In this age of expanded exhibition, where critics and fans and Film Twitter argue ceaselessly about the ideal venue or screen on which to view motion pictures, I hold a very strong opinion about the ideal format for The Intruder. This film should be released exclusively at seedy drive-in theaters, where the environment is balmy, the crowds are rowdy, popcorn and candy are flying, most audience members have surely brought flasks of whiskey to surreptitiously pour into their fountain soda, and most crucially, all of the above elements are vaguely more important than what’s flickering on the screen. After about a month, the movie should release On Demand for those weekend nights where folks just want to gorge at home.
Any other release strategy for The Intruder would, and will, inevitably expose it for what it is: a spectacularly poorly mounted movie that follows the home-invasion thriller trope like a stencil and applies nothing to augment that standard template other than randomized ridiculous pathos. It’s often unintentionally hilarious, even more frequently cringe-inducing, and makes good actors look silly. But, ya know, in the right viewing context, those are the makings of a cult classic!
Sitting in a cramped screening room so obviously isn’t the necessary context for this film (“movie”? “flick”?), which functions better when the viewer’s concentration is lapsing from all the peripheral snack-crunching and openly boisterous conversation. How else is a viewer supposed to make it through the labored setup in which Michael Ealy and Meagan Good establish themselves as uber-successful, super-wealthy big-city socialites who, immediately upon formal validation of said uber-success (in the form of his “becoming the top earner at the company”), opt to drop the city life and buy an enormous, ugly, retrograde tomb in the woods? Some form of social lubricant is required to appreciate the introduction of the home’s current owner, played gleefully by Dennis Quaid as the most obvious and identifiable psychopath in the history of motion pictures. This guy shoots a deer right in front of the unsuspecting couple, then spends the entirety of his home tour alternating between jokes about deer killing and creepy, prolonged remembrances of his deceased wife. My only saving graces as these images flickered before me were the gracious vocal audience members who shouted incredulously at the screen, and that’s when it hit me: The Intruder needs this audience participation, lest it die a quiet death on the screen.
Of course, the couple agrees to move in – because otherwise, there would be no movie. In spite of his purported “retirement in Florida,” Quaid keeps re-emerging in ways that escalate in creepiness, from showing up with take-out food and wine, to randomly mowing the lawn…to standing in the shadows while the new home-buyers have sex on a bearskin rug (full disclosure: I’m not sure the rug is actually bearskin). These are the kinds of obvious tropes that, when adequately drunk – be it on actual alcohol or just Sno-Caps and Sour Patch Kids – audience members will be frightened to go home and make love on their own bearskin rugs. It’s either that or sit sober and stupefied.
These actors need to be rewarded via The Intruder becoming a midnight movie sensation, for otherwise, they labored intensively for but a few stray million dollars. Ealy and Good spend most of their screen time in utter, beleaguered misery at the whims of their Eddie Bauer-clad stalker. Ealy goes into investigative mode, wearing a perpetual furrowed brow while on distressed phone calls with side characters whose sole function is to reveal obvious notes regarding Quaid’s marvelously checkered past. If possible, Good has it even worse, forced into the caricature of witless housewife, utterly ignorant to the broad, demonstrable, accelerating psychopathy that Quaid incessantly exhibits. On the subject of Quaid, he surely had the time of his life whirligigging around this set. He chews scenery that doesn’t even exist. Production stills of Quaid’s evil facial contortions have already been widely meme-ified, a well-earned gilding of this masterpiece of over-the-top cheese.
Speaking of cheese, a greasy pizza would be the perfect junk-food accompaniment to any viewing of The Intruder, since comfort-over-nourishment seems like the production’s motto. It was directed by Deon Taylor, who last year made the Paula Patton thriller Traffik, which delivered high-key sensationalism masquerading as a conscious message movie. The Intruderdrops any façade of importance, which certainly works in its favor. There is some sort of attempt to turn this story into a quasi-Straw Dogs scenario, a war of hyper-masculinity with the backdrop of class and racial anxiety. Eventually, wisely, the filmmakers stop trying to make that happen, leaning into the indulgence of senseless, soap-operatic lunacy, the kind that should skip traditional release altogether and jump straight into midnight movie infamy.
Can I, in good consciousness, recommend this movie on its merits? Of course not. But I can advocate for its continued existence in modern pop culture, because eventually I’ll be off this diet, at which point I’ll be ready to crack open the bottle, tear open the candy bag, and veg out while consuming tasty garbage of all varieties.