Thursday, May 2, 2019

It was his home and he won't let go

The Intruder squanders any promise with a hopeless descent into horror cliches.

Indecision is a bad quality in a genre movie. If you take a look at IMDb, you'll find that The Intruder has been assigned multiple genre labels. This movie about a successful young black couple that buys a beautiful Napa Valley house only to be tormented by the home's previous owner carries a quartet of genre headings: drama, horror, mystery, and thriller.

Had the movie opted for mystery and drama, it might have proved less laughable. But thriller and horror elements wind up dominating. That leaves The Intruder with only one notable quality: an over-the-top performance from Dennis Quaid as an apparently helpful widower who refuses to abandon the house that he says he associates with his grown daughter and late wife.

If you'd never seen another movie, you might think that The Intruder is going to touch on psychological and perhaps racial issues. But you, as someone in possession of a reasonable amount of movie sentience, already know that the Quaid's Charlie Peck will go from annoying to menacing almost before you have a chance to take that first bite of popcorn.

And that's part of the movie's problem. Had director Deon Taylor and screenwriter David Loughery taken more time making us wonder about Quaid's character, the movie might have made its attractive young couple (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good) seem more credible. Good's character, in particular, suffers from a bad case of failure to see the obvious.

Allowing the audience to know more than the characters may be part of Taylor's strategy. It sets up the kind of obvious jump scares that mark standard horror, including a tired old standby that elicits audience groans and laughter. At one point, Good's character descends into a creepy basement with a flashlight. A vocal audience at a preview screening had no difficulty letting her know that she'd just made a really dumb move.

This kind of manipulation can be fun, but in the case of The Intruder, it drags the movie into a junk heap of silliness.

There isn't much help by way of a supporting cast, aside from Joseph Sikora, who plays Mike, a business partner of Ealy's Scott. They run a trendy San Francisco ad agency that has made them both a ton of money.

Feeble attempts are made to add psychological depth. Good's Annie can be jealous of her husband, who -- we learn -- has a good reason for not wanting guns around the house. But Quaid's Charlie Peck emerges as a monster who requires no other explanation than the fact that we're watching a movie that can't resist horror movie cliches. Oh well, Quaid takes on this duty with apparent glee.

Sledgehammer jolts of music and a tendency to telegraph its moves trample any suggestion of subtlety on the part of The Intruder. The result: The only thing that's intruded upon here is any desire the movie might have had to be taken seriously.

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