High Rise Horror: Part 2 By Ghastly1

I'm piggybacking off of Unk's stellar post about high-rise horror because I really like this little subgenre and while these may not exactly be horror films, more "thrillers", I've always tended to think of that as a fairly nebulous term and not too important a distinction as I find there is a lot of overlap. Anyway, here are a few I like... 

Tenement (1985)

The tenants of a dilapidated South Bronx tenement building are besieged by and fall victim to a Death Wish 3 style street gang with a taste for rape, murder and mutilation amongst other things, until they resist with lethal force of their own. This is a fairly forgotten and pretty nasty film, but is definitely one of the best in the genre. 

Blackout (1978)

Using the 1977 NYC blackout as a backdrop, this film has future nerd Robert Carradine leading a bunch of psychopathic killers who escape while being transferred from prison on a revenge mission of a much more violent sort on the inhabitants of an upscale high-rise building. 

Enemy Territory (1987)

Can’t we all just get along? This film, starring a pre-Candyman Tony Todd and post-Ghostbusters Ray Parker, Jr. of all people, answers with a resounding “no”. When Barry Rapchick (Gary Frank) an alcoholic insurance salesman takes his lily-white ass into the ghetto to make a sale, The Vampires, a local racist black militant street gang led by The Count (Tony Todd) take it upon themselves to let him know, he ain’t in Kansas anymore.   

Along the way, some obligatory kumbaya-ing takes place between Barry and Will (Ray Parker, Jr.) a telephone repair man who is in the projects tapping more than phone lines-if you catch my drift. But in the end, it is a “bigoted” crippled shell-shocked Vietnam veteran (Jan Michael Vincent) and his arsenal of high-powered automatic weapons that provides the means of survival. 

Someone to Watch Over Me (1987)

Right off the bat I just want to say, I in no way endorse Sting. I do however recommend this thriller from Ridley Scott. It tells the story of a lower-class Queens cop played by Tom Berenger, protecting a Manhattan socialite who is being pursued by a killer, after she witnesses the murder of a fellow bourgeois. It is one of my favorite "New York movies" and features gorgeous inky black night time cinematography.  

Trapped (1989)

Now this is the quintessence of what we're talking about, people trapped in a big building with a homicidal lunatic; simple, straight forward and very satisfying. A corporate spy and a business woman are trapped in an office building and must contend with a ruthless killer on a mission to revenge himself upon the corporation responsible for his wife and son's deaths. This is a very good thriller which is well paced, taut and pretty intense. 

Lisa (1990)

This is a cool little film about a hormonal man obsessed teenaged girl named Lisa, whose mother doesn't allow her to date, because she's afraid she'll wind up like her, a single mother. So instead, Lisa stalks and spys on random guys (way to raise a kid there, single mom). While returning from the store one night, Lisa runs into a guy she becomes particularly enamored with. Unbeknownst to her however,  he just so happens to be the guy going around the neighborhood killing beautiful women. As if that wasn't bad enough (wait, there's a cheap pun coming) she begins flirting with danger when she inadvertently begins seducing this lustmord lothario over the phone in her best big girl voice. 

Guilty As Sin (1993)

We already knew Don Johnson is the suavest son of a bitch on planet earth whom women are powerless to resist from back in his Miami days, but in Guilty As Sin, he plays a real lady killer.  David Greenhill is accused of murdering his wife and seeks out the services of an attorney played by Rebecca De Mornay, he begins intruding into her life and she comes to find he may not be innocent. She vows to do whatever is necessary to get off the case including planting evidence but that only angers Greenhill. A lot of the action takes place in big office and apartment buildings culminating in a showdown which leaves Greenhill with one hell of a splitting headache. 

Psycho Cop Returns (1993)

Here is a case of a sequel being vastly superior to the original. Just between you and me- tete a tete- the first one flat-out sucks, I mean really sucks. But hot damn, did they redeem themselves with the second one; the titular Psycho Cop rampages through an LA office building where some businessmen are hosting an after-hours party. It looks and feels like there was a budget this time, the acting isn't terrible, it's got a fast pace, there is some pretty good gore and lots of nudity for good measure- just everything a growing boy needs. 

Night of the Juggler (1980)

Stupid name, good movie. A down on his luck guy living in a South Bronx shithole had the American dream savagely denied him and so he decides to kidnap the daughter of a real estate mogul to secure a multi-million dollar ransom; problem is, he kidnaps the wrong kid; Not too bright. James Brolin plays the ex-cop father of the kidnapped girl, who will stop at nothing to affect her return; extra not too bright. This film is one of the prime examples of grimy 70s New York, when the rot was front and center; it was honest, not hidden behind a false and feeble veneer of cleanliness. 

Critters 3 (1991)

I never much cared for Gremlins or Ghoulies; for me, when it comes to movies about little monsters fucking shit up, Critters is the gold standard. In this entry in the series, a 16-year-old Leonardo Di Caprio who looks 9, takes on the furry little intergalactic killing machines in a big Los Angeles apartment building.

Lady Beware (1987)

Katya (Diane Lane) is looking to make it in Pittsburgh (where?) in the fast paced and highly competitive world of department store window displays (what?) and is stalked by a psycho lab tech (huh?). It sounds weird and it is, but there is something to it.

Nightmare on the 13th floor (1990)

Not to be confused with The 13th Floor from 1988, which is a not very good Australian film about a couple of squatters encountering some child ghosts. This 1990 made for TV film starring James Brolin (again?), nurse Ratched and Alan Fudge (mmm...fudge) is about a travel writer who discovers some satanic goings on, on the sealed off 13th floor of a Victorian hotel, where years before, a serial killer went on a chopping spree.

Scissors (1991) and Sliver (1993)

Sharon Stone wound up doing two films featuring high rises in two years, that's got to be some kind of record; but if not, it should be. In the first she plays a wacked out virgin who gets trapped in a loft apartment that looks like it belongs in a Dario Argento movie and as such the film itself kind of feels like Argento directed it; are we sure he didn't? it is very weird. In the second, she moves into an apartment in a modern human terrarium where she is spied on like a rodent and did I mention all of the previous owners couldn't help but wind up dead? because that happened too; it was one of the selling points. 

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1 month ago

I adore high rise ser horror, and am bumping all of these up my to-watch list. Except for Critters 3 which I love dearly and have already seen an embarrassing number of times.

1 month ago

Never heard of Lady Beware before but that description had me laughing out loud so now I've gotta watch it!

Starfire Lounge
Starfire Lounge
1 month ago

What a dynamite list! A few of these I still need to see, so I’ll be using this article as my high-rise primer. Tenement is one of the most grimy, gritty, disturbing movies I’ve ever seen! I only saw it once but it has STAYED with me. *shivers*

1 month ago

Thank ya, kindly. I think you'll like Enemy Territory and Nightmare; definitely give them a try. Yes, I've become a huge Tubi fan as of late; I'm very surprised by a lot of the stuff they have on there.
I'm a big fan of them myself and the setting lends itself to other genres as well, Die Hard is a perfect example of it in action.
Thank you. Finally someone picked up on and appreciates my sense of humour; most people just call me an asshole, lol.
Starfire Lounge,
I know you. I like your site a lot, just one suggestion: needs more Pfeiffer, haha. I agree, Tenement is surprisingly slimy.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ghastly1