When a horror film’s social or political subtext becomes more important than the logic of the narrative and the characters within it, it is somewhat like being able to see behind the curtain. The surface narrative of horror should be strong enough to support the themes, not the other way around. While The Intruder is clearly playing upon some real American fears, with an aggressive white landowner as the villain against a newly arrived/assimilated black couple, it does so with zero subtlety and consistently illogical behavior written into each character as a lazy way of moving the story (and its racially-driven themes) forward. Taking the home invasion narrative away from the post-9/11 terrorist anxieties and replacing it with fears of white nationalists refusing to surrender ‘their’ America to the minorities they consider to be ‘less American,’ all that The Intruder is missing is a good film to go with its themes (ones already visited in the last installment of The Purge franchise).
Although mention of race is never directly addressed, the film is reminiscent of Lakeview Terrace mixed with any number of the recent home invasion narratives; it resembles Funny Games and The Gift most, as the main antagonist does most of his terrorizing with a smile on his face. After a successful business deal puts young married couple Annie and Scott Russell (Meagan Good and Michael Ealy) in a place of financial freedom, they decide to purchase a dream home in
Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid) is the cheerful owner of a secluded home next to
nature reserves, he calls Foxglove. The fact that this is also the name of a
poisonous flower should be an early sign of the dangers lurking within the
beautiful home, but there would be no film without the unfortunate decision to
purchase Charlie’s home. Napa Valley
When Annie and Scott purchase and move in to Charlie’s home, they fail to realize that even as the new inhabitants, he still considers it his home. Having spent his entire life in the house, he has a clear attachment to it, and lurks around the property long after the sale has finished. While Annie is more than patient (perhaps even a little encouraging), Scott sees these surprise visits and continued maintenance of the property as attacks on his masculinity and his rights as a landowner. Unsurprisingly, this creates a divide between Scott and Annie, allowing even more of an opening for Charlie. The entire endeavor is more than frustrating; it is predictable, and the film plods along to all of the expected plot points of the paranoia narrative until Scott’s suspicions are ultimately revealed as true.
The characters are all just slightly more than cardboard cut-outs, offering little real character development even in the unsubtly inserted scenes discussing back-stories involving adultery and suicide take focus. The dialogue and its delivery are never able to hide the intention of these scenes, which ultimately don’t care about the characters as anything more than vehicles for the message and a few cheap scares. Dennis Quaid fares the worst (except, perhaps, Good’s mildly sexist depiction of a gullible/trusting woman sitting at home waiting for her husband), coming off as more caricature than character. You half expect him to put on a mask and for the film to turn into a Halloween rip-off at any point, because of how comically over-the-top he takes the character of Charlie. The intention may have been (and I am being generous here) to have the depiction of a white man smiling pleasantly to your face while having contrasting thoughts/actions, as representative for a new form of racism in
Instead, Dennis Quaid kind of just looks like he’s convincing audiences he
would have been an acceptable alternative to Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker. America
The DVD release comes with an alternative ending that would not have saved the film in any way, along with a handful of other deleted/extended scenes, most of which are completely inconsequential. The gag reel is amusing, although tonally strange considering the film. There is also a cast/filmmaker commentary, and a behind-the-scenes promotional featurette. The commentary is the closest to an in-depth extra, for those wanting more than just marketing material and footage from the cutting room floor.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10
Historical Significance: 6.5/10
Special Features: 7/10