Fish out of Water Horror Films
The lynchpin of any horror film is the displacement of an ordinary person into a horrifying or dangerous situation. Almost any horror film could be seen as a Fish-Out-Of-Water story, but I wanted to take you on journey through the films that have a much stronger taste of this trope. I have brought together a list of films that concentrate on people and persons that are taken from a certain way of life and thrown into an almost polar opposite situation, to which they are woefully unprepared for. So strap in tight, as I fly you past a bunch of horrifying movies that tell you tales of square pegs in round holes. Here are Fish out of Water Horror Films.
Poltergeist 3 (1988)
The Fish: Carol Anne Freeling
New territory: Chicago
Poor little Carol Anne Freeling is once again pestered by spooks in the third film in the Poltergeist films. And her wonderful parents, who have already gone through two terrifying hauntings, decide to ship their daughter off alone to Chicago, in what we can only guess was an attempt to distance themselves from the blond-haired spook magnet. Facing the full brunt of Carol Anne’s spectre friends is her high-rise living aunt Pat and her Husband Bruce.
Not only is Carol Anne now facing her greatest fears alone, without the love and support of her immediate family, but she’s also California girl now living in the colder climates of the Midwestern United States. But she’s not the only Fish-out-of-Water character in the film. Carol Anne’s aunt Pat is far out of her depths when she suddenly flung into the paranormal world. With spooks, spectres and doppelgangers plaguing the building, she may just well feel likes she’s barley treading water.
Poltergeist 3 was the last film in the series, most probably due to actress Heather Michele O’Rourke passing away shortly before the films release. Sadly, the third film is also the weakest, with a strong suggestion of series fatigue with the departure of all most the entire original cast. Even the return of Zelda Rubinstein, as Tangina, could not bring this film back from the brink. Whilst it retains a certain creepiness, the scares and story seem a little too familiar.
“Hey I’m not used to this cold, I’m from California!”
The Fish: Paxton and Josh
New Territory: Europe
Eli Roth has made a huge name for himself in the name of horror, but none of his film come close to being as disturbing as his 2005 torture-porn horror, Hostel. The film about two adventurous American friends backpacking in out-of-the-way Slovakian town, is a real crash of cultures, as they find themselves imprisoned and tortured in sick European business venture.
Whilst the films gruesome moments come from the films sick tortures sequences, the earlier parts as just as uncomfortable to watch as the out of place Americans find themselves slipping deeper into the sinter plot. The film has long be thought to represent the rebuke of ugly-Americanism and the selfish way in which tourist act whilst abroad, giving the film a much deeper meaning beyond its bloody surface. Hostel is awkward, sadistic and intensely gory, and we love it!
“Aren’t there any Dutch people in Amsterdam?”
The Fish: Ross Jennings
New Territory: Rural California
Here’s a little film for spider lovers, as Arachnophobia crawls onto our list with a misfit doctor facing his worse fears. The directorial debut of Frank Marshall, Arachnophobia weaves its web in rural California where a big city physician find’s himself faced with problematic locals, an old-fashioned rival and a bunch of killer spiders. Not the best place for an arachnophobic trying to make do in a new environment.
Arachnophobia is a gross-out black comedy, filled with frights, laughs and some pretty mean special effects. It’s the Halloween of creature features and shows just how to turn an innocent spider into something terrifying.
“We’re gonna be fine, we’ll be alright, just like you said.”
28 Days Later… (2002)
The Fish: Jim
New Territory: Zombie Apocalypse
Director Danny Boyle revitalised the Zombie genre in 2002, when he re-imagined the end of the world with a deadly rage-inducing virus in 2002’s 28 Days Later. The story is told through the eyes of Jim (Cillian Murphy) a bicycle courier Who literally sleeps through the apocalypse, as he wakes from a coma to find London deserted and the rage-riddled infected rampant. Jim’s lack of knowledge of the terrible events that have ravaged the world, leave him unprepared for the infected and for the desperation of the few survivors still alive.
Boyle use of digital video gave the film a gritty and raw feel that you just can’t get with film. Combine that with an excellent script from writer Alex Garland, and as superb cast, and the result is an edge of your seat roller coaster that is unforgiving and thoroughly entertaining. 28 Days Later may well be one of the best modern-day zombie films of our time!
“Do you want us to find a cure and save the world or just fall in love and fuck?”
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Fish: Brooks Hatlen
New Territory: The Modern World
A more tragic misfit story lies within the film adaptation of Stephen King’s short story The Shawshank Redemption. Whilst it might not be an outright horror film, its roots are firmly planted with the decaying soil of King’s imagination.
The film takes place within the fictional New England state prison of Shawshank, where we are introduced to many different characters serving time in the institute. Some are good natured, others are bad. But the greatest enemy to the folks of Shawshank is time.
One inmate, an elderly fellow named Brooks Hatlen, is paroled after spending 50 years inside the walls of the prison. Brooks quickly realises that he has become “institutionalised’, having no idea how to live in the outside world. Lonely, scared and tired, Brooks hangs himself, leaving his friends at Shawshank realising that a similar fate may wait for them.
Shawshank is a stunningly powerful film that deals with philosophical life discussions, but set to the grey-grim backdrop of a corrupt penal institution. King’s dialogue is just as profound here as in his other works, but it packs so much more of punch set in drama than in King’s more familiar territory of horror. It’s no surprise that Shawshank keeps popping up on in the top 5 movies of all time.
“I don’t like it here. I’m tired of bein’ afraid all the time. I’ve decided… not to stay. I doubt they’ll kick up any fuss, not for an old… crook like me…”
The Fish: Suzy Bannion
New Territory: European Occult
Fish out of water stories can come in all shapes and sizes, and the next entry in our list is one of the more influential films in horror. Dario Argento’s Suspiria, is a neon lit, nightmare fuelled, supernatural romp that follows a rather ordinary person in an extraordinarily terrifying circumstance.
The film stars Jessica Harper as an American ballet-dancing Suzy Bannion who transfers to a prestigious dance academy in Germany. But it’s not just the change in scenery and culture that puts our protagonist out of place, it’s the supernatural shenanigans and brutal murders that our heroine finds herself investigating. Our armature sleuth is out of her depth and sinking fast.
Suspiria is a visually stunning movie that put Italian horror on the map and launched the popularity of Giallo horror. It’s a bewildering and nightmarish experience that sees a clash of European occult and American spirit.
“Thanks, but… I’m leaving town in the morning. I’m going away forever!”
The Fish: Oh Dae-su
New Territory: Freedom
While Spike Lee’s 2013 remake might have been a more popular version of Oldboy in the states, but it’s Park Chan-wook’s superior original that really amps up the fish-out-of-water elements and is genuinely a better film.
Choi Min-sik plays Oh Dae-su, a troubled man who suddenly finds himself imprisoned in a small room, with no explanation. Oh Dae-su spends 15 years incarcerated with only a television for company, and no answers to who has imprisoned him. It’s only when he is suddenly released, that the puzzles pieces start to fall into place. But this newly freed fish-out-of-water is faced with a world that has moved on and family that have thought him dead.
Oh Dae-su finds himself in world he does not know, looking for answers to a question he’s not sure of. Oldboy is the ultimate revenge thriller that tortures the body and mind and leaves audiences gasping for breath.
“How’s life in a bigger prison, Dae-su?”
Dead Alive – (Aka Brain Dead) (1993)
The Fish: Lionel Cosgrove
New Territory: Independence
One of the goriest films ever made, Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive is an hilarious zombie filled splatterfest that sprang from New Zealand in 1993, many years before Jackson became a household name with Lord of The Rings.
Starring Timothy Balme as a pathetic mummy’s-boy Lionel Cosgrove, whose budding romance with the beautiful Paquita (Diana Penalver) is severely tested when his mother is bitten by a zombie making Sumatran Rat-Monkey.
Lionel has spent his entire time under his mother thumb, isolated and lonely. Suddenly faced with love, death and a zombie outbreak, Lionle begins to feel like a square peg in a round hole as his newly found independence is overrun by the walking dead. Jackson delivers a fish-out-of-water story with lashings of gore, plenty of laughs and some extraordinarily impressive practical effects that will leave you speechless.
“No-one will ever love you like your mother!”
The Green Inferno (2013)
The Fish: Justine
New Territory: Amazon
They say that no good deed goes unpunished, and no film smacks you in the face with this sentiment more than Eli Roth’s 2012 love letter to the cannibal films of the 1970s, The Green Inferno.
A group of student activists travels to the Amazon to save the rain forest only to end up on the menu for a remote cannibalistic tribe. Starring Lorenza Izzo as liberal PC Justine, who the film follows as she tries to set the world to rights.
Taken from her cushy lifestyle, provided by her wealthy United Nations attorney father, Justine flies out with an activist group to a unforgiven land filled with soldiers and savages. The group are soon captured by a village of cannibals. The group is slowly whittled down as the tribe ritualistically murder and eat the captives. Not only is it a comment on modern elitism, but it’s the ultimate fish-out-of-water movie that will tear you apart, just as much as the cannibals within.
“There’s nowhere to go, everywhere looks the fucking same.”
Other Posts Like This
“Hello Horror Fans – The only FISH I like is the one served in batter, with a healthy side-order of chips! But I mist admit, I love the films on this list, if only because it adds an extra layer of vulnerability to the characters. Are they more we have missed? What would you like to see on this list. Hit us up on the comments below!