The Intruder (2019)

The 2019 film THE INTRUDER – not to be confused with the 1989 horror movie I like called INTRUDER (let alone the 1914, 1933, 1939, 1944, 1953, 1956, 1962, 1975, 1986, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2016, 2017 or 2020 films called THE INTRUDER) is a pretty good example of the classic American tradition of the domestic stalker thriller, specifically the subset kicked off by OBSESSED in 2009, that pit an upper class African American couple against an enjoyably over-the-top white villain.

In this case the couple are Scott (Michael Ealy, MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA) and Annie (Meagan Good, HOUSE PARTY 4: DOWN TO THE LAST MINUTE) Howard, who after a big deal goes through decide it’s finally time to buy a house in Napa Valley like they’ve always talked about. The one they find is so old and fancy it has a name (Foxglove). They buy it from Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid, JAWS 3-D), who inherited and lived there his whole life and is very protective of it. In fact, it turns into kind of a CABLE GUY situation where he uncomfortably works his way into their life – they keep finding him, like, mowing their lawn and shit well after he was supposed to have moved to Florida.

This got a wide theatrical release from Screen Gems, and I remember seeing ads for it. In a post-GET OUT world I assumed there was supposed to be some kind of racial theme to it (maybe because they used a critic’s quote calling it “a reverse GET OUT,” whatever that means), but it may very well have been written color blind, because any racial tension there may be between the Howards and Charlie is not directly addressed – a completely legitimate and maybe even refreshing approach. You definitely worry about racism when they first come to see the house and Charlie emerges from the woods with a rifle (and shoots a deer in front of them). But he’s just coming back from hunting, not pulling a gun on them, and there’s never any issue of Charlie not wanting to sell the family home to them because of their race. In fact he’s very friendly and desperate to get them to buy it.

Scott is uncomfortable with Charlie from the beginning, but Annie likes him and feels sorry for him. At first they’re able to joke about his overbearing former-owner-giving-advice stuff, and since he’s still in town she invites him to come over for Thanksgiving. There’s some awkwardness because they replaced a painting that he gave them with the house, and then Scott’s aggressively douchey work bro Mike (Joseph Sikora, “Reggae Fan,” GHOST WORLD) encourages drastic renovations and teases Charlie for talking about the house’s “integrity.” They all laugh, but Mike is clearly being a dick, and suddenly Charlie gets up and breaks the wine bottle over his head.

Seems pretty early for that! As Annie cries “Why would you do that!?” we fade back to reality, because it’s only one of those “what he’s thinking about doing” moves, and he chooses instead to act normal. But in case we were on the fence about Charlie, now we know what goes on in his head.

Mike is an unlikable character, but he’s right about Charlie. Later, Mike bets the Howards that Charlie has been watching them from the woods, which they think is absolutely ridiculous. With quite a bit of wine in them they laughingly go to investigate this theory, and Scott doesn’t take this “Scooby-Doo shit” seriously, but then they in fact come across a vehicle parked in the woods, which suddenly drives away as if caught. The next day the Howards are setting up security cameras, and Charlie drives up pissed and tries to stop them, without a very good explanation. He just says there are teenagers who hang out in the woods, nothing to be scared of.

During their initial tour of the house Scott makes a face when he sees Charlie’s cabinet full of rifles. He hates guns because his brother was killed by one. Not wanting them in the house acts as both a city mouse/country mouse kind of tension and a bit of thriller business, setting up that he won’t have easy access to guns later and that Charlie knows it.

We get a pretty standard but also pretty effective roll out of scares. The house creaks, the motion detector lights turn on, Scott runs outside with a baseball bat to confront possible trespassers. Sure enough some giggly teenagers drive off – maybe Charlie was right after all – but for just a second in their headlight beams we see Charlie standing motionlessly behind him.

Like many of the great domestic suspense thriller villains (see: THE STEPFATHER), Charlie clings to a carefully-molded wholesome family man facade partially out of overcompensation for his repressed pervert side. When the Howards smooth over some marital conflict about Scott’s past affair with some romantic sex, you bet Charlie is standing in the shadows watching.

They don’t notice though, things are happy, and Scott starts thinking he was over-reacting to the whole situation, until he randomly runs into a neighbor who tells him Charlie’s wife officially killed herself with a shotgun and implies maybe Charlie did it. Scott goes home and finds a bloodstain in the house where it happened!

After Scott drunkenly confronts Charlie in town, things escalate at a rapid pace. Charlie runs him off the road during his jog, then “checks on” Annie while he’s in the hospital, bringing her pizza and trying to poison her wine. Mike comes to actually check on Annie, Charlie goes outside and kills him with an ax. The next day Annie’s taking a shower and Charlie comes in and peeps on her, makes a very intense face while taking his shirt off, possibly is jerking it out of frame.

And there’s a scary ass scene where Annie carries groceries in and doesn’t notice him standing inside her house, smiling. The camera passes him and then when it turns back in that direction he’s gone. Michael Myers shit.

Soon after that she (SPOILER) finds a secret door leading to an underground chamber and tunnel system where he’s clearly been living the whole time. He’s a BAD RONALD bordering on a CASTLE FREAK.

There are mechanics to this sort of story, things that have to go on while the pan gets closer and closer to boiling over. So there’s a whole detective story part where Scott goes around talking to different people, finding out about Charlie’s past and lies. But this is all leading to the point where the stalker is unmasked and lets his freak flag fly. He admits that he wants to get rid of Scott and marry Annie and when she doesn’t respond well to that he pins her down and creepily licks her stomach and neck. Which brings me to the obvious reason why this movie is (if you can take this sort of thriller) pretty enjoyable: the dedicated, fearless performance by Quaid. First it takes advantage of his general aura of likability, then he goes whole hog into portraying the secret freako within. I wouldn’t overall consider this a mega-acting performance, but he does poke his head up to mega levels more than once, when required. There’s an incredible scene, and I admit I don’t understand what he’s supposed to be doing, but he’s looking in a hand mirror and contorting his face into a bizarre smile worthy of Dafoe or Cage. It’s beautiful.

I also took the liberty of making this screengrab from when he’s scrapping with the Howards.

This is where the racial dynamics do come into it a little – I think Quaid (like Christian Bale in SHAFT, Ali Larter in OBSESSED, Sharlto Copley in Spike Lee’s OLDBOY, Allison Williams in GET OUT, probly Hilary Swank in FATALE, and definitely Taryn Manning in KAREN, though I haven’t seen those last two) is playing up his white devil-ness, and maybe even inventing new stereotypes, knowing how it will play to a large portion of the audience. It could be demeaning if this was the primary type of character white people got to play, but obviously that’s not the case, so he’s able to have fun with it. A good sport.

When the shit hits the fan the couple vs. intruder fight is well done – it has a believable messiness, and gets pretty brutal. And Charlie throws Scott over a railing into a chandelier, which reminds me of OBSESSED.

I also appreciate the movie’s gun theme. There’s a little passive aggressive shaming of the city boys for not liking guns, so it’s kind of funny that Charlie scolds Mike for sneaking up on him because “This is not the suburbs, this is the country, people have guns” – a tacit admission that having guns is a danger. (Unless mistakenly killing an innocent person is not something that would weigh on you.)

The beautiful touch is that Charlie goes and gets his hunting rifle, but Scott takes him out with his previously established choice of home protection, the baseball bat. But I suppose guns do ultimately win since Scott then takes the rifle and uses it against its owner. (Charlie’s last words: “YOU DON’T DESERVE FOXGLOVE!”)

I forgot to check the extras for the “SHOCKING ALTERNATE ENDING” promised on the cover, but I looked it up and apparently it’s the same scene except with a subsequent reveal that Charlie has a bullet proof vest. Shocking! And yet also alternate.

THE INTRUDER is directed by Deon Taylor, an unpretentious journeyman whose 2014 film SUPREMACY I reviewed a while back. He got his start in low profile horror and thrillers, plus the Flavor Flav hosted BET horror anthology Nite Tales: The Series, but graduated to multiplexes with the THE PURGE parody MEET THE BLACKS in 2016. He had another pretty big one, BLACK AND BLUE, released the same year as THE INTRUDER, and FATALE the year after that.

The script is credited to David Loughery, who actually got his start way back in 1984 with another Dennis Quaid vehicle, DREAMSCAPE. Notably he did some uncredited work on THE STEPFATHER and THE GOOD SON, and credited on LAKEVIEW TERRACE and, wouldn’t you know it, the aformentioned OBSESSED. Some of his other credits include STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER, PASSENGER 57, MONEY TRAIN, and NURSE 3D. Pretty good career!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 10th, 2023 at 12:21 pm and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “The Intruder (2019)”

  1. Franchise Fred

    May 11th, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    I remember this! I liked it as a throwback to the 90s Hand that Rocks the Cradle/Unlawful Entry _______ from Hell/yuppies in trouble movies. Way more extreme though.

  2. bastardjackyll

    May 15th, 2023 at 1:12 am

    NURSE 3D is so batshit crazy and unlike anything else this guy has ever written, that I must recommend it.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>