Home Invasion has long been a sub-genre predominantly installed within the horror category and rightfully so. Home invasion occurs when someone unlawfully gains entry to a private dwelling in order to commit a violation upon the resident.
In most instances the perpetrator’s intention is to cause psychical or psychological violence. Through evolution, we have ingrained the image of our home being our safe-haven, a place to where we can retreat and feel protected from the outside world. But if cinema has taught us one thing, it is to never rest on our laurels.
The following films all contain instances of home invasion, some more than others. As one of the most crucial ingredients in these movies is tension, I have tried not to include spoilers but as ever, proceed at your own risk.
20. Panic Room (2002)
David Fincher directed this 2002 crime thriller, starring Jodie Foster and a pre- Twilight Kristen Stewart. It tells the story of a mother and young daughter trapped inside their panic room, after three criminals force entry into their newly purchased property.
Having recently moved into their new home in New York, Meg (Foster) and Sarah (Stewart) are the victims of home intrusion when three criminals break in to the property. With the culprits (expertly played by Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam) intent on stealing the previous occupier’s secret safe, the unaware mother and daughter enclose themselves in the panic room. The only problem being, it is also the very same place as where the spoils are hidden. From then on, an exciting game of cat and mouse ensues.
An excellent, edge of your seat thriller, the movie contains skilful cinematography and sterling acting performances. An intense and certainly underrated thriller, Panic Room is an entertaining and suspenseful piece of cinema from a highly successful and talented director.
19. The Strangers (2008)
Released in 2008 and starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman, The Strangers was a worldwide box-office success. It is another horror movie on this list that focuses more on suspense instead of gore. Described by the director, Bryan Bertino, as ‘inspired by true events’, The Strangers is a chilling account of home invasion at its most shocking.
Kristen (Tyler) and James (Speedman) are a young couple who are staying at James’ parent’s vacation home. Still up, due to a rejected marriage proposal, the two are disturbed by a late night/early morning knock at the door. When the caller is informed that they have the wrong house, the young couple decide to take a break from their debate. However, when the earlier refused comes back to call again, anarchy transpires. What started off as a romantic road trip has now transformed into a wicked fight for survival.
A startling and climactic tale of intrusion, The Strangers is a non-stop, thrilling horror that thoroughly delivers.
18. Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
Starring Hollywood heavyweights, Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster, Sorry, Wrong Number is a slick film-noir released in 1948 and set in New York. The story is told in a series of flashbacks and is almost played in real time.
Leona Stevenson (Stanwyck) is the bedridden daughter of a rich pharmaceutical business owner. Whilst trying to ring her already late from work husband Henry (Lancaster), she experiences a cross-wire connection and overhears a plot to murder a woman at 11.15. Without hearing any more details, she desperately calls the police to inform them, however with so little information; the policeman advises that they are powerless to investigate any further.
Certainly a film where the less known the better, you can look forward to a compelling and suspenseful ending. With death creeping outside her door, can Leona devise an escape? And where has her husband been all this time?
Very Hitchcockian in style, Sorry, Wrong Number is a classic insight into paranoia and helplessness. Containing superb cinematography and fantastic performances from both Stanwyck and Lancaster, this is a nerve-racking film that will have you on the edge of your seat. If you are a fan of Rear Window, you’ll love this.
17. When a Stranger Calls (1979)
The story of the babysitter and the killer is an urban legend that has now been reiterated many times on the big screen. Whilst a number of these become nothing more than a box office flop, the majority will have been inspired by 1979’s When a Stranger Calls. Starring Carol Kane as the terrorised babysitter, the film was a commercial success and is now regarded as a cult favourite. More of a psychological thriller than a typical ‘slasher’, it’s an effective spine-chiller that ends with a nail-biting climax.
Jill Johnson (Kane) arrives at the Mandrakis household to babysit their children whilst the parents go out for the night. With the children already asleep, Jill’s peace is disrupted by a serial telephone caller. At first, thought as no more than just prank calls, they become much more sinister and alarming when asking, “Have you checked on the children?” Becoming so spooked, she reports the incidents to the police who, after a tense period of time waiting, advise her that they have traced the calls and they are coming from inside the house!
Without wanting to give away any spoilers or explain the entire plot, what follows is a well-directed, atmospheric game of cat and mouse. A gritty and hauntingly realistic horror, When a Stranger Calls is a memorable reminder to all babysitters, to check the children, before a stranger calls.
16. Suddenly (1954)
Starring Frank Sinatra and Sterling Hayden, Suddenly is a 1954 drama from director Lewis Allen. With the U.S President scheduled to visit a small American town, the local community finds its peace interrupted by a violent lunatic, plotting an assassination attempt.
In this town lives the Benson family, which contains Widow Ellen, her 8 year old son Pidge, and Pop, the boy’s grandfather. With the tranquil town well-guarded by the gallant sheriff Todd (Hayden), the Benson family see no real cause for alarm when they get a knock at the door from the FBI.
What they don’t realise is that their house has been identified as the perfect location for an ambush on the president and that these self-proclaimed FBI men are actually hired assassins, intent on eliminating him. Fronted by the callous John Barron (Sinatra), the hoods take over the home and hold the family captive whilst they await the arrival of the President. Will the sheriff risk the lives of the innocent family and thwart the assassination attempt? Or can the crazed Baron get his shot at the President?
A tense and low-budget thriller, Suddenly is an entertaining and well-acted tale of suspense.
15. Wait Until Dark (1967)
One of the most impressive readings on an actor’s resume, is when they can successfully play a part in a film, that no-one would expect them to even attempt. In 1967’s Wait until Dark, Audrey Hepburn absolutely shattered her type casted role of the playful, but regal, good-time girl. Brilliantly directed by Terence Young, this thriller stars Hepburn as a young blind woman who is the victim of home invasion.
The film starts with a man named Sam being handed a doll by a complete stranger, whilst he is in an airport. Unbeknown to him, the doll is filled with Heroin. With the doll in seemingly high demand, three crooks arrive at Sam’s home to fetch the reward. With Sam sent out on a mock work engagement, that leaves Susy (Hepburn), a recently blinded young woman, alone in the property.
After gaining entry due to a detailed but innocuous story, it is not before long that things start to get complicated, especially with the help of Suzy’s helpful young neighbour, Gloria. Can Suzy outsmart the conmen that not only seem hell-bent on acquiring the doll but in destroying her in the process?
In this superb, gutsy thriller, the director brilliantly constructs suspense by letting the viewer see more than what the victim can. Then, ingeniously, he throws us into the same position as our on-screen hero, as Suzy smashes all the lights, leaving us all in complete darkness. Wait until Dark is an outstanding tight-knit shocker, that culminates in a pinnacle of suspense and terror.
14. Black Christmas (1974)
Often cited as the first ‘slasher’ movie in modern cinema, Black Christmas is a 1974 horror, directed by Bob Clark. Using innovative camerawork and clever POV shots, the director exquisitely creates a tense and menacing atmosphere throughout the film. The story concerns a group of girls staying in a sorority house that are bothered by a disturbed prank caller. What at first seems to be just a twisted deviant turns into a suspected homicidal maniac.
Despite constant phone calls from the man they call ‘the moaner’, most of the girls dismiss the pest as nothing more than a nuisance. That is, until one of the sorority girls goes AWOL and along with another young girl reported missing, a search party is initiated. When the tragic young girl’s butchered body is found, it is not before long that the body count starts rising and panic amongst the sorority ensues. With the police now firmly on the case, is there a link between the killer and the caller? And will anyone in the sorority be left alive to find out?
With fantastic performances from Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder as members of the sorority, Black Christmas is a scandalously overlooked gem from the horror genre. A film that will leave you with more questions than answers, Black Christmas asks, if you make sure you have locked your windows and doors, how do you know that the killer isn’t already inside?
13. Cape Fear (1991)
With an all-star cast of Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis, this 1991 thriller tells the story of a convicted rapist, released after 14 years imprisoned and hell bent on revenge. With superstar director Martin Scorsese at the helm, Cape Fear is a gloriously gripping spine-chiller.
Sam Bowden (Nolte) plays the part of a lawyer, with his wife Leigh (Lange) and teenage daughter Danielle (Lewis). Fourteen years have passed since Sam’s client Max Cady (De Niro), was deemed guilty of the rape and battery of a young woman and imprisoned for such crimes. However, with each and every day spent incarcerated, the more enraged Max becomes. Due to his belief that he was double –crossed by his representative, Max plots revenge on Sam and his family. As the film progresses, we witness how this bloodthirsty psychopath intrudes the lives and home of the Bowden family, determined to achieve his retribution at any cost.
Cape Fear is one of eight hugely collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro and although this is perhaps not the strongest in their filmography, it’s certainly one of the most frightening. A remake of the 1962 classic of the same title, this is a merciless and violent film illustrating one man’s vengeance and spiteful obsession.
12. Haute Tension (High Tension) (2003)
Now we travel to France for another relentless and bloody horror, this time from director Alexandre Aja. Released in 2003, Haute Tension is an uncompromising and suspenseful film with violence and gore in abundance.
The film follows two young woman named Alex and Marie, who travel to Alex’s parents’ house for the weekend. Upon arrival, the two women are affectionately greeted by Alex’s’ parents and younger brother. After a pleasant evening consisting of a tour of the house followed by dinner, Alex and Marie retire to their separate bedrooms to get ready for bed. Unbeknown to them, a night of devastation and extreme brutality is lying in wait.
With brilliant gut-wrenching twists, Haute Tension is an unsettling and twisted modern take on the classic ‘slasher’ genre.
11. Hard Candy (2005)
Starring Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson, Hard Candy is a 2005 psychological thriller concerning a 14 year old girl and a suspected paedophile. In this, his first feature film, director David Slade expertly creates an intense, fast paced atmosphere with superb camera work and first class performances from the lead actors.
After back and forth emails, Hayley (Page) and Jeff (Wilson) arrange to meet up face to face for the first time, at a local café. Despite several hints at telling Jeff exactly how young she is, Hayley successfully encourages Jeff to take them both back to his place. Unknown to Jeff however, is that Hayley has been tracking him down for some time, ever since she suspected him for a paedophile and even murderer. With Hayley maniacally intent on torturing a confession out of her victim, what happens if this charming, accomplished, professional photographer is not as guilty as first thought? What starts off as a reserved, simple drama turns into a ferocious and unrestrained emotional shocker.
Hard Candy is a savage and remorseless film that is not for the easily disturbed. Undeniably a tough nut to crack (excuse the pun) Juno , this isn’t.