I love this brilliant home invasion film. I watched it in the cinema in 2002 and was completely blown away by it. It’s a slick thriller that any writers would do well to study if they want to learn about plot, and the plotting of a good, tight story. The film-makers take a simple enough premise as the basis for a story, then just keep ramping up the tension till the whole thing explodes in a massive crisis.

Jodie Foster is excellent as Meg Altman, a recently divorced woman who moves into a fantastic four-storey brownstone in New York City’s Upper West Side. Her millionaire ex-husband is in pharmaceuticals, so he can afford the rent, and he now lives with a supermodel, the prick, after breaking up his marriage.

With Meg is her pre-teen daughter, Sarah, played by a boyish-looking but unmistakable Kristen Stewart from TWILIGHT. The house is miles too big for them, of course. What the hell do a woman and a child want with all that space? The house lends itself perfectly to the plot, however.

On their first night in the huge, largely empty old house, it’s dark, windy, rainy and altogether spooky. Three men break into the house. When Meg spots them purely by accident on the security cameras in the panic room next to her bedroom, she grabs up a sleepy Sarah from the floor above and the pair of them flee for safety to the panic room.

Irony of ironies, the reason the three men have broken in is in the panic room, i.e., a stash of cash or bonds hidden there by the house’s previous occupant, a millionaire. This means that the terrified mother and daughter can’t just sit out the robbery in peace and comfort in their panic room. Those three guys are hellbent on actually coming in…

Forest Whitaker plays Burnham, who installs panic rooms for a living and works for the security company who services this particular house. Jared Leto plays the millionaire’s spoiled, bratty grandson, who’d prefer to steal his Grandpa’s bonds and keep them all for himself rather than wait for everything to be doled out legitimately in the will.

The third guy, Raoul, is a real loose cannon, a thug brought along by Junior. Raoul doesn’t care if he kills or maims anyone on this job, and that’s the difference between him and Burnham. Burnham doesn’t want anyone hurt and is deeply unhappy with the fact that the mother and daughter have moved in to the house a few days earlier than they were expected to.

Burnham is the only thing standing between Meg and Sarah and the nasty ugliness of Raoul’s foul nature and Junior’s greed and impulsivity. Will he come through for them? Add to all of this the fact that Meg gets claustrophobic when in small spaces and Sarah is prone to diabetic comas and needs her glucose injections. From a special bag. Which is not in the panic room. Oh, and Meg hasn’t connected the panic room phone yet…

The tension just keeps being ramped up and up, as I said earlier, until everything all spills over into a breath-taking climax. Jodie Foster, even though I believe she was pregnant at the time, is particularly athletic and throws herself all over the place in a really impressive manner for the duration. I just love the film, anyway, and I have good memories of seeing it in the cinema. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it too. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: