From the Archives: The Intruder is pure madness

From the Archives: The Intruder is pure madness

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally posted on Cinema76.

Dennis Quaid has eight-pack abs. At the age of 65, his leathery face should logically be attached to a doughy, tired body. Nope. This guy as a full on eight-pack. A six-pack covers the main abdominal muscles, and as someone who likes fitness slightly less than he likes food, I can tell you how damn near impossible it is to get even four of those finicky muscles to make an appearance. But to get the full eight-pack is beyond impossible in my book. Mythical, even. To expose those two lower abs that lead from the belly button down to the groin is a feat reserved for models, heroin addicts, and Ryan Reynolds, none of whom are having any fun. There’s simply no reason why Dennis Quaid should be so damn ripped, but he is. And as the titular villain of The Intruder, these abs absolutely need to be there.

No, not because we wish to evoke thoughts of Bobby DeNiro in Cape Fear, but because much like Dennis Quaid’s impossible physique, The Intruder is a movie of contradiction. On the one hand, it’s entirely functional. The suspense is felt. The pacing is impeccable. On the other hand, this is an undeniably terrible film. The direction is gaudy and strange, assembling dizzying scenes out of every possible angle of coverage. A few insert shots look as if they were shot on an entirely different camera. Heck, if I weren’t positive this were digital I’d say some parts look as if they were shot on another film stock. There’s more ADR than there is straightforward dialogue. Odd facial closeups punctuate even the most mundane scenes. Very few of the lines have any flavor, and the characters are some of the dumbest creations this side of Battlefield Earth. As a piece of film craft, The Intruder is nothing short of abysmal.

Yet it works beautifully. It’s aggressively watchable. It’s thrilling as hell. Why? Because unlike so many gleefully bad movies, this trashterpiece is made in earnest. The filmmakers truly believe in this product and it shows. No winks. No nods. This is serious business. Seriously dumb, seriously awesome business. Director Deon Taylor (Meet the Blacks, Traffik) is drawing upon decades of trash cinema without satirizing or even commenting on it. If this were shot on 35mm and released in the 1970s, we’d all have a deep reverence for it. We’d be forgiving the hokeyness because it’s of another time. I see no reason why we can’t embrace the hokeyness on display here. Just because it’s 2019 doesn’t mean every filmmaker has access to Marvel money. I’d love to know a little more about this production just to see what they were working with. But who needs money when you’ve got Dennis Quaid dialed up higher than he’s ever been?


He plays Charlie, a widower who recently put his Napa Valley house up for sale. It’s been in his family for decades, and although he’s sad to see it go, it’s time he moves on with his life. Annie and Scott Russell (Meagan Good and Michael Ealy respectively) are a young couple who are looking to buy a home outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. Scott recently received a promotion, and a new home is the way he and Annie wish to celebrate. Their hope is to settle down and start a family. Scott is a bit hesitant to commit to such a permanent purchase, but as they say: happy wife, happy life. When Charlie offers to throw in all of the furniture as a bonus because he “has a good feeling” about the buyers, they pull the trigger. Everything seems okay at first, except for the fact that Charlie is always hanging around, showing up for dinner, mowing the lawn, and hunting in the backyard. These idiosyncrasies are initially laughed off as “country people stuff” but his behavior soon becomes dangerous, and the Russells find out that there is much more to Charlie than they ever could have expected.

The operative word being “they.” We know exactly what to expect, and not just because the poster tells us Charlie is no good. Literally every red flag you can think of (and then some) is waved in front of the Scotts, and they just don’t see it because they are so goddamn stupid. Yet someway, somehow…we care about them.

Writer David Loughrey has played in this sandbox (that of “couple terrorized by malevolent acquaintance”) many times before. He’s the scribe behind Lakeview Terrace and Obsessed, two somewhat recent nouveau-trash pictures. He also wrote Passenger 57, which means that the classic line “always bet on black” came from his brain. Respect. Much respect.

That said, the dialogue in The Intruder is fascinating in how bad it is. Allow me to slightly misquote an exchange between a hospital patient and a doctor:

Patient: Does that mean I can get out of here tonight?

Doctor: Well, that depends on your tests. Unfortunately, it means we’ll have to keep you overnight.

Did nobody read this script and point out that the line makes no sense? Did the director simply miss this redundancy or did he not care? Did the actors just sorta go with it, or were they too committed to the madness to notice?

Really, this is pure madness, and credit where it’s due, EVERYBODY is going for it. It doesn’t matter that the performances each seem to come from a different movie (a few tweaks could turn this into straight parody), because they all work for this movie. Good and Ealy lean into the idiocy of their characters, and their earnestness sells it. Quaid is having more fun than he’s had in his entire career and it shows. Who cares if he sometimes comes across as psychotic while other times he seems pitiably disabled?

Does it really matter that this giant house seems to be lit by a single chandelier? Nope! All that matters is that when the chandelier comes crashing down, the house is wrapped in darkness. Does it matter that the film fails to find a point of view, oftentimes switching audience surrogates in a single scene? Nope, just so long as we get to see Charlie fantasizing about smashing someone’s face in with a wine bottle! Do Scott and his best friend share a psychic link that flares up when one of them is in trouble? Probably not, but it really does look like it AND I DON’T CARE BECAUSE IT WORKS.

Typically I can’t stand when people talk to the screen, but the crowd for The Intruder was one of the rowdiest I’ve ever seen, and it can only be described as an enhancement. Hunt down this experience if you can. This is a “don’t go in there!” movie. This is a “oh my god what the hell are you doing?!? RUN YOU IDIOT!” movie. This is a “are they about to have medium-core sex for a very long time AGAIN?!?” movie.

Madness. Pure madness.

I went into this movie hoping to see exactly what I saw, while fully understanding that it would very likely be a bland, by-the-numbers thriller leaning on the novelty of having Dennis Quaid act a little batty. But the movie gods are good today and The Intruder is exactly what it needs to be: a trashy, stupid, insanely thrilling neo-exploitation film that fully embraces every ounce of novelty at its disposal, while remaining completely clueless to the novelty of it. Earnestness wins the day!

And yo, Dennis Quaid has full-on eight-pack abs, which you will see clearly enough to know that it’s not a body double. Even going in prepared you will still be utterly gobsmacked by it.

The Intruder opens in Philly theaters today.

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