Imagine you’re at home watching a movie. It’s a scary one, but nothing too suspenseful. Your sitting a little closer than you normally would to your significant other and the popcorn you made has long since gone untouched, as your nerves continue to rise and your knuckles become white. Then, just as the suspense cannot get any higher or the air any thicker, a knock rattles on the door. You stumble over to the door and swing it open, sticking your head out far enough to see that no one’s around. But, before you realize it, something strikes you on the back of the head and you’re face down on the ground. Everything starts to fade as the haze swells your vision. You feel yourself being dragged back inside. There’s three of them.
Home invasion movies are one of the creepiest subgenres in horror out there today. They tap into our common fears and feel much more real than say, a creature feature or a slasher flick. So, in relation to this genre as well as this week’s release of The Purge, we break down six of our favorite (and most terrifying) home invasion movies.
Funny Games (1997/2007)
It doesn’t matter which version you watch because you will either love this movie or become completely angered by its outcome. The story is about a family that comes to stay at their lake house when they are forced into playing a bunch of sadistic games by two well dressed gentlemen. What makes this movie stand out from other home invasion movies is that all of the violence appears off-screen. This was director Michael Haneke’s comment about our love of violence for entertainment purposes. He makes you an unwilling participant in this experiment and it does make for an interesting discussion on why we like these kinds of movies. As a side note, the 1997 original was remade in 2007, shot by shot, by Haneke himself.
A couple goes to spend some time at a retreat of some sort and then get harassed by a group of thugs that can not easily be seen. Yes this movie was heavily referenced in The Strangers but these villains don’t have the need to wear masks like those other ones do. This is a good example of building tension in a horror movie. Them earns its scares by not having much of a score and by having an interest in these characters. Sometimes the couple would do something stupid that would make me angry, but yet if I was in the situation. I would be doing something much more dumb than that.
Wait Until Dark, 1967
The beautiful Audrey Hepburn plays Suzy a blind woman who is terrorized by a gang of thugs who believe a doll filled with heroin is stashed at her place. Alan Arkin plays one of the thugs obsessed with finding the artifact and he is very menacing in this movie. If you thought he was just some outspoken light-hearted character has never seen this before. What I like best about this flick is that the invasion is slowly spaced out within the course of the story. These crooks try a series of elaborate hoaxes to get the doll before they barge in and cause violence. The end scene would have been great to see in theaters because it brings the audience into Suzy’s perspective by having the whole scene become dark. Silence of The Lambs would use this effect for the end scene when Clarice is searching for Buffalo Bill.
Panic Room, 2002.
This David Fincher thriller was not as well received by audiences than his other ones which is kind of lame because it had a good story with some very well written characters. Meg (Jodie Foster) and her daughter Sarah (Kristin Stewart) have just moved into a luxurious apartment after a pending divorce with her husband. During their first night a group of thieves played by Jared Leto, Forrest Whitaker and Dwight Yoakam, break into their house to get a collection of bonds. Both mother and daughter lock themselves in a panic room that was explained to them when the place was first shown. This does not stop the thieves because what they want is in that room. What follows is a very genius game of cat and mouse. In which the mouse has got a few more tricks than the cat Fincher’s use of camera movements is really inventive as it shows the camera swooping in and out of rooms and it also shows us the inside of the walls as well. Every character in this is great and they make a unbelievable situation become somewhat plausible. A great movie.
In Their Skin, 2012
The concept of this is really chilling but the way it’s executed isn’t. One family comes across another that has the same number of members that they do. A mom a dad and a boy around the age of ten. They invite the other family over for dinner and everything seems nice at first. But halfway through, it becomes clear that their intention is to kill these people and take over their lives. They have done it before. Assume one family’s identity until all their resources have been used up and then move on to the next one. The idea alone is worth a mention on this list,and there are some really tense moments in this. Especially the scene at the dinner table. Other moments may have you scratching your head as to why certain characters would make such bad choices. But hey if they didn’t the movie wouldn’t have lasted that long.
Perhaps the most disturbing of entries on the list is the French film Inside. Taking place over one night, the film follows a woman, Sarah, who’s very pregnant, and her fight for survival as a psychotic woman stalks, preys, and attacks her. The reason behind the invasion? The woman wants the baby inside Sarah and will do whatever it takes to literally rip it from her womb. Inside is a movie that doesn’t hold anything back and goes places you’d never imagine a movie would go. Luckily for us, it’s a French title, because we all know none of this would fly in an American film.
Home Alone (1991)- Although not terrifying, it’s deserving to be a part of the conversation.
The Strangers (2008)
Straw Dogs (1971)
Hard Candy (2005)