Monday, October 14, 2013

Are You in the House Alone? (1978)

Based on the title and premise, it’s easy to get this TV movie confused with the theatrical feature When a Stranger Calls (1979), which employs the same gimmick of a babysitter terrorized by creepy phone calls, but the similarities mostly end there. When a Stranger Calls is a straight-up thriller about a deranged killer, while Are You in the House Alone? is a serious-minded drama about rape that simply happens to employ horror-movie elements. That said, Are You in the House Alone? is not exceptional—in fact, the movie is quite clumsy, even though the filmmakers treat touchy subject matter with respect. Wide-eyed starlet Kathleen Beller brings sweet vulnerability to the role of Gail, a suburban high-school student who dreams of becoming a photographer. Since her parents (played by Blythe Danner and Tony Bill) squabble regularly, Gail finds solace in her friends and in babysitting—until an unknown admirer starts pestering her with suggestive calls. Meanwhile, Gail becomes involved with sensitive classmate Steve (Scott Colomby), which enflames her stalker’s rage. Eventually, the stalker emerges from hiding and rapes Gail, which transforms the latter half of the movie into an oh-the-humanity treatise on the way the law protects criminals instead of victims. Suffice to say, the various elements of Are You in the House Alone? clash. Sometimes, the picture’s a lurid saga about a girl being menaced; at other times, it’s a gentle love story about Gail and Steve opening their hearts to each other. In a peculiar way, the most memorable aspect of this picture (the social-injustice material) is the least organic—Are You In the House Alone? is a message movie wrapped inside a genre picture. In trying to do too many things, alas, the filmmakers achieve only moderate success with each of those things. Still, Beller’s naturalistic appeal—which often exceeds her acting skill—provides a sympathetic viewpoint, and the picture benefits from the talents of Bill, Danner, and costar Dennis Quaid, who made his big-screen breakout a year later in Breaking Away (1979). Although his role is smallish, Quaid’s intensity demonstrates how ready he was for bigger things.

Are You In the House Alone?: FUNKY

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