13 Home Invasion Movies
Article By: Tony Timpone
In today’s uncertain times, it is no surprise that most people just don’t feel safe. Violence and carnage strike everywhere: from supermarket to airport, movie theater to post office, house of worship to work place. What’s most frightening is when the terror strikes us in our homes, invading the ultimate place of comfort and refuge.
Pioneers among home invaders include Frank Sinatra (Suddenly, 1954) and Humphrey Bogart (The Desperate Hours, 1955); but the last 15 years, especially, have seen a rash of movies exploiting this current zeitgeist of fear. So today, Chiller urges you to bolt your windows and lock your doors as The Friday 13 catalogues the scariest Home Invasion Movies. (List arranged according to year of film’s release.)
1. Wait Until Dark (1967)
Based on a play by Frederick (Dial M for Murder) Knott, this classic suspense thriller stars Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman terrorized in her apartment by three thugs. Alan Arkin, today known for all those cantankerous grandfather roles, plays the despicable lead criminal, who insinuates his way into Hepburn’s home in an effort to recover a heroin-stuffed doll that mistakenly wound up there. Directed by early 007 director Terence Young, Wait Until Dark features one of the best climactic “jump scares” of all time. Quentin Tarantino appeared in a much-maligned 1998 Broadway revival.
2. Straw Dogs (1971)
Helmed by maverick Hollywood iconoclast Sam Peckinpah, Straw Dogs incited controversy and outrage upon its original release. Dustin Hoffman stars as an anti-violence American egghead who resettles in a quiet British town with wife Susan George. The locals don’t like him, but they do like her, brutally raping the woman twice. When the town simpleton (the great David Warner) holes up in Hoffman’s home for a crime he didn’t commit, the bloodthirsty townsfolk lay siege to the cottage. Only then does Hoffman take measures into his own hands and fight back with gory gusto… Humanity doesn’t get much darker as depicted in the powerful Straw Dogs. Skip the 2011 remake, please.
3. Alone in the Dark (1982)
Assured direction, a sly script and the presence of several over-the-top movie veterans elevate what could have been standard slasher schlock. When a town blackout knocks out the power of the neighborhood mental facility, three psychotic patients (towering Erland van Lidth and future Oscar winners Martin Landau and Jack Palance) fly over the cuckoo’s nest. They head straight for the abode of psychiatrist Dwight Schultz (a year before joining The A-Team) to make things extremely unpleasant for the besieged doc and his family. Halloween’s Donald Pleasence has a small part as a pot-smoking shrink, just as loony as those he’s treating. Alone in the Dark rates as a clever, scary and enjoyable night of mischief.
4. Funny Games (1997)
In this disturbing Austrian art film written and directed by Michael Haneke, two polite, white-gloved psychopaths spend over 90 minutes terrorizing a husband, wife and their son at the family’s bucolic vacation retreat. There’s nothing funny about Funny Games; though this movie’s tough to watch, Haneke’s more concerned with America’s preoccupation with violent entertainment than indulging any exploitation impulses. His villains address the camera directly and even rewind the film itself! Ten years later, Haneke revisited his material with an unnecessary shot-for-shot English-language remake toplining Naomi Watts. Audiences skipped it.
5. Panic Room (2002)
A troubled, lengthy production (120 days of principal photography!), this movie lost its two lead actresses and various crew people before it crawled to the finish line under taskmaster director David (Fight Club) Fincher. Mom Jodie Foster (who replaced an injured Nicole Kidman) and her diabetic daughter (pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart, subbing for fired Daveigh Chase) lock themselves up in their ritzy NYC brownstone’s panic room when a trio of robbers (including Suicide Squad’s Joker, Jared Leto) sneak into their mansion. The baddies seek a stash of cash, which just happens to be hidden inside with the girls. Fincher’s taut direction and David (Jurassic Park) Koepp’s cat-and-mouse screenplay will have you hitting the panic button.
6. High Tension (2003)
In this stunning thriller by Frenchman Alexandre Aja, beautiful college girls Alexia and Marie (Cécile De France and Maïwenn) head to the country residence of Alexia’s family. There, a silent, truck-driving maniac (the truly frightening Philippe Nahon) pays an unwanted call to the home and slaughters the parents in gruesome fashion before taking Alexia hostage. No shrinking violet, Marie goes in pursuit of the vicious killer. In an unexpected reversal not to be disclosed here, Aja out-Shyamalans Shyamalan, delivering a Sixth Sense-style ending that will leave your jaw hanging.
7. Them (2006)
Reportedly based on a true story, this lean, mean picture (a.k.a. Ils) unfolds at the remote Romanian country home of French couple Clementine and Lucas. Soon bumps in the night arrive like clockwork; their car is stolen, the lights go out and someone cuts the phone line. Next a group of hooded assailants slip in seeking to satiate some murderous kicks. In just 70 minutes of screen time, French director David Moreau knows how to ratchet up the tension and keep us screaming like the beleaguered heroes. Staycation next time?
8. Inside (2007)
Part of the aughties wave of super-violent French horror flicks, this film, directed by Frenchmen Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (what is it with these Gallic guys?!), ranks as the nastiest by far. Four months after her husband dies in a car accident, nine-months-pregnant Sarah (Alison Paradis) receives an unwanted knock on her door. “La femme” (Beatrice Dalle) asks to come in, but she also wants what’s growing inside of Sarah’s belly! And the babynapper will stop at nothing to steal Sarah’s unborn child, even if it means… Well, let’s not go there. Gorehounds Bustillo & Maury next tackle the latest in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, Leatherface.
9. The Strangers (2008)
After a wedding reception, a bickering couple (Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler) return to their—c’mon, let’s say it together—secluded vacation home—where three masked people randomly appear on their doorstep. No, they are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, but psychopaths looking to kill some time—and somebody—before the long night is through. Can our attractive duo muster the chops to defeat the aggressive late-night interlopers? With The Strangers, first-time director Bryan Bertino displays a sure hand in capitalizing on a universal fear. Only in the final act does he stumble a bit. A promised sequel has yet to materialize.
10. Kidnapped (2010)
This pain from Spain follows in the uncompromising, gritty footsteps of ’70s horror films like Last House on the Left. A couple and their mildly rebellious teen daughter move into a luxurious new Madrid home. But before they can finish unpacking, three (always in threes!) sadistic, disguised robbers raid the place and hold the family hostage. Mother and child fare the worst, while those unlucky to ring the doorbell during the crisis serve as further collateral damage. Director Miguel Ángel Vivas pulls no punches in traumatizing the poor folks. He increases the tension and suspense with a constantly moving camera, split screens and a minimum of shots.
11. You're Next (2011)
This sleeper takes the home invasion gambit to epic proportions and all on a limited budget. The Davison family reunion, held in another one of those out-of-the-way vacation homes beloved by fear filmmakers, comes to a gory halt when a team of masked maniacs interrupt the festivities. Wielding axes, knives, arrows and machetes, the villains make short work of the kin, until one survivalist girlfriend (spunky Sharni Vinson) retaliates and uncovers the real reason behind the attack (a neat twist). In recent years, director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett have emerged as rising talents on the scream scene, and the propulsive You’re Next helped launch their careers.
12. The Purge (2013)
In a set-up right out of Twilight Zone (or original Star Trek’s “Return of the Archons”), the government has mandated that Americans everywhere can indulge in an annual night of ultra-violence and extreme criminality without legal consequences. Inside their gated community and fortified home, father Ethan Hawke and mother Lena Headey batten down the hatches. But when the family lets a wounded, hunted man into their “safe” house, their bloodthirsty neighbors add some more victims to their kill list and overrun the place. The franchise that keeps on giving notched its best outing with this tense and provocative debut. Missing from the two sequels, Hawke and Headey provide star power and gravitas to The Purge’s B-movie premise.
13. Don't Breathe (2016)
Our most current addition to the home invasion film craze brilliantly turns the tables on genre expectations—as well as those of a trio (again!) of young criminals (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto who break into the home of a rich blind man (Avatar’s Stephen Lang), pining for an easy score. Boy, are they in for a shocker! Directed by Fede Alvarez, who shepherded the Evil Dead remake for fright mavens Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert (who produce here), Don’t Breathe will have you holding your breath too.
If you’re still not ready to invest in that hi-tech home security system, then these additional films may help you decide: See No Evil (1971); Intruders (2015) and Hush (2016). Share the terror on our Facebook page or Twitter using #Friday13.
Catch the new movie show Throwback Thursdays with Tony Timpone on The Monster Channel. Look for it on Roku or streaming live at www.monsterchannel.tv.