20+ Home Invasion Films That Will Convince You to Invest in Home Security

20+ Home Invasion Films That Will Convince You to Invest in Home Security

20+ Home Invasion Films That Will Convince You to Invest in Home Security

Why are there so many home invasions in movies and TV? Because home invasion movies are popular and, therefore, profitable. Why they are popular is the real question.

The reason for their appeal should be obvious to any hardcore horror fan—because they play with one of our most primal fears. The fear of intrusion is a fear that predates most of the films on this list by centuries. Essentially, since houses were first built, the biggest threat facing homeowners (aside from the roof of an Old West sodhouse caving in) has been the threat of intruders.

In my interview with Paul Hibbard, director of the Hex After Dark award-winning home invasion flick Some Visitors, I point out that we are living in what I call a post-Genovese world, one where we can no longer rely on our neighbors to have our backs if they hear our screams penetrate the night.

Home invasion films steel us for that grim possibility, enabling us to experience the terror (and thrills) of a very real problem without experiencing that problem directly. These films tap into our collective anxiety so effectively that the genre has raked in billions of dollars at the global box office.

The following are my picks for the home invasion films most likely to send you running for a Ring camera and a jimmy-resistant deadlock.

Angst (1983; on Tubi)


I could watch this twenty more times and I’d still be trying to figure out how director Gerald Kargl conceived the look of it. It’s too perfect to have happened by mistake, but some of it feels accidental at the same time. Angst bears all the signs of a true work of art, where you can see the seams of the thing a bit, but you can’t take it apart.

This one is incredible on many levels and it is extremely unfortunate that Kargl only ever gave us one more film, 2006’s Das geheimnisvolle Reich der Quanten, a one-hour documentary that was never released in the States. If Angst is any indication of Kargl’s abilities, the genre could have had one of its finest practitioners.

Angst is a brutal and challenging film. It’s also oddly funny in certain places. Anyone making a film about psychopathy would do well to watch this one at least twice.

The semiotics of horror are so dull because everyone employs the same fundamental tropes and symbols. Think about how many times a horror movie has ripped off the opening of The Shining where, suprise, our lead characters are dwarfed by distant aerial shots of the woods and roads, all to convey the rather tired notion that our poor characters have been swallowed up by the darker side of nature. If you’ve seen these techniques once, you’ve seen ’em forty times.

That’s what makes Angst so amazing—you’ve never seen a homicidal rampage that looks like this. You’ve never seen a villain captured in these ways by the camera. The mis-en-scene, the music, the choreography of the death scenes, everything about it is one-of-a-kind.

Curfew (1989; on Tubi)


You know how some movies are so bad they’re awesome? Curfew is one of those movies. If you’re a child of the 80s you may remember those douchebag bike cops who broke Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez’s balls in the eco-thriller/corpse comedy Men at Work (the eighties were a weird time). Well, one of those bike cops, John Putch, plays Bob Perkins, the Simple Jack of Gary Winick’s Curfew.

The slow-as-molasses Bob has his nuts all squirrelly over a pretty girl he’s been courting, but his psycho brother barges in on them and Bob grabs an ax. Things do not go well… for the girl, I mean. Bob ends up in a prison jumpsuit despite being dimmer than a low-wattage bulb, but he manages to get out with the help of his nutjob brother and the two celebrate by choking out a hillbilly and beating a shrink to death.


Because apparently Bob’s got a catchphrase: “I don’t like that!” Actually, he’s got several (“Order in the court,” the list goes on), but “I don’t like that” is probably the most apt since many audience members probably went to see this expecting a serious suspense film and got this hunk of gruyere instead.

The next thing we know, Peter Brady (yes, The Brady Bunch‘s Christopher Knight) is a cigar-chomping deputy who makes Dewey Riley look like Officer of the Year by comparison. Deputy Peter Brady is enjoying a cup of coffee in a diner where the ticket-scalping Damone of Fast Times at Ridgemont High apparently slings hash. Yeah, I know! Side hustles are a bitch!

This movie is such a ridiculous mish-mash of cultural influences, many of them bizarre and almost all of them laughable, but its value as a time capsule cannot be overstated. Curfew is the ultimate example of an eighties film producer’s idea of what makes a marketable horror movie, all of its instincts dead wrong.

Fight for Your Life (1977; AppleTV and Google Play)

Fight for Your Life

Yup, it’s every bit as discomfiting and politically incorrect as you’ve likely heard and that makes Fight for Your Life that much more satisfying. Robert A. Endelson’s grubby, scuzzy revenge film pulls no punches, but it definitely takes prisoners.

The story follows William Sanderson’s Jessie Lee Kane, a sadistic hilljack, and his fellow convicts as they escape from prison and force their way into the home of Ted Turner (Robert Judd), a Baptist preacher, and his innocent family.

Despite the ethnicity of his traveling companions, Jessie Lee is an intolerable racist who spends much of his screen time employing every perjorative racial term his pea brain can conjure, while the pious Ted Turner struggles to keep his composure and his faith intact.

As the abominable Jessie Lee torments his wife and ailing mother, Turner does his best to remain civil. After Jessie Lee’s gang murder one of Turner’s loved ones that civility finally goes out the window and Old Testament vengeance pours forth like the Seven Bowls of Wrath.

Fight for Your Life might not seem like much in the desensitized age of the American Guinea Pig and Saw franchises, but at the time it stoked racial tensions while commenting on the bigotry boiling beneath the surface of American society. Today, the film remains as shocking and gratifying as it was during its original grindhouse run.

Grotesque (1988; on Tubi)


One of the least talked-about and most creepy low-budget horror movies to come out of the booming eighties horror explosion, Grotesque deserves to be remembered as a highlight of claustrophobic horror during the Age of Excess. This low-budget single location thriller may be sloppy in spots, but it has more twists than a Churro, and an ending that will please patient viewers.

The Exorcist’s Linda Blair executive produces and co-stars alongside Angel’s Donna Wilkes and Polyester-era Tab Hunter in this eldritch dive into occult madness. With visuals that would no doubt come to influence Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem, Grotesque delivers the demonic goods in this truly original home invasion scenario.

Featuring the sorriest group of punk wasteoids this side of Class of 1984, Grotesque wastes no time in establishing its intentions. The film’s female protagonists come from money and the punk rock rejects want it… or else.

Where Grotesque gets interesting is in its deliberate misdirects and meta plot points, which lead us to some funky preconceived notions, only to shatter those notions with a sledgehammer as the flick keeps on truckin.’ Blair fans may be disappointed by her half-baked character and unfortunate exit, but her ever-endearing presence serves a purpose.

Good or bad, a movie sinks or swims based on who’s in it. Some indie filmmakers like to talk about actors as if they are performing monkeys, but anyone with any taste knows that a good actor can make all the difference. Blair and Wilkes’ performances in Grotesque elevate what would have otherwise been a pretty familiar set-up. Their presence raises the stakes considerably. We know these girls can act because we’ve seen what they’re capable of, which means we’re in store for something truly harrowing.

Lisa (Blair) and her friend Kathy (Wilkes) are visiting Lisa’s B-horror director father (Guy Stockwell), a large and gregarious man with a deep passion for special make-up scares, at his remote cabin in the California mountains. It’s fairly obvious right off the bat that the punks are lurking around outside as they settle in for the night. In no time at all, they’ve gained purchase to the cabin and have brained Papa Bear with a wooden club.

Unbeknownst to these biker scum, someone or something is prowling the house at the same time. But that’s the least of our problems because one of these crazed biker chicks is speaking in dolphin and that’s never a good sign.

Pro-wrestling fans will appreciate some of the mystery marauder’s moves as he dismantles the punk’s would-be militia. Those familiar with the “Eye of the Beholder” episode of The Twilight Zone will get a kick out of the killer’s make-up, but at no point is this played for laughs. Grotesque is the kind of snow- capped slasher Friday the 13th fans have been craving for years.

Grotesque has a couple solid surprises in store for those with a taste for the grindhouse. That includes an adorable turn from veteran character actor Charles Dierkop who decides to start playing good cop because, in his words, he’s “no good at being the bad cop.” It’s one of the most endearing scenes of a movie cop in history, particularly because it’s Dierkop, a guy who made a career playing tough-as-nails cops like Detective Pete Royster on television’s Angie Dickinson procedural Police Woman.

Hide and Seek (2013; on Tubi)

Hide and Seek

Huh Jung’s directorial debut is also the better of his two features and a thoroughly disturbing home invasion film. The opening eight-and-a-half-minute pre-title sequence is a rumbling volcano of suspense culminating in an eerie child’s voiceover about the urban legend surrounding her apartment building.

While Huh Jung’s movie may sound lame due to its generic English title (the original title was Sumbakkokji, which was borrowed from a 2012 song about a cursed girl pursuing a little boy in a violent game of hide and seek), the film is anything but.

The original Korean title alludes to song lyrics suggesting a little boy has committed some offence in the past. This ties directly into the movie’s narrative and manages to give the “game” of the flick more depth.

Huh Jong shrewdly sculpts his movie around the song’s theme, while smartly sidestepping any preconceived notions created by the same. Hide and Seek does not venture into Ringu territory; a literal curse does not pass from one person to another in the film. However, all of its character seem cursed in the figurative sense.

Sung-soo, the wealthy family man at the heart of the film, is haunted by his past as the adoptive son of a privileged family. He is riddled with guilt over the atrocious lie he told about his adoptive brother. When Sung-soo receives a phone call from a stranger informing him that his brother is missing, he is drawn to the apartment building where his wayward brother lived.

What follows is a series of unsettling discoveries and awful situations as Sung-soo’s family confronts the Other lurking on the fringes of society, while Sung-soo himself grapples with the vilest part of his own character and the monster it made of his adoptive brother. But Sung-soo and his adoptive sibling are not the only monsters here.

Hide and Seek is ultimately a commentary on the immigration problem in South Korea, with one character commenting on the frequency with which illegal aliens squat in transient’s apartments when they aren’t home. Much of the plot concerns itself with the horror of discovering violent strangers lurking under your nose.

Standout line: “The yogurt lady is waiting outside.”

Hostage (2005; on AMC+ and IndieFlix)


This home invasion thriller is one of the most intense films of Bruce Willis’s career and one of his most underrated. When I saw it in theaters, I was definitely not prepared for the infernal surprises it had in store. What at first seems like an obvious Die Hard retread swiftly sucks all the humor out of the room and establishes that nothing is off-limits in the film’s brutal universe.

The plot of Hostage, and the twists it takes, are too involved to get into here, so I’ll sum up the catalyzing events. A trio of inexperienced criminals get it in their heads that they will rob a wealthy family man (Kevin Pollack), but along the way, the imbalanced Mars (the human tea kettle of emotion known as Ben Foster) becomes instantly infatuated with the wealthy family man’s teenaged daughter.

Consequently, the young bandits hole up in the wealthy man’s home with Mars’ new object of obsession, her younger brother, and an item coveted by a vicious criminal syndicate. After Mars shoots a peace officer in the face for investigating a tripped alarm, SWAT and local police surround the fortified mansion and bring the pressure down on our young sociopath and his unfortunate associates.

Hostage may sound simple on its surface, but that simplicity leaves room for some truly stunning set pieces, including a bloody, twitchy, painfully-real double-cross/double-murder sequence, and an equally gory, glassy-eyed walk through the flames of a man-made purgatory.

Pacific Heights (1990l on Tubi)

Pacific Heights

Never trust a dude named Carter Hayes, especially if he’s a white dude named Carter Hayes. Something just ain’t right there. First-time home buyers Drake (Matthew Modine) and Patty (Melanie Griffith) land their dream home and set about expensive renovations. To off-set their investment, they take out an ad seeking a tenant for their first-floor apartment.

Enter the very slick, very suspicious, but—in early-90s movie world—very charming Carter Hayes (played with noxious swarthiness by the always-sinister Michael Keaton) with the right swagger, the right amount of money, and, as far as Patty is concerned, the right skin color.

A well-to-do black man had come for the apartment before Carter Hayes and was assured that he would be the front-runner for the rental. Drake tries to explain this to Carter Hayes who won’t hear of it. That’s when he whips out a billfold thick enough to choke a high-end escort and offers to give the new home owners first and last month’s security and three months’ rent in advance.

Things are looking up for Drake and Patty, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong. As his name would suggest, Carter Hayes isn’t who he seems to be. Okay, let’s be real: one look at the dude and you know he seems shady, but this is a domestic thriller from 1991. So, we’ve gotta cut it a little bit of slack. In fact, that is what Drake and Patty do when they first discover Hayes’ elusive behavior and odd habits.

However, it isn’t long before their new tenant becomes a supreme menace, destroying the inside of the apartment, nailing the doors shut, and relying on California state legislation to lawfully squat in Drake and Patty’s dream home. What happens from there will keep you from ever a) renting an apartment to the first persuasive con artist who saunters in off the street, or b) trusting a creepy white dude with crazy eyebrows and a black dude’s name.

Snuff, AKA Naked Massacre (1976; on FlixFling and Tubi)


Everything is pretty infuriating about this film; it’s egregiously dubbed, rips off a riff from “Born to Be Wild” (and other popular counter culture tunes of the time) and repeats it ad nauseum, and its directors (yes, it took two of them) don’t understand thing one about the drug culture in America. But if you can deal with the frustration, Snuff is a fun film that will reward your patience.

While filming a project in South America, an actress and her producer get set upon by a group of bad

bitches on bikes and their cult leader, the aptly named Satan (pronounced Suh-Tan).

As corny as it first seems, this Faster Pussycat/Helter Skelter mash-up has some surprises up its sleeve. It’s a clever script badly bungled by poor acting, worse dubbing, and bright red paint standing in for blood.

As you might have guessed, Satin (or whatever the fuck his name is) is a stone freak and his deranged plans are more nefarious than anything accomplished by Charles Manson, the obvious inspiration for this low-budget thrill-killing exploitation flick.

A subplot about a German munitions salesman arming countries in conflict with the Jews makes for the kind of tense, time-relevant conversation that exploitation films are often centered around, and you could say this scene is the spark for the violence that follows.

Snuff might take forever and a day to get to the home invasion, but when it does it, you’ll be happy you hung around long enough for the host to get the party started. Sheitan and his old ladies mostly fuck and psychoanalyze themselves, so don’t expect too much in the way of frights and the like, but if you’re in the mood for some retro nastiness you could certainly do worse.

The Perfect Host (2010; on Prime, Tubi, etc.)

One of the most rewarding cinematic surprises of 2010, The Perfect Host imagines what would happen if a down-on-his-luck and injured criminal (the perpetually brooding Clayne Crawford from Hulu’s Into the Dark) finessed his way into the home of a hilariously heinous deviant (Frasier‘s David Hyde- Pierce) with apparent homicidal tendencies.

I cannot overstate the dark delights of this twisty macabre comedy, which cleverly turns the tables on its central predator and makes prey even of its captive audience (us). Like the film itself, Crawford’s John Taylor starts out seeming like one thing, only for circumstance and derangement to push him into another place entirely.

Throughout its breezy runtime, The Perfect Host manages to remind us something few invasion films bother to emphasize—just how vulnerable our would-be assailants really are. When John Taylor sees the opulent inside of Warwick Wilson (Hyde-Pierce)’s post-modern home, he assumes he is in the company of an easy mark and a weak link. But Wilson has two things his woud-be captor doesn’t have —home court advantage (he knows every nook and cranny of his home intimately) and clinical psychopathy.

Unfortunately for Crawford’s wounded home invader, Hyde-Pierce’s Wilson isn’t someone easy to incapacitate. At least, not as easy as Crawford’s John Taylor proves to be. The Perfect Host should serve as a lesson to any aspiring B & E artist: there is only so much you can learn about a potential mark from rifling through their mailbox or peering into their house. After all, the skeletons are typically kept in the closet or, in Warwick Wilson’s case, around the kitchen table.

Standout line: You can’t kill me, I’m having a dinner party.

The Plumber (1979; on The Criterion App)

The Plumber

Plenty of critics have devoted ink to the subject of Australian New Wave, many of them singling out the early films of master auteur Peter Weir as examples of the movement. And, yet, I have never once seen Weir’s The Plumber mentioned in the same breath as classic home invasion flicks like Cul-de-Sac and Straw Dogs… until now.

The Plumber is the kind of horror movie that is designed to infuriate its audience, and it does its job in spades. You find yourself screaming at the television set, “Bitch, you’re really gonna leave this guy alone in your apartment after he told you he’s been to prison, joked about being a rapist, invaded your privacy, and compromised your hygiene by using your bar soap and your shower?”

The Plumber is as much a social satire as it is a psychological thriller. Its central antiheroine is Jill (Judy Morris), a bourgeios woman with a masters in anthropology and some real-world experience with toxic masculinity. At first, she seems like a textbook victim, which is part of what Weir is toying with on a thematic level.

At one point, after leaving the film’s enigmatic and unpredictable plumber (Ivar Kants) in the flat she shares with her clueless husband Dr. Brian Cowper (Robert Coleby), Jill attends guided meditation. An instructor leads with silly New Age mantras such as, “Space… air… I am… space… no pain, no fear… I am me…” She then tells her spandex-clad rubes to piss off and be sure to take “afternoon juice.”

All of this seems to lampoon not only the prevailing fads of the time but, also, the security and agency our female protagonist takes for granted. Weir’s picture is very much a commentary on the expectations of male and female gender roles of the time. It also plays brilliantly with the feminine weaknesses that a predator takes for granted… at his own peril.

The Plumber is a slow burn cerebral affair that gets under your skin with its many perceived or tangible physical threats to Morris’s affluent and unattended female lead, but Weir’s picture is impressively light on bloodshed save for a first act concussion. The ending is the most impressive (and gratifying) thing about this convention-flouting battle of the sexes disguised as a battle of the classes.

The Scream Franchise (1996-2023; on miscellaneous platforms)


Piss and moan and posture all you like, but there is no use in denying that Scream is a genre watermark and a mainstay piece of horror entertainment. The first installment in this series wasn’t the first girl- stalked-by-guy-in-remote-location movie, nor was it the first horror film to go meta (that honor likely goes to Popcorn or Student Bodies), but it was the first film to scare the shit out of a generation of kids with only a remedial knowledge of big screen scares.

Scream continues to have that effect on young viewers today. Many Gen Z’ers are becoming horror fans as a direct result of Scream’s renaissance. This Kevin Williamson-scribed series was and continues to be a gateway drug that leads to Italian giallo, “elevated horror,” Prom Night, gore, and more.

The Wes Craven original takes cues from Black Christmas and When a Stranger Calls, but the saga flips the script by making the caller seem initially charming and kind of flirty… before he makes the deliberate decision to say he wants to know the equally flirtatious teenaged Casey’s name (it’s actually Drew Barrymore for the record)… so he knows who he’s looking at.

Things go from cutesy to creepy to cruel and terrifying within a matter of seconds, and Craven keeps your blood jumping and your heart pumping the whole time. I’ve always detested the overuse of edge- of-your-seat in describing so-called thrillers, but this is one time that I can remember actually sitting uncomfortably on the edge of a poorly-cushioned movie theater seat, watching this scene for the first or second or even third time before it came to video three years and nine months later (movies were slow to release to ancillary formats in 1996).

The Scream franchise persists in effectively delivering a bloody, self-referential whodunit that gives us an iconic killer outfit (the Ghostface mask and signature robe) without the exasperation associated with watching the same psycho slasher rising from the dead for his latest improbable massacre.

Love ’em or hate ’em, the Scream movies are undeniably successful at developing likeable, versatile characters an audience actually cares about. This may seem like a given, but countless horror series of recent vintage have failed to give us so much as a single relatable character, good or bad.

See No Evil (1971; on Apple TV)

Home Invasion Films

This Mia Farrow vehicle was obviously designed to give Farrow a role like Audrey Hepburn played in the far superior Wait Until Dark (1968). Although it isn’t quite as memorable as the latter, the moment when the blind heroine returns home and goes about her night without realizing her loved ones’ corpses are scattered about the house will be burned into your brain. The thought of this is truly terrifying.

See No Evil earns its place on this list with its palpable atmosphere, malicious kills, unnerving set pieces, and well-orchestrated cat-and-mouse games. The chamber music of Elmer Bernstein and Farrow’s fragile portrayal of Sarah serve to ratchet up the suspense and keep the proceedings taut as the receiving end of a noose.

Sunday in the Country, AKA Blood for Blood (1974; on Freevee)

Sunday in the Country, AKA Blood for Blood Home Invasion Films

Canuxploitation at its barbaric best. Don’t let the hippie font and idyllic opening fool you. This pretty picture can’t help but break bad once the action gets going.
Ernest Borgnine. Michael J. Pollard. Bloody revenge in rural Ontario. Nuff said.

The background music when Borgnine first suspects interlopers of encroaching on his land is as amusing and groovy as it is knowing and metatextual (“Don’t run away and hide/I’ll tell you what I’ll do.”). The result isn’t quite as explosive as its poster tagline would lead you to believe, but Sunday in the Country is a fine example of down home justice served freezer locker cold.

The Visitors (1972; on Fubo, Prime Video, etc.)

The Visitors Home Invasion Films

Frankly, I cannot believe that this masterful film goes unmentioned in most conversations about home invasion films. In many respects, it laid the groundwork for so many of the “landmark” films to come. Granted, it was released a year after Peckinpah’s indelible Straw Dogs, but it is a subtler and simpler flick all around.

Vietnam vet Bill (James Woods) and his wife (Patricia Joyce) are visited at their remote house in the country when his old Army buddies, the erratic Tony (Chico Rodriguez) and the quietly seething Mike Nickerson (the all but unrecognizable Steve Railsback) show up uninvited to dig up a long-buried grudge.

The gibbet-like tension is second only to the muted melancholy of the men whose lives have been forever compromised by the horrors of the Vietnam war. That puts this home invasion film in a context distinguished from all other entries in the genre. It also serves to contextualize the violence at the heart of the story.

Elia Kazan directs this superb psychological suspense film like Hal Ashby directed The Last Detail, with a spartan austerity that favors the bleak stillness of the winter landscape over blood or brutality. Railsback has never been better, nor for that matter has Woods.

Certain moments between Railsback and Joyce stretch the limits of credulity. After all, what kind of man would leave his wife alone with someone he sent to the brig for raping a Vietnam villager? But then Woods’ Bill is somewhat emotionally stunted and dysfunctional.

Woods nails the part of a traumatized veteran down to how he shovels every meal in his mouth like he’s on someone else’s clock and how he sits alone playing cards. These are two “quirks” my Nam vet father has possessed since I was a small child. Speaking of childhood, The Visitors paints a more vivid picture of innocence lost than Full Metal Jacket and Casualties of War combined, and it does so without cheap sentiment.

Sleep Tight (2011; on Tubi)

Sleep Tight Home Invasion Films

Fans of home invasion films like The Purge (2013) and The Strangers (2008) will find much to appreciate about this uncomfortable Jaume Balaguero movie. Balaguero would go on to direct genre faves like Rec for Hollywood, but Sleep Tight is arguably his crowning achievement as a director.

The plot follows apartment consierge Caesar (Luis Tosar), an anhedoniac who hates his tenants. When his hatred leads to compulsion, Caesar resolves to make the lives of the apartment building’s occupants a living nightmare. What follows is a series of carefully orchestrated inconveniences and cringe-worthy overtures.

When Caesar realizes one tenant, the attractive and unavailable Clara, isn’t the waif he expected, Caesar’s malevolent obsession is compounded, leading to deadly consequences. Sleep Tight plays with tropes familiar and hackneyed (creep hiding under someone’s bed, home care products swapped out with poison, the planting of insects in an unsuspecting victim’s apartment), which succeeds at leaving us unaware of where the flick is going.

Sleep Tight propels us to one of the most unexpected and wonderfully aggravating denouements in the annals of the home invasion genre. The less you know, the better (or worse) off you’ll be. Enter if ye dare! Vacancies available.

3 from Hell (2019; on Tubi)

3 from Hell Home Invasion Films

This threequel to Rob Zombie’s divisive Firefly trilogy is the red-headed stepchild of the series and for that reason Ginger Nuts of Horror has to show it some love. Critics and so-called fans wrote this one off as pointless and unnecessary even after the majority of Rob Zombie fans chose a sequel to The Devil’s Rejects over original IPs in a poll Zombie posted to his website years before this one went before cameras.

It is this writer’s contention that 3 from Hell deserves to be reassessed as the modern grindhouse classic it is destined to become. Not only does Zombie manage to keep things fresh with elements of Luchador films and Fight for Your Life-style home invasion torment, but the evolution of Baby and Otis is something truly unique in a genre prized for keeping its killers’ modus operandi utterly predictable.

If there is one thing Zombie never gets enough credit for it is his opposition to stylistic consistency. When Lionsgate offered Zombie the opportunity to make House of 1,000 Corpses Part 2, he took their money and made a bloody neo-western bloodbath instead (The Devil’s Rejects) and when fans clamored for another chapter, he went back into his genre toolkit and came up with this spot-on throwback to the agonista films and hangout pictures of the 1970s.

3 from Hell is worthy of this list because it mashed up the luchador, women in prison, and revenge genres with a gruesome dash of home invasion thriller to mostly positive results. It also earns its spot by managing to make our skin crawl with a scene that’s even more existentially cruel than anything from its predecessor.

Trash Humpers (2010; available on DVD from Drag City Books)

trash Humpers

Between the time it screened at prominent international film festivals and the time it was released to DVD, I wrote three reviews of Harmony Korine’s pre-Spring Breakers found footage horror film. The first review was published by the now-defunct Kotori Magazine in May, 2010. The second was written in September, 2010 for Yahoo! The third appeared on one of my old blogs in 2011, for no other reason than I couldn’t stop thinking about this movie.

I believed in the cinematic power of this odd cultural artifact to such a degree that I felt it merited as much attention as I could give it. Today, Trash Humpers still haunts me like the unwashed memories of any trauma survivor. Korine’s stone masterpiece of homegrown horror sticks to my brain like drugborne lesions.

Fans of Gummo will find many similarities between Trash Humpers and Korine’s directorial debut, but there are some vast differences between the two. Where Gummo existed in a slightly off-kilter facsimile of a recognizable Midwestern America, Trash Humpers exists on the margins of some twisted hinterland of Korine’s fevered imagination.

The flick follows a threesome of young vagrants dressed in convincing geriatric masks, which make for a prosthetic aesthetic true-blue horror fans will dig. These three disturbed individuals are captured on home video, destroying private and public property, dry-humping alleyway detritus, pouring dish soap on people’s pancakes, hammering a friendly hobo poet’s brains out, and things too bizarre or obscene to mention here (Ginger Nuts is nothing if not a classy, respectable organ).

In my original Kotori review, I wrote, “There are hideous things in Korine’s film, things that are hideous in nature but beautiful in a crestfallen way. To name these striking elements here would be to rob the eager beaver of their chance to jump on this film’s dick, and we don’t want that. So I’ll just tell you that it is alright to let yourself go if you feel a squirt coming on, be it semen or tears or a fit of joy you cannot contain…

“… Trash Humpers isn’t junk, it’s that rare treasure the discerning individual can find if they delve deep enough into the garbage heap. And the harrowing holocaust of grotesque wonders found within could arguably be considered high-brow, at least by today’s standards…

“There is a music here, the music of night, of car alarms and shattered glass off in the distance, of crickets doggy-style and drunk dickheads spewing noise from oversize stereo systems. The lo-fi video captures this audio tapestry on an ironically pristine level. This is one more way that the viewer/voyeur is right there with them for the full excursion…

Standout Line (among many standout line): “I expect that all these people will be dead and buried long, long before I even catch my second wind.”

Vacancy (2007; available for rent on AppleTV, Google Play, and Prime)

Vacancy home-invasion-films

Technically, it is not a home invasion, but the film plays with a fear that everybody should have. This one does for roadside motels what Irreversible did for subterranean tunnels. If you ever wondered what Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer might look like if its titular monster was hired to make snuff films for truckers, Vacancy gives you a pretty good indication of how it might go down.

After a grieving couple’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, they end up renting a seedy motel room from a bonafide weirdo who gives them the “penthouse suite” (a hideous brown room that looks like one giant sweat stain). When the husband (Luke Wilson) decides to slip a mysterious VHS tape into the room’s rickety VCR, he discovers the penthouse suite has been the scene of several grisly crimes, and they are about to become stars in the motel manager’s next videotape.

The film, which was largely discounted by critics at the time of its release, stands today as a master class in how to toy with the audience and creep them out even without much on-screen gore or violence. It also demonstrates how imagination trumps a massive budget as screenwriter Mark L. Smith finds interesting and terrifying ways to make the most of a single location.

Frank Whaley’s jargoggling performance as the snaggle-toothed hayseed motel manager finds him vacillating from low-key sleazy to gloriously unhinged like the human embodiment of a feverish free jazz tune.

Vacancy also deserves props for being one of few American horror films of the early 2000s to make you actually care about its central protagonists, which is more than I can honestly say for the couple at the heart of Bryan Bertino’s slightly similar and highly overrated The Strangers.

Honorable Mentions: Alone in the Dark (1982); Intruders (2015); Lady, Stay Dead (1981); Nobody (2021); Of Unknown Origin (1983)

By Bob Freville

The Heart and Soul of Horror Movie Review Websites

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