5 movies for self-isolation: Through a fictional lens

As we all get adjusted to the new normal of social distancing and nonessential businesses being shut down, indulging in art can be a hugely beneficial way of keeping things in perspective and being able to relate to characters in similar situations. Films can show us, even through the lens of the fiction genre, how other people deal with situations similar to those we are currently experiencing in real life. These are five films that deal with the quarantine scenario in surprising and unique ways. 

‘The Thing’ (1982): John Carpenter’s cosmic horror masterpiece tells the story of a number of research scientists in an extremely remote outpost who are forced to question their own humanity when a shape-shifting alien hides in the camp. The alien force can imitate any biological material, and the scientists must question who among them is still human, and who is the titular “thing” in disguise. The monster is brought to life with stunning practical effects by Rob Bottin (also known for his work on the original “RoboCop”), and sets a new standard for monster design in horror cinema. 

‘The Lighthouse’ (2019): The most recent addition to this list stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as two lighthouse keepers in the late 1800s who are trapped on a remote island during a terrible storm. As they await help and time drags on, they both begin to question their sanity and grow suspicious of each other. The film is shot on black-and-white film and presented in 1.19:1 aspect ratio, a look that evokes the silent-era classic horror films that influenced it. 

‘10 Cloverfield Lane’ (2016): This film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a young woman who awakes from a car crash in a bunker owned by a doomsday prepper, played by John Goodman. He tells her that there has been a terrible event that has occurred that has rendered much of the United States, and possibly the world, inhospitable. She must find out if he is telling the truth, or if it is merely a story meant to keep her locked in with him. 

‘The Mist’ (2007): Based on a Stephen King story of the same name, the film follows a group of small-town Maine citizens who are trapped in a supermarket after a dense mist rolls into town. Within the mist are horrifying and indescribable monsters, which attack anyone who attempts to leave. When supplies run low, tempers flare and suspicions run high, causing the inhabitants of the supermarket to question just how far they are willing to go to survive. 

‘The Shining’ (1980): Also based on a Stephen King book, this Stanley Kubrick-directed classic follows the story of Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, a recovering alcoholic who takes a job as the winter caretaker of the remote Overlook Hotel in Colorado. He, along with his wife and young son, begin to experience strange visions, leading the audience to question whether the hotel is haunted, or whether the strange occurrences are a result of the family’s declining mental state caused by isolation. 

Each one of these films provides a unique and striking look at the mental toll that social isolation takes on a person. Though they are told through the lenses of the science fiction and horror genres, they are strikingly relevant to what we are currently experiencing around the world. 

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    Mario Rodriguez

    Great list. The Lighthouse was amazing !

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