Hitting theaters next week is The Strangers: Prey at Night, a horror film featuring masked killers invading the home of unsuspecting victims to make their lives a living hell. With all the various subgenres of horror films, the home invasion realm has seen various incarnations over the years, with each entry offering their own brand of effective horror.
While some horror films feature ghastly creatures or supernatural beings, one factor in what makes home invasion films so compelling is how they're rooted in reality. We might not fear a spectre emerging in front of us or fear a corpse coming back to life, yet burglaries occur every night across the globe, with these crimes often escalating to fatal consequences.
The phrase "home is where the heart is" rings true in that we often feel safer in our own abodes than any foreign environment, resulting in the destruction of that assumed safety giving horror fans such terrifying experiences.
Check out our picks for some of the best home invasion horror films, and make sure that your doors are locked!
Films like Dial 'M' for Murder, Cape Fear, and In Cold Blood helped introduce audiences to the psychological horrors of intruders intimidating happy families in the '60s, while 1971's Straw Dogs leaned far more into the true horror and brutality of the horror genre, delivering audiences an uncompromising story about locals turning on outsiders.
When a sophisticated couple decides to relocate to a more rural hometown, tensions between the two begin to escalate as some of the community's residents begin to antagonize the duo. The fervor mounts with each passing day, ultimately leading towards a conflict between the couple and a group of residents.
Straw Dogs is not for the faint of heart, with both this film and A Clockwork Orange, which were released the same year, receiving blame for the rise of violent incidents in homes. The debate still continues, was life imitating art or was art imitating life?
Halloween might be the most often cited example of the defining slasher film, yet Black Christmas predates John Carpenter's classic by four years and helped establish a famous trope in horror stories going forward.
With most residents of a sorority house going home for winter vacation, the remaining students find themselves targeted by a series of disturbing phone calls. Making matters all the more unsettling is learning that their home used to be occupied by a young boy who murdered his family years ago around Christmas.
Throughout much of the film, audiences are unclear where the phone calls are coming from, with Black Christmas offering up one of the most horrifying ideas imaginable: the killer has been calling from inside the house the whole time.
The Strangers helped set the mold for the contemporary home invasion film, with the killers' seemingly innocuous masks inspiring countless other horror films in the decade since.
After attending a friend's wedding, a couple heads to a remote house for a tentatively romantic weekend. When a bizarre woman knocks on their door late at night inquiring about the location of someone they've never heard of, their nightmare begins, as three intruders begin to taunt and torment the couple as they aim to escape.
Arguably the most frightening aspect of the film is how the main couple seems to be targeted completely at random, hinting that, had they never answered the door in the first place, they could have avoided the attack.
Released around the same time as The Strangers, the films were often compared to one another given their similar plots, yet both offer their own unique horrors.
Much like The Strangers, a couple heads to a remote house for a romantic getaway, only for a group of intruders to begin to toy with them in somewhat trivial ways, only for the taunts to escalate into terror.
Both The Strangers and Ils (translated from French to "Them") claim to be based on "true events," with the events of the former being a little bit harder to believe. Ils, however, unfolds in horrifically believable ways, with the identities of the tormentors being the most unsettling element.
Writer/director Michael Haneke's 1997 film was so effective that he helmed a shot-for-shot remake, with the major difference on the second round being that it was shot in English instead of German.
A family heads to a lake house to enjoy some nice bonding time when two polite neighbors arrive at their house and begin to make themselves feel like invaders. As tensions between the family and their guests increase, the neighbors subject the family to a series of violent "games," with each game increasing in violence.
Both films offer effective horrors, with the most unsettling theme being how the film blurs the lines between fact and fiction, with the events unfolding more like a drama than a traditional horror film. The violence is treated in a relatively mundane fashion, which makes it feel all the more heinous.
Many of the films on this list pit a group of intruders against a small number of victims, which automatically gives the advantage to the invaders. Inside, on the other hand, reminds audiences it only takes the twisted mind of one individual to tear your life apart.
Hoping to get a restful night before she gives birth to her baby the following morning, a woman can't help but think of her husband, who passed away as the result of a car accident. When a woman arrives at her door asking to use the phone, the stranger reveals intimate details about the homeowner's life, causing her to call the police. The police arrive, yet offer no help in the ensuing carnage caused by the mysterious woman.
The cat-and-mouse game on display features both an unassuming victim and tormentor, resulting in a surprising, and gory, home invasion with an unexpected conclusion.
Released only a few years after The Strangers,
To celebrate their parents' anniversary, a family heads to their vacation home, only for tensions to mount into multiple arguments. The family turmoil is interrupted when a group of masked intruders descends on the family in what was sure to be an easy invasion. The intruders didn't account for one of the guests having survival experience, holding her own with the criminals, surprising everyone involved.
You're Next follows the template for a traditional home invasion movie, yet its narrative and reactions from many of the characters deliver plenty of laughs, not allowing it to take itself too seriously while mirroring cliche moments from other home invasion films.