Written by Deon Taylor
Directed by David Loughery
Starring Meagan Good, Michael Ealy and Dennis Quaid
MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence, terror, some sexuality, language and thematic elements
Running time: 1 hour and 42 minutes
by Hunter Bush
Deon Taylor's The Intruder is uneven, riddled with clichés, largely poorly directed, seems edited with a hacksaw and stuffed at the margins with useless ADR dialogue. In short, it's trash. But then, why did I absolutely love it?
I know I came out guns blazing up there, but everything I said is true. The dialogue in the first fifteen minutes feels taken from a creative writing class. We're introduced to male lead Scott (Michael Ealy) and his best bud, the kinda dopey Mike (Joseph Sikora) blasting around the streets of San Francisco in Mike's beloved fancy-pants car. When Scott asks why they're out for the joyride, Mike responds "Cuz I've gotta keep you busy until 8. Your surprise party." This isn't a pal giving another pal a heads up, Mike actually is this dumb. But it's fine because once we hit the party, we're introduced to Scott's lovely wife Annie (Meagan Good) who has always believed in him and knew he'd land The Big Account. And now they can finally go buy a house in Napa like they've always wanted.
Does it seem like I'm steamrolling you with info? I guess I am, but this is at the same pace the movie moves in the beginning. That's one of the high-points of The Intruder actually; whomever did the final pass on this movie clearly knew they needed to get us all to the house ASAP. This eyes-on-the-prize pacing makes the inelegant editing forgivable because once we get to the house, we get to meet Charlie (Dennis Quaid) and, as they say, all is right in the world.
It's not that Charlie is an especially distinctive character either. Truth be told, a lot of the characterizations in The Intruder are kind of bland. Charlie could be described, on paper, as "blandly terrorizing" Annie & Scott if it weren't for Quaid. He smiles a little too much, a little too wide and, once things start really cooking, imbues Charlie with weird, sinewy motions; reptilian energy. See, the young couple have bought Charlie's house and while he keeps saying he'll be moving down to Florida, he never seems to actually go and, in fact, just keeps popping up. Sometimes he mows the lawn just cuz "it needed to be done". Sure it's a bit presumptuous, an over-stepping of bounds, but it's nothing criminal.
The Intruder lets the audience stew in this "something's not right, but it isn't totally wrong yet" place for the bulk of its brief run time, only ratcheting up the intensity late in the third act. But when it hits, baby, hold on to your butt. It's nothing you haven't seen before, probably, but I along with the entirety of the preview screening audience I was with were fully hooked and along for the ride. There was actually one sequence at the top of the third act where I could hear people muttering "Charlie" at every opportunity he had to just POP out from around a corner or behind Annie as she carried groceries. Normally I don't enjoy an especially vocal or, to put it politely, "interactive" audience, but in this case, it felt like watching a flick in my living room with 200 of my close friends.
It's not all bad though. Quaid's all-in bonkers performance aside, some of the direction actually is quite good. One visual reveal, of Charlie by car headlight, is legitimately brilliantly composed and executed. There's also a third act turn that I only saw coming because I love 80's late-night cable trash cinema, which The Intruder harkens back to in all the best ways. The kinds of movies you'd catch late at night; the last "actual movie" before the skin flick time slots rolled around. Heck, Intruder has TWO love scenes!
If you like trash cinema, and I legitimately do, I recommend The Intruder. It's far from perfect but, if anything, I think the flaws only made me love it more. They allowed me to lower my expectations and just take the film on its own terms. Its own messy, creepy, silly, sinister terms. For all its flaws, it really does try to be thrilling, and it does it all so earnestly that I have to say it succeeds. At least from where I was sitting.