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The Intruder ••1/2

Starring: Dennis QuaidMeagan GoodJoseph Sikora
Director: Deon Taylor
Screenplay: David Loughery
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 102 minutes
Release Date: May 3, 2019


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, I hate to intrude on your time, but we have to review this next movie.

It’s no intrusion, collusion, or pollution at all as this is a new take on a guest who won’t leave. Let’s recap:

Scott and Anne Russell (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good) move into a big new home near Napa Valley, California. The previous owner, Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid), hands over the keys and tells them he’s about to retire to Florida. But soon after moving in, Scott and Anne notice that Charlie is mowing their lawn. They also have an uneasy feeling that someone is watching them at night.

Scott starts digging into Charlie’s history and finds out he’s not such a nice man. Apparently, Charlie’s wife was diagnosed with cancer, but killed herself with Charlie’s shotgun before she was consumed by the disease. Scott also learns that Charlie had to sell his business into bankruptcy and owes millions of dollars to creditors – hence the sale of the home. Now, Scott fears that Charlie not only wants to reclaim his house, but also start a new life with his own wife, Anne.

Greg, anyone who has ever watched movies should know by now that you should never, ever move into an old house. Countless films have taught us that all homes for sale are inevitably haunted, built on burial grounds, or stalked by former crazed owners. The Intruder falls into this latter category. Once again, the new homeowners completely ignore all the warning signs. Well, the husband doesn’t ignore them, but the wife chooses to overlook the plain fact that the villain is a psychological disaster area from the first moment he meets our heroes. Maybe this is why I have trouble rooting for heroes in movies like this – they don’t run for their lives when it’s obvious that they’re about to die.

Overall, The Intruder is a lightweight suspenseful movie that certainly isn’t bad per se but there’s nothing truly interesting or surprising going on in the story. I give Dennis Quaid some serious kudos for his acting chops. This month we’ve seen him play a sweet old grandpa in A Dog’s Journey and now here he’s a deranged homicidal maniac. Quaid pulls off both roles very effectively. Thanks to The Intruder, I can never look at that goofy oversized grin of his the same way ever again – the man may be a sweet grandpa but he’s a sweet grandpa who will disembowel you in a heartbeat.

What’s the message here? Trust your gut, perhaps. When they first meet Charlie, the old man shoots Bambi right in front of them. He then acts odd, to say the least. When they see Charlie mowing their lawn, they should definitely set a firm boundary and stick to it. So yes, the message of boundaries is important, as well as the message of a married couple honoring each other’s concerns. If someone is flirting with my wife right in front of me, and I let her know I have a problem with it, she should definitely not allow this person into the house for pizza and wine when I’m not home.

I have to agree that this is a lightweight horror film with not much of a message. But I like the fact the up until the final scene, we get the feeling that Anne is sympathetic (definitely overly so) to Charlie’s loss and accommodates him. Contrarywise, Scott immediately recognizes Charlie as “another rooster in the hen house” and makes every effort to make this mansion his own. He purposely removes Charlie’s tapestry (which we later discover is splashed with his wife’s blood) and replaces it with a piece of modern art. Charlie does not approve.

In the end, there is a classic horror-chase scene where Charlie is stalking Anne using hidden passages and guns. Finally, Scott returns and does serious battle with Charlie, finally turning the tables on him and points Charlie’s own shotgun on him. (The final moment is nearly a “did I fire five shots or 6” moment as Charlie believes Scott’s shotgun is empty – but it’s not). As Anne arrives with her cell phone, Scott tells her to “make the call.” Anne obliges and calls 911 telling the operator “my husband just shot an intruder.” It’s a wonderful moment where we realize that Anne has finally caught up with Scott in realizing that Charlie is never going away and that the only way to stop him is to shoot him dead with the very weapon that he used to kill his wife.

I can’t say there’s much of a message in this story. But having Anne finally seeing Scott’s point of view – and her delivering the final verdict of death-by-his-own-petard – was a satisfying ending. If I had to conjure a message it might be – don’t trust Dennis Quaid with your wife. Aw, heck. I’ll grudgingly agree with you, Scott (Allison) – the message is “trust your gut.”

The Intruder is your standard creepy story about a stalker who won’t leave a young couple alone and who is willing to kill everyone if he doesn’t get his way. We’ve seen movies like this before that were done better, and so I can’t give this film high marks. What I can do is give the actors props for their fine performances, especially Dennis Quaid, who has never played a more disturbing psychopath with such great gusto. I give The Intruder just 2 Reels out of 5.

Our heroes are terribly naïve, especially the character of Anne, who cannot see the obvious truth that Charlie is a sick twisted creep who has no business showing up at their house repeatedly. There is a hero’s journey of sorts that involves finally seeing the truth about Charlie in time to kill him before he kills them. I actually think the house is the most interesting character in the movie, which tells you that I didn’t think much of our heroes. I generously award them 2 Hero points out of 5.

As I’ve mentioned, the messages here appear to be set boundaries with creepy people, trust your gut about creepy people, and don’t buy a home from creepy people. There aren’t the most profound messages in the world, and so the best I can do is award this film 1 measly Message point out of 5.

Movie: Message: Hero:

We’re aligned on this film, Scott. The Intruder is a fun roller coaster ride where we know something is wrong with Charlie and it’s just a matter of will the Russels figure it out in time before they’re killed. I agree that the performances are fine, but certainly not Oscar bait. I give The Intruder 3 Reels out of 5 (I would give an extra half-point for capping off the ending by working in the title of the film – but we only award integer Reels).

The Russels are typical horror movie heroes – unwitting about the danger that is approaching until it shows up with a chain saw – or a shotgun in this case. There’s nothing particularly compelling here – 2 Heroes out of 5.

Finally, there is a subtle message for the second amendment crowd: guns save lives of trusting people. Scott Russell makes a big point several times in the film about how there “will be no guns in my house.” Finally, Scott realizes the only way to get rid of Charlie is to turn his own gun against him. I don’t believe it’s really the message The Intruder intended to send, so I’ll give it a very weak 1 Message point out of 5.

Movie: Message: Hero:

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