As humans, we like to think of ourselves as the top of the food chain. We don’t need to worry about predators or being prey. We live in a comfortable bubble, merrily going along and believing this until something knocks us off our feet and makes us realize, oh no, you too can be prey. This is why movies that take place in safe spaces, with people you should be able to trust, can be so unnerving. What happens when love turns to obsession? What happens when someone crosses that line?
This is the question asked in The Intruder, opening nationwide this weekend. Horror loves a good stalker; someone whose obsession drives them to madness and murder. In The Intruder, we have a twist on the traditional trope, as this time the stalker is fixated on the house, not the people. You see, Scott and Annie bought their dream home in Napa Valley, California. It is a dream home because it is the pet project of the original owner, Charlie, played perfectly by Dennis Quaid. Charlie’s compulsive attention to and love of the house doesn’t seem to dissipate when the new owners move in. It would seem Charlie might not be so ready to part with his beloved house.
The Intruder’s tale of obsession and stalking has us thinking. What are the very best horror flicks where the villain is a stalker driven by the neurotic hunt? To celebrate the release of The Intruder, let’s peer over our shoulders and take a look back at the best stalkers in horror history.
10. Halloween II (1981)
In the sequel, Michael goes from slasher to stalker. In Halloween, Michael Myers breaks out of a mental institution and heads for his childhood home. There he finds it occupied by new people and he seeks to kill them. Plans are thwarted, but Michael is missing. The sequel picks up immediately and is set at the hospital. Now Michael isn’t just headed home, he’s obsessed with stalking, finding and killing Laurie Strode. The setting switch from home to hospital was great for creating tension and atmosphere. It is a sequel not to be missed.
9. One Hour Photo (2002)
One Hour Photo is not just a testament to Robin Williams’ acting chops, it also shows his willingness to play against type. No one saw this movie coming. Sy is a lonely man who works in the photo booth of a large store, think Target or Walmart. He is fired one day and his obsession for his boss reaches a crescendo. He’d built up his boss, Bill, to be a perfect family man, but being fired by Bill and then finding evidence Bill may be having an affair pushes Sy over the edge. He goes to extremes to watch every move and to bring Bill down hard.
8. Single White Female (1992)
Allie, played wonderfully by Bridget Fonda, puts out an ad looking for a single, white, female roommate. Several apply, but Allie goes with Hedy, played to perfection by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Hedy is a bit intense, but they get on famously. Soon, it seems Hedy is a little too obsessed with Allie and has even started mimicking her. Before she fully grasps what’s going on, Hedy has gone from jealous friend to psycho stalker. This movie scared the crap out of me as a kid and plays well on the fear women face living alone in the city.
7. Unlawful Entry (1992)
Perhaps the cheesiest entry on the list, Unlawful Entry packs a ton of tension into that cheese. Why wouldn’t it? It’s a thriller by the guy that did The Accused and it pits Kurt Russell against Ray Liotta! Michael and Karen had a break in. A friendly officer responds to the scene, but goes above and beyond when he offers to help install their security system. Turns out he’s doing much more than that. He’s fully spying on them. He worms his way into their lives and might have more sinister motives than mere voyeurism.
6. Happy Death Day (2017)
Every year horror-comedies come out and miss the mark. This sleeper hit not only won audiences over, it even spawned a successful sequel. It’s a rare, funny, suspenseful gem. Tree wakes up on her birthday, not knowing it will also be her death day. In a cruel twist, when she dies, she just wakes up again like a demonic version of Groundhog Day. She has to figure out who is stalking and killing her or this routine may never end!
5. Play Misty for Me (1971)
I don’t love Clint Eastwood’s politics, but damn that man can direct a movie. It’s 1971, and radio DJ Dave is bored with his life. It’s nothing but more of the same. So, one night he decides to sew some wild oats and has a one night stand with a stranger named Evelyn. Thing is, Evelyn is a stranger to Dave, but Dave ain’t no stranger to Evelyn. Far from it. In fact, Evelyn has been stalking Dave for some time and that spooky caller asking for Misty every night? That’s her. Now that she has Dave, she doesn’t plan on ever letting go.
4. Fear (1996)
If you were of a movie-going age in the 90’s, I’m guessing you saw and loved Fear. It gripped the whole country and launched the careers of it’s stars, Witherspoon and Wahlberg. Nicole may dig on this hot new beaux, but he’s getting a little clingy. Soon, he goes from clingy to downright terrifying. Can Nicole end things with the boy in a way that won’t end in her demise? Will he listen to reason when he’s so clearly nutso?
3. The Loved Ones (2009)
This 2009 Aussie sleeper is about a serial stalker. Princess may stalk several boys, but really she is stalking a reality that does not exist, despite how desperately she wishes it did. Princess wants life to be one long, romantic school dance. Formal wear, tiaras, disco balls and the warm gaze of a cute boy. She becomes absolutely fixated on Brent and gets all Veruca Salt when she learns he’s dating someone. She and Daddy throw a ‘dance’ and only Brent is on the guest list.
2. Misery (1990)
Misery came at a time when Rob Reiner was hitting nothing but net. He made Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, then Misery. Crushing it! As a result, Misery is not just one of the best King adaptations to date, it is also just a truly fantastically made movie. Kathy Bates won an Oscar playing Annie, writer Paul Sheldon’s biggest fan. She goes from stalker to jailer when she causes an accident with Sheldon, and then holds him prisoner in her home, forcing him to write for her. Her obsession becomes his terror real quick.
1. Cape Fear (1991)
Oh, Cape Fear, where to even begin. Nominated for several Oscars, Cape Fear was directed by Martin Scorsese and was part of a period around the turn of the decade where dark af movies where getting big name directors and award nominations. As such, it is an incredibly well made, superbly acted piece of thriller gold. Max Cady has spent his time in prison obsessing about the prosecutor who put him there, Sam Bowden. Upon release, Cady stalks Bowden and hatches a plan to terrorize his family.