Screen Gems, a division of Sony, has made a solid track record of churning out mid budget, campy, stalker thrillers over the past decade. 2009’s, Beyonce-starring, “Obsessed”, 2015’s “The Perfect Guy” and 2016’s “When the Bough Breaks” have made a killing at the box office and deliver the goods for its savoring audience. These films aren’t high art by any means, but with quality actors like Idris Elba, Regina Hall, Morris Chestnut and Sanaa Lathan, they’re able to at least sell the crazy campiness shown on display. These films are some of my favorite guilty pleasures today, which is so frustrating that “The Intruder” never goes-for-broke until the final act.
Scott and Annie (Michael Ealy, Meagan Good) are a successful married couple looking to settle down from their city lives and start a family in the countryside of Napa Valley. They discover a beautiful home on the market thats exactly what they’re looking for. However, when they meet the home’s owner, Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid), a friendly but clingy man, they realize he may not be so eager to let go of his home.
Charlie is friendly and well-mannered, but gives off several big warning signs. When Scott and Annie first meet Charlie, he’s shooting a deer in the head right before their eyes in the backyard. He claims he’s going to live with his daughter in Florida, but the moving date keeps getting pushed back. He keeps showing up at the house long after he’s sold it to the couple; mowing the lawn, putting up Christmas decorations. Scott wants nothing to do with Charlie, but it’s Annie who sees him as a lonely older man and takes pity on him. She invites him over for Thanksgiving, lets him help out around the house. Things escalate however, when Scott wants to cut Charlie off completely from coming to house.
“The Intruder” lights up whenever Quaid is onscreen and the final act is suspenseful, but “The Intruder” suffers from some major issues.
The characterizations are thin. Scott is introduced as closing a big deal and “the top seller in the company” — its not until 45 minutes into the film where we learn he’s a marketing agent. His closest human trait is his hatred of guns due to a tragedy in his youth. Annie gets a throwaway line that she’s a writer for “women’s magazines” that deal with “injustices and that sort of thing”. Quaid’s Charlie is the only character that gets a fully fleshed out backstory and even then, we’re kept in the dark until the final minutes of the film so the big “twist” can have its big reveal. Don’t worry though; if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know everything about the film and Charlie’s backstory.
The overkill editing. There’s a conversation between Michael Ealy and Meagan Good midway through the film and with every cut to Michael Ealy, his head position changes. One shot he’s on the left side of the screen, the next he’s on the right; back on the left, in the center, etc.
Director Deon Taylor (Traffik, Meet The Blacks) doesn’t show enough skill as a director to pull off a successful film. The production design is used to good effect, but Taylor never uses his surroundings enough to make you feel uneasy or tense. Even simple things down to the blocking of the actors feels amateurish. Many scenes are rushed and don’t take enough time build any atmosphere. A sequence early on involving the house’s backyard motion light is initially designed to create several suspenseful sequences, but Taylor never uses it for anything other than a plot mechanic.
Michael Ealy, an extremely capable actor, is left with next to nothing to do. Ealy’s character is so poorly written and irritating, its not until the final act where you start to root against Dennis Quaid. There’s no reason for us to root for Ealy’s character
Meagan Good does a fine job. Her character is the most relatable and Good brings a welcoming warmth to the role, but even she is saddled with some of the worst character decisions in the film.
Dennis Quaid is devouring the scenery and his performance is chilling and utterly riveting. Its a performance that will be remembered in an otherwise forgettable film. Whenever Quaid is on screen, the film comes to life. Similar to Nicolas Cage in “Vampires Kiss”, Faye Dunaway in “Mommie Dearest” or even something more recent like Eva Green in “300: Rise of an Empire”; Quaid hams it all the way to 11, but even before that point, you understand why this couple initially takes pity on him. Quaid is such a charming presence, that even when his sinister motives come into play, a part of you can’t help but to fall for his charisma.
The suspense finally begins to build in the third act. If all else, the final act nearly salvages the entire film. There are a number of clutch-your-arm-rest type jolts that prevent the entire thing from feeling worthless.
“The Intruder” is clunky junk food cinema. The ingredients are all there and after a long while, you get what you’re craving for, but its takes too long to get to the good stuff. If this is your type of movie, you’re going to have fun. It is a fun ride, but it could’ve been a great one with a better team behind it.