In anticipation of this weekend’s home invasion thriller No Good Deed, starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, we decided to count down our top 10 entries in the genre in chronological order. But before we present the list, let’s briefly expand on the genre itself. First off, we’re defining a home invasion as an attack on one or more individuals in a private space, be it a house, a vacation home, or a houseboat. The attack must comprise at least one full act of the film, which helps differentiate legitimate entries into the genre from films like A Clockwork Orange, which feature brief invasion scenes but don’t really belong in the canon. Finally, all the players must be human beings, not monsters, ghosts, or unstoppable killing machines named Michael Myers. This prevents us from blurring the lines between home invasion films and straight-up monster movies.
10. Anything that isn’t part of the New French Extremity trend
You have friends who will tell you to watch Inside (À l’intérieur), the tale of a psychotic woman infiltrating a pregnant woman’s home in the hopes of slicing and yanking the baby out of her body with a pair of scissors. Your friends suck. It’s gore-porn lacking in tension, but with plenty of pretension to spare, and even the most obliging of Fangoria bloodhounds will know that the movie is shitting in their mouths and calling it a clafoutis. Not as bad, but still not good, is Them (ils), where a couple’s home is plagued by prankster preteens, and whose interesting qualities stem from the Romanian part of its French-Romanian production.
But what about High Tension (Haute Tension), you say? Well, the opening home invasion aspect is awesome (that head smashed by the dresser drawer? Righteous!), but that implausible faux Fight Club ending is such a dick-over that it wrecks everything that came before it. And don’t even get me started on Martyrs. Dear New French Extremity, you’ve mastered the perfect tints of fake blood, and your exploding heads and gutted entrails would make Tom Savini proud. But please, please, please, stop pretending to make it deep. A pulper is a just a pulper in any language. –Roy Ivy
9. You’re Next (2011)
With You’re Next, director Adam Wingard — a member of horror’s low-budget mumblegore movement — has given us one of the first truly postmodern home invasion thrillers. The film starts off like any other genre exercise, with a group of intruders slowly picking off the members of a family one by one. But then it quickly reverses course and begins dashing all your expectations. The first major twist happens when the intruders themselves become the victims, as one of the family’s houseguests — a woman, no less — begins using her expert survivalist skills to kill ’em off singlehandedly. In another twist (spoiler alert), the intruders aren’t strangers at all; they’re hitmen commissioned by members of the family. It’s with this last corker that You’re Next redefines the genre. It’s no longer a battle between the private and the public or the familiar and the strange. The threat is now coming from within.–Adriane Neuenschwander