Trail Mix takes a look at classic movie trailers from years past to explore their relationship (however sometimes tenuous) to the films themselves and to the movie promotion of today.
The absolute slimiest of the exploitation subgenres, the home invasion film can be downright disgusting to some, but still one of the most satisfying wish fulfillment entertainments out there, because after all, as Chief Wiggum says:
Here’s a few of our favorite cringe inducing revenge-fests from over the years.
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
I Spit on Your Grave is the sort of looser, shaggier Rolling Stones to The Last House on the Left’s more buttoned up and staid Beatles, and just like Wes Craven’s seminal rape/revenge flick, this is less home invasion than property or land invasion, as far as place setting goes, though it’s still thought of as a paragon of the subgenre. Spit’s “gang rape victim returns and goes all Charles Bronson on her attackers” milieu is much more direct and mean spirited, free of the artsy fartsy Bergman worship that then-porn director Craven felt the need to shoehorn into his sex/violence cheapie. Like most “classic” trailers, I Spit on Your Grave’s shows you everything without showing you anything, somehow letting you know exactly what you’re getting into without spoiling any of the gory grindhouse details. And Roger Ebert called it “A vile bag of garbage without a shred of artistic distinction” (I want that on my tombstone), so you know it’s good.
Funny Games (1997 and 2007)
German agent provocateur Michael Haneke’s 1997 contribution to the home invasion canon breaks genre convention by eliminating the cathartic aspect of the victim’s revenge, allowing the sadistic tormentors of the family at the film’s center to literally “rewind” their comeuppance using a 4th wall breaking remote control (spoilers for 20 and 10 year old movies, I guess), with no prior indication that these assholes were on any kind of Doctor Who shit. Whether this is stupid or genius is still up for debate (my opinion leads toward the former), but Haneke was so proud of his horror trope deconstruction that he remade it shot for shot in 2007, bringing in Hollywood ringers like Tim Roth and Naomi Watts but jettisoning none of the original film’s outrage inducing third act motherfuckery.
You’re Next (2013)
This one, I won’t spoil, not even a little. You’re Next is probably (along with the splatter-tastic Evil Dead remake) my favorite horror film to come out in the last 10 years. Smart twists and double crosses subvert home invasion expectations in ways that are just as clever as they are logical, creating a dangerous, harrowing and ultimately satisfying experience, full of unique action and gore set pieces and well-drawn characters you’ll love and hate and love to hate. Director Adam Wingard’s follow up The Guest is nearly as good, and while his Blair Witch remake may have failed to find an audience, and his upcoming Death Note adaptation looks a tad suspect (I’ll blame Netflix), I can’t wait to see what he does with 2020’s King Kong vs. Godzilla.
Home Alone (1990)
There’s a reason that so many jokes, memes and video edits pop up every year around the Holidays that suggest that Christmas classic Home Alone is just a few subtle tweaks away from the exploitation / revenge subgenre, and that’s because it is, and it’s sequel’s pre-Giuliani New York abandoned tenement urban decay setting even more so (don’t get me started on the pigeon lady). The torture that Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister subjects Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci’s Wet Bandits to is right on par with Pinhead, Leatherface or any of the other more ghoulish and macabre 70’s and 80’s horror icons (probably almost as bad as the terror Macaulay himself faced at Neverland Ranch), and just one of the original film’s closing set pieces, involving bare flesh burning and freezing and massive head trauma only to start, would kill or at least permanently maim it’s intended target if employed in real life. And all of this just to stop a burglary and maybe some minor flooding? The McCallisters definitely have a real sociopath on their hands with Kevin. At least he didn’t make Larry and Marv watch The Pagemaster.