A couple of weeks ago I caught the movie Frozen on DVD. In a nutshell, the premise is that three college kids manage to bribe their way onto a ski resort without buying lift tickets, only to find themselves stuck on the lift halfway up the mountain when the resort closes early for the week due to an incoming storm. See, since they're not part of the official head count, no one in charge even knows they're missing.
So there they are - stuck on the stopped ski lift, dangling fifty feet from the ground. A major storm is coming in and since this is Sunday night the resort is closed all week until Friday. They have three choices: wait, jump, or try to climb on the wire until they get to a tower and then climb down. Waiting means freezing to death, jumping is sure to cause serious injury, and it's almost impossible to climb on those metal wires, to say nothing of the upper body strength needed.
I really don't want to spoil what happens because this is one of those films that really makes good use of tension. Giving away anything else might spoil some of that for first time viewers and this is a film that really needs to be experienced fresh. Director Adam Green also gets in several vertigo-inducing shots that remind us just how high up these guys are and there are several moments that are very difficult to watch. It's not that the violence is exceptionally graphic, but the situation and the peril are very intense in places.
These are probably my favorite kind of thrillers - the ones that play on everyday fears. These are the stories that spring from the "what if one little thing went wrong?" voice in the back of your mind. "What if I went scuba diving and the boat accidentally left me in the middle of nowhere?" (Open Water) "What if I go in for surgery and the anastetic only paralyzes me but doesn't knock me out?" (Awake) "What if I ran into a shark while swimming near the beach?" (Jaws).
Who hasn't been on a ski lift or a roller coaster and found themselves wondering "What happens if this thing breaks right when we get to the highest point?"
To me, those sort of everyday fears are a thousand times more scarier than demonic possession, alien invasions and deformed slashers who stalk women in their underwear. (The women are the ones in their underwear, obviously. A deformed slasher in his underwear might be almost as scary as being stuck on a ski lift.)
That's the root of all horror: "It could happen to me." Remember that when you craft your own horror/thrillers.