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8 Movies Like Buried: One Location Thrillers

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Andy McKendry itcher‘Buried’ is perhaps the ultimate minimalist movie, with its single location inside a coffin we can see every facial tick from Ryan Reynolds and the feeling of claustrophobia is positively palpable. Setting a feature length film in a single location (or bottle movie) that holds the attention of the audience is not an easy thing to do. The complexities of the task have not stopped filmmakers from finding breaking new ground. ‘Phone Booth’, ‘Locke’ and ‘Devil’ are just some of the movies like ‘Buried’ to make the most of one location.
~ Andy McKendry

Confined and Running Out of Time

Directed by Rodrigo Cortés, Buried taps into everybody’s worst fear for 84 minutes and is utterly relentless from start to finish. Ryan Reynolds stars as truck driver Paul Conroy working in Iraq, after surviving an attack from hostiles he wakes up buried alive six feet underground. Armed only with a phone and a lighter, Paul must make every breath count as he attempts to find a way out of his waking nightmare.

You might think a 90-minute movie set entirely in a coffin would be visually dull, but nothing could be further from the truth as Cortés finds inventive camera angles to ramp up the tension. Films like ‘Buried’ are in many ways more complicated to make than their big budget blockbuster counterparts.

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Movies Similar to ‘Buried’…

‘Brake’ (Gabe Torres, 2012)

Stephen Dorff stars as a US Secret Service agent who is held captive in the trunk of a car, his terrorist captors put him through hell in order to extract vital information from him. ‘Brake’ largely went unnoticed on its release in 2012, which is a shame as it is a neat little movie brimming with ideas.

Almost 90% of the movie takes place in the trunk with only bullet holes to peek through. If ‘Buried’ is a taut psychological thriller, then ‘Brake’ is its twisted adrenaline fuelled cousin that trades torment for thrills.

Similarity Match: 95%
Of all the movies similar to ‘Buried’, ‘Brake’ is the closest match with its claustrophobic setting and intense performance from its leading man.

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‘Locke’ (Steven Knight, 2014)

Tom Hardy stars as construction manager Ivan Locke, the night before a big job starts he receives life-changing news and drives down the motorway to face up to his obligations. The whole movie is set in Ivan’s car as his makes his way down the motorway in the dead of night.

A series of phone calls slowly drips us the story with a pantheon of well known British actors lending their voices to the various callers. Tom Hardy fully delivers on the hype that surrounds him as one of England’s best actors, he even manages a credible Welsh accent and sustains it for the duration. 

Similarity Match: 90%
Like ‘Buried’, ‘Locke’, is riveting minimalist filmmaking powered by one central performance. The story unfolds slowly and may lack the thrills of ‘Buried’, but ‘Locke’ is a dynamic piece of work and Hardy is exceptional.

***
‘Devil’ (John Erick Dowdle, 2010)

M. Night Shyamalan provides the story to this effective little supernatural thriller that finds five strangers trapped in an elevator. Instead of worrying about plummeting to their doom, one of them might just be the Devil in human form and is hungry for human souls.

Like many bottle movies, ‘Devil’ draws heavy influence from Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ as our elevator dwellers are picked off one by one. Shyamalan has a few tricks up his sleeve as events take a demonic turn, you may never look at an elevator (or lift if you’re of the European persuasion) in the same way again.   

Similarity Match: 85%
Like ‘Buried’,’Devil’ taps into our fears of enclosed spaces and adds a fiendish twist.

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‘All Is Lost’ (J. C. Chandor, 2013)

Robert Redford takes centre stage in this superb lost at sea survival drama from director J.C Chandor. When his yacht is damaged during a voyage in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed sailor (Robert Redford) must brave the elements to navigate his way back to land.

The vastness of the ocean is a solitary place, and its unforgiving nature serves as a second character in the movie. Redford is the lone actor, and his indomitable performance is a stark reminder of his talents as a timeless leading man.

Trading the confinement of a coffin for the endless horizon, ‘All Is Lost’ is still a nerve shredding slice of cinema.

Similarity Match: 80%
Like ‘Buried’, ‘All Is Lost’ only has one actor to hold the audience’s attention and Redford is an old pro still at the height of his powers.

***
‘Exam’ (Stuart Hazeldine, 2009)

Eight candidates who have made the shortlist for a prestigious job are given a final test to determine who will get the position. Ushered into an exam room they are a strict set of rules and a blank piece of paper, they have 80 minutes to work out the answer or die trying. 

Imagine TVs The Apprentice where you’re not fired for failing a task, but instead you’re subjected to psychological torment.

Similarity Match: 75%
‘Exam’ is a great example of how to make an efficient thriller on a budget. Lacking the inventive cinematography of ‘Buried’, ‘Exam’ still puts a clever spin on the bottle movie set up.

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‘Phone Booth’ (Joel Schumacher, 2002)

Collin Farrell stars as charming yet shallow publicist Stu Shepard, his cheating ways and arrogant lifestyle comes to an abrupt standstill when he answers a ringing pay phone a street in New York City. The mysterious voice (Kiefer Sutherland) on the other end demands Stu stays in the phone booth or face dire consequences.

The situation quickly gets out of hand, Stu finds himself at the heart of a media circus, and his life is in the hands of a madman.

Similarity Match: 70%
‘Phone Booth’ serves as an antidote to the claustrophobic nature of ‘Buried’. Our protagonist is still trapped in one location, and it’s a race against time with only a phone standing between life and death.

***

If You Like ‘Buried’, You Will Like…

So far we’ve been buried alive, endured a mind boggling exam, trapped in the trunk of a speeding car, lost at sea and encased in an elevator with the devil. When it comes to one location movies, there’s no shortage of new ideas and the following two movies take drastically different approaches.

‘Rope’ (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948)

The master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock’s is no stranger to bottle movies, but his classic thriller Rope is the granddaddy of one location filmmaking. Two upper-class friends decide to murder their friend David to prove they can get away with it.

After the murder they host a dinner party and invite David’s friends and family, the film is an exercise in tension and Hitchcock’s perfectionism oozes in every shot.

Without ‘Rope’ we wouldn’t have any of the movies on this list. Hitchcock used ten unedited scenes to construct his experimental thriller, a method that proved demanding on his cast and crew.

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‘Moon’ (Duncan Jones, 2009)

Based on a lunar station, lone astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is coming to the end of his three-year contract and is counting down the days until his replacement arrives. Severed from regular communication from Earth, Sam only has a quirky computer named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for companionship.

When his replacement arrives, Sam’s world is forever changed and challenges everything he thought he knew about himself. ’Moon’ might have a whole planet to explore, but it’s just as claustrophobic as ‘Buried’ .

An ambitious early project from Duncan Jones is handled like a veteran, and you have to love the fact that David Bowie’s son made such a unique sci-fi movie.

***

My Thoughts

From Hollywood’s finest to independent filmmakers looking for a break, one location (or bottle movies) have been with us for decades and show no signs of retiring anytime soon.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list, as always let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do and what I′ve always done. As a child I wrote on walls with a crayon. Now I write for websites. I write for my blog where I post reviews of films, TV, and occasionally write short stories and I also run a writer and illustration collective. Whatever I do involves words, and plenty of them. I’m an avid cinephile, a screenwriter, and I love telling stories. I have an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University, UK, and I work on a freelance basis and drink far too much coffee.
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