One tried and true method of compounding the horror of a scenario while inducing a visceral viewer response is to create a claustrophobic atmosphere. Confined spaces trap characters in place with their threat, ramping up the tension to an uncomfortable degree. Effective use of those small spaces can evoke claustrophobia even in those that don’t typically suffer from the fear. Nothing instills panic more than getting stuck as danger closes in, while oxygen or harsh conditions hamper survival odds even further.
This week’s streaming picks are dedicated to the uncomfortable knot in the pit of your stomach that effective claustrophobic settings can incur. These five horror movies might leave you gasping for air from the ocean floor to the compact vehicle cabin. Here’s where you can stream them this week.
4×4 – Prime Video, Roku, Tubi
A petty thief, Ciro (Peter Lanzani), attempts to break into a car, unaware that it’s decked out with high-tech security. It traps Ciro inside, with him unaware that the owner is in control. 4×4 doesn’t just mount the tension at a steady clip until it becomes unbearable; it finds inventive ways to keep this propulsive thriller moving. Even better, it offers surprising commentary on morality. It’s style with breathless substance.
As Above, So Below – Netflix
A team of adventurers heads deep into the Paris catacombs in search of the philosopher’s stone. Naturally, they choose the path off-limits to tourists and locals alike. It’s a loose adaptation or retelling of Dante’s Inferno, which tells of Dante’s journey through the nine circles of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil, by way of found footage. Forget the descent into Hell and back. The tight spaces the characters must squeeze into and get there are enough to make this journey a nightmare.
47 Meters Down – Hulu
As if hungry sharks aren’t enough to contend with, sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt) must contend with oxygen deprivation too. On a spontaneous dive trip post-break-up, the sisters are trapped below when the cable to their dive cage snaps. It’s sharks that prevent an easy rescue, thwarting their chances for survival as narcosis becomes a serious problem. 47 Meters Down boasts one of the most terrifying shark scares in recent memory and isn’t afraid to go dark.
Blair Witch – Epix, Hulu
The direct sequel to the found-footage classic sees its characters venture into the woods searching for Heather, who long disappeared after the first film’s events. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett first play with claustrophobic dread by toying with time and spatial awareness, removing both for the ill-fated characters. They don’t realize until too late that they’re being corralled to their doom. But Wingard goes hard on the claustrophobia in the third act, which sees characters attempting to squeeze into impossibly small tunnels, triggering severe anxiety as a result.
Buried – AMC+
It doesn’t get much more claustrophobic than being buried alive in a coffin. Ryan Reynolds stars in this unsettling thriller that sees him armed with only a lighter and a phone, racing against the clock as his oxygen dwindles. Just one tiny, single location and a riveting performance are all it takes to carry the unrelenting tension throughout.