There you are, tucked away sound and snuggly in your little bed. Counting sheep and drifting off to dreamland. The next thing you know, a stranger is in your house with nothing but bad intentions. To celebrate the release of Mischief Night, we bring you the Top 11 Home Invasions in Horror.
We could go on forever with the list of honorable mentions in this category. Films like The Desperate Hours, Kidnapped and High Tension (Haute Tension) come immediately to mind. As do Panic Room, You’re Next, The Purge, The Aggression Scale and Funny Games. Hell, even Macaulay Culkin got terrorized by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci in Home Alone. Some on the list are traditional assaults and some are more unique, but we think we’ve got it narrowed down to…
Black Christmas (1974)
All is calm, all is bright. Except for the fact that you’ve got a raving lunatic holed up in your attic! Black Christmas was a film that would set the tone for the slasher genre, which exploded in the late 70’s and into the 80’s. And what better time to set a home invasion film than Christmas, when everything is supposed to be at its most festive and peaceful. But what the sorority girls of Black Christmas learned was murderous maniacs have no calendar. A home invasion indeed, as not only did the killer break into the home, but he made himself quite comfortable inside. Check out the classic Black Christmas scene below.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
“What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolent.” And that was the motivation of Alex and his gang of droogs in the unforgettable film A Clockwork Orange. This movie featured incredibly brutal and unforgettable home invasions. Classic gang attacks on homes. Well, classic until a giant ceramic penis statue or a rough rendition of “Singing in the Rain” get involved. In a film laced with ultraviolence, Alex and his gang were never more brutal than in their home invasion scenes. (By the way, “Singing in the Rain” was improvised by Malcolm McDowell, and Stanley Kubrick decided to keep it in the final cut of the film.)
Straw Dogs (1971)
As you can see, Straw Dogs was released during the same year as A Clockwork Orange (and actually just 10 days apart as Orange was released on December 19 and Dogs hit on the 29th). This certainly gave our bell-bottom-wearing predecessors plenty to gasp at in theaters during the 1971 holiday season! Dustin Hoffman is fantastic in this film, which was based on the novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon M. Williams. And it is indeed that, a true invasion. Much like A Clockwork Orange, the depiction of rape got the film in a lot of hot water. Time, however, has been the true test, and Straw Dogs still holds up more than 40 years after its release and has become known as one of director Sam Peckinpah’s greatest works.
Them (Ils) (2006)
The French certainly seem to have a knack for this particular sub-genre of horror, as you’ll see as you continue to read down this list. Them proves that it doesn’t have to be a hulking beast of a person to successfully pull off a terrifying home invasion; sometimes seemingly innocent neighborhood kids can do a pretty damn fine job of it as well. Beautifully tense and smartly put together, Them will have you locking all the doors and windows at night and checking them at least twice.
In Cold Blood (1967)
Before he was known as kindly ol’ Hershel Greene on “The Walking Dead,” actor Scott Wilson compiled a very impressive resume, which included the classic film In Cold Blood. And he was a far cry from the caring, bearded patriarch we know him as when he played Dick Hickock. Hickock, with his partner, Perry Smith (played by Robert Blake), decided to descend upon the Clutter Family household in hopes of scoring a large sum of money they believe is inside. Of course things go awry, as they often do when firearms and bad intentions are combined, and the family ends up dead. The film is, of course, based on the book by Truman Capote, which is still considered one of the greatest true crime tomes ever written.
The Strangers (2008)
The Strangers really captured the essence of the home invasion. Sure, maybe some viewers found Liv Tyler to be a bit annoying, but overall the film built some good tension. And there’s something to be said about a guy with a bag on his head creeping around your domicile at four in the morning. Not fun. The true senselessness of the whole crime was escalated even further in the climactic scene when the victim asks the killer why they were doing this and she answers, “Because you were home.”
Sleep Tight (Mientras duermes) (2011)
This is a home invasion of a completely different sort. Sleep Tight is not the front-door-smashing kind of home invasion; more like a weird guy using your toothbrush while you’re sleeping kind of horror. Directed by Jaume Balagueró, Sleep Tight is the story of an apartment building concierge who gets a little too obsessed with one of the residents. And since he has a key to access her apartment, and he basically knows when everyone is coming and going, he is free to let his psychotic fantasies run wild. A great film that truly makes the skin crawl.
When a Stranger Calls (1979)
“We’ve traced the call. It’s coming from inside the house.” Are you fucking kidding me?! I would have crapped my pants upon hearing this little bit of news. This chilling line from the intro to When a Stranger Calls is as haunting today as it was when the film originally ran in the late 70’s. Carol Kane is fantastic as the helpless babysitter being toyed with by a mysterious caller in a scene that no doubt inspired Wes Craven’s memorable intro to Scream years later. When a Stranger Calls would go on to deal more with Curt Duncan’s (played masterfully by a terminally ill Tony Beckley) psychosis and misadventures after his escape from a mental asylum, but it was indeed Duncan’s original home invasion in the first 20 minutes of the film that made When a Stranger Calls the film we still love today.
I Spit on Your Grave (1977)
One of the most infamous home invasion movies, I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman and a handful of other titles) is legendary for being banned from here to Timbuktu. The peaceful writer’s life of Jennifer Hills (played by Camille Keaton) is abruptly shattered when a bunch of hillbillies decide to force their way into her house and attack her in what has to be one of the longest rape scenes ever put on film. The movie does require a bit of intestinal fortitude to get through as the brutality Hills receives is remarkable. But indeed, as home invasions go, this one was extremely debilitating and degrading. A movie that sticks with you long after you see it.
Last House on the Left (1972)
Speaking of debilitating and degrading scenes that stay with you long after you see them, Last House on the Left is absolutely loaded with them. This is the kind of home invasion where the homeowners actually open the door and invite the baddies in. Unfortunately, they had no idea this random quartet of misfits that showed up at their home had already killed their daughter and her friend and were looking to get out of Dodge. What are the chances that they’d end up at Mari’s parents’ home? Small world, ain’t it?
Inside (À l’intérieur) (2007)
Watching the French film Inside is like running a marathon. It’s absolutely exhausting to get through, but when you’re done, you feel like you’ve really accomplished something. Inside is an amazing showcase of blood, gore and F/X. La Femme (Béatrice Dalle) gives a master class in brutality and determination that won’t soon be forgotten. And making the film that much better is Sarah’s (Alysson Paradis) will to survive and protect her baby. From the first moments when La Femme comes to the door and then is photographed looking in the window, you know she’s going to be a handful. And she does not disappoint. This is a home invasion like no other. One deranged woman and some dress shears. Yikes!
Richard Schenkman’s Halloween-set home invasion flick Mischief Night will be available on DVD from Image Entertainment on December 17th.
Horror-thriller Mischief Night stars Noell Coet (Brother’s Keeper, Revelation Road 2: The Sea of Glass and Fire), Daniel Hugh Kelly (TV’s “Hardcastle and McCormick,” American Gun), Charlie O’Connell (Unlucky Charms), Erica Leerhsen (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Phobia), Stephanie Erb (The Ring), and Ally Walker (April Rain).
Emily Walton, who has suffered from psychosomatic blindness ever since the car accident that took her mother’s life, must summon every instinct at her disposal to protect herself and her loved ones from a mysterious intruder the night before Halloween.
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