This weekend's new thriller “The Purge” is based on a truly ridiculous premise: In the near future, the government will legalize all crime for twelve hours each year in the hopes of bettering society. That's a harebrained scheme if I've ever heard one, but, hey, movies, am I right?
So, under this little method of getting mayhem outta everyone’s system at once, naturally, one poor family gets the short end of the stick after taking in a stranger who knocks on their door begging for help. Inevitably, it isn't long before our protagonists discover that they've invited upon themselves the most unwanted attention of home-invading predators.
Truth is, most home invasion movies are pretty darn scary. There’s just something about being backed into a wall in your own house that’s bloody terrifying, and horrifyingly relatable.
In fact, these ten fellow dwelling-defiling films, ranked in order of shiver inducement, may forever ruin the idea that home is any kind of a safe haven.
10. “Wait Until Dark” (1967)
It's not complicated: any respectable discussion of home-invasion flicks must include Audrey Hepburn’s stunning turn as a blind woman who’s attacked by a gaggle of gangsters rummaging through her place for a porcelain doll stuffed with dope. Based on the rather simple Frederick Knott play, which still regularly makes way through community theater circuits, Terence Young’s adaptation gives an exceptionally delicate face to our poor Susy, making her wit that much more enjoyable. Until the [spoiler alert?] big climax, though, the poor babe is most definitely in a scary predicament. Not to mention, she’s completely outnumbered.
Say what you must about the “Scream” franchise as a whole, but Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson did something special and remarkably self-aware with the first installment, particularly with its inspired (and much-parodied) opening number featuring Drew Barrymore as the ill-fated Casey. “Are you alone in the house?” Not exactly the sort of thing a girl wants to hear when answering her phone at night … alone. We pre-teens of the late ‘90s sure lost some sleep (but had lots of fun slumber parties!) when this bad boy eventually made its way to VHS.
You would think that a state of the art room made from several tons of concrete and steel for the specific purpose of protecting its owners from intruders would be serious overkill, but in this David Fincher crime thriller, the eponymous panic room naturally becomes a prison within which Jodie Foster’s Meg and her asthmatic daughter Sarah (a pubescent Kristen Stewart), are cornered by three armed-and-dangerous thugs who’ll stop at nothing to get what they came for. Of course, Jared Leto's cornrows elevate the already terrifying situation into the stuff of unleaded nightmare fuel.
7. “Eye for an Eye” (1996)
The death of a child is pretty much every parent’s very worst nightmare, but this movie reached all new, unequivocally disturbing levels of horror. Sally Field’s Karen McCann calls home to her teenage daughter to chat about something trivial, but she winds up hopelessly listening in as an intruder – portrayed by Kiefer Sutherland – rapes and murders the innocent girl right there in her own home. As you might derive from the title, that’s nowhere near the end to the story, but it was the sort of thing that probably had every parent in America checking the locks twice and reminding their little ones not to answer the door for anyone, not ever ever ever.
In Michael Haneke’s arguably unnecessary but ultimately successful English language remake of his own 1997 original, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth starred as a couple taking what should've been a sweet and simple little lakeside vacay with their boy Georgie … until two seemingly innocuous boys affiliated with the neighbor come by to “borrow some eggs” and wind up viciously holding the family hostage. Phone’s out, daddy’s leg is broken, and all the two sinister fellows wanna do is play some games. And not the fun kind. It’s one of those movies that has no limits so far as where it's willing to go, and what it's willing to make you watch. It’s not only brutal, but there are no rules to who’ll survive what, and that, friends, is just about as frightening as it gets in film.
C’mon; you know you know the scene. It’s absolutely horrific. Need we say more? Yes? Okay then. So, granted Stanley Kubrick did borrow some of the craziness of this story from the equally-revered-and-reviled-in-its-medium book by Anthony Burgess, but he took all the droogs’ madness and made it that much madder.
“Haute Tension,” as it’s called in its native French tongue, is as much a psychological thriller as it is a home invasion movie, but there is absolutely no denying just how gruesome Alexandre Aja’s big attack scene is here. For the uninitiated, the film follows two college women as they journey to one’s countryside home to visit her lovely family on holiday when a knock at the door produces one demented individual capable of insane brutality against the poor group. This slasher film makes you want to get ADT on the horn lickety split, that’s for certain.
Sure, there were a lot of cheap bang-boo-we-scared-you noises thickening the tension in Bryan Bertino’s twisty film, but there was also an unnerving degree of reality imbued into the situation of this poor, isolated pair, portrayed by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. After coming back to a random friend’s home from a nearby wedding, with personal tiffs galore in tow, the two troubled lovers quickly find themselves thrown into a straight-up nightmare, as a group of masked strangers deprive them of all escape options, bit by bit. And when the motive for inflicting so much misery on the poor saps is revealed, the film almost becomes too agonizingly conceivable to stomach.
Titled “Ils” in French, this “based on actual events” shrieker puts a peaceful country couple through a night of unbridled terror as they awaken to find their home invaded by four hooded attackers. Try though they might to scurry away from the danger these surprisingly young boys pose to them, the havoc seemingly has no end. It's hard to fathom a creepier line of dialogue than when one of the boys taunts the unfortunate woman with an earnestly simple question: “Why won’t you play with us?”
Dude, what is it with the French and their super freaky filmmaking? And they call American movies violent. "Inside" (aka “À l'intérieur”) is about as gory as gory gets, son … er, should we say fetus since the whole premise of this movie is that a pregnant woman finds herself being invaded and tormented by some psycho broad who wants to steal her baby right from the womb. Body horror at its most extreme and discomforting (for men and women alike), "Inside" may not be the most immediately relatable home invasion film, but it might very well leave the deepest scars.