100 Feet: Eric Red film is the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw

Last Updated on May 23, 2024

In this edition of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw video series we’re taking a look back at the 2008 film 100 Feet, a clever addition to the haunted house sub-genre from the mind of The Hitcher and Near Dark screenwriter Eric Red.

CREATORS/CAST: Red wrote and directed 100 Feet, which stars Famke Janssen as Marnie Watson, a woman who killed her abusive husband Mike in self defense, but has still spent the last two years in prison. Now she’s going to finish up her sentence with a year of house arrest, time she’ll be serving in the very same house where she killed the guy. His blood is even still on the wall when she is brought back home and fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet by a tech officer played by Arrow in the Head founder John “The Arrow” Fallon, who delivers the exposition we need to understand how that bracelet works and makes his character seem like a really nice person while doing so.

The title 100 Feet comes from the fact that this bracelet will only allow Marnie to move around within a one hundred foot radius of the base unit that The Arrow places in the center of the house. If she goes beyond one hundred feet, an alarm will start going off, and if that alarm beeps for more than three minutes the police will be coming by to check on her. If she’s found to be doing something she’s not supposed to, she’ll be going back to prison for ten years.

Making matters worse for Marnie is the fact that her husband was a police officer, and Mike’s former partner Shanks, played by Bobby Cannavale, has a much more positive opinion of him than Marnie does. Shanks believes Mike was a good guy, and that Marnie is a cold-blooded killer, so he’s determined to find a reason to get Marnie sent to prison. To make sure that doesn’t happen, she has to be cautious and mindful of that one hundred foot rule… which proves to be very complicated, given that Mike’s spirit, played by Michael Paré, is lurking around the house, and in death he has gotten meaner than ever.

If Marnie tries to escape from her husband’s ghost, she’ll be going to prison. If she stays in the house with him, the man she killed might return the favor.

BACKGROUND: Eric Red broke into the entertainment industry in a major way with the screenplay for the 1986 film The Hitcher, a script he started writing when he was just 21-years-old and which was brought to the screen in a masterful way by director Robert Harmon. The following year, Red collaborated with Kathryn Bigelow on the cult classic Near Dark, proving that his career was going to be one to keep an eye on. He has continued delivering thrills and giving us the creeps throughout the decades, and has directed films like Cohen and Tate, Body Parts, and Bad Moon. He worked on movies that involved bloodthirsty maniacs, vampires, werewolves, and even cowboys, but he never had the right hook for the ghost story he wanted to tell – until he heard about a couple high profile cases of house arrest in the early 2000s. That gave him the idea of sticking the Marnie character in a haunted house with an electronic bracelet on her ankle.

With such a fascinating set-up, and with Famke Janssen in the lead at a time when she was fresh off of playing Jean Grey in the initial trilogy of X-Men films, it’s surprising that 100 Feet didn’t land bigger distribution deals. It barely played in theatres at all, earning just $1.4 million from screenings in a handful of territories around the world. In the United States, it was a television premiere on the Syfy Channel and was then given a barebones DVD release courtesy of The Asylum. Yes, Syfy and The Asylum, the companies that would later team up for the nonsensical Sharknado franchise, were the ones who helped Red get his haunted house movie out into the world.

With that sort of release, it’s easy to see why it didn’t catch on with a wider audience. Anyone who didn’t tune in to see it on Syfy could only blind buy it on DVD. Those who did tune in would have found that this was not the network’s usual type of movie. 100 Feet deserved better than it got – it should have gotten more theatrical play, rather than going straight to Syfy, and there should have been some bonus features on that DVD release. The movie has developed a very well deserved cult following, but it still hasn’t been seen by nearly enough horror fans.

WHAT MAKES IT GREAT: Inspired by the likes of The Innocents, Rosemary’s Baby, and Wait Until Dark, Red was aiming to give his contemporary ghost story an elegant, old school cinema feel, and he was able to accomplish that with the aid of cinematographer Ken Kelsch. This is a great looking movie, filled with impressive camerawork. Although it’s set in a Brooklyn brownstone, the interiors were filmed on sets constructed in Hungary, which allowed Red and Kelsch to place the camera anywhere they wanted to in the rooms, since they were able to move walls and take away ceilings. Red said,

“What interested me in writing the script and directing the film was doing an exercise in tension and suspense without relying on blood and gore, just manipulating audience expectations – just when you think something terrible is about to happen, it doesn’t, and just when you least expect it, it does.”

Famke Janssen received some strong support from Cannavale as Shanks and Ed Westwick as the delivery boy who brings Marnie her groceries and also connects with her on a personal level, but she carries the majority of the film on her shoulders and gives one of the best performances of her career. The Shanks character may doubt her, but it’s clear to us that Marnie really was acting in self defense when she stabbed her husband to death, and that Mike had put her through a living hell before things reached that point. We side with her, we care about her, and Janssen perfectly conveys her character’s emotional turmoil.

Red gave her a role with depth to explore, too. When Marnie isn’t dealing with the haunting situation, the film takes some time to show us how lonely and isolated she is, shunned by family and old friends. There’s a heartbreaking scene where she gets all dressed up to pass out candy on Halloween, but the trick-or-treaters won’t even come up to her door. As far as they’re concerned, she’s the crazy criminal lady.

For Marnie, the threat of going back to prison is even greater than the threat of being stuck in a house with Mike’s vengeful spirit, and we see she’s a strong heroine when she dives right into figuring out how to rid her home of her husband’s ghost. The way to do that may be to dispose of all of Mike’s possessions, but when she finds that the corrupt cop was hiding a huge amount of cash beneath their bedroom floorboards some viewers might start thinking that they wouldn’t mind cohabitating with an angry ghost for however long it would take them to spend all of that money.

The closer Marnie gets to removing him, the more it becomes clear that Mike is not going to leave without a fight. If you’re the type of horror fan who has trouble getting into haunted house movies because you’re not scared by the sounds of creaky floorboards or the sight of doors swinging open on their own, 100 Feet is a haunted house movie that might win you over. Mike doesn’t waste the viewer’s time by just trying to unnerve Marnie. This evil bastard makes his presence known with acts of physical violence, hitting people, tossing them across rooms, throwing glass plates at them. This is a ghost to fear because he might just kill you outright instead of moving some furniture to scare you. Paré wasn’t given many lines to speak, Mike is not a chatty spirit, but he didn’t need words to get across the fact that Mike is very pissed off.

BEST SCENE(S): There were moments of extreme violence in Red’s previous works, and while he didn’t want to rely on blood and gore when making this one, he also didn’t leave it out completely. One of the best scenes in the movie is the one that does get bloody. At the center of this scene is Westwick’s character Joey, who Marnie has just slept with. She sleeps with him because he’s one of the few people to show her any kindness, but in the middle of it she also seems to start taking extra enjoyment from the fact that she’s bothering Mike by sleeping with Joey, since the ghost has to lurk there and watch it happen. It turns out that making Mike even angrier was not a good move. Mike is so jealous, he decides to show Marnie and Joey that he is still capable of physically destroying somebody. He makes a mess of that delivery boy. As Red said,

“When that single extremely gruesome kill does come it’s a doozy, because there’s nothing in the movie up to that point that leads you to expect it.”

The scene is really horrific, disturbing and disgusting. Then Red manages to make the situation even more tense after Joey’s dead, as he reveals that Shanks is right outside Marnie’s door, and we know he would be eager to blame her for the murder if he happens to see the body. Watching Marnie try to keep Joey hidden until she can get rid of Shanks is very engaging and captivating, truly the stuff that great thrillers are made of.

PARTING SHOT: There has been a huge boom of supernatural horror movies in recent years, and in that time we have gotten some new haunted house classics. 100 Feet isn’t as well known as many of its contemporaries, but it ranks right up there with the best of them. Just like Near Dark is a great vampire movie and Bad Moon is a great werewolf movie, 100 Feet is a great ghost story – and we would be saying that even if it didn’t have the Arrow in the Head connection. Red has a knack for taking established sub-genres and putting his own unique, fascinating twist on them. Using an electronic house arrest bracelet to trap a woman with the angry spirit of the man she killed in self defense was a really clever idea, and Red turned that idea into a well-crafted film that really draws the viewer in.

If you haven’t seen 100 Feet yet, it’s highly recommended that you seek out the barebones DVD or Blu-ray. If we can build the cult following for this film a bit more, maybe it will finally get the special edition release it deserves, like Red’s Bad Moon and Body Parts recently did.

And a big thank you to Writer/Director ERIC RED for giving us this quote about the film:

“During this period of everybody locked down in our homes sharing anxieties of isolation and dread, audiences can personally relate to 100 Feet in a way they couldn’t before, making the movie more frightening than ever.  We’re all in lockdown inside our homes just like the movie’s heroine Marnie played by Famke Janssen but her problems are worse than yours since she’s shut in with the violent ghost of her dead husband who doesn’t believe in social distancing. The suffocating claustrophobia of Famke’s situation in the movie is so identifiable to us these days, viewing 100 Feet now may be unbearably intense for some of you, get in your head and give you nightmares. You have been warned. 

100 Feet is my personal favorite of the films I’ve made and my best job as a director. It’s easy to frighten people with gore and jump scares but true skill in suspense lies in the creation of tension without any of that. It’s about manipulating audience expectations so just when they think something is about to happen, it doesn’t and when they least expect it, it does. 100 Feet is basically an entire movie with a woman alone in a house with a ghost.  The ghost is almost never seen, and when ghost attacks are always terrifying and unexpected. This is a very Hitchcockian film of elevated suspense. 

This movie got made during the trend of torture porn horror films so I wanted to go completely in the other direction and scare the hell of the audience without relying on kills or gory violence like everyone else was doing. And it worked.  100 Feet keeps you on the edge of your seat for ninety minutes and there is only one kill in the entire movie! What interested me making 100 Feet was using classic techniques of point of view and visual subliminal suggestion to generate tension and lead you around by the nose rather than hit you in the face. 

As a director, it was a wonderful challenge.  If you’ve seen 100 Feet before watch it again because you’ll get more out of seeing the film now than you did then. If you haven’t seen it, I would definitely not recommend watching it alone locked down in your house late at night.  Or maybe I would.”

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.