A Bloody Good Time 07.04.13: Top Ten Home Invasion Horror Films
Posted by Joseph Lee on 07.04.2013
From Panic Room and Black Christmas to High Tension, When a Stranger Calls and more, 411's Joseph Lee counts down the top 10 home invasion films!
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Possibly one of the scariest types of horror is the home invasion horror film. It's not used as often as other types but it's definitely one of the most frightening. Obviously this is because it could really happen. Even if it's just some burglar trying to make off with your TV, it's a frightening scenario to have a complete stranger invade the privacy of your home, the one place you should always be safe. Naturally a horror is a perfect genre to explore these fears in, or at least suspense. Occasionally there will also be a movie with some kid fighting two dumb burglars, but that's not what we're talking about today.
With both The Purge and You're Next out this year, I thought it'd be a good time to present my favorite home invasion horror films.
#10: Haute Tension (2003)
I can only put High Tension at #10 because only the first half occurs as a home invasion movie. The rest sort of devolves into a revenge movie before the twist ending, which has earned this film its share of scorn over the years. If you can overlook that, and I can, the actual moments when the man is invading this family's home just to butcher them are quite unnerving.
It's built up as a sort of idyllic weekend for two friends and then this stranger comes in and brutally murders nearly everyone, before taking one of the girls hostage. When I say brutal, I mean brutal. He shoves a man's head between the railing of the steps, then sends a cabinet moving past until it takes his head off. Then he slashes the mother and little brother. It's that kind of movie, and this is only in the first half! You want Marie to save her friend and perhaps take out the killer after what he's done...but then the twist happens.
#9: Panic Room (2002)
The movie that sent Kristen Stewart on her way to super-stardom. But don't hold that against it, as it's a solid little thriller with a mostly great cast (Jodie Foster, Forest Whitaker and Jared Leto, among others) and direction from David Fincher. Even Fincher's worst movie (The Game) is still helped by his superb direction and this is no exception. It's not as good as the other movies on this list, but it's certainly a good movie in its own right.
I like the idea of keeping a family inside of one room for the majority of the movie with the threat just outside, slowly forcing its way in. To add to the suspense, the daughter has diabetes and is without her insulin. It's a good plot device to increase the tension, but adding more vulnerability to the people you're supposed to root for. This is the most mainstream movie on the list, as I tend to enjoy my home invasion movies to be darker and nastier.
#8: Funny Games (1997 and 2007)
The original Funny Games and its remake are pretty much the same so they'll both grab the same spot here. The movie follows a couple of psychopaths who we know nothing about, waltz into a house and hold a family hostage. They're going to play a game, and if the family wins, they can live. If not, they'll die. As we find out later, they've done this before and they'll probably do it again.
Michael Haneke intended the film (at least the remake) to be a sort of rallying cry against violent cinema. It was an attempt to blame the audience for being complicit in the torture and murder of these innocents by purchasing a movie ticket. Yes, it's a little insulting, but if you ignore that you'll get a very suspenseful movie as a family tries to fight for their lives. It's also very mean-spirited, not just to its characters but in the remake, to its audience.
#7: When A Stranger Calls (1979)
This would be the original, not the awful, awful movie that they remade it as. This stars Carol Kane as a babysitter who begins receiving mysterious phone calls asking if she's checked the children. If you have heard the urban legend before, you know the twist: the calls are coming from inside the house, and the man has already murdered the children. When A Stranger Calls takes the story even further to find out what happens later, and it's still pretty creepy.
Not only is the urban legend one of the scarier ones (right along with "people can lick too"), but the movie itself is very good at building the tension up to the ending when the killer has returned to invade the home once again. It got a sequel and a terrible remake, but neither match up to the original, which is called a classic for a reason. I don't have as much love for this as everyone else, but I still like it and more important, I respect it. It paved the way for many other movies like it.
#6Them (Ils) (2006)
Part of a new wave of french horror in the late 00s, Them is actually the tamer of that set. It relies more on suspense than other movies on this list and in that regard is stronger for it. It follows a man and woman living in a country house who are terrorized by a group of hooded strangers throughout the night, who seem to have the intention of killing them before it is over. There is a twist about who the killers are that is slightly shocking, and the motive revealed at the end is even worse.
As I said, this one relies more on tension and scares than gore, and it doesn't really need it. It is very suspenseful from the moment the killers show up until the closing seconds of the film. The acting is solid as well, which keeps it from overstaying its welcome. Even with the lack of gore, it doesn't mean the film lacks teeth, as you'd see if you watched it. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and that's always a good thing in horror.
#5: Martyrs (2008)
After the movie is over, I never really thought of Martyrs as a home invasion movie. I think that's kind of the point. It very much is a home invasion film, it's just the person invading is an innocent and the people being invaded are sadistic killers who want to torture her. It's set in motion to play like some sort of revenge/invasion movie then turns into something a lot, lot worse.
I won't say the gore in Martyrs is too extreme (I've seen worse), but it's very graphic and only adds to the experience of watching a young woman tortured for the entire movie. It's a very rough sit (I mean that in a good way) and it's one I haven't watched since the first time I saw it. There are just some movies you don't want to see again, no matter how successful they are at what they set out to do. The fact that the remake actually wants you to have a "glimmer of hope" at the end means they'll likely miss the point entirely. American remakes of foreign films (or any films) tend to do that.
#4: Inside (2008)
Then of course, we have Inside. If you've seen this movie, I don't think I need to say more than the title. For those who haven't, let me break it down for you. A pregnant woman is stalked by a psychotic woman who wants to cut her baby out of her and steal it for herself. There's your premise for the movie. The crazy lady stalks the mother-to-be in her own home, killing her boss and even making her kill her own mother at one point.
This movie is just soaked in blood and gore. There are some nasty kills and even sicker finale, but it's all worth it. While Them had little to no gore, this features almost nothing but gore and yet it still builds up suspense successfully. That's why it still stands out over other movies of its type, because it is not just a blood-and-guts movie, but also a very intense one. If you haven't seen this, do so, because more people need to.
#3: If I Die Before I Wake (1998)
I didn't know a thing about this movie before I saw it. Many people I talk to still haven't heard of this one, and it is forgotten among other well-known horror titles. When I first saw this, it scared the hell out of me. Not to pat myself on the back, but I've seen enough horror that at times, I can be a little desensitized to it. In this case, I wasn't. It grabbed me early and kept me scared throughout most of its run time, which is something not many films can say. It's an extremely underrated horror film.
The film has a family held hostage but three intruders who proceed to kill and rape the ones they can get their hands on. I won't say who gets killed and I won't say who gets raped, but it's pretty terrible to watch. The film then sees the surviving members of the family attempt to stay alive and fight off their attackers. By that point I'm completely sold and rooting for them, which means this one has done its job.
#2: Wait Until Dark (1967)
Not only does Audrey Hepburn play a woman who is stalked by three criminals in this movie, she plays a blind woman stalked by three criminals. There are many moments when we can see exactly what's going on and she can't, and that makes the movie's intensity climb much higher than any other in this genre. How can she even defend herself if she knows she's in danger? As the movie shows, she has trouble dealing with being blind as it is.
The criminals are well played by Richard Crenna, Alan Arkin and Jack Weston. Arkin especially is very menacing, which is something you wouldn't expect if you're used to seeing him in movies like Little Miss Sunshine and Get Smart. Hepburn plays a blind woman well and plays off the three criminals with ease. It's a classic movie that needs to be seen by anyone who is a fan of suspense.
#1: Black Christmas (1974)
Like When A Stranger Calls, the killer is already in the house. In fact, he's been there the entire movie, hiding out and killing several of the sorority girls inside. The difference is that we know almost right away that he's in there and it's a matter of getting the leads to figure it out because they're in danger every single second they don't leave. Black Christmas was not only a pioneer for the slasher genre, but as it turns out it's a great home invasion movie as well.
I've said how much I love this movie many times and it really doesn't need to be repaired. It's one of the best horror films ever made, right up there with Halloween and The Exorcist. It does its job incredibly well, from the menacing phone calls, to the reveal, to the killer himself being hidden in shadows the entire time and always being so damned creepy. It's Black Christmas. I actually try to watch it every holiday season, which may be a little morbid, but I love it.
That's it for me. Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week, we will take a look at some actors who you may not have guessed were in horror films. That's probably because they are the last people you'd expect to be in a horror film. It's the unlikeliest horror actors!
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