Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare Some Eggs?


JA from MNPP here, gently tapping on the screen door to Film Experience headquarters, politely requesting some eggs for your neighbors. Nevermind the white gloves, can I just have the eggs? Please? Thank you. Oh your cat jumped up on me, Nat, and I dropped the eggs. Can I have the other ones? I see them right there. You can go to the store tomorrow. No I am not being rude. No, I will not leave without the eggs.

Hey everybody, sorry about that, but... Nat's not gonna be here today! He's... preoccupied. Much like Susanne Lothar (sidenote: who else adores Susanne Lothar?) and Naomi Watts before him, he's... preoccupied.

But I'm here! Ready, willing, full-bodied, able, to guide you through your Wednesday. And it's funny that I brought up Michael Haneke's dueling Funny Games pictures here because I actually mean to speak a bit about the "Home Invasion" movie genre here for a moment. (Funny how that I works! I brought it up, and I want to talk about it! Funny!)

Although it's a genre near and dear to my heart, I've been thinking about the genre this past week or so more than often than usual. I just finished the chapter in David Hughes' book The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made on Steven Spielberg's never-happened Close Encounters sort-of sequel, to be called Night Skies. Night Skies was going to tell the story of a family on a farm who come to be terrorized by a group of outer-space aliens who trap them inside their farmhouse and kill their cattle and are generally bad guys (and yes, if that immediately made you think of M. Night's Signs, you are not alone.) Anyway, the story goes, Spielberg wasn't liking where the story was heading, but did like the side-story in the script of the farm-family's son who befriended the only nice alien out in the group, which turned into you guessed it again E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. And then Spielberg got his home invasion ya-ya's out by "producing" "Tobe Hooper's" Poltergeist the same year (switch out the aliens for ghosties, and wha-la).

And besides that sordid tale, I also saw the remake of The Last House on the Left last week, which, befitting the current "Home Invasion" film renaissance - Ils (Them), The Strangers, and Funny Games being recent torch-bearers - feels more like your standard Home Invasion film than it's previous Bergman/Craven incarnations. The bad guys are still invited into the home like they've been since The Virgin Spring, but due to alterations in certain outcomes (trying to stay spoiler-free here), it becomes more about maintaining the safety of the home space than just straightforward vengeance. (as an aside, if you can handle the brutality of what Last House has to offer, I'd say that Dennis Iliadis' film is a mostly artful contemplation on The Horrors Men Can Do... at least until that slightly silly denouement).

I'd be remiss, in discussing Home Invasion movies, without giving a shout-out to three of the genre's most important figureheads, so here they be:

(Sam Pekinpah's still controversial Straw Dogs,
Jodie "Mother Hen In A Confined Space" Foster,
and Attempted-Child-Brutality-Has-Never-Been-So-Funny
superstar Macauley Culkin)

Alright, so now that I've lured y'all in here and quietly clicked the lock into place, behind you, you ain't going nowhere without telling me your favorite Home Invasion movie. And why do you think these movies have been so popular specifically the past couple of years? What I'm getting at is, do you think the genre will subside a bit now that we don't feel locked in this country with a madman who seemed to have swallowed the keys to the Oval Office anymore?


nothingiswritten said...

Another forerunner of the genre is The Desperate Hours with Bogart. He was nasty in that one -- a return to his Duke Mantee persona from The Petrified Forest. (Do roadside cafe invasions count?)

JA said...

I haven't seen the film, nothingiswritten, but I'd guess that sure, that sounds like it ought to count. And onto my queue it goes. (I have so much Bogie to catch up on.)

Sally Belle said...

Dude...Manhunter scared the crap out of me. Does it count that it wasn't a hostage home invasion?

....and In Cold Blood, of course.

Paul Outlaw said...

An altogether diffrent type of home invasion movie features one of my favorite Nicole Kidman performances: The Others.

Christine said...

I love The Petrified Forest, so I say that counts. As long as we're expanding the invasion category I'd go with the Ida Lupino's Hitch-Hiker; it's a car-invasion thriller.

Also, what's the Frank Sinatra film where he holds a family hostage while trying to assassinate someone who will be driving by their house? A little stagy, but great.

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Thais said...

The one that pops to mind is Desperate Hours, by Michael Cimino. It's an oldy, but I've seen it a million of times on Tv. Anthony Hopkins, Mimi Rogers, Mickey Rourke and David Morse do very well, and boy, how Rourke was gorgeus.