We like to think that we're safe at home. From hiding under the covers in bed to the way we relax when we enter through our doors, there is, after all, "No place like home" - which is exactly what makes these horror movies so terrifying.
Home invasion horror films play on the fear that there is no safe place, no spot where we the villains can't get us. It's a dimension of terror that no slasher confined to Crystal Lake or Haddonfield can match - and these seven movies will have you double, even triple checking the locks before you go to bed.
Wait Until Dark (1967)
Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin get involved in a battle of wits when he tries to steal a heroin stuffed doll believed to be in her apartment. But here’s the real kicker: Susy (Hepburn) is recently blinded from an auto accident. After her blindness was taken advantage of and tricked into allowing them into her apartment, Susy, in a sharp-witted attempt to even the playing field, breaks all the lights in the apartment but one. The film (on Netflix) culminates in a scene where Arkin's Roat chases Susy through a pitch dark apartment finally ending with his death. This film isn’t about the violence and gore like others on this list, but the unimaginable fear of being in a familiar place and unable to defend yourself.
When a Stranger Calls (1979)
A riff on the urban myth about a babysitter getting threatening calls only to find that the killer is in the house - this film tells that story and then explores what the fallout of such a situation might be. Skip the 2006 remake of this classic (on YouTube) and watch a murder fueled psycho torment and stalk this unsuspecting sitter. Unlike many home invasion films, this one eliminates even the tenuous safety of walls, proposing that the killer isn't trying to get in, he's there with you right now.
Funny Games (1997)
Two young men, Peter and Paul, impose themselves on a vacationing Austrian family, eventually taking them hostage and forcing them to participate in a series of increasingly sadistic "games." Slowly, two antagonists take more and more liberties until they've destroyed the only working phone in the house and have the family at their mercy. Of course, this would be harder in a world with more cellphones, which we interestingly see addressed in the 2007 remake (both available online - check here). However, it’s not just the torture that’s disturbing, it’s the fact that these two young men were seemingly innocent and neighborly enough that they didn’t even need to fight their way into the house - and audiences everywhere were infuriated by the ‘here we go again’ ending.
Panic Room (2002)
What happens when your safe haven becomes a prison? Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart confront that question in Panic Room. They're stuck in the eponymous room while three thieves try to get to the $3 million locked in the floor safe inside the very room they’ve taken shelter in. What works about this is that it reverses expectations, turning safety into a trap. Combine this with David Fincher's characteristic mix of cynicism and hopefulness and you have a truly engaging thriller.
The Strangers (2008)
A couple is trapped by three masked killers who have cut off their only means of escape and all communication with the outside world. Unlike many home invasion stories, The Strangers (currently on iTunes) plays with our hopes, dangling possible escapes and snatching them away one by one. Rather than filling the cast with disposable cannon fodder to be killed off in gruesome ways, this one lets us become emotionally attached to the two leads so that every threat to their lives seems harrowing.
You’re Next (2013)
At a family reunion at a home deep in the woods, a trio of killers in animal masks stalks the visitors, killing them off with a combination of traps and brutal personal violence. Mostly silent, we know little of the killers except their thirst for bloody death. What follows is a slew of classic home invasion tropes confronting a trained survivalist and a will to survive. Come to find out by the film's end, they had been hiding in the house waiting before everyone to arrive, and were actually hired by two of the brothers to kill off their family so they would inherit the wealth.
The Purge (2013)
In a post-economic collapse world with a new police state and government at the reigns, crime has almost been eliminated completely by instating the annual “Purge” in which all crime is legal for one night. Assuming they are safe from all threats with their state of the art security system, the Sandin family endures a night of unexpected torment when the son allows in a man who a group of purgers are hunting, making the entire family targets. Once the group breaks through the security system, it’s a long night of cat and mouse games - and just when they think they’ve been saved by the neighbors, they’re surprised to find out they just came to purge as well.
Unfortunately, many of these classic home invasion films are becoming less and less believable. With the advanced technology we have today, the illusion is broken as many of these storylines wouldn’t exist in this day and age. Modern movies have to go to extraordinary lengths at times to make the situation seem impossible to get out of. That being said, even more recent films have shown us the horror in those devices by continuing to flip the safe haven of home, and tearing that peace of mind to shreds.