There have been many iterations of the thriller about a beautiful couple whose lives and relationship are turned upside down by an obsessive and psychotic killer, why should you watch one more? Well, THE INTRUDER is a bit different, mostly in the performances and the turns that the story takes. It is directed by Deon Taylor, whose previous films are Supremacy, Nite Tales, and Traffik, among others.
Scott and Annie Howard are a couple recovering from a serious breach of trust in their marriage and decide to find their dream home in Napa Valley, away from the corporate life that Scott lives while running his company in San Francisco. They find what Annie considers her dream home in a remote area and is a house that is being sold by Charlie Peck, a charming but strangely intense widower. Despite Scott’s reservations, they buy the home and move in, but Charlie seems unwilling to part with the house and keeps turning up at the house at an increasingly alarming rate. Charlie seems determined to worm his way into their personal lives and own the house despite his claims that he is moving soon. Scott becomes suspicious, but Annie feels bad for the man, and Scott starts to try and find a way to discover what exactly Charlie Peck the charmer is really up to.
Scott and Annie Howard are played by Michael Ealy and Meagan Good and do solid work as a loving couple with trust issues and past trauma. They seem like real people with real flaws and that is something that is missing from a lot of thrillers of this type, frankly. They are people who you can understand and empathize with that aren’t cardboard cut-outs. Now I have to have a word about Dennis Quaid. You know how they sometimes talk about a role that an actor plays that is against type, “See So and So like you’ve never seen So and So before!” Well, this is one of those kinds of roles and Dennis Quaid plays against his golden boy, hero type with a vengeance. He tears into the role of Charlie with gusto and is frankly quite unsettling in a way that I haven’t seen since Terry O’ Quinn in The Stepfather, a cult favorite in the horror genre. He brings a bit more sexual menace to it, but that’s what I was thinking while watching THE INTRUDER. I was honestly creeped out by his villainous turn in a way that rarely happens to me, but he also used his charm to present the false face that makes it hard to get rid of him at the same time. Both sides were believable.
The story follows the usual pattern of this type of thriller until it totally does not. Part of what I believe the director was trying to do was make a movie that normalizes what the audience does not expect and then turns your expectations upside down. It’s thrilling and fun with just the right amount of UGH, HE’S CRAZY to keep you off balance. The best parts of the story to me were the character touches that made the characters more believable and the story more frightening. Annie is a kind and generous woman, but she was betrayed by the man she loves and while both of the partners find that their marriage is worth fighting for, their differences and problems with trust come up and have to be realistically dealt with. Annie isn’t just a prize for Charlie to win, she is a human being with a hurt but resilient heart. Scott is a man who is trying to do the right thing for the woman he loves and to his credit, he does not descend into machismo or misogyny to do it. Charlie is a mentally ill and manipulative killer who has managed to escape justice through his wits. His control issues drive his obsessive need to own what he thinks is his and what he wants. There’s a moment late in the film when Scott contacts someone who knows Charlie well and the answer that he gets from this person is chilling. While he got a previously disturbing bit of information about Charlie from a neighbor, this reveal is one of those cinematic moments of quiet awe and fear and I have to say bravo to both Ealy and to Lily Sepe, who plays the character in question. Some may question Annie’s sympathy for Charlie, but they miss that fact that his type of person deliberately deceives others to stay on their good side and get that sympathy, while still trying to undermine the people that they target. People do this kind of thing for real, you guys.
Overall, I not only enjoyed THE INTRUDER, but I give Deon Taylor and the writer David Loughery, who wrote Passenger 57 and Lakeview Terrace, full credit for trying to bring a more human dimension to the characters in what is usually a very cut and paste sub-genre of thrillers. THE INTRUDER is crazy in a way that it really needs to be an unabashedly and whole-heartedly committed to its particular brand of madness. This is a plus in my book because you can’t make a good thriller without fully committing to the ride. THE INTRUDER arrives in theaters May 3, 2019.