Writer’s Note: Included in this review of The Intruder is an account of something I experienced as part of a theatrical screening where its distributor, Screen Gems, endorsed and recommended that audiences literally ‘Watch Out Loud’ during the presentation.
Death and taxes are the few truths in life. Maybe add risk-reward of cheaply-produced thrillers. Keep the costs low and market to target demos and a return in investment should be recouped opening weekend. Screen Gems knows the game and they’ve played it to great success for twenty years now. The distributor was one of the first to jump on the “torture porn” craze with Eli Roth’s Hostel. Their Resident Evil and Underworld franchises have been cash cows, but outside of those zombie and vampire/werewolf-related genre hits — and the occasional dalliances with romance and relationship pics (Dear John, The Vow, Think Like a Man, and About Last Night Night) — the lifeblood of Screen Gems has been the thriller sector.
The Intruder offers past remembrances to the home invasion, couple-in-peril thrillers from the 1980s and 1990s. The subgenre includes The Hand that Rocks the Cradle with Rebecca De Mornay as the psychopathic nanny that wanted to do more than play mommy; Pacific Heights where Michael Keaton goes from living in Wayne Manor (Batman) and becomes a difficult apartment dweller; and The Stepfather with Terry O’Quinn as a serial killer that marries a widow with a teenage daughter. Coincidentally, Screen Gems remade that 1987 thriller two decades later with Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck) as the new stepdad.
The Intruder is what happens with a predictable story and inept characters. How is a viewer supposed to empathize with a handsome couple when every decision they make is dumb? Which leads us to the next problem: the lack of thrills. Peppering the scenes with jump-scares was total weak sauce. Perhaps that is why Screen Gems held promotional screenings where they implored audiences to scream and talk at the screen. They knew audiences would do it without the added encouragement, but had I known that the studio was actually endorsing and recommending audiences act in this fashion I would have likely passed. Without forewarning of this talkback screening I attended and had to endure a wily auditorium, including a man in front of me that verbally threatened violence because I kicked the back of his chair.
Okay, here’s what happened. At one point during The Intruder, where stars Michael Ealy and Meagan Good were either doing something completely foolish or Dennis Quaid was being super creepy, this guy in front of me decided to turn around and yell back at something someone rows behind me said to the screen. Yes, instead of making his comments to the screen, he turned around and yelled in my general direction annoying me. I kicked his chair. He reciprocated by saying, “Don’t kick my chair.” I leaned over and told him to turn around and watch the movie. He thought that was an insinuation that I wanted to tussle, so he threatened me with violence. Then he pulled the “I was in the military” card as if that is a valid excuse to issue hostile declarations. Long story short, he got up and moved a few rows down and after the movie pumped his chest, still hot and bothered. But it was all bark.
My acknowledgement of the episode got some nice responses from friends and fellow Houston-area critics Facebook.
A totally unruly crowd showing a total lack of breeding.
Wholeheartedly agree; one of the most disturbing screenings I’ve ever attended.
We should be notified about this “watch out loud” crap before confirming so we know not to attend.
End of commentary and back to the review.
Scott (Ealy) and Annie (Good) are a well-to-do couple living in a San Francisco condo that looks to be worth more than what I’d pull down in a lifetime. Scott likes the vibe the city offers but the wifey has her heart in making a home in Napa Valley. House-hunting they come upon Charlie Peck (Quaid) and his Foxglove estate, which he’s willing to part with for $3.5 million. It’s a nice piece of real estate, built by hand by Charlie’s great-grandfather, but it’s high time for Charlie to leave and move out to Florida to be near his daughter. Sticker shock and reluctance to buy, Charlie drops the price by a few hundred thousand, throws in the furniture, and the paintings and murals in the house. Sold. Happy couple moves in and Charlie moves out. Or so they think.
Charlie keeps showing up. One day he’ll be riding the lawnmower giving the yard its last trim before winter comes. Another day, while Scott is working in San Francisco, Charlie shows up and helps Annie string up Christmas lights. (As a native Texan, where we calculate distance by minutes and hours instead of mileage, I’m positive the drive from Napa to San Francisco and back is a hell of a daily commute. Apparently the filmmakers didn’t consider this, didn’t care, or just wanted to make Annie feel really isolated.)
Charlie’s like Ned Flanders if Ned dropped the nice guy act and went full-tilt bonkers, going from country bumpkin to country loon with the grin of a Cheshire Cat. And with Scott away for long stretches of time, it allows him to covet what he really wants. A new wife. Scott is slow to realize how nuts Charlie is, and Annie is totally oblivious. (She even invites him to the house for Thanksgiving!)
The Intruder checks the boxes expected of a cheap thriller without eliciting any excitement or scares. By the time the former homeowner’s intentions are revealed it’s too late to make a better movie and remodel. Even Dennis Quaid’s two-face performance as Charlie Peck, which is totally against type and just the right amount of batshit crazy, isn’t enough to warrant your attention. Unless you are looking for cheap thrills or want to yell at the screen for the dumbness unfolding in front of you, best to avoid.
Rated PG-13, 102 minutes.
Director: Deon Taylor
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Meagan Good, Michael Ealy
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!
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