One half star out of four
A 15-minute delay in the starting time couldn’t stave off the inevitable for what became painfully obvious within the first few moments of “The Intruder” — this is one of the most ill-conceived and poorly executed “home invader/stalker” flicks ever produced.
Trotting out every tired, thread-worn and predictable trope in the cheap trick thriller/jump scare handbook, the movie leaves nothing to the imagination and follows a blueprint plot a third-grader could see coming.
In between production of his multiple TV commercials for the “Esurance” company, Dennis Quaid takes on perhaps the most against-type character of his long, highly uneven career. He plays Charlie Peck, a soon-to-be former owner of $3+ million Napa Valley home occupied by his ancestors for more than a century. For good (that is, logical) reasons not revealed until the third act, Charlie really doesn’t want to sell the home but is somewhat comforted when the buyers turn out to be nice guy advertising executive Scott (Michael Ealy) and his sexy writer wife Annie (Meagan Goode). Initially, both are far too trusting of Charlie who, after the closing, shows up daily for one oddly convenient reason or another.
It starts innocent enough. Charlie comes by to mow the grass because it’s “getting out of hand” — and the very naïve Annie thanks him by inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner. No dummy, Charlie realizes he’s found a weak mark.
Every time he shows up and performs a menial task or makes a kind (but self-serving) gesture, Annie is guilted into asking him back again and again and the pattern becomes firmly established. By the time Scott and his best bro Mike (Joseph Sikora) — who now has an invisible bull’s eye on his back — figure out what’s going on, the die is cast and Charlie might as well just move back in.
Considering the bleak track records of screenwriter David Loughery (“Passenger 57,” “Lakeview Terrace”) and director Dion Taylor (“Traffik,” “Supremacy”), it’s a wonder “The Intruder” ever got made. Toss in that Quaid hasn’t appeared in anything halfway decent since “In Good Company” 15-odd years ago and you’re left with a movie destined for failure.
Telegraphing the plot is nothing new with B-grade thrillers; fans of the genre practically expect being spoon-fed. But most of these films make up for narrative shortcomings with edgy and diversionary bells, whistles, visuals and creepy music. “The Intruder” misses the boat on those aspects as well.
For reasons known only to him, Taylor believes he’s making a long-lost Hitchcock film by putting the camera in the oddest places with even stranger angles and close-ups that lack finesse as well as perspective. One scene featuring Scott and Annie “cuddling” in the kitchen is little more than a series of skin zoom shots so up-close and personal all you can see is flesh. One frame might be Ealy’s forearm or Goode’s thigh but it’s hard to tell. Another with Quaid fills the screen with only one side of his sweaty face.
The music too, is all over the place. First there’s some low-grade hip-hop, then some discount bin quiet storm slow jams, then some hyper “Psycho” strings and it all plays out like a slapped-together ’90s mixtape. Suspense is one of the few genres where traditional songs just don’t work and every time one plays here, the audience is taken out of the moment.
Speaking of the audience, the capacity crowd at the preview screening responded with great energy for the duration of the running time but that should not be interpreted in any way as a positive. Unintended laughter — the ultimate negative and insulting reaction to a stalker/thriller flick — was heard far more often than gasps or screams and no one seemed particularly surprised at the revealing of any of the “plot twists.”
What received the loudest positive approval was whenever Quaid’s character flashed a maniacal, closed-mouth, ear-to-ear grin reminiscent of the Joker from the “Batman” movies. If that sounds like something worth $12 and two hours of your time, go for it. Otherwise give it a few weeks and you can then watch it at home or on Redbox for the cost of a takeout meal or maybe even less. Even then, you still might be overpaying for what you get.