5 Home Invasion Films Forever Changed by Modern Tech 0 143

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The following is a guest post by Maria Ramos.

When it comes to horror films, none terrify us quite as much as home invasion horrors, in which the security of our home is compromised when we face the threat of outsiders who want to terrorize and murder. While this subgenre of horror has been bringing the scare for several decades, we’re also aware that they were only as scary as the right time and place allowed them to be. In light of today’s modern technology, we assert that films such as those listed here, if remade, would need significant plot changes to remain appropriately terrifying.

When a Stranger Calls (1979)

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This movie worked well in the late 1970’s, when caller ID technology was still in its infancy and not yet widely available to the average household. Based on an urban legend, the story tells of a babysitter receiving terrorizing phone calls from a killer using the upstairs phone line inside the house. If remade today, significant plot revisions would be required to provide the same level of terror, taking into account that the babysitter would immediately know via caller ID that the killer was calling from within the house.

Funny Games (1997)

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The boys next door are psychopaths in this home invasion thriller, preying on rich families at their lakefront vacation homes. They not only find their way into the homes, they destroy the phone lines, some of the food, and eventually each member of the family and any pets through a particular set of sadistic games with very set rules. In today’s world, cell phone technology could have meant the difference between life and death for the hapless victims of the original, requiring significant changes to the plot. In the original, there was only one phone in the house while today, there would most likely be at least one for each family member, with the possible hidden older Android or iPhone tucked into a drawer somewhere. While the film was remade in 2008, the only discernable difference seems to be a stronger emphasis on the breaking of the fourth wall that was a unique element of the original.

Wait Until Dark (1967)

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This classic stars Audrey Hepburn as blind housewife Susy who is beset by three criminals in search of a cloth doll that was used to conceal several bags of heroin, which was dumped on her husband when the original carrier panicked. The criminals’ initial break in of the apartment may have been the end of the story if the film were remade today, given the likelihood of a blind woman’s New York home having a home security system in place. The security system would have tripped the alarm, leaving Hepburn’s character safe and with relatively little to do for the remainder of the film.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

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This Stanley Kubrick production tells the story of a dystopian near-future of Great Britain, and is as much a commentary on youth violence and the criminal justice and rehabilitation system as it is a form of entertainment. With Malcolm McDowell in the starring role, the film has become a cult classic. Were it to be redone today, however, significant plot changes would necessarily involve either much more tech-savvy criminals who could find ways around the security cameras that would inevitably be in the homes of their rich and powerful victims, or a different set of crimes altogether, ones that don’t involve such lofty targets.

Straw Dogs (1971)

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Young couple David and Amy, played by Dustin Hoffman and Susan George, respectively, move to Amy’s small village hometown and choose to live in an isolated farmhouse in need of repairs. The home invasion comes in the form of several local men, one of whom is Amy’s ex-boyfriend, and later, from several townsfolk-turned-mob. Had the 2011 remake taken into account the remarkable resources of the internet, providing at the very least a way to background check the repair men hired for the farm, it may actually have received more than a lukewarm reception.

There is no doubt that home invasion movies are effective in scaring the bejesus out of most of us. However, these types of films are only as relevant as the times they portray. Today’s technology simultaneously protects the victims of these stories in ways they weren’t previously protected and at the same time, calls for more tech-savvy criminals if the films are to be effectively scary.

Which is your favourite home invasion movie? Share in the comments below!

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 420

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 452

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10