Tiger House (2015)

12 hours, 4 killers, 1 way out.

With narratives that see innocent families endure incessant cruelty at the hands of others, home invasion films can be quite the voyeuristic affair. These quasi-exploitation flicks range from nerve-jangling horror-esque pictures, such as The Strangers (2008) — a film in which a couple is terrorized by three unknown masked assailants — to savage and blood-thirsty; anyone recall 2009’s perversely sadistic The Collector? And, with its unintentionally humorous ‘disapproving tone,’ how can one forget the psychotically disturbing, yet self-aware, Funny Games (2007), a film that shrewdly comments on the nature of these vicious yet oddly stimulating feats.

Well folks, the year is now 2015 and we can add another flick to this long list of chillers — theater director Thomas Daley’s feature-length film debut, Tiger House. While mildly suspenseful, sadly, this latest tension-builder fails to bring anything new to the stalker genre, as, with its dull and uneven narrative, Tiger House, more often than not, reverts to lazy cinematic clichés, slipping into formulaic, cookie-cutter banality, becoming just another by-the-numbers entry into this perplexingly alluring sub-genre.

'Don't cross me!'
‘Don’t cross me!’

Tiger House opens with hard working wage-earner and ex-gymnast Kelly (Kaya Scodelario) — injured in a freak crossbow accident — who, late one evening, decides to sneak into the suburban home of boyfriend Mark (Daniel Boyd), for a kinky night under the covers. However, on this particular night, Kelly is not the family’s only unwelcome visitor, as whilst the household is sound asleep, balaclava-wearing intruders break into the property and disrupt the peace, taking Kelly’s lover and his startled parents hostage while Kelly manages to hide undetected beneath her beau’s bedstead. When the trespassers intentions become seemingly clear, a cornered Kelly — having no other option but to counter-attack — switches from being an unseen casualty to a headstrong fighter, as the captive situation spirals out of control and the home becomes a terrifying arena for brutality and bloodshed.

Given its attractive title — which refers to one discovering a ‘tiger in the house,’ a fearful real-life situation no doubt — Tiger House is fairly run-of-the-mill. With foreseeable pot-boiler beats, generic homestead set pieces and a last-minute twist that springs up with little to no foreshadowing, the final product feels overly generic and terribly forgetful. This comes as a bit of a surprise, especially given that director Daley roped producers in by cleverly constructing a trailer for the film before a script was even written; which leaves me thinking, was there something vastly unique in this teaser, or something viewers had never before seen up on screen? Probably not! But look, it’s not all bad.

While most elements in Tiger House seem to be uninspired — from the derivative, often eye-rolling screenplay by Simon Lewis, The Anomaly (2014), to the customary ‘scary movie’ score by composer Roger Goula Sarda, Next Goal Wins (2014) — the feature does have its fair share of positives.

Firstly, given that the majority of Tiger House is set in and around the confines of a standard residential home, the setting is used rather cunningly, as numerous rooms are utilized to stage the action, and the location never gets dull or repetitive. Likewise, the engaging cinematography by Willie Nel, Lucky (2011) mixes dense imagery with prying shots of hazy security-cam footage while extreme close-ups capture that spine-tingling sense of claustrophobia; these techniques combined adequately convey the right amount of edginess and unnerving atmosphere.

Back Against The Wall
Back Against The Wall

Outside of the film’s look, the screenplay, while being a tad too humdrum and patchy at times, does afford to give its chief players significant depth. Despite going against her established framework in the flick’s sloppy conclusion, Kelly — for the most part — makes for an interesting protagonist, with the presence of Kaya Scodelario, The Maze Runner (2014), being my initial draw-card to the project. Adorning our heroine in a stylish, red, military-like jacket, the arresting cerulean-eyed Scodelario gives a relatively grounded performance, never allowing Kelly to seem fully in control of her dire situation, with the character having to muster-up the courage — and elasticity — to outwit and overpower her seasoned captors. Despite this decent foundation however, proceedings do get somewhat overdone when Kelly goes from being a believable athlete, trying to rebuild her life after a career-ending injury, to a silly Katniss Everdeen wannabe, fully equipped with a bow-and-arrow, ready to strike.

Bolstering Scodelario’s credible expose, antagonists are, to a certain degree, well-realized also, even though the highly trained crooks’ plan and motives do remain a little sketchy throughout — the ins-and-outs of their scheme never made entirely clear; its hinted that the foursome have come to abduct Mark’s family, forcing his father to carry out a robbery on the cash deposit he manages.

While actor Dougray Scott, Hitman (2007), seems to be cruising on autopilot as leader of the armed pack, Shane — who’s literally bed-ridden for the entire picture — his young and unhinged accomplice, Callum, played by Ed Skrein, The Transporter Refueled (2015), has been fixed with a capriciously deranged psyche which, suffice to say, spruces dealings up a notch, especially as Callum takes the lead when things go south. The remaining two goons are more or less outright forgetful — honestly, I can’t even remember what these guys looked like, let alone what they did or said. Thankfully, both Shane and Callum are given some weightiness at least, especially when the felons’ paths inevitably cross with Kelly’s and the men begin to plausibly reveal aspects of their identity and motives.

'I was better off in The Glade!'
‘I was better off in The Glade!’

Predictable storytelling aside, far too often does Tiger House collapse under its own weight, as the film goes from being a competent and ‘stressful’ thriller to a simply exasperating affair; just look at its far-fetched improbable finale and some of the questionable decisions characters make throughout.

Shot entirely in South Africa — though the film takes place in the United Kingdom — Tiger House boasts some decent eye-candy, be it in its astute visuals or the gorgeous Kaya Scodelario, who, for me, really made this flick worth my while. As Tiger House’s lean run time zooms by, the film, rather than leaving me satisfied, left me scratching my head in puzzlement, over A) its silly last scene and B) why a house with that many security cameras didn’t have any smoke detectors installed!

2.5 / 5 – Alright

Reviewed by S-Littner

Tiger House is released through Pinnacle Films Australia