One of the most terrifying sub-genres in the film industry is the home invasion horror flick. These movies prey on our most primal fears. Our home is a place of safety and sanctuary, a place where we can get away from the worst of the world and alleviate our fears. So when people attack us at our own home, it shows there is no place that’s truly safe – making it an especially heinous and terrifying act of aggression. For every 20 duds that are released (including the woefully bad The Purge) there are a few gems. Here are five of the most terrifying home invasion thrillers:
Black Christmas is an independent film released in 1974 starring Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Andrea Martin, Margot Kidder, John Saxon and Marian Waldman. It was also released under the titles Stranger in the House and Silent Night, Evil Night. The plot follows a group of college sorority girls over the Christmas holiday as they are stalked and killed by a serial killer who is hiding inside of their sorority house. It’s a hugely underrated slasher, and served as a major source of inspiration for John Carpenter, who mimicked elements of the film in Halloween. This film is considered one of the first ever slasher films and was remade in 2006 under the same title, produced by the original director Bob Clark.
The Strangers is a main-stream 2008 horror film starring Liv Tyler, Glenn Howerton, Scott Speedman, Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks and Laura Margolis. The story revolves around a young couple, Kristen and James, currently experiencing relationship issues. James had proposed to Kristen earlier in the evening, but she declined and they retreated to James’ parent’s summer home for one last evening before separating. When James briefly leaves the house for the convenience store three strangers wearing bags over their head begin stalking and attacking the house. Eventually, James returns and the strangers continue terrorizing the couple. The film is remembered for being chillingly unrelenting, especially after the killers claim to be targeting the couple simply because they were home. The film was extremely successful for a horror film and spawned a sequel that is currently in development, also starring Liv Tyler.
It was a highly controversial made for TV film released in 1978, based on the 1976 Richard Peck novel. The film stars Kathleen Beller, Blythe Danner and Dennis Quaid, directed by Walter Grauman. The story follows a 16 year-old high school student named Gail Osborne as she deals with a stalker who becomes increasingly aggressive with notes and phone calls. After the stalker reveals himself and rapes Gail, she is forced to deal with the aftermath. This film is particularly notable for being one of the first films to deal with the subject of rape so bluntly. It’s a film that, even in the age of automated locks, security cameras, and wireless home security systems, will give you chills. This film was recently re-released as part of a DVD double-feature in December 2013 alongside The Initiation of Sarah, a film about a college girl who uses her telekinetic powers against rival sororities.
When a Stranger Calls was released in 1979, starring Charles Durning and Carol Kane, directed by Fred Walton. The film derives its story from a folk legend, and spawned a remake in 2006 and a made for TV sequel in 1993. The film follows Jill Johnson, a babysitter who receives a phone call shortly into the film asking about the children. The telephone calls keep coming, becoming increasingly disturbing, leading her to call the police who are able to confirm the phone calls are coming from inside the house. After Jill leaves the house in terror the stalker murders the children. The film continues to follow Curt Duncan, the murderer who has been sent to an asylum, the police officer who investigated the case, and Jill as they try to move on with their lives. Several years later Curt escapes the asylum and Clifford, the investigator, and Jill are forced to confront him one final time. This film is famous for its opening scene, highly regarded as one of the most terrifying sequences ever shot.
1. Funny Games
Funny Games is an Austrian thriller released in 1997, both written and directed by Michael Haneke. The film stars Susanne Lothar, Ulrich Muhe, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, and Stefan Clapczynski. It follows Peter and Paul, two young Viennese men who capture a German family on vacation and hold them hostage. The pair force the family to compete in increasingly sadistic and violent games in exchange for their lives. The film was created to make a point about violence in media and received mostly positive reviews, which is extraordinarily rare for a transgressive horror film, especially one that focuses so much on domestic violence. Haneke remade the film in English with the actors from the United States in 2007, which also received positive reviews, but was slightly less well-received than the original Austrian version. Both films are remembered for their blunt brutality and extreme violence.
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