the desperate hours

While we're at it, here's six more offbeat examples of the genre to check out:


They were making home-invasion movies before this, but "The Desperate Hours" - based on a play, which was based on a book based on magazine articles based on true events - is the one that set the template for years after: "As long as there are families... THE DESPERATE HOURS will be remembered!," screamed the trailers. The setup is simplicity itself: Three escaped convicts break into a suburban home and take the family hostage in order to protect themselves until promised outside-aid arrives. Fredric March is the dad, Humphrey Bogart is the lead crook, the great William Wyler (seriously - LOOK at this filmography! ( ) directed.


Some scary movies create elaborate scenarios and convoluted mythologies in order to set up a frightening situation, but this one keeps it simple: Gary Busey is in your house - what's scarier than that? Busey is a recently-released mental patient who covertly secludes himself in the attic of a picture-perfect family and, in the process of using security equipment to spy on them, becomes obsessed and formulates a plan to insinuate himself into their lives for real. It's a creepy but not spectacular film, which gained a certain amount of cult mystique when its distributor's financial problems kept it from being released in the U.S. for several years.

HOSTAGE (2005)

For some reason audiences ignored this Bruce Willis vehicle in theaters, which is a shame because it's actually one of his last genuinely great roles and films - a giallo-flavored "Die Hard" riff that easily would've been a more worthy "Die Hard" sequel than the most recent two. He's a burnt-out veteran hostage negotiator called in when a trio of teenage punks break into a Hollywood Hills McMansion for kicks, only for things to go south when the owner's children turn out to be home, the suspiciously-heavy security system kicks in and a cop gets shot. Then things get really bad: It turns out that the home's owner is a money launderer for a powerful crimeboss, who wants to extricate a disc full of sensitive information from the now police-heavy scene and has kidnapped Willis' wife in order to blackmail him into helping. Oh, and one of the three teens is actually a lethally-efficient psychopath killer in his own right, and he's starting to get a bit stressed...


Here's a home-invasion movie in reverse, and another film that movie culture has inexplicably memory-holed, despite it being one of Wes Craven's bigger boxoffice hits and noteworthy as a rare socially-conscious, Black-themed horror film. The child of a family facing eviction from a Los Angeles ghetto apartment decides to organize the burglary of the rotten landlords' suburban home in revenge... only to discover that being sleazy slumlords is waaaaaay down on the list of things wrong with these people: They're actually a pair of incestuous, child-abducting killers with a booby-trapped house and a small army of feral, cannibalism-regressed abductees in the basement. The film is a bit weirdly structured, but it's all in the name of payoff: Harrowing escapes are fun... but payback is even better.

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