-apocalyptic horror drama about a zombie outbreak. Except it has more in common with the pandemic we’re experiencing today than other movies about the undead. It is technically not set in a confined area, like most quar-horror, but is about the pursuit for a safe space.
A new virus has taken over the world and turns people rabid in less than 48 hours. With zombies crawling all over the rural lands of Australia, a man looks for shelter for his baby daughter.
A movie that has flown under the radar since coming out in 2017, it’s a rare find for its understated tone and setting, especially because most zombie movies are action-packed and set in big cities.
It is currently streaming on Netflix in various regions.
Perhaps the quintessential quarantine film of 2020, “Host” is set during the coronavirus lockdown and revolves around a Zoom call wherein six friends try to contact the dead with the help of a medium.
This 56-minute short film came out in July and creatively turns mundane events people experience in 2020 into some of the most terrifying plot points. Garbled audio, distorted resolution, and unforeseen call drops aren’t mere annoyances but truly scary incidents. Director Rob Savage made the film in less than three months but it fully captures the eeriness of being homebound.
It is available in various regions on the horror streaming service Shudder.
“It Comes at Night” (2017)
In this 2017 film, two families are forced to live together in a house after surviving an apocalyptic event. They work to keep evil out of the home but soon learn that the true horror is between each other. The film touches on tribalism, isolation, and paranoia.
It is available on Netflix in various regions.
“Stay at Home” (2020)
A short 15-minute film directed by Kenneth Brown, “Stay at Home” has a man alone in his house, facing the nerve-racking fears of isolation. He receives a box with mysterious instructions, along with a threat that failing to do them would “unleash the evil within.”
The short dropped on YouTube in May and now has over 300,000 views and 4,000 likes.
“The Invitation” (2015)
A 2015 movie completely set inside a house, “The Invitation” is a psychological thriller full of tension and mystery. A man attends a dinner party at his former house and starts to believe that his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for the guests.
Although not set in a pandemic-like scenario, the tensions within the home over dinner reflects the family strain most people feel today. Basically, it’s a chaotic, horrifying dinner party from hell.
The film is available on Netflix in various regions.
The title says it all. While the movie was released over 10 years ago, it has renewed relevance now that “quarantine” is much more than just a 10-letter word.
The story is about reporter Angela (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) who are working on a report about night-shift firefighters for a reality-TV program. They find themselves in a Los Angeles apartment building where police officers are investigating terrifying screams. The two main characters find a woman who attacks with her teeth and eventually learn that the government has cordoned off the building for safety reasons. That’s when the gruesome attacks begin.
“Quarantine” is streaming on Netflix in various regions.