Are You in the House Alone? (1978) / Thriller-Drama
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would probably be PG-13 for subject matter
Running time: 96 min.
Cast: Kathleen Beller, Blythe Danner, Scott Colomby, Robin Mattson, Tony Bill, Tricia O'Neal, Dennis Quaid, Alan Fudge, Ellen Travolta, Randy Stumpf
Director: Walter Grauman
Screenplay: Judith Parker (based on the novel by Richard Peck)
Review published July 13, 2007
Although marketed as some sort of horror flick in the "stranger in the house" tradition of many that were in theaters in recent times (Halloween, Black Christmas, etc.), with the exception of a few prank phone calls and handwritten notes of harassment left in the school locker, it's anything but horrific. It's actually more of a combination of a typical family drama combined with a rather dreary TV-movie subplot (not surprising, as this is a TV movie) involving the victimization of a teenage girl and the deaf ears her pleas fall on because of the legal sexism inherent in the legal system of her area.
Contrary to the title's question, most of the film takes place outside of the home, and whenever any events actually do happen, the potential victim is not even alone. The rest is just a bunch of scenes where the actors angle for Emmies with heart wrenching moments of hugging and crying. It feels like three separate films slapped together to pad running time, bouncing from one subplot to another with not much thought as to why we need to see them.
There isn't much of a tangible story here, except that 17-year-old Gail Osborne (Beller, Fort Apache: The Bronx) is receiving some rather ominous calls and letters from an anonymous source. Is it her ex-boyfriend (Stumpf) with whom she parted on tense terms? Is it her all-too-friendly photography teacher (Fudge, The Natural) out for some jailbait? Is it her current boyfriend (Colomby, Caddyshack) out to scare her into his trusting arms? Is it a jealous girlfriend making sure she keeps away from her man? Is it just some random stalker? You'll find out eventually, but you'll likely be ahead of the curve if you've seen at least one or two of these kinds of films in your lifetime.
The novel by Richard Peck of the same name provides the basis for the story, although they do make the victim far less promiscuous, and much more sympathetic, than she had been in the book. Perhaps the producers might have felt the sexuality of a teenage girl is either too inappropriate for prime time television viewers, or perhaps they thought we'd identify with the heroine less if she were a thrill-seeker -- whatever the case, the way that it's set up makes her pleas for help makes the legal system that does almost nothing for her seem out-and-out ridiculous. Since it fails as a horror film, a thriller, a mystery, a drama, and even as a movie with a moral to tell, there's just nothing here to recommend.
90+ minutes of teasing without consummation -- given the themes of boys who want to get it on at a certain point with their girlfriends, I guess it's appropriate that the film itself never gives us what we really want at any particular time we're ready to receive it. It might be an average, watchable made-for-TV movie experience, but anyone with preconceived notions of what they're looking for going in will might find themselves with the cinematic equivalent of a case of "blue balls" once it's all over.
©2007 Vince Leo