Bad Apples (2018)

Truthfully, “Bad Apples” isn’t a terrible movie even when you consider it’s a shameless rip off of “The Strangers.” It just obviously has a paper thin premise and not much else to do but pad the time. The movie is ninety minutes long and for twenty of those minutes it feels like a relationship drama set on Halloween starring Brea Grant and Graham Skipper as married couple Ella and Robert. She’s trying to adjust to her new house, he’s working his new job, and she’s trying to teach at a school run by an overly religious principal, oh the hilarity. Then it decides to dip in to the horror–eventually.

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The Strangers (2008): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

Director Bryan Bertino’s horror debut is a masterful thriller about the presence of pure evil and the relentlessness of it. Some of the best horror villains of all time are those without much conscience or logic, and the trio of killers that stalk a hapless pair of married people in “The Strangers” are almost horror incarnate. While “The Strangers” is based on the whole Manson Family murders, truthfully it pits its focus on how purely evil humanity can be. Even when obscured by masks, the trio of stalkers prominently featured is human down to the core, acting without much rhyme or reason.

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Red Christmas (2017)

I think that there is a very good movie hiding beneath the nonsense and absurdity that is Craig Anderson’s “Red Christmas.” I want to say that I appreciated it’s willingness to just certain taboos, but in the end I could never figure out if the film was an indictment on the pro choice movement, an indictment of the pro life movement, or maybe just an altogether mushy mélange of nonsense meant to dismiss both sides of the argument. I didn’t know and I really couldn’t care less, because “Red Christmas” has some very strong performances backing it up. It’s just sad that it’s a mean spirited, ugly, tedious, and altogether tonally confused home invasion horror film.

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Panic Room (2002) (DVD)

panicroomDavid Fincher’s “Panic Room” isn’t a thriller I’d call classic or even groundbreaking, but it takes a unique twist on the home invasion formula, and allows his protagonists a plot device that’s both an advantage and a weakness to them. Jodie Foster is very good as divorcee Meg Altman, a woman who has just gone through a bitter break up. After moving in to a large four story brownstone in the middle of New York, Meg and daughter Sarah are told their apartment has a foolproof panic room, which was installed by the previous owner. After moving in and preparing for a new life, three robbers break in and are shocked to discover Meg and daughter Sarah have already moved in.

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Dirty Lies (2016)

dirty-lies-posterLike many others in Los Angeles, Josh is an unpaid intern desperately trying to make it.  When his boss has him go pick up a highly valuable necklace, he figures he’ll save some time and picks it up early.  While the necklace is in his possession, his housemates through a party that quickly turns to a home invasion. Co-written by Jamie Marshall and Matthew L. Schaffer with Marshall also directing, the film builds a home invasion/heist story with double crosses and not one clear cut innocent character.

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The Pack (2015) [Blu-Ray]

pack-bluOnce again, “The Pack” is another in a long line of modern horror films that feel as if they were once written for the late seventies. Nick Robertson’s horror thriller is a very stripped down and simplistic survival thriller that packs in enough excitement and suspense to compensate for the lack of plot. “The Pack” is a combination of a home invasion thriller, and a nature run amok movie, where a seemingly normal family of four is attacked by a pack of large black wolves that arrive out of the wilderness of the Australian outback one night. The wolves are large and powerful as well as relentless, making the fight for survival absolutely intense.

The Wilson family are going through their troubles, as dad Adam finds out their farm is about to be foreclosed on. This creates familial tension, especially with daughter Sophie who wants to move to the city and be among actual people for once. Suddenly the pack of wild wolves burst from the woods and begin terrorizing the family, causing them to look for a way out of their farm and in to civilization. This proves to be more difficult than they could ever imagine, since they have no radio contact with the outside world, and any efforts from local authorities to rescue them results in the wolves literally tearing apart anyone that enters the threshold. A good amount of “The Pack” is built around the family spread apart and looking for a way to outwit and outmatch the wolves.

Their hunger is insatiable making them vicious and powerful in their pursuit. Robertson films some really tight and intense moments of evasion, as the characters hide in corners and small rooms trying to stay as quiet as possible while they devise a route out of the farm without being mauled. Though the budget obviously keeps us from seeing a full on attack by the wolves every minute, director Robertson works well with the limitations, making the wolves feel almost supernatural at times. Many of the best moments feature our characters making wise moves while the deck is stacked against them with these fierce clever monsters, and I was rooting for this family until the very end.

Though the final scene is a bit goofy for its blatant way of leaving the door open for a follow up, “The Pack” is a very good survival thriller and one I could definitely re-watch. The blu-ray from Scream Factory and IFC Midnight features an eight minute “Making Of” focusing on the dogs in the film, and how they worked with them, along with typical interviews about working with the director. There’s also the original theatrical trailer.

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Intruder (2016)

Intruder2016Elizabeth is a talented cellist living in Portland, trying to make a career-making decision.  During a huge storm, an intruder finds his way into her apartment and watches her go through life as normal.  As time goes by, his stalking progresses from mild to worse.

Written and directed by Travis Z (Travis Zariwny), Intruder is a well-crafted thriller that plays on the idea of someone being on one’s apartment without their knowledge, stalking them, watching them, eating their food, moving things around. No matter how creative the kills in a slasher or how creative a monster, a realistic situation (well mostly realistic) of something that could actually happen to anyone, that could have been ripped from the headlines, is much scarier and much harder to pull off.  The characters feel like real people and speak in a manner that could be someone the viewers know.

Granted, the lead is not someone most people encounter every day (an orchestra cellist) but she is written in a way that makes her believable and makes the viewer care for her.  The rest of the characters are good as well, bringing more reality to the story by grounding it in people that could really exist.  Most of this story rests on ambiance and on lead character Elizabeth’s shoulders so Louise Linton’s performance is crucial.  Thankfully, Linton is quite good, showing the viewer’s nuanced emotions as she goes through life not knowing someone else is in her apartment.  Once things start changing, she adjusts accordingly.  The Intruder also does very well, giving off a creepy vibe while staying hidden most of the film.  For the sake of not spoiling the film, the performer’s name is not going to be given away here.

No one in the cast here stick out like a sore thumb, there are no grating performances or bad ones which is definitely a good thing and a sign of great casting and good directing.  As effects/blood are basically non-existent in “Intruder,” the one big important aspect here is the music as it adds to story like special effects do to horror.  Having an orchestra cellist as a lead character, there had to be a few scenes of her playing.  As someone rather unfamiliar with the instrument, it’s hard to tell if Louise Linton is playing, pretending really well, or just terrible at it, but what can be said is that it sounds very good when it should.  The rest of the score adds to the creepy scenes by supporting and adding to the uneasy feeling of watching someone watch someone else without their knowledge.

Intruder is a creepy film with good performances and its music is beautiful. For anyone who’s ever felt like they’ve been watched or stalked, this one will bring back fears and make its effect much stronger.  For those who have not, the way this is shot may give you a better understanding of those fears by caring for Elizabeth and what happens to her.  This film is effective and works on many levels.  For people who tend to stop watching a movie once the credits roll, do yourselves a favor and keep this one going as it has a mid-credit sequence and a post credit scene which are the real ending to this story and bring the whole of the film together. “Intruder” is entertaining and creepy, definitely worth a watch in a dark room, possibly alone to make its ambiance work even better.

Five Great Home Invasion Films

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Home invasion films have been a staple of cinema for decades. A family or group of strangers are held hostage by a group of people, and are forced to learn something about themselves, and others. Often times when the home invaders are monsters, the flaws come seeping to the surface. In either case, in honor of “The Purge: Anarchy” which seems to have gotten its own concept right, hopefully: we posted five great home invasion films. “The Purge” was by no means a great film, nor a good one, but it helped us re-live a lot of our favorite home invasion thrillers, and here are five of our favorites.

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