Kelly’s been having a string of bad luck. First her boyfriend accidentally shoots her with a crossbow and ends her gymnastics career – and, incidentally, any chance she had of raising her economic status. Her boyfriend’s mother hates her. And that pregnancy test is raising some uncomfortable questions.
Tiger House is perfectly passible in every regard as a home invasion horror film. It’s well acted, surprisingly well written, and just creative enough to keep the audience engaged. And if it wasn’t being compared extensively to a much better film, then Tiger House might actually be considered a pretty solid entry into the subgenre. Unfortunately, nearly every review I’ve come across has connected Tiger House to Adam Wingard’s You’re Next. To be fair, the films have their share of similarity, both involving a young, poor female protagonist whose much wealthier significant is the target of a home invasion, and who utilize violence and common sense in order to best their opponents.
Yes, You’re Next is better. And despite the fact that Tiger House came out four years later, it’s still going to look bad in the comparison. Sadly, there’s not much that can be done about that. Let’s move on.
Tiger House follows the usual home invasion plot, with all the expected turns and a few twists I didn’t see coming. The characters are much more developed than I’ve come to expect from a home invasion horror film, well cast, and exceptionally well written. Screenwriter Simon Lewis deserves kudos for this one. There are several moments of silence and several monologues from unexpected characters that elevate the story from your standard slasher to something more. That being said, Tiger House isn’t quite smart or unique enough to rise above the crowd. Home invasion horror is a well-established subgenre at this point; to be good, you have to be really good, not just better than average. For better or worse, Tiger House has a lot of competition in the genre, and hasn’t established itself enough to stand on its own.
That being said, I’m curious about Tiger House’s storyline as it concerns violence as baptism/rebirth. Now, this is something that shows up a lot in horror films, and in stories that even vaguely follow the Hero’s Journey. Going into darkness and emerging victorious usually means the protagonist will quite literally have to fight somebody with knives. Look at basically every slasher ever made for examples. I’ve written extensively about this before, but essentially, home invasion films are different. Nearly every home invasion horror film treats violence as a corruptive force inevitably places the protagonist on the same moral level as the villain if they show even the slightest competency at killing people. This is not common in horror films on a whole, but it’s a trope of home invasion horror. There are several reasons for this, which are interesting to discuss, but that’s another discussion.
What’s interesting is that violence isn’t seen as a corruptive force in Tiger House, but rather like a natural disaster; it’s shattering, but also a force for change and renewal. Consider the crossbow that symbolically killed Kelly’s gymnastics career is the same weapon that she uses to defend herself from the armed invaders. It’s particularly important that not only is the same crossbow involved with all of the incidents, Kelly also saves and reuses the same bolt that maimed her. The bolt that ended one aspect of her life acts quite literally as the tool of her salvation. Here, like with the majority of horror, violence is presented as a life-altering force. However, unlike with most home invasion films, it is not an inherently “bad” one – and Kelly is never seen as corrupted because she survives by using it.
I do wish the rebirth metaphors had been explored a bit further – it’s important, for example, that Kelly’s new life will involve a child – because Tiger House had the subtext and metaphorical “meat” to be a really good film if it had gone a few steps further. Sadly, the subtext doesn’t really do much other than just…be there. Briefly.
As it stands, Tiger House is good but not great, worth looking at but perhaps not a repeat viewing.
I’m still not sure why it was called Tiger House. At first I thought I’d missed something, but after looking up a few other reviews, I can only conclude that something was lost in the transition from script to screen. Oh well.