Alone in her residence over a sweltering holiday weekend, a widow is accidentally trapped in her home elevator during a power failure. Her meticulous, well-organized world is shattered as the elevator, stalled nine feet above the floor, becomes a claustrophobic torture chamber - a cage. Unable to escape, her situation becomes desperate when the emergency alarm attracts a swarm of terrifying intruders - a drunken derelict and his boozy prostitute friend, as well as a trio of young delinquents who embark on an orgy of wanton vandalism and sadistic brutality that culminates in murder.
"Home Alone" For Grown-Ups
- Lady in a Cage review by Count Otto Black
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You rated this film: 4
Although this is billed as a thriller, it would be more accurate to call it a very, very black comedy with a ludicrously melodramatic plot featuring a string of outrageous coincidences and absolutely no truly sympathetic characters whatsoever. It's also a rare example of a film noir that takes place in blazing sunshine, but nevertheless it's still as dark as they come.
Right from the start, with our smugly privileged heroine relentlessly over-mothering her adult, implicitly gay son who obviously can't endure even one more day with the old bat, while outside people casually drive past a run-over dog with their car radios spouting a ridiculous sermon about "anti-satan missiles", this is obviously going to be a film about how little anybody really cares about anybody else. Which it turns out to be in spades. When a freak power failure traps the slightly disabled protagonist in a precursor of the stairlift with the most poorly-thought-out safety features imaginable, she soon discovers that ordinary, decent folks completely ignore alarm-bells that are none of their business, though they do attract the attention of people who have their own reasons for being interested in houses whose occupants are helpless...
The characters are as caricatured as the situation is contrived, and there's a lot of outrageous overacting on display, especially from veteran character actor Jeff Corey as a spectacularly demented alcoholic tramp, and second-rate Brigitte Bardot impersonator Jennifer Billingsley as a wild child so dimwittedly amoral that she not only has absolutely no objections to casual murder, but appears to be sexually aroused by the thought of dying in the electric chair. In true film noir tradition, everyone does their best to ruthlessly double-cross everyone else, and having even a glimmer of humanity is a weakness that the real predators soon pick up on, so it's not surprising that the standout performance is from an unknown young actor called James Caan as a truly terrifying psychopathic hoodlum with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever.
Steadily mounting paranoia combines with utter cynicism at every turn - in one delightful throwaway detail, we see that a shady pawnbroker's shop is so sleazy that several customers have apparently pawned their lavatories! And having tried appealing to her tormentors' better nature only to find out that they haven't got one, our oh-so-civilized heroine's final solution to her problems is genuinely shocking. It isn't for everybody, but if the idea of a grand guignol pitch-black comedy with a dash of high camp and a weird presentiment of the crimes of the Manson Family (I wonder if Charlie ever saw this film?) appeals to you, I'd recommend it highly.