Home invasion films occupy a special niche of horror movies because they are so terribly plausible. This subgenre has been around since the late '40s Key Largo, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall terrorized inside of a hotel by Edward G. Robinson. Since the vulnerability of the victim is the major drive of a home invasion film, it comes as no surprise that the vast majority of these movies feature women in prominent, if not stereotypical, roles - though like film itself, that role has evolved over time.

Women see home invasion scenarios in a different way from men. Where a home invasion might become a power fantasy for men, who are socially pressured to fight back and protect what is theirs, women are constantly warned that an invasion could mean sexual assault or death. These films play off of that perception - how better to show the depravity of a home invader than to show him terrorizing a fresh-faced woman? The 1979 horror classic When a Stranger Calls opens with a teenage babysitter being terrorized via telephone by a stalker whose calls are coming from inside the very house that she is in. In Michael Haneke's 1997 film Funny Games, invaders take a family hostage in their holiday home. While their sadism toward every family member is awful, it is perhaps most pointed toward the mother, who is assaulted and forced to watch her husband and son die.

Women are portrayed as victims everywhere: from the news to crime television shows to these home invasion films, so it is no surprise that these movies strike so deep a chord. While most films in the horror genre gravitate towards stereotypical portrayals of women, few have attempted half-heartedly to show a more motivated character with a victim fighting back, but ultimately being overpowered. 2007's Inside is especially horrific, with a mother making every attempt to protect herself from an assailant who intends to steal her unborn child, only to ultimately fail. And 2008's The Strangers has Liv Tyler fighting for her life against unknown assailants, though she ends up being forced to watch her boyfriend die after being stabbed several times herself.

Susanne Lothar in 1997's Funny Games

Because of this repeated "helplessness" though, there has been a pushback in the role of women in these films. Women in home invasion movies began to fight back. A role evolution took place from the portrayal of the helpless victim to strong and independent - home invasion films began to be a power fantasy for women, in which women were able to fight back and outsmart those who intended to victimize them.

One of the first of these films to feature a woman from helpless victim to full-fledged resourceful heroine was 1967's Wait Until Dark, a rare and bold tale for the time. Audrey Hepburn stars as a blind woman who is able to use her disability to her advantage when two men invade her apartment. She cuts the lights, able to navigate the dark of her familiar environment better than he is, slyly outsmarting the crooks until help arrives.

The "final girl" trope is also commonly associated with these home invasion movies - though not emerging completely unscathed, the final girl remains victorious in having protected herself and defeating the antagonists by surviving. Take 2011's You're Next for example. When animal mask wearing, crossbow-wielding assailants attack a wealthy family in a remote house during a family reunion, you can be sure they weren't expecting one of the guests to have extensive survival training - or be a woman.

Liv Tyler in 2008's The Strangers

2002's Panic Room is perhaps one of the most memorable home invasion movies to date, where even a solid panic room and security system couldn't protect to duo in peril. Jodie Foster stars as a recently divorced single mother who must protect her sick daughter from three gunmen who enter their new house in search of a safe. Although thoroughly entertaining on its own, this film really stands out by showing audiences that no matter how prepared we are for such situations, sometimes even technology can't save you and you must rely on your own and wit and skills for survival. Furthermore, instead of cowering in the dark in an attempt to hide their way to survival, Panic Room flips all stereotypes on their heads using Foster's characters motherhood as motivation and strength to use what limited resources she has available to ensure they make it through the night.

While the audience may wish for cell phones or an alarm to aid the victims, home invasion films continue to evolve with the times, exploring new motivations and incorporating new advanced technology. The protagonists continue to change with them, becoming more resourceful and always remaining sympathetic to the audience. This proactive change might speak to a positive change in the film industry as well, recognizing that its audience contains women who wish to not see themselves as helpless victims and rather continue with the uprising of strong, independent women in film.