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TV Terror Guide: Are You in the House Alone (1978)


Watching horror films as much as I do, I’m not easily offended. However, I think Are You in the House Alone? (1978) did it. It’s mostly a serious drama about high school rape and what it does to the family unit. However, the crime itself is treated as if it’s right out of a Scream film and the victim is subsequently treated like she’s the guilty one.

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As the film opens, a slow zoom into the front door of the Osborne home reveals the phone off the hook and a young woman lying on the floor. She’s whisked away in an ambulance and says, “He raped me. I can’t tell anyone. He must have been watching me…” The movie then flashes back to show what happened to Gail Osborne (Kathleen Beller.)

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The movie is such an odd, jarring mix of elements and tones. It ranges from sweet conversations between Gail and her mother, Anne (Blythe Danner), to uncomfortable marital squabbles between Anne and her husband, Neil (Tony Bill), to creepy phone calls between the eventual perpetrator and his victim.

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It just doesn’t work for me to have such serious content interrupted with scenes of Gail being stalked and then brutally attacked. In the typical rape drama, you don’t see the graphic details straight out of a slasher film. Yet in the typical horror film, you don’t see the cruel and serious aftermath. I don’t want to argue about genre, but here it isn’t chocolate and peanut butter.

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To add insult to injury, the advertising emphasizes the horrific elements. It’s like bait-and-switch. Look at the ad above. The text below the picture mentions nothing about the serious topic with which the film attempts to deal. And… this can’t have been intentional, but the CBS slogan, “Turn us on, we’ll turn you on!” is wildly inappropriate.

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It’s so distasteful and exploitative that I don’t know much else to say. The sad thing is that there are good performances, especially from Danner. I can’t believe it was written by a woman, Judith Parker, and I wonder if the source material, the novel by Richard Peck, is equally vile. I’m not going to read it to find out.

Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch Are You in the House Alone? as well as all the great movies from this series.

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