Brett McBean has crafted a few chilling tales in his time. He did an excellent job with Desolation Game: Wolf Creek and the traveler’s cautionary story, The Last Motel. He’s also picked up the 2011 Australian Shadows Award while receiving a number of other noteworthy nominations.
The man is a beast. He tells an awfully mean story, and I’m juiced to get a look at his latest offering, The Invasion.
The title speaks for itself, especially if you’re familiar with McBean’s penchant for studying the human mind and just what it requires to crack it. Just the same, high quality home invasion tales aren’t necessarily easy to come by. But if anyone can impress with a piece like this, it’s McBean.
And since we’re gushing over the man, we may as well welcome him into the fold and let him share a few words with you. Prepare to explore the mind of a talented author with a fine taste for eerie cinema, as McBean breaks down his top 10 home invasion films!
Written by: Brett McBean
If we watch horror movies to be scared, to get that boost of adrenaline while facing our fears in a safe environment, then for a great many people, watching a horror or thriller that deals with the crime of home invasion is the ultimate rush.
Movies about home invasions have been around since at least the 1930s (1939’s crime drama, Blind Alley, being one of the earliest examples where home invasion is a major part of the storyline), with their popularly only increasing over the past decade or so. And for good reason: they deal with a fear most of us can identify with. You don’t need to believe in ghosts or God, the supernatural or aliens. There’s usually no need for suspension of disbelief. The threat of someone breaking into your home and carrying out horrific acts of violence is a very real possibility, and watching such events unfold on the screen brings that fear, literally, into your own living space. It’s meta-fear, and these movies often exploit this to its fullest limits. Doesn’t matter if you live in a castle in Bulgaria and the movie on the screen takes place in a suburban house in Utah; you can relate to that invasion of personal space, and it’s almost certain you will look over your shoulder or make sure the front door is locked at least once during the course of the movie.
That, to me, is the brilliance of this horror/thriller sub-genre. They’re usually simple in design, stripping away all extraneous fat, leaving only the sinewy fear and dread. They play on our most basic levels of emotions. They’re universal.
What follows is some of my favourite movies in the home invasion cannon. I’ve split them up into two groups. The first list is those movies where home invasion is the complete focal point of the story. The second is for those movies where the home invasion is only a small component, or for movies that contain one utterly memorable scene of a home invasion.
TOP 5 MOVIES ABOUT HOME INVASIONS
#1 FUNNY GAMES (1997)
Michael Haneke is one of modern cinema’s most brilliant and fascinating directors. He has an immaculate eye for detail and his films are deeply layered examinations of the human condition. Funny Games is a great example of Haneke’s cinema. In this chilling film, two friendly young men appear one day at the country home of a well-to-do Austrian family. Soon, these two young men imprison the family in their home and begin a night of violence, torture and, yes, funny games. Original, daring and unsettling, Funny Games is a look at violence and cinematic voyeurism through the lens of someone examining humans under a very bleak and blackly comic microscope.
#2 ANGST (1983)
Another Austrian film, Angst is probably the most unsettling home invasion movie ever made. It’s a simple yet brutal tale of a seriously disturbed individual who reverts back to his old ways after he’s released from prison. We follow him as he travels around the countryside, eventually coming upon an isolated house. He breaks in. And what ensues is some of the most intense and memorable scenes of violence and horror ever filmed. Further adding to the horror is the fact it’s loosely based on a real case. Along with an unforgettable performance by Erwin Leder, strikingly unnerving camerawork, and a brilliant score by Klaus Schulze, this is one movie every fan of uncompromising horror cinema should see.
#3 THE STRANGERS (2008)
Quintessential home invasion film about a young couple who are terrorised by a trio of masked strangers. With its simple premise and limited locations, its sole purpose is to create a sustained piece of fear and terror and I think it succeeds beautifully. It’s a film that relies on atmosphere and the building of suspense and dread through the use of silence and shadows, along with excellent direction and sound design. Refreshingly, there’s no pat explanations for the killers’ motivation to be found here, which, for me, makes it all the more terrifying. Sometimes, bad people just do bad things. With its clever use of ordinary, relatable protagonists and setting, The Strangers is the perfect example of exploiting the universal fear of home invasion to its fullest capacity.
#4 THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980)
A grindhouse classic, this is a nasty bit of cinematic sleaze by Mr Cannibal Holocaust himself, Ruggero Deodato. Starring two of exploitation cinema’s most lovable rogues, David Hess and Giovanni Lombardo Radice, this flick is short on plot and character development, but long on cruelty and grimy atmosphere. Two thugs crash a party of a group of wealthy friends and lots of sex and violence follows. It’s no masterpiece, but it is an effective home invasion movie: it’s a brutal, sordid affair that leaves you feeling dirty and more than a little uncomfortable afterwards. Just like a movie dealing with such a horrific crime should do.
#5 LADY IN A CAGE (1964)
A sadly neglected film, this a taut and tense psychological thriller that plays like a harder, pulpier, gin-soaked Hitchcock movie. During a sweltering summer’s day, a power failure traps a woman in her mansion’s elevator. A group of criminals soon come along and proceed to steal from and torment the woman while she remains stuck in her cage between floors. A tour de force of mounting suspense, this is a thrilling film that, for its time, is shocking in its depiction of sex and violence.
Inside, Wait Until Dark, Panic Room, Them