The Best Movies You've Never Seen About Settling Into A New Home

(Welcome to The Best Movies You've Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition we take a look at some of the best movies you've probably never seen about people trying and sometimes struggling to make a new home.)

As anyone who's done it before knows, the prospect of moving to a new home can be a daunting one. From the investment of time and money to the physical reality of finding yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, trading the comfort of the known for the potentially harrowing unknown is ultimately a crap shoot. You'll most likely end up happy and relieved at having made the change, but sometimes it just doesn't work out like you planned.

/Film's own Jacob Hall is in the middle of moving to a new house as I write this, and while it's been a bumpy process, it has also been free of extreme home improvement snafus and vengeful ghosts upset with their new guests. Not everyone's as lucky, though, and the movies are filled with examples of people finding their dream home turn into a nightmare. Things fall apart in The Money Pit and Funny Farm, things go bump in the night in hundreds of haunted house movies, things literally go to hell in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond... you just never know what you'll find in a new home until you've spent a few nights under its roof.

Keep reading for a look at some of the best movies you've probably never seen about the highs and lows (mostly lows) of trying to make a new home. There's not a single ghost story among them!

bad ronald

Bad Ronald (1974)

A disturbed teen is secured away by his ailing mother into the walls of their home after an "accident" risks trouble with the law. Forced to stay out of sight, he learns to live between the rooms, only sneaking out on occasion for food and fresh air. After his mother dies he watches as a new family moves in...a new family with three attractive teen daughters.

This is a made-for-TV movie from the 1970s, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's a tame slice of forgettable cinema. Duel and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark are television movies too, and while this one doesn't reach their heights, it remains a creepy and fairly unsettling picture. Can you imagine someone living in your walls? Watching you at night in your bed? Peering through holes while you shower? Now imagine it's a hormone and rage-filled teenage boy eyeballing your kids, and you have an idea of the potential terror.

The restraints of television keep it from crossing lines of explicit behavior and imagery, but it's no less unnerving for it. Later films, including the Gary Busey-led Hider in the House, covered similar ground, but this one's less assuming nature – not to mention its lack of familiar faces outside of a stern Dabney Coleman as the new homeowner – lends it a more frightening air. Bodies end up in the soft earth of the backyard, and it all comes to a head when Ronald decides he's a prince and one of the girls is destined to be his princess. He's not used to hearing "no," and it builds to a still-scary interaction between the girl and the owner of the eyeball on the other side of the wall.

Buy Bad Ronald on DVD from Amazon.

the happiness of the katakuris

The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)

Tired of the big-city rat race and hoping for a break, the Katakuri family buys a small, rundown hotel in rural Japan, and after cleaning it up, they open their doors, ready for business. Traffic is almost non-existent, but while that would be bad enough, the guests they do attract keep winding up dead. Worse, they start coming back to life.

This one sounds harrowing on its surface – family tries to make a home and a business they can all share only to see it rocked by death, zombies, and the rumbling of a volcano – but it's actually one of the sweetest, most joyous films I know. The family unit is the core of the narrative, and while troubles come their way along with squabbles, doubts, and uncertainty, it's the family's love for each other that carries them through the storm. Their dream home and livelihood are threatened, and they can only save it together. The family and their new home are the focus, but a subplot involving a possible romance for the grown daughter introduces one of my favorite supporting characters ever in the singing/dancing/smiling con man, Richard Sagawa (Japanese rock star Kiyoshirô Imawano). "I'm with the US Navy," he tells her, "to be more precise, Britain's Royal Navy." Brilliant.

Did I mention it's a musical? And that it's a Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, 13 Assassins) film? And that it occasionally shifts from live-action into claymation (as seen above)? It's an endlessly stimulating movie for your eyes, ears, and heart, and while some of the songs are clunkily-written, there's no denying the energy and creativity behind their presentation. Love, family, and the importance of supporting each other on this new adventure are key throughout, but rather than lean on the sappy cliches the film gets its message across with genuine heart and a big laughs. All new homes should come with a zombie graveyard.

Buy The Happiness of the Katakuris on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon.


3-Iron (2004)

A young man without a home of his own instead finds a new one every few nights by breaking into ones with owners on vacation. He uses their shower, eats their food, does their laundry, fixes broken toys and appliances, and moves on. His latest squat takes a turn, though, when he fails to realize that the woman of the house is still there.

Kim Ki-duk (The Isle, Pieta) isn't known for soft films as his characters are typically leading violent, tragic lives, but this is an exception. It's also one of the most beautiful films you've likely never seen. The man, Tae-suk, is a mute – whether by choice or circumstance is never made clear – while the housewife, Sun-hwa, is silent in her own sadness. She's bruised, the result of her businessman husband flying into a rage, and has chosen quiet subservience. The pair bond amid a lack of noise and they build a connection without saying a word. The house has been a prison for her and a simple way-station for him, but together they make a home out of gentle touches and compassionate intuition.

Almost as impressive as the film's silence is its ability to weave plot between the knowing glances and tender touches. When Sun-hwa's husband returns from his business trip Tae-suk remains, living in the shadows just beyond the man's peripheral vision and loving her behind his back. The dream can't last, and eventually the bubble bursts, but what's been built can't be destroyed no matter how loud the husband yells.

Buy 3-Iron on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

the new daughter

The New Daughter (2009)

A single father moves with his two children into a new home in rural South Carolina in the hopes of making a fresh start, but nature has other plans. The oldest, a teenage girl, begins hearing and seeing strange things near and around the house, but her concerns aren't taken seriously at first. That changes quickly.

Regular readers of this column will already know that I'm unapologetic in my love for Kevin Costner movies, but my affection still knows the difference between the great ones (No Way Out) and the lesser experiences (Draft Day). This underseen creature feature leans closer to the former as it captures the anxiety and stress of trying to make a new house a home even before unnatural beings appear to make things even worse. Costner is at his stoic best, but this is a rare one in his filmography in that integrity and will may not be enough to save the day.

It's unfortunate that this one hasn't caught on with more people, especially horror fans, as it's rare these days to find a genre movie telling an original story. Almost as uncommon are straight-up monster movies as too often filmmakers resort to the more familiar ghosts, zombies, and killers because they require less creativity and imagination. The monsters here are slickly-designed and capable of being both creepy and deadly, and it all builds to a truly terrific ending.

Buy The New Daughter on Blu-ray from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

13 cameras

13 Cameras (2015)

A young couple expecting their first child move into a new house in the hope that it will make a perfect home for their new family. Their landlord is a bit off, but the price is right and the location is perfect. Oh, and there are also tiny cameras hidden throughout the house so the landlord can watch them make love, bathe, and argue while he masturbates furiously to their image. So, glass half full?

Think of 13 Cameras (previously known as Slumlord) as a 21st century update on the premise of Bad Ronald above. There's still a dangerous pervert watching you in your new house, but now he's able to do it remotely so you can't hear his sweaty fapping between the walls. (I apologize for that image.) It's the kind of fear some of us think about when staying in less than stellar motels, but the idea of it happening in your own home ratchets up the terror.

Another film, Hangman, released the same year to more attention, but it's the lesser of the two for reasons beyond its choice of found footage format. This one unfolds more traditionally allowing viewers time to get to know the couple while teasing out the landlord's intentions and access. We don't necessarily come to care about the couple, but we don't dislike them — something that's all too common and expected in genre films these days – and instead are increasingly concerned as things move from the slimy and sleazy to threatening and dangerous. Pieces fall into place on their way towards an ending that allows room for at least one surprise, and while the conclusion won't appeal to everyone it finishes on a wonderfully disturbing note.

Buy 13 Cameras on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

der bunker

Der Bunker (2015)

A college student in search of a temporary home in which to write his thesis answers an ad and finds one in a remote dwelling shared by a loving family. The room isn't quite as promised – it's windowless, in the basement, and behind a heavy door – but the solitude suits his needs. It doesn't last, though, as soon the family is asking for something in exchange. They want him to tutor their son. Their super freaking weird son.

The film begins with a seemingly familiar setup to a terror-filled experience featuring abduction, torture, and peculiarly German abominations, but it's clear very early on that horror is not the intention here. Instead, while still frequently disturbing, the film is actually an unsettling, quirky, and weirdly humorous look at the pressures put on the young to succeed. The student is here due to his own pressures to make something of himself, but it's not-so-young Klaus who takes the full brunt of the grown-ups intentions and desires around him. It doesn't help that Klaus is something of an idiot, but things only get worse and stranger when the student is encouraged to employ corporal punishment in pursuit of education.

The student's search for a quiet, cozy home to encourage and incubate his growing knowledge and security instead becomes a commentary on parenting. The family is clearly a little bit off, but their love for each other is never in question. There's a sweetness here alongside the vaguely threatening eccentricities that leaves viewers uncertain at any given moment if they should be enjoying the family's warm embrace or fearing what the wet wound on mother's leg is going to make her do next. It's easily the most creatively disturbing use of an open leg wound since David Cronenberg's Crash. The four of them are hardly a typical family, but together they make something special as they make a temporary home together. It's beautiful?

Buy Der Bunker on Blu-ray from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.