Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Guest Post: Home is Where the Horror Is: The Best "Home Invasion" Movies

The concept of home invokes a sense of security and safety from the dangers of the outside world. Invasion movies violate this deeply entrenched human need. The idea that someone could breach this most fundamental barrier strikes a chord of horror, making us wonder how we would react in such a situation. The following movies answer that question in very different ways, but they all tap into the same fear in memorable ways.

Black Christmas (2004)

This holiday classic has someone breaking into the house right from the outset. In a horrifying opening scene, viewers become complicit with the intruder himself and see through his eyes. Revisiting this angle periodically keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, envisioning the horror around the corner. More disturbingly for the characters in the movie, the intruder calls from inside the house and doesn’t have very pleasant things to say. As the bodies pile up, the sorority house itself seems to take on a sinister air. This Canadian thriller really laid the foundation for many of the horror tropes we know today. Interesting tidbit: the film was directed by Bob Clark, who is responsible for another Christmas classic. Guess which one...

The Panic Room (2002)

The Panic Room provides exactly what its title suggests: a film full of panicked characters running from their worst fears which have suddenly materialized. Jodie Foster plays a somewhat wounded divorcee who is trying to start a new life. The new house she moves into with her daughter comes equipped with an impenetrable panic room in case of intrusions. Before too long, some men come by in search of loot, and the panic room becomes a necessity. Unfortunately for the main characters, the panic room itself contains what the intruders have come looking for.

Funny Games (1997)

Director Michael Haneke decided he had to torment as many audiences with this film as possible. So he made this one in Germany in ‘97, and then he remade the film entirely in English ten years later. The “games” depicted in this movie have nothing to do with fun, except for the perpetrators and any seriously sadistic viewers. In this tale of torture and pain, a family vacation getaway turns into several rounds of violence when a few psychopaths come into the picture. Naomi Watts plays the mother of a well-to-do family that runs into a pair of polite and well-mannered killers. Each family member gets a certain amount of time to live and then has to undergo a series of physical and psychological horrors. Holiday activities at the cabin have rarely taken such a dark turn.

Halloween (1978)

Director John Carpenter’s classic horror film changed the genre for good and set off a chain reaction that still reverberates today. The movie opens with a non-intruder, Michael, who commits the first violent deed. Years later, Michael proceeds to maim and kill as many of the people in his old neighborhood as possible. At the heart of the story, though, are a few babysitters who unexpectedly walk into jobs that will change their lives. A quiet night at home would never seem as innocent and peaceful after this film’s release. It’s one of the most successful independent films of all time, and is still shown regularly throughout the United States: the original was redistributed theatrically all over the world. It’s so big, that it’s a popular viewing option even outside of the continental U.S., with many fans catching it through Satellite TV Providers in Hawaii or at Halloween carnivals in Alaska.

Wait Until Dark (1967)

Audrey Hepburn stars a young woman named Susy who has recently become blind ends up facing three intruders. After a series of mishaps and poor decisions at the beginning of the movie, Susy’s husband Sam ends up bringing a doll full of heroin to the house. This brings the miscreants sniffing around for it. Since Susy is blind, the criminals try to find the doll full of drugs without letting her in on it by weaving a series of stories to explain their presence. Their tales begin to wear thin as the clock keeps ticking. The film was praised heartily by Roger Ebert.

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

This classic home invasion movie tunes into the fear of interacting with a stranger who can track your every move. At the outset, the home represents an alien environment, as Jill Johnson is babysitting in another home. Already out of place, she receives another jolt of fear when someone calls the home asking about the children. A seemingly innocuous prank at first glance, the calls continue and Jill becomes increasingly concerned. When she finally gets the attention of the authorities, they have some even more terrifying news for her. The caller has already entered the house and is placing calls from inside it.
Beth Kelly is a blogger based in Chicago, IL. A horror fan since day one, she also has a degree in Communications and Media from DePaul, University. In her free time you can find her training for a triathlon or watching awesomely-bad monster movies.