Category Archives: Film Review

Bank Vaults & Bullion: Nate’s Top Ten Heist Films

Why are Heist flicks so much fun? Is it the brotherly camaraderie between a pack of thieves out to pull a job? The elaborate ruses and ditch efforts employed to deceive and elude authorities? Gunfights n’ car chases? Safe cracking? Priceless art? For me it’s all of the above and more, this is a rip roaring sub genre ripe with possibilities, packed with twist laden narratives and filled with pure escapism at every turn. Here are my top ten personal favourites!

10. Mimi Leder’s The Code aka Thick As Thieves

This is admittedly kind of a middle of the road, not so amazing film but I really dig it anyways. So basically a veteran jewel thief (Morgan Freeman) hires a skilled rookie (Antonio Banderas) to pull off an apparently impossible diamond heist in order to pay back a dangerous Russian mobster (Rade Servedzija) he owes for another job. Meanwhile an obsessed detective (Robert Forster) watches their every move and waits to pounce while a slinky mystery woman (Radha Mitchell) gets in the way and manipulates everyone. It’s low key and nothing super groundbreaking but as passable entertainment with a terrific cast and some genuinely clever twists it does the job. Oh and a young Tom Hardy shows up too, which is a nice bonus.

9. Spike Lee’s Inside Man

My favourite Spike Lee joint sees super thief Clive Owen break into a high profile NYC bank and streetwise cop Denzel Washington try to figure out what he’s after, a task that doesn’t prove so easy. This is a whip smart, caffeinated and oh so slightly self aware crime thriller that is so watchable even the actors seem to have a small smirk just getting to be a part of it. The narrative does some delicious roper dopes, pinwheels and double turns and by the end of it you’ll find yourself thinking back to the start just to see how it all ended up the way it does.

8. Scott Frank’s The Lookout

Psychological drama combines deftly with criminal intrigue in this tale of a brain damaged ex hockey player (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who gets roped into a rural bank robbery. This is a dark, idiosyncratic story with vivid performances from all including Matthew Goode as the guy who organizes the job and Jeff Daniels as Levitt’s blind roommate.

7. Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast

Ben Kingsley basically grabs this film from the get go and tears it to shreds with a mad dog performance, but in and around his shenanigans is a brilliant London set narrative that sees retired expert Gal (Ray Winstone) jetting back for one last job. With a sharp, acidic script, jet black humour and eccentric performances across the board, this becomes a terrific heist film with a dash of many other things sprinkled in.

6. Jonathan Sobol’s The Art Of The Steal

This one flew right under the radar despite a fresh, funny story and a stacked cast. Ex art thief turned motorcycle daredevil Kurt Russell is lured out of semi retirement by his terminally untrustworthy brother (Matt Dillon) to steal a priceless work along with a highly dysfunctional crew of would be professionals. The story is brilliantly told and leaves plenty of room for actors to improvise and inject their own personality. This deserved way more acclaim that it got and I’ve always wondered why such a slick flick with Kurt Russell in the lead never even got a theatrical release. You also get the legendary Terence Stamp stealing scenes as the world’s grumpiest art thievery guru turned federal informant too.

5. Michael Mann’s Thief

Rain slicked streets, restless urban nocturnes and expert thieves taking down big scores. Mann first distilled his crime aesthetic here in the tale of one master thief (James Caan) looking for one last big job that will allow him to retire with his wife (Tuesday Weld) and kid. Featuring vivid performances from Willie Nelson, Jim Belushi, Dennis Farina and Robert Prosky, a gorgeous synth score by Tangerine Dream and visuals that dazzle with colour, shiny steel and iridescent nightscapes, this a crime classic that set the bar for many to come after.

4. John Frankenheimer’s Ronin

This film is a lot of things; car chase flick, Cold War spy game, battlefield allegory, Agatha Christie style whodunit and yes, a heist flick too although the job itself is kind of just a McGuffin that initiates a deliriously fun Europe trotting action film that sees a rogues gallery of mercenaries for hire make their way from London to Nice in search of a suitcase whose contents are never revealed. Robert DeNiro, Stellan Skarsgard, Jonathan Pryce, Sean Bean, Jean Reno and Natascha McElhone are all on fire as dodgy rapscallions whose moral compasses, or lack thereof, are slowly revealed with each new turn of events.

3. Danny Boyle’s Trance

This film begins with a London art heist that is straightforward and takes place in our physical world and then delves into another one that takes place decidedly within in the mind to steal hidden information. Boyle’s best film kind of blindsides you as it progresses, exploring concepts of hypnotism, morality, psychological conditions and eventually even relationships, all existing around the theft of a painting whose whereabouts remain a tantalizing mystery. This is mature, unexpected, affecting, dynamic, trippy and altogether unique storytelling and is one of my favourite films of the past decade.

2. Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven

The rat pack got an update in this impossibly cool ensemble piece revolving around the complex, brazen and often hilarious heist of three Vegas casinos by veteran thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his motley crew. The easygoing, laidback hum of Vegas is a relaxing atmosphere for Soderbergh & Co to make this breezy, brisk caper come alive and never outstay it’s welcome nor pass too fleetingly. The character work is sublime too, from Brad Pitt shovelling junk food in to his mouth in every scene to Bernie Mac causing HR drama to Carl Reiner masquerading as a middle eastern businessman and, my personal favourite, Elliott Gould as a fussy Jewish teddy bear of a casino kingpin.

1. Michael Mann’s Heat

Score two for Mann! This masterful LA crime saga is pretty much the granddaddy of heist flicks as bird of prey super-cop Al Pacino hunts down elusive master burglar Robert DeNiro in an expansive showdown that moves all over the city and has many players and moving parts. There’s a near mythological grandiosity to this film, as well as meticulous detail employed in all the ballsy scores taken on by DeNiro and in Pacino’s ruthless efforts to bring him down. From an explosive armoured car hijacking on the tangled LA overpass to one of the most spectacular bank robbery turned firefights and a moody, mournful final showdown this thing soars of wings of pure craftsmanship and aesthetic mastery.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

-Nate Hill

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Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Dennis Quaid Performances

What’s the first thing you think of when Dennis Quaid is mentioned? Western? Action film? High concept SciFi? Disney flick? For a guy with hero good looks and a winning smile he has deftly managed to avoid being totally typecast in his career and although very frequently nails the romantic lead, also shows up in unconventional, challenging roles that test and allow him to grow as an actor. He’s got charm through the roof but there’s also a darkness brooding in his persona that I always enjoy seeing brought forth in the work, as well as a talent for quick paced deadpan humour. Here are my top ten favourite performances:

10. Vaughn Ely in Martin Guigui’s Beneath The Darkness

Villain roles are a rare breed for him to be found in, but there is the odd one out there. This is a low budget ‘serial killer next door’ type horror flick in which a group of teenagers try to prove that their upstanding, affable neighbour (Dennis) is in fact a mass murdering maniac. Sounds fun, right? It is but only thanks to Quaid’s certifiably fruit-loopy performance that steals the whole thing. It’s new ground for the actor but he seems right at home in dark, tongue in cheek character work and plays the pants off of this unhinged suburban maniac.

9. Jack McGurn in Alan Parker’s Come See The Paradise

This is an important, heartfelt performance and one of the only ones where he doesn’t use that winning smile or roguish charm. Set in the US following the attacks on Pearl Harbour, he plays a family man married to a Japanese woman who, along with their young daughter and entire family, are imprisoned in internment camps during a period of history that is shamefully not discussed very often. It’s a terrible situation to find you and your loved ones in and his performance, which spans over a decade, reflects the hardships and turmoil of that time while retaining a fierce love for family and country.

8. Davidge in Wolfgang Petersen’s Enemy Mine

An intergalactic survival story sees military pilot Quaid and an extraterrestrial (Louis Gossett Jr.) marooned on a strange planet together. Fighting as mortal enemies in a war, they are forced to reconcile hatred and rely on each other for survival. A bond like no other is formed and both actors handle the mutual character development beautifully, making this much more than just a SciFi adventure story.

7. Doc Holliday in Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp

This is frequently known as ‘that other Wyatt Earp’ film because in most circles it is eclipsed by the admittedly superior Tombstone. Easy to see why as it’s moody, emotional and dour where it’s counterpart is essentially a cheerful swashbuckler. Val Kilmer’s pitch perfect take on Doc gets all the raves and rightly so but I find Dennis’s rendition to be equally as compelling, a snarky, fatalistic loudmouth who blindsides in certain scenes by laying down lucid emotional truths and providing sad yet profound insights.

6. Jimmy Morris in John Lee Hancock’s The Rookie

I’m not usually huge on sports films but this one is such a great underdog story, father son drama on two levels and just an all round feel good piece. Quaid plays a prodigy pitcher who never got his shot at the major leagues as a kid but now, in his mid forties, he’s thrown another chance when most of the guys around him trying out are half his age. You just find yourself rooting for this guy so willingly when you see the shine in the eyes of his kid (Angus T. Jones) and the blooming admiration his own father (Brian Cox, excellent as always) shows when he succeeds. Quaid plays it stoic, achingly modest and unsure of himself until that magic pitching arm gets to come into play and he becomes youthful again in the blink of an eye with a remarkable piece of acting.

5. Remy Mcswain in Jim McBride’s The Big Easy

About the cockiest hotshot vice cop you could find on the streets of New Orleans, Quaid’s Remy is womanizing, fast talking, fun loving, well meaning and just a tad corrupt, which spurs on the conflict of the film. He clashes royally with uptight DA Ellen Barkin until sparks inevitably fly and we are treated to some of the hottest, most adorable romantic chemistry I’ve seen in cinema. Quaid is easygoing and lighthearted in the role but never too goofy or self parodying, and there’s several scenes of sobering gravity that show his range even in a role as walk-on-the-clouds effervescent as this. We also get to see one of the most mature, realistic and down to earth sex scenes in film history, which is all too rare in Hollywood.

4. Arlis Sweeney in Steve Kloves’s Flesh & Bone

A dark, chilling tale sees Quaid play the son of a ruthless killer (James Caan) who falls in love with a drifter (Meg Ryan) that has some connections to their collective past. This is a stormy, doom laden psychological family drama that didn’t see half the exposure it deserves. Quaid plays the role introverted, a man haunted and confused by events he is still trying to reconcile, pitted against his demon of a dad and on a path to a violent, destructive conclusion.

3. Frank Sullivan in Gregory Hoblit’s Frequency

Trust Quaid and costar Jim Caviesel to make such an ‘out there’ premise feel so down to earth. As father and son they are able to communicate across a thirty year gulf of time and transcend the barrier of death itself via a very special HAM radio. Quaid makes comforting magic out of the Everyman/dad/firefighter/baseball fan archetype. There’s a warmth and genuine love he has for his family that jumps off the screen as grounds the film in human emotion.

2. Guy/Joshua Rose in Predrag Antonejevic’s Saviour

A little seen or heard of film, this one is brutal to sit through but worth it every second. A French foreign legion soldier with a tragic, bloody past, Quaid’s rough hewn mercenary finds himself awash in the Serbian/Bosnian war with no discernible side to fight on, genocide abound at every turn and a stunning lack of humanity poisoning the region. He finds a modicum of redemption in caring for a woman (Natasha Ninkovic) and her baby that is the product of rape by muslims, something her whole village has now shunned her for. This is dark, grim stuff we witness along with Guy, but his actions and eventual turnaround of soul are something wonderful to see. Quaid plays him streamlined of any heroic sensibilities or obvious moral fabric, just a man of few words with a tortured spirit trying to navigate a region tearing itself apart with evil.

1. Nick Parker in Disney’s The Parent Trap

This is a very personal choice for me, it’s one of the first films I ever saw as a kid, and was my introduction to Dennis’s work as an actor. There’s something cosmically perfect and warm about his performance here and to me no other film or series has captured his essence quite like this. Just a laidback Napa valley winemaker, a loving father and husband who finds himself in the wackiest of situations. His father daughter chemistry with both versions of Lindsay Lohan as well as Natasha Richardson just works so well and their whole unconventional, very sweet family dynamic carries the film to memorable heights.

Thanks for reading!! Please feel free to share your own favourite performances from Quaid and as always stay tuned for more content!

-Nate Hill

“Get off my server!”: Richard Loncraine’s Firewall

Harrison Ford does his best to carry a few duds throughout his career, and while Firewall is definitely on the mediocre end of his output, his presence plus a game supporting cast saves it from being a total misfire. He plays a hotshot security expert who designs a foolproof automated protection system for Big Bank, which icy evil mega criminal Paul Bettany and his team of assholes plan to rob the shit out of. Of course Ford didn’t put a feature in that deals with kidnapping, extortion and murder, but no one can see everything coming. Bettany & Co. hold his family (Virginia Madsen, Jimmy Bennett and Carly Schroder) hostage while forcing him to work his magic, break into the servers he designed and leave the proverbial back doors. Naturally, he covertly tries to subvert every tactic they use, doing everything from embedding secret code in the firewall to full on physically attacking them when no one is looking. It’s a pretty routine thriller that serves well as popcorn entertainment without breaking too much new ground. Ford is appropriately all scowls and snarls as he fights tooth and nail for his family, but there should be a clause in his contract that he gets to use the line “get off my airplane” in every film, but just slightly tweaked for circumstances. “Get off my server” it would read here, and somehow his grave delivery would sell it. Bettany is especially nasty in that soft spoken, clear eyed way that he’s patented, finding unique ways to torment this family involving peanut allergies and.. you can guess. The supporting cast is nicely stacked with people like Robert Forster, Alan Arkin and Robert Patrick as suspicious colleagues of Ford who don’t necessarily get to do too much performance wise but their presence always carries a weight in anything. Mary Lynn Rajskub aka Chloe O’Brien of 24 shows up as Ford’s trusty computer expert and hilariously just does exactly what Chloe does, parked in front of a computer hacking into shit, just in another film. Oh yeah Jaime Lannister also randomly drops by as one of the bad guys and gets possibly the best line of the film as Ford’s daughter laments “why do you hate us so much?!”, to which he almost sympathetically replies “I don’t hate you Sarah, I just don’t care about you.” It’s nice little touches like that that save this from being an entirely stale cracker.

-Nate Hill

Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation

Ever been alone in a foreign hotel, city or entire country? There’s a mournful feeling of simultaneously being saturated in another culture and also being terminally disconnected from your surroundings, it’s a curious sensation. In Sofia Coppola’s brilliant Lost In Translation the two main characters find themselves awash in nocturnal Tokyo and marooned in a sea of aching unfamiliarity. Add to that the fact that both of them are at a place where they feel sort of stalled on the freeway of their lives and you have a sadly hued romantic drama that feels like no other.

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is a washed up movie star who’s in town to endorse a Japanese whiskey label, constantly harried by superfluous phone calls from his wife (Nancy Steiner) who he’s clearly growing apart from. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is a newly married girl whose husband (Giovanni Ribisi) neglects and almost seems to resent her, tied up in his own work while she wanders aimlessly from her hotel room to the bar and back each night. It’s there that these two find each other, find companionship, conversation and yes, romantic chemistry but that is something that Coppola handles in an infinitely more realistic and mature fashion that one usually gets with Hollywood scripts.

Last night was my first ever viewing of this film so I’m a bit late to the party and still basking in the warm glow of the initial first impression but I can already tell I’m in love with and will revisit many more times. Translation is definitely the key word here; Bob and Charlotte speak very little Japanese and as such must find other ways to converse with those around them, be it body language, a laugh or other. But they also kind of need to get used to their own personal vernacular and how it relates to the other. There’s a fairly sizeable age gap between them and they come from different backgrounds so they must adapt to each other, and watching these two actors do so is a joy. Murray is quiet, soft spoken and his comedic edge is almost reined in of his own volition, like he wants to be funny but he’s just too sad to pull it off other than the occasional ironic flourish. Johansson is quiet, contemplative but blessed with a keen intellect and intuition, it’s the perfect role for the actress who, lets face it, sometimes gets cast on her looks and we forget what beautiful charisma she has as well. Coppola lets the friendship between them happen as it probably would in real life: awkwardly at first until they’re comfortable with each other, then with easy and enthusiastic abandon. My favourite scene of the film is where they attend a karaoke party and we get to see them at their happiest and lowest of inhibitions. They sing their hearts out, laugh, steal glances at each other and live in the moment. It’s the most romantic scene of the film and they don’t even touch each other, but the energy is there, carefully guided by their performances and Coppola’s direction. Few mainstream films get the complexities and ethereal realism of this type of situation right, but this one nails it for a dreamy, hypnotic, bittersweet story that you don’t want to end, until it does on a questioning note that we as the audience were never meant to know the answer to. Amazing film.

-Nate Hill

FOR YOUR EARS ONLY: John Glen’s FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

For Your Eyes Only
Artwork by Jeff Marshall

After a summer break, we’re back at it and finally tackling John Glen’s FOR YOUR EYES ONLY which was released in 1981 and of course featured Roger Moore as James Bond. We cover a little of Bond 25 and our next podcast as well. We hope you enjoy, and we’re happy to be back!

Artwork was supplied to us by the very talented Jeff Marshall. Please visit his website here to view his other works.

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Jennifer Lopez Performances

Jennifer Lopez has long been a powerhouse across many different genres, mediums and forms of artistic expression. Her gritty urban vibe laced with an angelic tenderness always rules the screen whenever she shows up in cinema, as well as a heaven sent singing voice, unbelievable dance skills and charisma for days. I’m not altogether familiar with her music career but I’ve greatly enjoyed her work in film for decades, she’s intense, varied, heartfelt and always completely focused. Here are my personal top ten performances:

10. Gabriela in Bob Rafaelson’s Blood & Wine

Essentially a thankless side chick role, she expertly plays demanding mistress to Jack Nicholson’s narcissistic petty thief in this pitch black crime drama that’s filled to the brim with contemptible characters. She makes the most out of an early career turn here and makes as vivid an impression as the rest of the prolific cast, almost all of which are cast against type.

9. Grace Santiago in Joseph Ruben’s Money Train

This is a terrific buddy action flick that sailed right under everyone’s radar and these days remains overlooked. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson are the two cops, also adoptive brothers and Jennifer is the fellow officer caught between them. It’s interesting because both the script and her performance shirk the usual love triangle tropes and although there is romantic interest, she serves a much more functional part in the story than just that and ends up being smarter and tougher than both of them.

8. Harlee Santos in NBC’s Shades Of Blue

Many of the cop shows these days blur together, don’t last long or just aren’t all that memorable but this was something special due in part to Lopez and costar Ray Liotta, whose chemistry is incredible. She plays a big city cop who gets deep into corruption almost by accident with her trouble prone, hotheaded boss, friend and mentor (Liotta). It’s a tricky wade through urban quagmires of moral distress and bad decisions, she anchors it beautifully with a performance that elicits sympathy despite the crimes committed and has you feeling like you’re right there beside her.

7. Teri Flores in Luis Llosa’s Anaconda

Ahh, one of the ultimate 90’s nostalgic B movies. JLo plays it sexy and dangerous here in high adventure mode, holding her own against tough guy Ice Cube and creepy poacher Jon Voight. There’s been so many horrendous TV movie creature features in the last ten years (Pirahnaconda comes to mind as some bastard offspring of this) that people forget how legitimately fun this one is. J makes it so too in a performance that’s never too campy and never to straight faced.

6. Slim Hiller in Michael Apted’s Enough

A royally abusive, psychotic husband (Billy Campbell) gets an epic beatdown from Lopez’s Slim, the battered housewife and mother who has had, you guessed it, Enough. This film gets a bad rep but fuck the people, it’s a terrific star vehicle, effective thriller, stunt showcase and cathartic revenge story that is engaging, affecting and re-watchable. Jen makes a dynamic, sympathetic lead and you really feel every punch and kick when she fights back. Supported by an eclectic cast including Juliette Lewis, Jeff Kober, Noah Wyle, Dan Futterman, Bill Cobbs and Fred Ward, this has always been one of my favourites and stands as an example of how good Lopez is in a starring role.

5. Jean Gylkyson in Lasse Hallström’s An Unfinished Life

Maybe the most complex performance on this list sees her yet again play a victim of abuse, on the run from her nasty ex husband (Damien Lewis). She takes refuge on the ranch owned by her estranged father (Robert Redford) and their complex, stormy past relationship is explored meditatively by both as well as director Hallström who always has a way with challenging dramas. Jen really shows the deeply etched hurt and regret in her work here, one gets the sense that she maybe blames herself for certain things, the fascination is in seeing a slow but steady recovery and reconciliation for her as well as Redford.

4. Selena Quintanilla in Gregory Nava’s Selena

She brings light, warmth and beauty to an inspirational yet heartbreakingly tragic true life story that earned her a Golden Globe nomination and established her as a force to be reckoned with as both an actress and singer. The real life Selena rose to chart topping levels almost overnight and delivered a knockout solo performance at the Houston Astrodome, and here JLo paints a breathtaking picture of these events and embodies the artist with grace and charisma to spare.

3. Grace McKenna in Oliver Stone’s U Turn

Here she plays the only First Nations femme fatale on record (or at least the only one that comes to mind) in Stone’s wild, edgy and ultra violent sun soaked neo-noir. It’s the tale of one one wayward man (Sean Penn) who comes to town and wishes he hadn’t as it seems every local, yokel and their mothers all have it in for him. Grace is a manipulating, slutty, sociopathic, dangerous little brat who plays him and her tyrannical husband/stepfather (Nick Nolte at his slimiest) against each other to deliberately cause chaos for everyone. There’s a wounded bird vulnerability she displays as a lure that switches into conniving mind games before her targets can even react, it’s a deadly piece of work from Lopez that nails both the past trauma in this damaged girl’s psyche and the hard, amoral edge that it has cultivated in her.

2. Karen Sisco in Steven Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight

She rocks the Elmore Leonard dialogue like no other as smart, sexy and uncompromising federal marshal Sisco, who becomes conflicted when her feelings for slick ex-con Jack (George Clooney) threaten to derail her job. This is another performance that shows off her toughness and vulnerability, sometimes in the same scene. There’s one part where she’s sitting quietly having a drink in an airport bar, minding her own business. A couple hapless businessmen take turns trying to pick her up with increasingly pathetic tactics, and it’s a joy to see her firmly shut each one down with equal parts class, stealth and just plain magnetism. Don’t even get me started on the multitude of scenes between her and Clooney, they’re pure magic.

1. Catherine Deane in Tarsem Singh’s The Cell

A child psychologist who enters people’s dreams to learn about their mental state and help them, she’s forced to navigate the subconscious of a comatose serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio) and find hidden truths in his threatening world. Jen finds the complexity and compassion in this character, it’s her innate empathy with the human beings around her that drives the work she does, and she radiates light and resilience. As the cops around her express judgment when she adopts the killer’s dog when all is said and done, you can feel that a combination of seeing people’s private worlds inside their minds and her intuitive nature has made her this way, and the performance from Jen to back that up is remarkable.

Thanks for reading!

-Nate Hill

Intruder Alert: Nate’s Top Ten Home Invasion Thrillers

Lock the doors, bolt the windows and load that shotgun, because someone’s out there and they want in. There’s something primal and terrifying about a good home invasion thriller, a certain violation felt in the act of unwanted visitors breaching the sacred perimeter of one’s homestead. Be it burglars, psychopaths, serial killers or Jehovah’s Witnesses, no one likes the sanctity of their dwelling encroached upon and the premise alone has made for some really fun, often scary and always exciting films, my top ten of which are as follows:

10. Joel Schumacher’s Trespass

These days there’s a new Nicolas Cage flick for every day of the week, and you have to tread carefully through the proverbial minefield of shit nuggets. This is a sleek, solid thriller in the tradition of 90’s Hollywood programmers and provides serviceable excitement. Cage and Nicole Kidman are an upper class couple whose lavish mansion is invaded by a trio of nasty, violent criminals played by Dash Mihok (always awesome), Cam Gigandet (I know he sucks so bad but he’s the only weak link here) and Ben Mendelsohn who rocks the house as always. Who are these guys? What do they want? The fun is in finding out and watching Cage and his family evade these dangerous loonies while trying to stay alive.

9. Joseph Ruben’s Penthouse North

Another 90’s genre throwback, this one sees blind artist Michelle Monaghan facing off against psychopathic jewel thief Michael Keaton, who hid a diamond in her spacious Manhattan loft apartment years ago and wants it back. Monaghan is always terrific and overlooked as an actress, whenever she scores a lead role I’m first in line for tickets. Keaton tends to nail the diabolical villain part because his upfront affability is so disarming that one feels true shock when he abruptly shifts to volatile nastiness. This was tied with Mike Flanagan’s Hush for a spot on the list and while that one is terrific too, I felt that due to the extreme obscurity and overlooked status of Penthouse North that it needed some love.

8. Michael Dunstan’s The Collector

A very unique horror film in which an ex con decides to rob the country estate of his wealthy employer, with a small crew. But someone else has also targeted the house on the same night, basically the last dude you want to be stuck alone with in a closed off environment. It’s a stylish, spooky mashup of Saw, Home Alone and Mouse Trap with a dark palette, some spectacularly gory sequences and a villain you won’t soon forget.

7. James DeMonaco’s The Purge

While the overall concept of the purge is better explored and elaborated on more in the sequels, this first one still works as a horror thriller and dishes out some great suspense, not to mention believable performances from Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey. It’s also fun watching Hawke’s reportedly foolproof home security system get slowly breached by the preppy psycho brats that have decided to target them.

6. Jonathan Kaplan’s Unlawful Entry

This whacked out funhouse of a flick starts with one home invasion that’s a brash, routine burglary and evolves into another that is subtle, psychological and terrifying. Kurt Russell and Madeleine Stowe are the couple who receives help from Ray Liotta’s friendly cop following the burglary, but then he gets a bit *too* friendly. Taking a keen, perverse interest in Stowe, he latches himself onto their lives and eventually becomes violent and unstable in this harrowing tale of one officer of the law who forgot about protecting and serving.

5. Mike Figgis’s Cold Creek Manor

It’s kind of an unconventional choice for a home invasion flick, but the vibe is technically there and I’ve always really liked it and found it to be unfairly bashed. Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone move their kids (Kristen Stewart and Ryan Wilson) to a creaky old mansion in the countryside for some rest and readjusting. Scary local redneck Stephen Dorff grew up there though, and he isn’t quite ready to move on, let alone watch another family set up camp and start renovating. So begins a relentless series of stalker moves, creep out moments and serious violations of privacy that start to turn violent. It’s essentially a pretty predictable Hollywood thriller but the spooky rural atmosphere is something I’ve always liked and you get a cool Christopher Plummer cameo too.

4. Michael Cimino’s Desperate Hours

One of Cimino’s less celebrated films is a remake of an oldie with Humphrey Bogart about three murderous burglars who take a suburban family hostage. Here the lead criminal is Mickey Rourke, the family patriarch Anthony Hopkins and the tone is very broad and melodramatic, but still a lot of fun. Any middle of the road film will get points for having a top notch cast and the players here are all terrific including Elias Koteas, David Morse, Lindsay Crouse, Dean Norris, Shawnee Smith, James Rebhorn, Mimi Rogers and Kelly Lynch.

3, Brian Bertino’s The Strangers

This sensational horror/shocker taps into everyone’s primal fear of being stalked by killers in their own home, and leaves a brutally nihilistic lasting impression. With an auburn, earthy visual tone, nods to 70’s horror films of the same style and a believable central performance from Liv Tyler, this one hits all the right notes and cultivates a terrifically hopeless sense of dread.

2. Florent Siri’s Hostage

This isn’t your garden variety Bruce Willis action picture. Buried cleverly in and around the tale of a hostage negotiator (Willis) trying to rescue an innocent family from three dangerous juvenile criminals is something almost noirish, expressionist in nature and akin to a horror movie in places. The house that these guys break into is a specifically designed labyrinth of shadows, walls and security traps that prove hard to navigate for all parties involved and makes an evocative setting while Willis gives one of his best, most haunted performances on record and Ben Foster makes chilling work of the lead antagonist who is a devilish psychopath.

1. David Fincher’s Panic Room

The bar is set here in terms of home invasion thrillers, and pretty damn high too. Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart (for the second time on this list!) retreat to the titular stronghold within their NYC home and fight for their lives against three evil professional thieves (Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam and Jared Leto). The suspense here is just unreal, this should be in textbooks on how to craft an effective, aesthetically pleasing thriller that keeps you on edge the whole time.

Thanks for reading!

-Nate Hill