There are only two ways for, or directions of, action: inner and outer, or to and from. Therefore, if, in a horror story, the monster is to be encountered, it must either come to the protagonist and the other characters or they must go to the monster. I like to think of these two means of egress, the coming to or the going forth, as having one’s home invaded by the monster or entering the monster’s lair. In thinking of the comings and goings of the characters (and, make no mistake about it, in horror fiction, the monster most definitely is a character--usually the antagonist) in these terms allows us to consider what writers, readers, critics, and other interested parties (including the monster itself, it may be) regard as “home” and what they regard as “lair.”
In Alien, Lieutenant Ripley and the others of her platoon enter the monster’s lair, which takes the form of a derelict spaceship in which the xenomorph has taken refuge. “Home,” on the other hand, is human civilization, as represented by a detachment of this civilization, in the form of Ripley and her crew.
In Psycho, Marion Crane enters the monster’s lair. This time, the den takes the form of the Bates’ Motel, where she checks in but she does not check out. The monster is, of course, Norman Bates. “Home” is the office and the relatively respectable, if not actually thrilling, life that Marion, an adulteress, left behind when she absconded with her employer’s money instead of depositing it in the company’s bank account as she’d been instructed (and trusted) to do.
In The Taking, a Dean Koontz novel, the monster invades the home, which is really the hometown of the protagonist, writer Molly Sloan. The monster--or monsters, actually, since they turn out, despite the alien disguises, to be Satan and his hellish horde--want their small town in the mountains, possibly because of its scenic location, and, presumably, the world, which they’ve begun to reverse terraform. Their den? The Inferno, of course.
Freddie Krueger comes from outside, to invade the dreams of the children of parents who’d banded together to burn him alive inside a building after they caught him molesting their kids. Although, in A Nightmare on Elm Street, we never see it, his lair must be somewhere dark and damp and slimy, like his mind.
In The Exorcist, the devil also enters from outside, trespassing upon the sanctity and the soul of young Regan MacNeil, whom he possesses so he can levitate her and fly her around her bedroom like a cheap propeller-driven airplane (the propeller being her head, which spins around in a complete circle, often while vomiting pea soup). It beats flying Delta, one must suppose. His den? The Inferno, of course. (Weren’t you paying attention when we mentioned The Taking?)
Carrie White, of Stephen King’s Carrie, is also a trespasser; she invades her high school, carrying with her all the guilt and shame that her mother, a religious fanatic, has been able to heap upon her during a pitiful adolescence in a den not so much of iniquity as insanity. For some teens, home is hell.
The outcast monster Grendel, of Beowulf fame, motivated by his jealousy at the Danish thanes’ fellowship, slips out of his lake, or marsh, to invade the Danes’ home turf, represented by King Hygelac’s court and the warrior’s mead hall, Heorot.
Carl Denham, Ann Darrow, and their entourage, motivated by greed, enter the monster’s lair, an island jungle (or a jungle island) inhabited by the gigantic ape King Kong.
One more example: Species. In this film, alien deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA for short) is mixed with human DNA in an attempt to create a teddy bear. Well, okay, actually the scientists are trying to create a docile alien-human hybrid, which is only a slightly less silly premise. Instead, they get Sil, whom the scientists’ military arm immediately try to squash or quash or something before she can mate with men and produce more and more of her kind. She has killer good looks, so the threat’s as real as if she were Pamela Anderson instead of a weirdo-alien-rapist-phallic woman-femme-fatale-monster-thing.
We could go on and on, but we’ve made out point. There is the home, and there is the lair. The home is invaded by the monster. The lair is entered by the human. (Since we are the humans, we enter, rather than “invade,” although the monster whose den we’ve “entered” most likely regards our trespass upon its domicile as an invasion, which is one reason that it fights.) This perspective, skewed in the favor of humans though it may be, sheds light on what we consider home (the near, the dear, and the familiar) and what we regard as the monster’s lair (far and worthless and bizarre): according to our brief survey, at least, HOME = civilization, the workplace, a respectable lifestyle, one’s hometown, peaceful night's sleep, high school, the king’s court or the mead hall (today, we’d be more inclined to call it a tavern), human society, and the LAIR = a derelict spaceship, a remote highway motel, an invaded town, nightmares, one’s own mind or home when it's invaded or headed by a nutcase parent, a swamp, a jungle island (or an island jungle), and the nightclubs in which the sexually desperate shake, shake, shake their booties. Sometimes, we don’t even know that our homes are our homes, valued and loved, until they’re threatened. If we survive, though, we are apt to appreciate them. . . for a time, at least.