The horror genre has thrived over the last decade as filmmakers have moved into more truly original stories and characters rather than sequels and remakes to seasoned franchises. Some of these include James Wan's The Conjuring and Insidious franchises, as well as Joss Whedon and Drew Godard's satirical send-up The Cabin in the Woods.
Many horror films in the last few years have also flourished thanks to the widely successful production company Blumhouse Productions, which has released hits such as Ouija, Oculus and Unfriended.
Check out Movie Pilot's live interview with Jason Blum:
But one of the biggest sub-genres to make a comeback in the last few years is the home invasion horror/thriller, and the films are blazing a bigger trail for its genre with each new movie released.
The Origin Story
The home invasion genre really became popular initially in the '70s to early '80s thanks to films such as Straw Dogs and The Last House on the Left, but sadly died out around the late '80s when the slasher genre saw a revitalization and became the primary outlet for horror fans.
Home invasions actually became a joke for a short while in the film industry in the '80s and '90s and served as the primary plot point and running joke for quite a few movies around the time, including Home Alone, The Ref and The Cable Guy.
It wasn't until the early to mid-2000s that filmmakers actually started to portray home invasions as a serious matter once again on the big screen, but was done so through poorly-received remakes of originally successful thrillers such as When a Stranger Calls, Black Christmas and Funny Games.
That would all change, however, in the year 2008 when Rogue Pictures — at the time still part of Universal Studios — released the horror/thriller film The Strangers, which followed a mysterious trio of masked assailants terrorizing a young couple in their home.
The Strangers received mixed reviews from critics and audiences upon release, but had a huge box office draw of $82 million off a $9 million budget and has since gone on to become a cult favorite. The box office success of the film proved to other studios that putting their faith (and money) into home invasion thrillers could be a very profitable move, which helped start the process of bringing the home invasion genre back to life. This success has even helped to restore the studio's interest in making a long-awaited sequel.
Over the next five years, the genre would slowly but surely make its way back on to the big screen more and more frequently, with moderate hits such as The Last House on the Left remake and The Collector, but 2013 would see Blumhouse step up and deliver the second biggest shot to revive the genre with the first entry into The Purge franchise.
The Purge was not met with very good reviews — critics cited its reliance on home-invasion thriller cliches over its smart concept to be a disappointment — but it was still very financially successful, earning nearly $90 million worldwide off of a $3 million budget. The film has since spawned two sequels even more successful than the first, critically and commercially, and helped to pave the way for both the home-invasion genre and Blumhouse Productions to fly higher than they have before.
That same year would also feature the home invasion genre's other big boost through the critically acclaimed box office hit You're Next. The film was the simple but terrifying story of a family reuniting at their manor in the woods and being hunted by a group of assailants wearing animal masks. The film received a lot of positive attention from critics for its ability to mix dark humor with the bloody deaths and fights throughout the film. Following the success of these two films, the home invasion genre finally was flourishing once again and has sparked filmmakers to once again consider a single-environment for their story.
Following a couple mildly successful entries into the genre, including Knock Knock and No Good Deed, 2016 would once again see two of the biggest and most effective entries into the genre: Hush and Don't Breathe.
Hush went relatively undiscovered for a short while, remaining a secret production for a little over a year before being revealed at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Once Netflix acquired distribution rights for the film and released it for streaming, it earned widespread attention from critics and audiences everywhere, especially horror buffs, even famed horror writer Stephen King.
The film earned a 100% approval rating from critics on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes and a 73% approval rating from audiences, and has since appeared on numerous top horror lists since its release.
Don't Breathe stunned both critics and audiences upon release, with Fede Alvarez's tale of a trio of robbers breaking into a blind man's home proving to be one of the most suspenseful and disturbing entries into the home invasion genre. The film earned a lot of early buzz thanks to its debut screening at the SXSW festival in Texas, where it earned a lot of positive reviews from critics and sat at a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes all the way up to its release, where it would only see a slight drop down to a "Certified Fresh" rating of 87%. Don't Breathe also proved to be a huge financial success, earning $26.4 million in its opening weekend, more than doubling original predictions of $11-14 million.
The current 2016 global horror box office:
- Don't Breathe — $28 million
- The Shallows — $93 million
- Lights Out — $125 million
- The Purge: Election Year — $105 million
- The Conjuring 2 — $319 million
In addition to its box office, the film also set the record for biggest original horror debut of the year (beating 10 Cloverfield Lane), the biggest Screen Gems August opening ever (beating Takers), and the biggest debut for an R-rated horror film since the first Conjuring film in 2013.
These recent major successes have truly helped to reinvigorate the home invasion thriller genre, both critically and financially, and if more filmmakers can find original twists on the solid formula, we could see it surpass the slasher and supernatural genres.