2 stars   Cheese Rating: 25% Dairylea Lite!

directed by: Walter Grauman
starring: Kathleen Beller, Blythe Danner, Tony Bill, Dennis Quaid, Robin Mattson, Scott Colomby

(back of video blurb):
       "...Can anyone help me with this?..."

choice dialogue:

"She's only Seventeen- at that age they'e immortal!"

slash with panache?

       There have been some great made-for-tv horror and thriller movies- DUEL (1971); TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975); and THE WOMAN IN BLACK (1989) (which is possibly the scariest film ever, bar none!). There have also been a lot of anaemic, insipid, and plain vapid made-for-tv movies over the years. ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE?, unfortunately, belongs more in the latter camp.

       This little movie came out in 1978, but, to be honest, I've no idea if it appeared John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, from the same year, came before or after it. Chances are that ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? came later, although it doesn't do a particularly good job a ripping off Carpenter's film if it was trying to (or Bob Clark's BLACK CHRISTMASThe trials of being a teenager... (1975), for that matter). Certainly, all three of those movies begin with a lingering shot of the front of a house at night. Inside the phone hangs off the hook and a teenage girl lies battered, but alive, on the living room floor. After the credits- and the worryingly generic TV-land music, the girl, Gail (Kathleen Beller ) reveals that she was raped. With one of those dated echo effects the action flashes back to an earlier time with Gail and a friend of hers, Alison (Blythe Danner) relaxing at the lake- but, unbeknownst to them, they are, in classic slasher movie point-of-view style, being spied upon by someone lurking behind some trees on a hill side. In this earlier time Gail is a happy-go-lucky 17 year old who has a penchant for photographing her fellow high school students (who, in turn, have an annoying penchant for spontaneous barber shop quartets and wearing some ghastly tartan fashion!) and, even though her hair is a different colour, she walks and swings it like Jan Brady. Gail and Alison go on a double date (Alison's date is Phil- an early appearance by Dennis Quaid), and generally act like TV teenagers. The only possible blot on the horizon is the fact that Gail begins to receive anonymous, heavy breathing phone calls; and soon afterwards starts to gets notes left in her locker- one of them saying, "I'm watching you!". Gail, is understandably worried, but Alison tells her not to worry about it and she is told much the same thing by a fairly unconcerned principle.

       The film pretty much limps to its first false climax. Whilst babysitting, for the second time, she is plagued by phantom phone calls. Finally the caller speaks, after cackling at her, whispers- "I'm getting closer!" Frightened she leaves the phone off the hook. The door bell rings and when she goes to look she's pleased it's someone she knows and she lets them in... Gail auditions for the remake of BLACK CHRISTMAS!

       I won't give away the identity of the caller (of both phone and door), but needless to say that about two thirds of the way through the movie we come back to the point where the film started. From here on in any pretence at slasher movie shenanigans are well and truly jettisoned and it becomes clear that all that came before was just a way to propel the story to this point. It is here that the film's origins really begin to show (zero body-count slasher movie anyone?), and the last third is pure morality theme TV movie of the week stuff as Gail tries to trick her attacking into confessing his crime.

       It's difficult to decide whether the makers wanted to inject their humdrum story with a bit of the panache of Carpenter's thrill-fest, or that opening shot and the babysitting scenes were just coincidence- I expect you can guess which. What is definite though is that although it is perfectly well played by its young cast it fails at being even remotely exciting as a thriller. In a way, it's pretty much of a cheat promising something that it's not and could even be seen as a little tasteless wrapping this rape tale up in exploitation clothing.

       Nothing much to write home about I'm afraid.

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