Self-taught director Deon Taylor, who directed the embarrassing Mike Epps spoof movie Meet the Blacks, has a familiar way of staging a scene. That is to say, at the Christmas potluck that is Hollywood, he’s brought nothing new to the table. Despite modern trappings, this is a movie that feels trapped in the 90s, both in story and storytelling technique. From the totally awkward over-use of R&B music on the soundtrack to the sleek but rarely suspenseful camerawork, Taylor’s creation feels like a product released after its expiration date, but one that lives and dies by its unintentionally ironic and campy sense of uncool. Fittingly, The Intruder is the dad bod of psychosexual thrillers, past its prime and flailing for relevance, maintaining its rangy charm by sheer force of will. It’s the Dennis Quaid of movies.
Taylor has yet to direct a film that’s received even a critical soft pass, his talent page stained with myriad rotten splatters, and The Intruder doesn’t seem like the film to break that mold in part because it too often opts for the bunt over the big swing. Working from a script from David Loughery (Lakeview Terrace), Taylor’s tale uses the draw of a wealthy black couple buying a house from an overly friendly and soon overbearing caucasian country boy but doesn’t really know what to do with that premise to make it interesting.
Annie and Scott (Meagan Good and Michael Ealy respectively) just bought a gorgeous Napa plot from doting homeowner Charlie (Quaid). Squirreling themselves away from the city with the hopes of starting a family, the couple barely have the time to relish their newfound bliss before the gregarious seller starts to overstep his welcome, mowing their grass, inviting himself over, and generally popping in at all hours of the night. As Charlie’s intrusions increasingly pester the couple, the mask of good samaritan slips to reveal a man enshroud in a dark cloud, with a potentially dangerous past.
Though The Intruder is no spoof, it does reek of familiarity and has little to call its own in terms of style and narrative and that mires the PG-13 thriller in the kind of forgettable no-mans’-land of cinema that works fine as a fleeting aphrodisiac but won’t fulfill any nutritional need or be remembered even ten minutes after the lights go up. Smutty and undeniably stupid, it’s cinema as horn-ball junk food to a T though it’s a much more crunchable movie-going snack than absolute trash like 50 Shades of Grey. That is to say, though it’s a country mile from any kind of directorial masterclass, The Intruder is watchable and thinly entertaining, even if you’re forced to yell at characters for making Stupid Movie Character decisions in much of the back half of the film.
Credit Denis Quaid for chewing so hard on the scenery that it gets stuck in his teeth, which nearly transforms The Intruder into an almost-recommendable kind of soft-boiled airport novel garbage. Somewhere between the sensual trappings and Quaid’s maniacally over-the-top turn as a homeowner from hell, The Intruder flirts with quality. Leaning full-frontal into camp, it can be a giddy piece of low-rent laughs and cheap thrills if one that fails to shift into that extra gear to really crank its unsubtle silliness all the way up. But alas, the transition never comes and as the film reveals its final twists and turns, it smuggles some truly odd and irreconcilable character choices in that, rather than make one’s hairs stand on end, simply makes your head itch.
CONCLUSION: Maintaining no illusions of high class storytelling, ‘The Intruder’ is a narratively cut and dry psychosexual thriller boosted by thick ropes of camp, courtesy of an exaggerated baddie in Dennis Quaid, but held back by stagnant director and overly familiar plotting.
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