Director: Deon Taylor
Cast: Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Joseph Sikora, Dennis Quaid
Runtime: 1 hr 42 mins
Rating: PG13 (Scene Of Intimacy & Violence)
Released By: Sony Pictures
Opening Day: 23 May 2019
Synopsis: When a young married couple (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good) buys their dream house in the Napa Valley, they think they have found the perfect home to take their next steps as a family. But when the strangely attached seller (Dennis Quaid) continues to infiltrate their lives, they begin to suspect that he has hidden motives beyond a quick sale.
Ever read one of those potboilers where you felt compelled to finish reading the entire novel at one go, but then afterwards never picked the book up again? That is more or less the feeling you’ll have with Sony/ Screen Gems’ latest thriller ‘The Intruder’, which pits a young African-American married couple (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good) against the borderline psychotic former owner (Dennis Quaid) of the house which they had just bought over. Like them potboilers, the sheer luridness of the premise and execution keeps you riveted to your seat, but that is pretty much what it is worth.
If that setup sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because Sony’s low-budget genre division has produced a number of similar films over the years in which an upscale couple gets stalked by a not-quite-so-stable intruder – heck, writer David Loughery himself is responsible for a number of these, including ‘Lakeview Terrace’ and ‘Obsessed’. Yet Loughery’s experience with such material means that he knows just when and what buttons to push to rachet the tension and sustain the momentum of the storytelling, such that the plotting remains engaging from start to finish.
On his part, director Deon Taylor too is keenly aware of what sort of film this is supposed to be. In particular, Taylor leans in on the shlocky parts to make you jump; for example, the couple’s first encounter with Quaid’s “motivated seller” Charlie has them scared senseless when the latter fires a shotgun to kill a deer which they had just remarked to each other was cute. Oh yes, Taylor injects a cheeky sense of fun into the proceedings, especially through Charlie’s gradually escalating taunts – not just to the couple, but also their best buddy Mike (Joseph Sikora), to whom Charlie teaches a lesson or two about casually disposing his cigarette butt after a smoke at the back of the house.
If it isn’t yet obvious, much, if not most, of the film hinges on the unhinged performance of Quaid, who is clearly relishing the opportunity to play the bad guy. Indeed, this is a far, far cry from his usual Everyman roles, which are more akin to that which he plays in the most recent ‘A Dog’s Journey’ and ‘I Can Only Imagine’; here, he gets the chance to do his best interpretation of Jack Nicholson’s character in ‘The Shining’, exuding agitated energy with eyes bugged out and maniacal grins. Quaid over-acts in the best way possible for a film of this nature, going from morose to cheerful to resentful to psychotic in accordance with the cadence of the plotting.
On the other hand, you’ll probably won’t remember much about the couple themselves, which arguably have little to do besides being totally ill-prepared for a freakshow like Charlie. Ealy’s advertising creative director Scott is as bland and nondescript as it gets, while Good’s women’s magazine journalist Annie gets to be the one to be dumb enough to let Charlie get too close until it is too late. You’ll appreciate more definition to Scott’s character especially, seeing as how the denouement involves him ultimately getting his act together to stand up to Charlie in order to defend his life, his wife and their house.
As forgettable as the film may be after the credits roll, ‘The Intruder’ is still fun while it lasts. Like we said at the start, this is the sort of undemanding filmmaking that offers the same guilty pleasures as reading a lurid potboiler, so all you should ask for is whether it hooks you in with its excesses while it lasts. And in that regard, you’ll find yourself reasonably engaged with the formulaic but fun ‘Intruder’, not least because of how Quaid fully embraces the archetype of a horror movie psycho here. Leave your brains and logic at the door, and you’ll probably gleefully lap up this mix of crazy and creepy designed to make you jump and laugh at the same time.
(There is enough creepy and crazy to keep you entertained like a lurid potboiler would do, especially with a gleefully unhinged performance by Dennis Quaid)
Review by Gabriel Chong