The Intruder is more than a “break-in” film. It’s a homage to the thriller/horror genre.
But if it had to be classified, ultimately if Amityville Horror (1979) and Peeping Tom (1960) had a baby, this would be it.
The film follows Annie and Scott, a young married couple played by Meagan Good and Michael Ealy, as they move from the city to a gorgeous new house surrounded by acres of wooded land in Napa Valley, California. Previous owner Charlie, played by Dennis Quaid, decides to sell to the couple but has a hard time (understatement) letting go. Directed by Deon Taylor, The Intruder is a good time in the theater.
It’s not so much an original film as a different perspective. The protagonists are Black, which creates a different type of story, for sure. At first, everything seems good. Then, there’s a gradual shift as you learn things aren’t as hunky-dory as they seem. Like true horror movie fashion for films about a house, this one has a history that our new owners know nothing about it. Hence the Amityville Horror reference, which itself was about a house with a horrible past that comes to bite the new owners in the butt.
Dennis Quaid becomes the peeper that will give you nightmares. What starts off innocent or merely quirky escalates to enraged moments that channel The Shining and the landlord in 13 Cameras. It’s a rollercoaster that keeps viewers on the edge of their seat. The audience is constantly guessing what Charlie will do next. They are also guessing what naive thing Annie will do or say, despite the advances of Charlie. The atmosphere created by director Deon Taylor manages to combine humor and horror in the best way.
This film is also reminiscent of The Strangers in the way it evokes fear and terror in the simplest ways. There are so many scenes in The Intruder when the audience sees Charlie lurking behind the couple and they have no idea. The suspense builds at the right moments and crescendos with the best twist. The audience is able to see the viewpoint of both the protagonists and antagonist of the story. The Intruder is exhilarating, scary, and fun.
The script, written by David Loughery, is smart and well written. Writing suspense is hard, but Loughery seems to know what he’s doing. One of the tricks to suspense is to give the main characters more than just one problem. For our couple in their new house, the problems keep piling up. What starts off as a loving couple getting jiggy to baby-making music turns into a cheating husband and Black Lives Matter topped off with a creepy, athletic, good-looking older American Psycho type obsessing over the house. The Intruder has a great central hook. The basic idea of buying a house and having the previous owner linger around far too long is a first buyer’s nightmare. There’s also the creepiness of a house with so many windows in a dense wood area — people are bound to be spying on you.
The Intruder isn’t perfect. It has its cheesy moments — real-life cheesy, but cheesy nonetheless. You can see that Meagan Good’s character Annie is the nice, albeit naive, young woman who strangers like Quaid’s character Charlie prey upon. Annie’s role is reminiscent of the main character in the film The Resident. She makes some really bad decisions to the point where theatergoers will yell at the screen at her foolishness. At least, that’s what happened at the early screenings of this film. There were people screaming at the screen and commenting with gasps and clapbacks. Listen to the audience, and you can tell when a character is making too many mistakes.
Conversely, the audience will let you know when there’s something right. Dennis Quaid is the bad guy we never thought would be so terrifying. Let the nightmares begin. Quaid channels so many different classic thriller moments, you can’t help but scream out loud in the theater or jump in anticipation. Loughery and Taylor have created a really good villain. He’s not perfect. One scene, where he practices something the rest of us do naturally, could easily have been cut. But, goodness gracious, for a man who has played mostly good guys like the dad in the Parent Trap, this is a side of Dennis Quaid we haven’t seen before. It’s both praiseworthy and look-under-your-bed terrifying. You will be surprised by how well he finds his inner villain. It even goes beyond his creepy psychotic mortician role in Beneath the Darkness.
If you’re into horror, The Intruder is a lot of fun. It’s got some kinks, but overall it’s a good genre film. Be sure to see The Intruder in theaters May 3, 2019.