In the new film, Frozen, a group of fun-loving snowboarders -- played by Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, and Kevin Zegers -- get stuck on a chair lift. As the ski resort shuts down for the week, the young people realize they are trapped, and face certain death from exposure to the elements.
We will now pause just long enough for skiers to mutter, "Serves 'em right."
All out of your system? Good.
The schadenfreude of certain, warring winter sports camps aside, nothing quite strikes a nerve the way throwing a hapless human into a completely insurmountable situation does. There's an irresistible pull to watching someone suffer a sort of primal melt-down when faced with the realization that neither fight nor flight are viable options, and filmmakers have taken good advantage of the impulse, sometimes directly, sometimes in surprisingly nuanced ways. We at ReelzChannel are not immune to the gut twist that comes when witnessing a trap well-sprung -- hell, we invite it -- so we figured it was time to give the "no escape" scenario its due. Here, then, are ten of our favorite examples. Check 'em out... before it's too late!
10. Open Water (2003)
The Aquarium at Your Dentist is Closer and a Lot Less Stressful.
The typical tourist nightmare is to be stranded in a foreign country with no ability to summon help. The ultimate tourist nightmare is to take that scenario, transport it to the middle of the ocean, and then surround the victims with hungry, hungry sharks. Watching as the vacation of a complacent, yuppie couple morphs from fun diving outing to the five stages of get-us-the-frak-out-of-here is sure to resonate with anyone who's ventured beyond the convenient radius of an American Express office. That sensation is only heightened by the knowledge that this low-budget production had no choice but to have their actors (Blanchard Ryan and Daniel Travis) share screen time with real, live sharks, something we're sure they were absolutely delighted about.
9. Cube (1997)
This is What We Suspect Dick Cheney's Guest House is Like.
You discover you're trapped in a structure where one tiny, techy room looks pretty much like any other. There's no hint as to why you're there. There are six doors in each room, one for each surface, and they can lead to either the exact same room, or the exact same room that also will kill you in some horrific way. How will you and the handful of fellow prisoners you've fallen in with make it out alive? You haven't grown too attached to your shoes, have you?
8. Groundhog Day (1993)
This is Only Slightly Less Redundant Than an Episode of Law and Order.
Karma's a bitch, but when the wheel decides to start turning while you're in Punxsutawney, PA, it's just beyond unfair. Embittered TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) finds himself reliving February 2nd over and over, trying to undo the gaffes that led him into the time-loop. How long does it take for the man to mend his ways? Well, by the end, he's become an accomplished pianist, a skilled ice-sculptor, and fluent in French. You do the math.
7. The Exterminating Angel (1962)
No, a Round of Pictionary Would Not Have Helped.
Luis Bunuel has always bristled at the blithe insularity of the moneyed elite, so it only makes sense that he'd compose an ultimate punishment for them: Making sure that his victims could not escape each others' company. From the beginning, the dinner party depicted here has its touches of Bunuelian surrealism, but things don't really slide off the rails until everyone enters the music room and finds that, once in, they can't leave. No specific reason is provided; they just... can't. The genteel veneer soon wears down -- the trapped start clamoring for water like thirsty refugees, corpses get stashed in closets, fine ceramics are recruited for personal sanitation, and then things get bad. (Of course, in L.A, this would probably be considered the party of the year.)
6. A Night at the Opera (1935)
In New York, This Rents for $2000.00 a Month.
On his transatlantic trip to the U.S, Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx) gripes about the chintziness of his stateroom. Really, though, the accommodations have some notable features, including a bed, a porthole, and a gravity so inexorable that it eventually draws in Chico, Harpo, Allan Jones, a corps of waiters, some maids, a couple of workmen, a manicurist, and some chick looking for her aunt. HONK! Oh, yeah, and a hard boiled egg.
5. The Shining (1980)
So I Won't Be Getting a Mint on My Pillow?
You might think young Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd) wouldn't really sweat being trapped in a mountaintop hotel where all routes of access are cut off by a long-term, winter snow. The furnace keeps the building nice and toasty, the surroundings are luxurious, there's plenty of food, and the TV gets all the good cartoon shows. But Danny, you see, has psychic powers, and he knows full well that the hotel wants to eat him. Hope he's not counting on Dad (Jack Nicholson) for protection -- he's way busy with chores, like making sure that ax is sharp enough to chop through bathroom doors.
4. Touching the Void (2003)
Y'know, Disneyland's Matterhorn Has a Rollercoaster.
In this combination of documentary and dramatic reenactment, the nightmare for climbers Joe Simpson (Brendan Mackey) and Simon Yates (Nicholas Aaron) begins when, on a mountain descent, Simpson breaks a leg, and then in the struggle to get back down while tethered to Yates, slides out of view over a cliff ledge. Yates, now at risk of being pulled to his death by the weight of his companion, cuts the cord, sending Simpson plunging some one hundred feet into a frozen crevasse. Under the best of circumstances, escape from such a situation would be insanely difficult. For Simpson, still alive but disabled and in pain, getting out was nothing short of a miracle. Simpson subsequently came to Yates' defense for his actions, but we bet there were moments down in that ice when Yates' name was definitely stricken from Simpson's Christmas card list.
3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
We're Guessing His Sleep Number is 666.
It's one time when we are truly, hopelessly alone: Deep in sleep; subject to the random firings of our brains and all the desires and fears stored there. But for a group of teens (including Johnny Depp and Heather Langenkamp) who happen to live in a community that's guarding a guilty secret, sleepytime goes beyond simple isolation. These kids are being haunted by Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a child murderer with an ax (more accurately, a clawed glove) to grind, the ability to enter a sleeper's subconscious and twist nocturnal landscapes into the venues of his revenge, and the genius to know that his victims won't realize they're trapped in his game until it's way too late. If you're watching this at night, keep a case of Red Bull by your side. You're gonna need it.
2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
They Got Their Merit Badges in "Sobbing into the Camera Lens."
Lord spare us from the amateurs: amateur filmmakers, amateur campers, amateur witch-hunters. And since the protagonists of Blair Witch (played by Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams) are all three, is it any wonder that, once they've entered a forest to shoot their way-cool, supernatural documentary, whatever malign spirit haunts the woods decides to teach them a lesson of the "once you're in, good luck getting out" variety? Should never have dropped out of the Wilderness Explorers, guys.
1. Ace in the Hole (1951)
If It's Okay with You, I'll Take My Chances with the Ancient Indian Curse.
Take it from us, if you get trapped in a cave-in while hunting for Native American artifacts, here are the three people you should not count on: 1) An ambitious, power-hungry reporter (Kirk Douglas) who plans on milking your tragedy for a speedy career boost; 2) Your slutty, gold-digging wife (Jan Sterling) who's trying to cash in on the publicity; and 3) that king of misanthropes, Billy Wilder, a director who never met a human condition he didn't regard dimly. Just one of these types on your case is trouble. If all three happen to be collaborating, good luck, buddy. You're doomed.