The home-invasion plot device has seen a lot of action this year. From French director David Morlet’s Home Sweet Home, to James DeMonaco’s The Purge, and You’re Next directed by Adam Wingard. These films prove that you are not safe anywhere, even in your own home.
One of the earliest uses of this trope came in the form of Sorry, Wrong Number in 1948. The film only uses it for the sake of silencing a potential witness. In most of the early home-invasion films there is a pivotal reason why the break-in occurs. In Dial M For Murder and Suddenly (1954) both homes are invaded to kill someone specific. In Wait Until Dark (1967), Audrey Hepburn is harrassed because it is believed she has something of worth in her apartment. Other caper-invasion films include Home Alone (1990), People Under The Stairs (1991), Panic Room (2002), and The Edukators (2004).
The type of invasion that we fear the most is the seemingly random and motiveless one. Alex and his droogs may have taken items of value, but it is the ultra-violence that gave them their kicks. In Black Christmas (1974) we know nothing about the man who has made the sorority’s attic his home. Michael Myers may be after his sister, but not according to the original Halloween (1978). In the first film, she is merely just a girl he sees through his front door and proceeds to follow. In When A Stranger Calls (1979) Curt Duncan kills the children and lays in wait for Jill Johnson. Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (1997, 2007) follows two psychopaths that have no reason to torture a family except for their own boredom.
In the 2000’s till now audiences are fond of the random attack. In Ills (2006) the children say they attacked the couple simply because they wouldn’t play with them. In The Strangers (2008) the masked assailants pursue their prey because they were home. Home Sweet Home (2013) is chilling in that we see the invader wandering the home and setting up shop prior to our meeting the family. He dons a scary wooden mask and hardly says a word.
From early reviews of You’re Next, the killers may have a motive but it is one that only the audience can surmise. Whether you enjoy the random invasion or not, we know from Wingard’s previous achievements that a perfect mix of drama and gore will be present.
You’re Next marks the third feature that Adam Wingard, Ti West, and Joe Swanberg have been involved in. They all worked on Joe Swanberg’s Autoerotic in 2011 and the anthology film V/H/S. I knew Joe and his wife Kris in college before they went on to their “mumblecore” fame, they are really great people. His style of filmmaking is prolific and inspirational. Since 2005 he has directed 16 feature films and created a web series: Young American Bodies. Recently, he has started to dive into the horror genre. His role in Wingard’s Horrible Way To Die (2010) was a complete change of pace. It is very different to see him in a scripted role since all of his films are improvised. If You’re Next does consist of a twist it is my hope that Swanberg will be in on it.
The popularity of home-invasion films does not seem to be waning. It offers independent filmmakers the opportunity to keep budgets low by using a single location and a handful of actors. They provide terror by using claustrophobic filming techniques and suspense by utilizing survival logic. These films place us in a realistic situation – we are not dealing with anything supernatural or superhuman, just demented psychopaths. Each choice the characters make, if the film is done well, is a choice we would make. The thrill of this sub-genre is in its ability to become an adrenaline pumping game for each audience member.
Feel free to comment. What are your favorite home-invasion films? Do you enjoy this type of horror? And why?