Fuzzy math takes over as we count cast members and celebrate minimalist films that can seep into your nightmares with the help of very few performers. There are some great options, but here are our six favorites films with 1, 2, or 3 people in the cast.
Thanks Fright Clubber Michael for the topic!
6. Hard Candy (2005)
It would be two years before Elliot Paige burst into public consciousness as the hilarious and pregnant teen in Juno–still a kid getting herself into trouble, I guess. But the trouble in Hard Candy is tougher to manage.
Paige is a force of nature, playing off Patrick Wilson in a cat-and-mouse game where roles are flexible. Director David Slade keeps tensions ratcheted up to an unbearable level while Brian Nelson (who collaborated with Spade on the underappreciated vampire flick 30 Days of Night) twists the knife in a script as sharp and shady as these actors are wily and hard edged. It’s a breathless exploration of all that’s bad in the world.
5. Buried (2010)
If you’re claustrophobic, you might want to sit this one out. A tour de force meant to unveil Ryan Reynolds’s skill as an actor, Buried spends a breathless 95 minutes inside a coffin with the lanky Canadian, who’s left his quips on the surface.
Writer Chris Spalding stretches credibility as he tries to keep the crises lively, which is unfortunate because the simple story and Reynolds’s raw delivery makes this a gut-wrenching experience.
4. Creep (2014)
This true two-man show boasts dark and twisted humor, a great jump scare, and a truly exceptional mask.
Writer/director Patrick Brice plays Aaron, hapless videographer seeking work, thrills, maybe even love. He answers an ad to record Josef (Mark Duplass) at home, and then on the road. The film toys with that inner warning you hear and then choose to ignore.
Duplass has an incredible aptitude for pushing boundaries just enough to prick that inner voice but not quite enough to guarantee that you’ll head for the exit. As red flag after red flag go unheeded, Brice unveils more and more chilling detail.
3. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
This one is a threesome. Well, not if Howard (a glorious John Goodman) has anything to say about it.
The feature debut from director Dan Trachtenberg toys with the idea of an alien invasion (or some kind of chemical warfare), but it keeps you snugly indoors with Howard and his guests Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). Guess which one Howard doesn’t really want around?
The trio of performances compel your attention, even in the few down moments. This is a tight, taut thrill ride—even if it is confined to one guy’s basement.
2. Antichrist (2009)
Boy, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe are a one/two punch in this one. A married couple overcoming the guilt and desperate grief of their son’s death, the two make some increasingly dreadful decisions.
Alone in their apartment, the two bodies take up much of the screen. Once we move to the cabin in the woods, the colors become deeper and darker, the atmosphere denser, and the actors appear almost tiny and insignificant inside all this throbbing, living nature. Both performances are jarring and fantastic in a movie quite unlike any other.
1. The Lighthouse (2019)
The one thing you just don’t do as you descend into madness is spill your beans.
Dafoe again, this time with Robert Pattinson as his wickie mate in one of the most fascinating examinations of power shifts in horror history. Gorgeously photographed in black and white and boasting 2019’s best sound design, The Lighthouse offers these two actors plenty to work with.
But in the end, it’s the performances that kill you. Madness!