The complex world of real estate can be as daunting as hell. When buying property, it helps to know exactly what the price includes. White goods? Check. Carpets? Check. Clingy former owner? Erm…that’ll be a “no” from me. If you’ve got a spare few million to drop on a new pad, you’d be well advised to check out Deon Taylor’s latest psychological thriller The Intruder before heading any closer to disaster.
If only marketing exec Scott Howard (Michael Ealy) and his freelance writer wife Annie (Meagan Good) had been forewarned; they wouldn’t be facing such poisonous realty woes. When the Howards purchase a huge, beautiful pad in California’s Napa Valley, led by dreams of starting a family, little do they anticipate former owner Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid) to stick like glue. But the whackjob is finding it “hard to say goodbye” to Foxglove; the only house he’s ever known and one he clearly gave every last inch of his soul to. If he can’t have it, then maybe this young couple can’t either.
The Intruder has the ever-so-faint air of a daft, B-movie thriller plucked straight from the 90s. Unlike many critics, when tasked with reviewing films like this, I optimistically tend towards the assumption the style is deliberate. For example, I recently stood against the consensus, arguing Neil Jordan’s Greta to be knowingly absurd. Whether intentional or not, a touch of silliness has definitely found its way into the narrative here. If unplanned, then enthusiasts of similar films have a happy accident on their hands. If willful, that’s a bummer, because Taylor (Supremacy) doesn’t take it far enough.
The director serves us one truly demented antagonist, as well as two clichéd protagonists treading paths well-worn in the genre. That said, what would any slightly farcical thriller be without a victim who makes all the wrong decisions? Charlie manages to fly under gullible Annie’s radar for a stupid length of time as she entertains his kindness. But it’s not long before an incredulous Scott suspects the odd-bod’s goodwill is masking more sinister motivations. Of course, the audience is right there with Scott, waiting for Charlie to dial up his cray-cray a notch or ten.
Sadly, The Intruder largely gets by on little else than Quaid’s campy performance as the unhinged, lonely widower. The actor does make a formidable villain, but coaxing him even further into balls-to-the-wall mode might have paid off. Ealy and Good? Meh. To be fair, they likely do what they can with David Loughery’s screenplay. Merely serviceable at best, it offers a mostly predictable plot and dialogue duller than dishwater. His story feels a little cobbled together, lacking smart subtlety and unconcerned with any materially developed characters or subplots. While the film isn’t completely devoid of suspense and tension, with a bit of foreboding and expectation subversion now and again, it’s apparent neither Loughery or Taylor have mastered these techniques.
The finale we meander towards is artfully twisty but technically flawed. The effect of this isn’t ruinous, but an unmistakably wasted opportunity for the best possible conclusion it is. Ultimately, fans of The Intruder will enjoy its trashy aesthetic, even if they’re left feeling kinda shortchanged by the end. Those looking for a thriller that takes itself seriously should direct their attention elsewhere.
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