The Intruder and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing and Screen Gems
Directed by Deon Taylor
It either takes a whole lot of brains or a whole lot of nerve to try and squeeze a non-franchise thriller right between such big box office money sinks, and when talking about Screen Gems it can go either way. Yes, this is the studio that made my beloved Resident Evil movies, but also gave us the horrendous Slender Man, and frankly the rest of their filmography is just disparate; but all the credit to them for churning out low budget shlock and turning it into box office gold! They’re like the Blumhouse of the mid 2000s that’s still hanging around on the margins making ridiculous stuff like When the Bough Breaks, but also some real modern classics like last year’s Searching which you all better have seen by now! Where exactly will this movie fall in the Screen Gems canon? Well you can probably take a guess given its silly premise and wacky stunt casting, but let’s find out!!
Scott and Annie (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good) are your typical city folk who spent their entire married life in the hustle and bustle and have decided that now might be the PERFECT time to find a place a little off the beaten path and settle down to start a family. Hold your horses though! They aren’t looking for just ANY house! They want the PERFECT house that has like a bajillion rooms, a giant yard, and some real history to it! Well lucky for them that they found the one dude with the perfect house AND a strong need to sell it as soon as possible! Yes, good ol’ Charlie (Dennis Quaid) is moving to Florida to be with his daughter and has decided to sell his family home. Four generations have lived in this house, and for a rather steep price Scott and Annie can be the fifth. After some careful consideration and another look at the size of this place (they’ll have to Airbnb this mansion year round just to keep up with the payments!) they decide to purchase it and give Charlie a fat stack of cash that he can retire on! Everyone’s happy, right? Well… as it turns out there are a few loose ends here and there that Charlie needs to finish up and is still in town, but that’s not a problem, right? Well… he noticed the yard is looking a bit overgrown and thought it’d be neighborly to mow the yard, but that’s a good thing, right? Well… let’s just say that one thing leads to another, and another, and another, until Scott and Annie begin to wonder if this guy is ever gonna go to Florida, and that’s just the beginning of the weirdness that these two are being subjected to with Charlie still around! Will Scott and Annie ever get rid of this dude who CLEARLY didn’t seem ready to sell his house? What exactly does Charlie have planned, and just how far will he go to take back what he believes is rightfully his? Anyone get the feeling that this is what he did after making Movie 43? I mean sure he had money BEFORE that film, but that’s a movie so bad that it retroactively sucks away any success you may have had.
WOW did I like this movie! It’s fun, exciting, juicy, and best of all it doesn’t quite fall into the same traps that other comparable movies often have. Yes it has problems of its own, particularly in the third act, but it avoids the problematic framing found in When the Bough Breaks and Acrimony, it doesn’t feel as trite as Bad Samaritan, and frankly Michael Ealy is no Dennis Quaid when it comes to playing a total creep. But hey! At least he works great here! It’s certainly no MASTERPIECE, but with the big studios vying for box office supremacy with two of the most popular franchises in all of existence, it’s a nice change of pace to still have wholly original (well… original-ish) and highly entertaining movie to fill in the gaps between the tent poles!
What works about this movie is rather straightforward which sadly means I don’t have much to say about the nuts and bolts of the film’s production. It’s shot competently enough, the actors do what they need to do for the story to get across, and the escalation, while not particular subtle, is impressively consistent. You can see how one move leads to the next and how Quaid is mapping this absurdity out in his head throughout, so there aren’t too many lulls in this to get bored of as everything is always simmering under the surface and we’re slowly moving to an inevitable confrontation. Michael Ealy and Meagan Good are fine in their roles and have a genuine sense of chemistry, but they also feel a bit overly written; as if they were plot devices within their own story. Probably the most awkward moment of this is about halfway in the movie when a big drama bomb is dropped on the audience yet is presented in a way that unintentionally implies that we should have known about it already. It’s only because of these somewhat odd character moments and sporadic backstories that the movie can proceed the way it does, but if nothing else they smooth it over JUST enough with good performances and a good amount of juicy drama that it doesn’t get in the way all that much.
All that stuff is just fine, but we all know why we’re here! It’s the same reason we take a shot on these scandalous dramas or why we see every Jason Voorhees movie. We want a villain that is fun to watch, so does this movie give it to us? SHOOT, did Dennis Quaid blow up the aliens in Independence Day? Actually no, that was the other one, but my point is that he’s AWESOME here! More important than if his story makes sense or if what he’s doing is even slightly possible or rational, his character is very highly MOTIVATED and we can see the gears turning in his head with every smile he makes, every favor he does, and every burst of anger that flashes across his face. Almost to the detriment of everything else, the entire movie centers around Dennis Quaid’s performance and he carries that burden with aplomb and a good sense of humor about himself that really lets him shine as much as Isabelle Huppert did in Greta which honestly would be a great double feature with that film considering both center on a strong performance by a well-known actor (as well as sharing a few plot points, but to digress further on that would no doubt lead to spoilers). It’s also fun that the movie takes a swipe at “traditional male gender roles” but provides a bit of nuance there that you usually don’t expect from movies like this (*cough* When the Bough Breaks *cough*) as Dennis Quaid certainly has charm, experience, and an understanding of his own living area that would rival even that of Hank Hill. As the movie goes along however, it becomes clear that whatever benefits he’s had from being this kind of Noble American Craftsman has come with a few burdens as well, and while the movie doesn’t outright blame toxic masculinity for his issues here, they are certainly an easy outlet for whatever is going on within him; giving him excuses to unleash his rage or to see other people as lesser than him to facilitate and justify his own selfish ends. It’s really great to watch it all play out and his performance is probably gonna be the one big takeaway from this movie; for good or ill.
Now despite the strong scripting and overall solid cinematography (including a few fun shots of Dennis Quaid hiding in the background like Michael Myers), it still feels like something is missing to REALLY bring this story to life. Like in my review of Greta, my mind wanders to Peter Greenaway and his seminal work The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, in that I think that a stronger grasp of Dennis Quaid’s obsession was needed; maybe not so much on the scripting and performance level which does a great job of getting his motives across, but in the sense of framing and visual language. The movie is about a house, and yet the film never takes advantage of that fact in any significant way. Think of how much food is the central theme of Peter Greenaway’s film and how every set, every character, and every idea in the movie relates in some way to food, consumption, gluttony, what have you. Imagine what you could do with that kind of approach to the idea of a home; the sense of safety when within one, the frustrations in maintaining it, how they are represented in our culture as the truest symbol of the American dream, all fertile ground to discuss not just Michael Ealy and Meagan Good’s burgeoning journey into it but also Dennis Quaid’s decent into despair at the prospect of losing it. I mean okay, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to sell a loving tribute to architecture to an audience who’s looking for a straight and to the point PG-13 thriller, but by lacking that kind of focus here it instead has to fill its time with stuff that frankly isn’t as interesting and to a certain extent it even muddies Dennis Quaid’s character. At some points you can feel the amount of love and admiration he has for this building and the life he’s had in it, but then things happen later in the movie that kind of contradict that in service of a more standard thriller. This is unfortunately where the third act stumbles as it doesn’t have much of an identity of its own to instead be like any other home invasion style thriller. We’ve seen this climax before and when it’s not uncomfortably skeevy, it’s just lacking in excitement or suspense. Maybe holding one of the greatest films of ALL TIME against this movie is a bit of an unfair comparison, but an opportunity missed is an opportunity missed, and this movie could have went that extra mile in giving the audience a much deeper insight into Dennis Quaid’s obsession and our own understanding of what a home even is.
So yeah, there are a bunch of BIG movies right around now (not just Avengers and Pokémon, but the forthcoming John Wick) and honestly this one is already getting pushed out of theaters already, but if you can find a screening and you’ve gone through your MUST SEES, this might be worth checking out! It doesn’t have quite enough going on under the hood to be a TRUE classic and I found the ending somewhat underwhelming, but if you love seeing famous actors go all out on EVIL roles then you’ll find more than enough to like here. Then again, when stacked up against everything else in theaters right now it’s certainly one that you can push to the back burner and check out once it gets a home release. It’s not the biggest movie or even the best made out there, but does The Avengers have Dennis Quaid smiling like a total goof throughout it!? No it does NOT, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a totally fair metric to measure all movie’s against! You want to step up your game, Disney? PUT DENNIS QUAID IN ALADDIN!! Heck, if Sonic has time for a total redesign, you can certainly squeeze him at the last minute!