Alone in the house. A dark night. A creaking branch. The wind howling. A masked intruder.
These are the hallmarks of a classic home invasion horror. There is something about someone coming into a space that you have always been safe in that gets to me every time. I remember being about twelve, babysitting for a neighbour down the street. As I always did when they were going to be out a bit later for the weekend, I was excited to hunker down for the night in the living room with a book. Unfortunately, on this particular occasion, I chose to bring the first in R. L. Stine’s Babysitter trilogy.
It may not have been the best choice. I was TERRIFIED. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough when they got home.
While break-ins and killers in the home will always be scary, some films over the years have put in a bit of a twist on the home invasion routine to keep the concept fresh. Check out these six films that have put a unique spin on break in horror.
1. The People Under the Stairs
This film’s concept seems simple enough. Fool, a young boy, finds himself part of a ploy to break in to a wealthy couple’s home and steal enough cash or valuables to help cover the family bills. Once inside, however, they discover that this couple has a horrifying secret. What follows is Fool’s ordeal to escape booby traps, hidden passageways, leather clad weirdos and big-ass dogs. As the boy struggles to escape the house, he makes some unlikely allies. The question is, will they get out alive? Directed by Wes Craven, it’s one that hardcore horror fans are usually familiar with, but is a great surprise for newbies. If you were a kid in the 90s, this was a forbidden sleepover classic. If you enjoy your horror with social commentary, this tale of sleazy slumlords and a neighbourhood oppressed is for you.
2. Don’t Breathe
A girl who longs to escape her crappy mom with her little sister robs houses with her boyfriend and her childhood buddy. When they hear a rumour about an old blind man sitting on a truckload of cash, she’s in for one last score for enough cash to get out. When they get there, things don’t go according to plan as the blind man seals them in, intent on sniffing them out in a weird version of Panic Room. You see, this guy doesn’t want anyone to know what he’s got in the basement…. Made famous for a super icky scene involving a pair of scissors and a turkey baster, this one is not what you would expect, and features a stellar performance from Jane Levy of Evil Dead. Check out the red band trailer from Sony below:
3. The Perfect Host
This is a hidden gem that I recently found on Shudder Canada. It stars David Hyde Pierce as a guy who appears to be Niles Crane, and then morphs into something else entirely. A bank robber on the run checks mailboxes in a swanky neighbourhood, finding a postcard in one and knocking on the door pretending to be a friend of a friend who is in town for the night. Once he is found out, he snaps, tying his erstwhile host to a chair. His host begs him to let him go as he has people coming by for a dinner party. Once that party starts, nothing is what it seems in this quirky, twisty little movie with an impressive, dark performance from its leads.
4. You’re Next
I have waxed poetic about You’re Next since the day I saw it, and sorry, but I’m going to do it again. Hey, it’s my blog, I’ll do what I want! 😉 You’re Next follows what appears to be a simple 80s slasher formula. A family joins together at their vacation home for their parents anniversary. As they sit down to dinner, killers in animal masks appear and begin picking them off one by one. What I love about this movie that sets it apart is the fact that the killers are human beings. There is nothing ghostly or superhuman about them, and they can be taken down. And taken down they are as the newest girlfriend of one of the sons strives to protect the family under horrific circumstances. Smart, darkly funny, and featuring one of the absolute best final girls of all time, You’re Next delivers next-level home invasion scares with a satisfying resolution. Check out the trailer from Lionsgate below:
A happy couple and their newly rebellious teenage daughter move into a house. She whines about her boyfriend, the parents tell each other that this will be a fresh start for everyone. Then the ghostly happenings begin. Pictures repeatedly fall off of walls. Furniture is consistently moved. A creepy neighbourhood locksmith is watching the family with interest. While it may seem as this one’s been done before, it offers up a great twist in the final act, as well as some seriously creepy imagery. My favourite is the shadowy silhouette of a man creeping around the house at night, going into the fridge and eating food with his hands and drinking right out of the carton. Cue someone coming in afterwards and drinking out of the same carton. Ick. This film delivers a real sense of being violated without even knowing it, and it is pretty darn effective at it.
6. Better Watch Out
A great new addition to the Christmas horror movie canon, Better Watch Out follows a babysitter hunkering in for the night with her charge, who has a cute little crush and a not so cute desire to get into her pants. When they receive strange phone calls in the night and begin hearing noises, the film takes a turn into Black Christmas and When a Stranger Calls territory. This is were the movie becomes anything but typical. Without giving anything away, I will recommend that you avoid the trailers before you watch this; it gives far too much away. Just go ahead, enjoy, and watch this unholy spawn of Home Alone meets Scream.