The House That Breathes is a 1999 American Psychological Slasher Mystery Horror film written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Kirk Jones starring Anne Hathaway, Christian Bale, Hilary Swank, Christopher Lloyd, James Van Der Beek and Alicia Silverstone.
The film centers on a group of youths throwing a celebratory college admission party at an abandoned Boston house which coincidentally belonged to the infamous Boston Strangler, the group whothrough their psychology 101 class have become fixated with the women killing maniac deliberately throw the party an abandoned childhood home of his and plan to prank out their attending senior class party-goers, however a maniacal killer interrupts the proceedings and takes aim at the select group of youths throwing the party, dispatching them one by one.
The film was a great financial success theatrically and was well received by critics who praised its creepy atmosphere, haunting score, genuinely terrifying moments of suspense, the originality in its stereotypical whodunit storyline and the acting of the characters, in particular actresses Hathaway and Silverstone and actors Lloyd and Bale.
The film was shot enirely in Boston, Massachusetts and was released theatrically on June 16th, 1999.
The film was distributed by Fox Searchlight Films and Village Roadshaw Pictures.
The film received Saturn Award nominations for Best Horror/Thriller film 1999 (losing out to M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense) and Best Actress In A Horror Film: Hathaway.
The film did receive Empire Awards For Best Actress In A Horror film: Hathaway and Best Supporting Actress In A Horror film: Silverstone.
The film serves a main parody in Keenen Ivory Wayans' 2000 spoof Scary Movie.
The film serves as a homage of 1970s giallo films like Suspiria, Tenebrae, Deep Red and House Of Laughing Windows.
The film begins with 18 year old Boston Bay youth Burt Watson (David Moscow) coming home to his dingy off campus apartment where he is met by his beautiful girlfriend Karen Jefferson (Hilary Swank). The two discuss a large party Burt is meant to attend commemorating his friends' admission into college and he has been asked to bring Karen along. Karen expresses a desire to go though Burt doesn't feel the need to on the account of him not getting into college like his superficial rich friends. Karen attempting to shift the subject enquires as to where the party they won't be attending is being held, he tells some old abandoned house they bought up with some of their left over savings, savings which is now the result of him not being able to afford the full cost of an education at Boston Bay.
That night as Karen and Burt go to sleep with Burt scheduled for a mechanic job interview in the Bay area tomorrow voices are heard calling his name. Karen doesn't awaken but Burt does and takes his baseball bat with him. He checks the apartment and then out on the lobby where he runs into Steven the Polite Lobbyist who asks him to as what the matter is, after informing it is nothing just some strange noises and lack of sleep he returns to his apartment where he discovers Karen is now awake. She asks him to what's the matter and he gets back into bed saying it is nothing only to again as they shut the lights out hear his voice being called again. He opens up the windows of his apartment staring down at the streets and alleys below and as Karen awakes along with him asks her she heard it. Karen claims to not be hearing anything but Burt once again seizes his baseball bat and discovers the study room of the apartment to be a mess. He then checks all the rooms of the apartment again and discovers no one. He tells Karen to lock herself in the apartment, get a knife from the kitchen and stay by the phone whilst he goes down to the reception desk. Karen does so and Burt comes down to the reception desk to Steven and reports a breaking and entering in his apartment. Steven phones the police who state they will be at the building in approximately twenty minutes and tell him and whoever lives with him should remain in the lobby.
Steven pulls an alarm and all tenants of the building are summoned from their rooms as security guards of the building begin room checks. Karen meanwhile back in the apartment hears the alarm and finds in the messed up study a piece of paper nailed into a glass framed picture of her and Burt with a bloody chisel. The piece of paper reads a list of names beginning with Burt's who has his name crossed out. Karen panics and seizes the kitchen knife rushing for the apartment door as she begins to undo the locks she is surprised by a black coated figure who strikes her across the face rendering her unconscious. Burt comes up the apartment staircase passing Steven and the security guards telling he needs to get his girlfriend. The wedding ring originally in Burt's pocket from when he first arrived at the apartment building he discovers to be absent as his hand brushes up against his pocket and then the case is thrown down the stairs to him.
The lights of the building are then cut and Burt rushes up with his baseball bat towards his floor seeing to his horror on the walls fluorescent paintings of the Boston Strangler and his girlfriend Karen being strangled. The lights then return to the building and up above on the landing Burt catches a glimpse of a barely coherent Karen with a noose tied around her neck. Burt rushes forward yelling which alerts security below just as officers arrive at the building and come into the building. As Burt rushes up the landing before his from a vacant apartment emerges a black coated figure with a horrible porcelain mask which proceeds to slit his throat in front of a rising Karen via the chisel from their apartment. Karen screams and security and the officers come rushing up the staircase as Steven ushers the other frightened evacuated tenants aside.
Burt's body is then rolled down the stairs with the chisel embedded in his chest along with the list with his name crossed out. We are then introduced at Boston Baqy High School to Burt's graduating senior friends Ciara Trembley (Anne Hathaway) a conservative smart girl, Burt's bestfriend and greaser Finn Andrews (Christian Bale) who harbors a crush on Ciara, Oscar Groome (James Van Der Beek) the group ringleader and Varsity Jock, Merry Saynes (Alicia Silverstone) popular blonde cheerleader girlfriend of Oscar, Andrea Stevens (Michelle Rodriquez) Ciara's feisty cook bestfriend and Jim Parslow (Ian Somerhalder) Ciara's childhood friend. The group attend a Psych 101 class taught by young attractive teacher Miss Mihalon (Kristen Johnston) who is teaching them on their final exam topic: The Boston Strangler and the Mind of Psychopaths.
The group are revealed as fascinated by the Boston Strangler and the topic of psychopaths, in particular Ciara and Oscar. Oscar finds the topic something to use as the perfect graduation, college admission party prank theme and Ciara views the driving motivations of DeSalvo the strangler himself fascinating. What follows is the preparation for the party at the abandoned house the group all chipped money into to have fixed up and have their celebratory party at. Oscar reveals it as being the actual childhood home of the strangler himself much to the surprise of the rest of the group. Finn and Ciara raise questions on the whereabouts of their friend Burt after realizing he missed Psych and does not show up for Graduation. Oscar informs that Burt last time he saw was too occupied with his new girlfriend Karen and getting a job as he didn't make the costs for admittance into Boston Bay to pushing time aside to attend their high school graduation, he mentions though that will be at the party though, all formal events he never makes but parties were always his thing and he told him he could bring along his new girlfriend Karen.
The group then work up the house over the afternoon and by six as it becomes dark thhe place is put in order whilst Andrea begins the final clean up: of the large DeSalvo kitchen area. The group receive frightening messages they perceive to be a prank from the others, seeing as Oscar and Merry had been playing along with dressing up as the Strangler in a porcelain mask and black hood. Andrea herself after seperating from them and giving Oscar a blood nose after frightening her still receives taunting messages which she dismisses. Whilst setting in the cleaning detergent for the sink she hears a large banging and clanking and traces the noise to a downstairs corridor where she finds someone has messed up the hallway closet and removed from the toolkit a collection of items including a chisel and hammer. The clanking and banging is heard again when she returns to the kitchen after a shadow passes her and she finds in the kitchen side-entryway a nailed sheet of paper containing a list of names in a specific order with two names crossed out. The list reads out all their names and Burt's but her and Burt's names crossed out.
We then come to Karen Jefferson who after completing a psychiatric evaluation over her mental health after a minor mental breakdown following Burt's murder she breaks into Boston Bay's police archives and withdraws information on the Boston Strangler: The DeSalvo family tree and a copy of the original missing sheet of paper from Burt's apartment reading his name crossed out. She looks through the names of the other uncrossed out names and searches them out finding them to be graduating seniors like Burt of Boston Bay High and are the friends in question he mentioned throwing a party.
She returns to the apartment building where she is greeted by a distraught Steven and after sneaking up into her and Burt's apartment withdraws a small shred of paper from the nightstand with the address of the abandoned property they purchased for the college admittance celebratory party.
She finds by the address and a stolen picture of the DeSalvo family home they are the same property.
Karen then takes a nice dress from the apartment closet and make-up and departs.
Andrea back at the DeSalvo house is told by Ciara her and the others are going out to the road to flag down the party seniors which will be arriving in a couple of minutes. She offers a drink of whiskey which Andrea politely declines. Andrea then bids the group apart from Oscar farewell and continues to wash dishes in the sink in the kitchen and continues to look at the sheet of paper with her name crossed out and Burt's smirking. Andrea then like Burt begins to hear her name be called and is then attacked by the porcelain masked killer which proceeds to grab hold of her and wrestle with her as Andrea fights back with force.
Andrea is seized by her ponytail and then has her head smashed back and forth down upon the sink smashing in her forehead before being drowned in the sink. The killer then takes the sheet and chisel.
The party then starts and as it does Karen is only half-way there.
Ciara keeps to herself and begins to look for Andrea whom she can't seem to find though finds what she believes to be actual blood in the kitchen which has the lights flickering uncontrollably.
She is consolidated by Merry who tells she is probably off picking up more cleaning supplies and the blood is probably from the psych bags and she's going to get her and Oscar back for the numerous pranks from before.
Merry joins her cheerleader friends after arguing with Oscar whilst getting drunk.
Oscar's Varsity friends try to consolidate him.
Ciara comes to Jim asking about Andrea and wether he's seen her.
She finds Jim to be drunk and depressed and sits with him whilst he smokes a joint of marijuana which she begins to share with him as he discusses his problems at home with his alcoholic, abusive father, Xanax addicted mother and how even at a party set by his first group of friends on Graduation night no one wants to talk to him. Ciara comforts him telling him that it is not true as she with him and college begins and things will either get way better or worse but she will be there with him. Ciara after continuing back inside and talking to some of her friends is hit on by two pervert classmates from their psych class and Oscar starts on a prank to play on not just the party-goers but his alleged group of helpful friends and girlfriend.
Their teacher Miss Mihalon arrives at the party and gets drunk fast telling she found out her fiance had been cheating on her with her bestfriend and all her other supposed friends knew about and tonight was to be the night they all had their engagement party.
Miss Mihalaon dances with Merry and the other cheerleaders leaving and coming across the lonely Jim getting high out on the front porch.
She comes to share the marijuana joint with him like Ciara had and begins to ask him for intercourse.
They make out in her car but he stops her as he confesses he has feelings for Ciara and plans to tell her tonight.
Miss Mihalon begins to cry at first but then congratulates him on being honest unlike her fiance and admitting what he wants.
She takes off and as Jim rushes after her he begins to hear an ominous voice calling his name.
He follows it around the house to a pinned sheet of paper with a bloody chisel.
He reads the sheet and sees Burt and Andrea's names crossed out along with his following after Andrea's.
Oscar and his Varsity buddies inside let go a large gatorade tank of fake prosphetic blood onto Merry and the still drunk dancing cheerleaders.
Oscar in an even more drunk state begins to make mocking references to Brian De Palma's classic Carrie and after she begins shoving him and going off at him commenting on his pathetic desperate behaviour he rebuffs her, deeply upsetting her by commenting on her lesbian mother who cheated on her father with some girl called Christine and taking off to New York.
Merry walks off crying and Ciara pushes aside the still harassing sleazy guys going after Merry but is stopped seeing a crying Miss Mihalon who begins to fall and who herself is being harassed by sleazy guys. She pushes them aside and calls out for Finn who had in the meantime been hanging out with random stoners. Finn takes care of her whilst Ciara proceeds back inside and slaps Oscar publicly humiliating him and stating he owes Merry an apology. Oscar goes after Merry and Ciara comes back to Finn and Miss Mihalon and she confesses she tried to sleep with Jim who confessed he had feelings for Ciara.
Ciara then goes looking for Jim after Miss Mihalon who begins to flirt with Finn mentions he should be still at her car parked out by the side of the house. She finds an awestruck high Jim by the side of the house with the sheet of paper and chisel. He shows her which captures her attention as she starts on her lecture about Miss Mihalon and how he knows how she feels about him. Ciara sees Burt and Andrea's crossed out names and begins to by cellular phone call Burt and Andrea, neither of which pick up. Officers intercept a call delivered to Burt's cellular and then call on to dispatch officers to the homes of the other listed senior graduates on the list they made a copy of from the apartment.
They also begin a trace on the call intercepted and hear the message being Ciara Trembley. Karen enters the party and is hit on by the same drunken perverts who harassed Ciara earlier but she strikes them down after they refuse to tell her where she can find Ciara Trembley, Finn Andrews, Oscar Groome, Merry Saynes, Andrea Stevens and JIm Parslow. She calls out to the crowd of party-goers inside for someone to tell where she can find them and has Merry's cheerleader friends approach and tell that Merry had darted out of the party about half an hour ago with her boyfriend Oscar as the two had an argument. Karen then rushes out as the girls point out the direction they were headed, she passes Finn who heaves a passing out Miss Mihalon back inside and tells the cheerleader girls to look after her. Finn makes a call to Miss Mihalon's fiance stating that she has rocked up at their party and she needs to be taken home and he owes her an apology, he tells Finn he will come and collect her and asks for the address, Finn gives the address on the condition the underage drinking not be reported.
Finn after the call checks in a final time with the cheerleaders looking over Miss Mihalon and heads out to find Ciara and Jim. New arrivals come to the party in the form of college delinquets of Boston Bay University and Andrea's older sister Vera (Tia Carrere) who begins to question party-goers about where she can find Andrea. She comes across Andrea's friends and they tell they haven't seen her since she arrived and that they asked Ciara where she was but she said she hadn't seen her since they first started cleaning up the house. Ciara hears the yelling of Vera and heads back towards the house and inside where she greets her and the party is told if they do not spread out and find Andrea the celebratory party will be shut down. Jim high outside still stumbles back towards the house under the instruction by Ciara to join Finn in looking after Miss Mihalon. As he begins to his voice is called again he is killed stumbling off into a surrounding hollow area where from a low branch he is hung by a noose and speared in the back with a javelin.
Miss Mihalon's fiance then arrives and collects her and they depart. The party-goers including Ciara and Vera search the house thouroughly finding nothing though Ciara comes across what was believed to be fake blood on the sink where she last saw Andrea cleaning. The power then shuts off and begins to flicker and the party-goers then begin to ditch taking their alcohol with them. The cheerleader girls tell Ciara to tell Merry sorry when she gets back from her little spat with Oscar. Ciara then goes off herself to find Jim noticing he hadn't come inside. She tells Vera she's going off to get Oscar and Merry as maybe Andrea, Jim and Finn ended up with them. Vera waits in the DeSalvo house whilst she rushes across the street past the driving off cars.
In the abandoned house across the lane Merry proceeds in pursued by Oscar who tries to make amends, she locks him out and large banging and clunking is heard. Oscar calls out and finds a chiseled sheet with the crossed off names which now include him and Merry. He is then struck down and dragged away by the porcelain masked killer which utters his name to him over and over again. Merry eventually emerges from the room after hearing the skirmish and sees the chiseled sheet herself and upon reading it freaks out as she is advanced by a porcelain masked killer. She at first believes it to be Oscar or Andrea but is then stabbed in the chest with a ceremonial knife. She then kicks the killer off and flees further into the large mansion house her and Oscar have broken into. She rushes her way through the rooms and sees in the basement the bodies of Burt, Andrea and Jim.
Vera back at the DeSalvo house as the flickering lights come back to normal stasis turns on the television set up in the downstairs living room and sees a report on the murder of Burt Watson and a look-out issued on his girlfriend Karen Jefferson who has been deemed the one to who have stolen his corpse from the morgue as she had broken into Boston Bay Police Department's archives and stole evidence relating to the murders of the Boston Strangler, his family and her late boyfriend's killing. Vera then catches up with Ciara heading across the road up towards the abandoned mansion estate and tells her she needs to show her something back at the house. Karen begins her trek up towards the mansion. Oscar is rendered unconscious in a sleeper hold by his porcelain masked attacker and Merry upstairs emerges from her hiding spot in an upstairs bedroom and begins running from room to room till she eventually reaches the attic filled with abandoned furniture covered in sheets.
She hides her way under the sheets until being knocked and breaking her leg with two bones protruding from her left leg. She stumbles herself away as her Porcelain masked attacker pulls forth a meat clever and then decapitates her. Karen comes into the mansion following Merry being killed and comes to the basement where she sees the sights of the corpses as Merry had done and after a brief gasp of shock is knocked out by a bottle swung over the back of her head by Oscar's masked attacker. Oscar then regains consiousness to see the other masked attacker bring down Merry's headless corpse and her head and see his attacker drag the unconscious Karen into the basement. Oscar then stumbles his way out and back towards the DeSalvo house. There Vera tries to show Ciara the news report on Karen Jefferson but the lights have come back to flickering and so has the television. Ciara then answers her cellular and is speaking with the police who inform of Burt Watson's murder and that his corpse was stolen. Vera is then suddenly shot dead by a double-barreled shotgun which spirals her into a bookshelf and a porcelain masked psychopath pursues Ciara throughout the house as the lights go out along with the phone-line. She climbs her way out the upstairs master bedroom and as the lights come back on she is grabbed by the masked attacker who reveals himself as Finn.
Finn tells Ciara he has something to show her whilst holding her at gun point but she is saved by Oscar who stumbles in and knocks him down. The phone then rings and they are told that someone is in the house and asks if they where he is. They look and from behind the living room couch Ciara is seized. Oscar pulls her free and after kissing her sendsw her off to run for help. He is then killed as Finn rises up and with a sledgehammer smashes in the back of his head. Ciara runs to the road and comes in front of Miss Mihalon whom she pleads to call for help and she reveals herself as another killer as she takes Ciara down to her fiance's car to get his cellular and his body is shown, dead of a gun shot to the head. Ciara is then knocked out by Miss Mihalon and when she awakens she is within the across the lane mansion estate in the foyer.
She hears a large bang and clank and sees the chiseled sheet and her name now crossed out. They drag her along as Finn confesses his deep admiration for her and reveals they are indeed the brothers and sisters of the legendary Boston Strangler and they thought it fit to defile their childhood home with some debaucherous party. She is able to escape being strangled by Finn and flees throughout the house and in the attic sheet filled room she discovers white sheets stained in blood.
She sneaks back into the foyer and down into the basement where she discovers the bodies of Burt, Andrea, Jim and the headless body of Merry with her decapitated head on a shrine. Cages are then seen with surrounding shackles and photos of countless women whom were the victims of the Boston Strangler.
She finds a chained up Karen and unchains her and the two contend with the killers and succeed as Karen kills Miss Mihalon and Lars Umbrey, the elder professor of Literature from Boston Bay High revealed as the strangler's brother and father of Finn. Ciara kills Finn via strangling him violently to death with a chain as the police arrive and a snapshot camera falls taking a picture of the grisly act.
- Anne Hathaway as Ciara Trembley
- Christian Bale as Finn Andrews/ Finley DeSalvo
- Hilary Swank as Karen Jefferson
- Christopher Lloyd as Lars Umbrey/ Larson DeSalvo
- James Van Der Beek as Oscar Groome
- Ian Somerhalder as Jim Parslow
- Alicia Silverstone as Merry Saynes
- Michelle Rodriquez as Andrea Stevens
- David Moscow as Burt Watson
- Lisa Brenner as Joan Ardinge
- Steffiana De La Cruz as Marina Bishop
- Matt Berry as Big Boston Globe Garrett
- Brooke Elliot as Eliza Berryman
- Clare Kramer as Wendy Fitzpatrick
- Joseph Mawle as Craig Ferguson
- Romain Duris as Tony Locklett
- Alexis Cruz as Timothy Sangster
- Laz Alonso as Peter Dumont
- Isaiah Mustafa as Colby Litteren
- Travis Schuldt as Mike Ripton
- Marissa Ribisi as Rhain Douglas
- Leah Cairns as Incarnazion Phillips
- Tia Carrere as Vera Stevens
- Kristen Johnston as Miss Mihalon
- Kevin Williamson as the Polite Lobbyist Steven
- My Favorite Mistake- Sherryl Crow
- Are You Jimmy Ray- Jimmy Ray
- Brick- Ben Fols Five
- Push It- Garbage
- Gettin' Jiggy Wit It- Will Smith
- I Think I'm Paranoid- Garbage
- Spice Up Your Life- Spice Girls
- Ray Of Light- Madonna
- Truly Madly Deeply- Savage Garden
- The Way- Fasball
- Hey Baby- Mocean Worker (Party Song and End Credits Song)