Who would have ever thought that the reliable dad actor, Dennis Quaid, would end up starring as a deranged psychopath in a home-invasion thriller? It is both a blessing and a curse that The Intruder ends up being that film, a blessing because his completely wack-a-doo performance ends up being the movie’s most entertaining aspect, and a curse because the film surrounding him is so painfully derivative and sketchily put together. If you are looking for laughs, though, The Intruder has quite a few, of the unintentional variety.
Directed by Deon Taylor, The Intruder centers around newly married couple Annie (Meagan Good) and Scott (Michael Ealy), who are looking to buy a house in Napa Valley, the most exciting prospect being a beautiful property with acres of land surrounding it. Charlie Peck (Quaid) owns the house, and during the tour that he gives Annie and Scott, we quickly learn the tragic history that Charlie shares with the home. Claiming that he will be moving to Florida very soon, Charlie offers to sell the couple his home for a reduced price.
What initially seems like a good deal ends up being a waking nightmare, as Charlie repeatedly returns to the house. Is he unable to leave the memory of his wife behind, or is there something more sinister going on here? If you couldn’t tell by the film’s overtly generic title, it’s the latter.
The bland title is the first warning sign that The Intruder might not have any interesting or unique avenues into the home invasion/psychological horror genre. There are many of what you could call “references” to other films in the same genre, but when they are so imbedded into the film’s plot, it’s hard not to call them “carbon copies” of moments we have seen so many times before.
Charlie, at one point, cuts a hole in a door and sticks his head through it, shouting at his prospective victim. I was almost expecting him to yell “Here’s Charlie!” with how obviously the sequence was lifted from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Moments like these are one thing, but the way the entire story plays out gives us nothing new for a genre that gets pumped out of Hollywood by the minute, at this point. The filmmakers instead rely on the laziest possible narrative crutches, constructing a plot without a consistent establishment of who the characters are.
Annie and Scott seem like a likable couple when we first meet them. Good and Ealy have a decent chemistry with one another, even if the writing does not give them convincing enough dialogue to share. Once the constantly creepy Charlie starts returning to the home, though, Annie finds every possible (illogical) reason to side with Charlie’s unsettling behavior, while Scott aggressively tries to prove his suspicions are true. A late-in the-game character reveal for Scott also feels so shoehorned in and haphazardly handled that it ends up bearing zero weight on the overall conflict.
How many times does an unwanted visitor have to arrive at your doorstep before you call the cops or reach out for help? Apparently for Annie and Scott, at least six times proves sufficient. And don’t get me started on Scott’s work friend, Mike (Joseph Sikora), who seems to forget halfway through the film that he was already suspicious of Charlie from scene one.
After Scott feels Charlie was the culprit in a threat to his life, he tells Mike his argument, to which Mike responds “why would Charlie do that?” These are the kind of holes in logic and lack of common sense that pervade The Intruder.
On top of all of this, The Intruder suffers from a lack of rhythm in the editing, along with an incessant need to provide obnoxiously loud jump scares and a plethora of R&B music, all of which diminish any sense of tension. The first time we see Charlie comes after a few quiet scenic shots of the nature surrounding the home, including a deer enjoying a quiet meal. Charlie’s first appearance is even a jump scare, jarringly cutting to his contorted, intense face as loud gunshots echo throughout the woods.
The effect is supposed to be scary; I was already laughing at this point (The intentional attempts at humor, such as Scott constantly referring to Charlie as the “Bambi Killer,” land with a thud as loud as the jump scares).
The one saving grace of this film is Dennis Quaid, who seems to be the only one in the cast and crew who understands what kind of movie he is in. I can’t say that his performance is “great”, but it is pitched at the perfect level of absurdity to elicit a few laughs from me; almost every scene of his includes one GIF-worthy facial expression or weird line reading that made me chuckle. Quaid is practically the only person involved with the project that is at least attempting to do something new or interesting, even if what he is doing is laughable.
The Intruder aggressively refuses to bring anything new to the home invasion/psychological horror genre, and all the beats it takes from other movies are done better in those other movies. If it weren’t for whatever Dennis Quaid is doing with his performance, I would struggle to find anything in this film that you couldn’t find better or more interestingly executed in other films. I will admit that the last minute or so is pretty cool. Is it worth sitting through the rest of the movie to get to that last minute? Not really.
The Intruder is rated PG-13 and is in theaters now.