For The Sake of Vicious (2019) [Fantasia Festival 2020]

The visceral raw energy and violence of Gabriel Carrer and Reese Eveneshen’s “For the sake of Vicious” is bound to be compared to the masterpieces like “The Green Room” very soon. The set up at least conjures up memories of “Assault on Precinct 13” except in a smaller scale. In either case, it’s a classic white knuckle home invasion siege thriller that spares no one, even when it successfully builds on empathetic and fascinating protagonists.

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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.