I have often thought about what draws me most to the horror movie genre I love so much and realized it’s that uncertainty when it comes to certain themes. Can aliens or ghosts be disproved? The lingering doubt that these phenomena may exist in our realm, along with our constant need to explain these doubts away make for the perfect cocktail of fear and excitement. There is a theme in horror that I do find more terrifying than the rest and that is the theme of “home invasion”. The latest movies that have caught my attention is The Purge and You’re Next. This got me thinking about all the movies through the years that turned me into the girl that checks that her doors are locked 4 times a night before she goes to bed.
Funny Games (2008)
Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke remade his 1997 movie for American audiences. I didn’t find that it added any different element to the film as it was done in “shot-for-shot” fashion. The movie is unsettling though, especially with Michael Pitt’s direct dialogue with the camera as he carries out hideous acts of violence and torture on a family in their summer home.
Foreign filmmakers know how to bring disturbing material to life. This French thriller revolves around a couple in a secluded country home, who are soon stalked and tortured with terrifying mind games by a group of hooded assailants. I found this one particularly disturbing especially with the movie’s chilling final shot.
The Strangers (2008)
Probably one of the more legitimately scary modern horrors I’ve seen. Every part of this movie is genuinely terrifying, especially with the background storyline of a young couple in a struggling relationship, being watched and attacked by a group of chillingly cool, masked maniacs.
Wait Until Dark (1967)
I’ve probably mentioned this movie before in some of my other posts but it is truly one of my favorites especially because it stars my beloved Audrey Hepburn. The story revolves around a blind woman who battles criminals who have broken into her apartment. Watch for a stunningly sinister performance by Alan Arkin.
High Tension (2005)
This movie scared the hell out of me. The action comes from out of nowhere and really is like a punch to the stomach. You are left breathless and in pure discomfort for the rest of the film. The ending is imaginative but a little odd for my taste but hey, I don’t think I moved throughout this experience, not even to reach for more popcorn.
Straw Dogs (1971)
This movie still disturbs me. There are so many themes running through this movie, it’s like a runaway train you want to stop but can’t. It makes you feel helpless, raw and then empowered. I think this is one of the more brilliant films showing the human spirit at its breaking point. I actually thought the remake was a good homage but the original is still the one that lingers with me.
Silent House (2011)
The dark, creepy house in this film was to me, the main character in this eerie film. A remake of a Uruguayan film called La Casa Muda (The Silent House), this movie was screened at the Sundance Film festival and was noted for its use of real time footage and the appearance of a continuous shot (in the same vein as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope – 1948).
The Collector (2009)
This film, in no uncertain terms, is horrifying. I didn’t expect much and then found myself drawn into a world of extreme violence and palpable fear. Not as contrived as the Saw movies, but similar in theme, I found this movie genuinely unsettling and terrifying. This movie is a never ending rollercoaster ride of dips and loops throughout. One of my favorite log lines from this film was: “A thief broke into a house, but someone worse got there first.”
Last House on the Left (1972)
In similar fashion to I Spit On Your Grave (1978), this movie revolves around horrifying acts that occur in the woods that end up in a show down in a house somewhere in the boonies. Not quite a home invasion film, but I’m sure you’ll understand why I roped these into this category.
When a Stranger Calls (1979)
The ever-famous line at the end of the telephone “Have you checked the children?” has lingered with babysitters the world over for decades. From urban legend to movie, Carol Kane plays the convincingly terrified babysitter who gets that phone call nobody wants to get.
Other honorable mentions include:
Rear Window – Alfred Hitchcock; Bob Clark's Black Christmas; Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange; Suddenly: starring a young Frank Sinatra who plays an assassin who invades a California home in an attempt to kill the president”.