Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Are You In The House Alone? (1978)

DIRECTOR: Walter Grauman

WRITER: Judith Parker


Kathleen Beller
Blythe Danner
Tony Bill
Robin Mattson
Dennis Quaid
Tricia O'Neil
Alan Fudge
Ellen Travolta
Scott Colomby


Gail Osborne is a teenage girl who is living her life. When she starts to receive creepy telephone phone calls from an unknown caller. Things begin escalating and turn more sinister when she receives threatening notes in her locker at school. After she is raped by a male friend from school, she now must adjust to life when he isn't punished for the crime he has committed and has to see him every day.

Are You In The House Alone? is a movie that appeared on a list while I was doing my research for my slasher retrospective. I hadn't heard of it myself, but after watching it and doing research, I soon discovered that it was based on a young adult novel. After watching the movie, I can now see why this is filmed the way it is and was made for a television audience instead of being a much darker depiction of the rape of a teenage girl and the aftermath of what follows it.

My first big problem is that the movie opens with our lead character being taken out on a stretcher after a traumatic event. So before we have even delved into the story, we know that she's survived. Going into this thinking, it was a slasher or something that was more in line with Black Christmas or When A Stranger Calls, I was actually pretty annoyed with the story opening this way because I knew immediately that the movie was starting at the end and would revert back to the beginning. There was no shock or surprise now.

When the movie goes back to fill in the details of what lead up to our lead character being carried out on a stretcher. I was still expecting a slasher movie at this point. A movie that is titled Are You In The House Alone? and has a terrified woman while on the phone on the poster. You could forgive me for thinking that this screams 'straight up horror'. They also don't reveal that she is raped until a good half way into the film. I don't know if I should feel a little stupid as until the stretcher scene takes place, I was sitting there, waiting for some killer to strike.

Where the movie doesn't work for me is that while building up to the rape scene, it all feels very afterschool special. Even the rape scene which should have probably been a pretty horrific moment feels like a Lifetime special. While I'm not saying that this film needs to be, I Spit On Your Grave. The makers of the film could have at least depicted it in a way that shows you just how horrible the crime is. They don't even attempt to do that here. She is knocked to the floor, and that's about it. I guess this is the result of being based on a young adult novel.

I think had the director given us something a little more dark and brutal. The reveal and the rest of the movie showing how a teenage girl has to go through her daily life knowing that her friend who committed the crime and got away with it while having to see him at school may have played a lot more uncomfortable for an audience. This movie feels like it misses the mark on almost every single thing that revolves around the rape scene. I don't know if I'm being too hard on this due to my own hopes for a slasher or it really was just a dull experience.

The movie personally wasn't suspenseful or scary for me. The creepy phone calls and the threatening letters are all very G rated. If you're going into this movie expecting something along the lines of the killer from Black Christmas, think again. I think the most sinister this movie gets is that Gail gets a note in a locker that tells her that he is going to rape her. I have seen a lot of the reviews for the film stating that this is one of the scariest TV movies ever made. It sadly didn't have that effect on me as a viewer. Maybe if I had seen this on TV as a kid, it would've been scarier.

The acting in Are You In The House Alone is as good as you're going to get for a TV movie. I think the stand out is Blythe Danner as Kathleen Beller's mother. She plays the worried mother very well. I think Kathleen Beller also displays enough range as a teenage girl who is being stalked. It was also nice to see a very young Dennis Quaid who plays a much darker role in this movie than I think I've ever seen him do once he hit the big time. The acting is the most solid aspect of the film.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about an element that actually didn't sit right with me in all of this. With recent headlines of how many privileged men get away with rape, this may have been right on the money. There is a scene where the family are scared that the police won't charge this guy for his crime because she isn't a virgin. I think with how many stories you hear of men getting away with it because women ask for this and all that bullshit. I thought when they said this in the movie, I was a little taken aback by it. It almost felt like they were siding with the perpetrator and not the victim.



- A woman is seen with blood coming from her mouth.
- The rape of a teenage girl happens off-screen.

Going into Are You In The House Alone? I expected a slasher film. I was thinking that based on the title and poster, I was getting When A Stranger Calls or Black Christmas. Instead, I got a pretty light TV Movie about a teenage girl who is raped by her friend, and we have to watch as she lives her life knowing he's free. While the acting is quite solid, this is a lifeless affair. The movie isn't scary or suspenseful, there was no blood or violence, and the film ends up feeling like an afternoon special more than anything. This is more Lifetime than IFC.

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