Scott and Annie Russell have it all. Two successful millennials living and working comfortably and successfully in urban San Francisco. There’s just one issue with their life, Annie wants children to raise outside the city. Their house hunting ventures takes them more than an hour outside the city to wine country, Napa Valley, where a serene and beautiful English style cottage rests privately around a nature preserve and becomes the ideal home prospect for Annie. The homeowner, Charlie Peck, seems eager for the married couple to purchase his home that has been in his family for three generations, even knocking down the price and leaving all the furnishings to sweeten the deal. After purchasing the house of Annie’s dreams, Scott makes due with his work in San Francisco, leaving Annie home alone for most of the week, but when Charlie keeps showing up at their doorstep, a frustrated Scott knows something just isn’t normal about the former owner who develops an obsessive fascination with his wife and won’t let go of his beloved home so easily.
From Deon Taylor, the director of “Traffik,” comes the 2019 suspenseful horror-thriller “The Intruder.” Penned by David Loughery, a writer who knows a little something-something about obsession thrillers with his work on “Lakeview Terrace” and “Obsessed,” “The Intruder” becomes a trifecta completing hit of dark compulsions shot actually not in California, but in Vancouver as an alternative in filming in the sacred Napa Valley. What could be said as a concoction of the over-friendly cable guy from “The Cable Guy” mixed thoroughly through a Bullet blender with Ray Liotta’s fixated Officer Peter Davis in “Unlawful Entry” and out pours “The Intruder” with all the creepy niceties of a mania driven illness to a subconsciously dangerous idiosyncrasy set in today’s paradigms for a new generation of thrill seekers.
With a couple of exceptions, “The Intruder’s” cast doesn’t impress, especially with Michael Ealy who shutters a range of intensity and temperament as once showcased as the psychopathic Theo in Fox’s television hit, “The Following.” Ealy, who will be the lead star in the upcoming “Jacob’s Ladder” remake, designates a flat and removed performance for a rather more than ordinary husband with a checkered past with women who are not his wife. Opposite Ealy is “Saw V’s” Meagan Good as a brighter star amongst the relatively small key cast with a tighter grip on the wholesomely ingenuous Annie. Perhaps very similar to herself according to the behind-the-scenes feature accompanying the home video release, Annie’s humble positivity blooms the potential weight effect of Charlie Peck’s devious charisma that explodes to a head when Peck’s good guy mask has been removed. Like many reviews before this one, Dennis Quaid opens incredulous eyes as Charlie Peck. The then 64 year old actor, whose worked with screenwriter Loughery in the 1980’s as the star of “Dreamscape,” flaunts a muscular physique upon an inclusive depth and range of his character that really puts Quaid into a new light. “The Intruder” rounds out with Joseph Sikora (“Jack Reacher”), Alvina August (“Bad Times at the El Royale”), along with minor performances in a handful scenes or less from Erica Cerra (“Blade: Trinity”), Lili Sepe (“It Follows”), Lee Shorten (“In the End”), and “iZombie’s” Kurt Evans.
Getting through the first act without whiplash was nearly a struggle. With hardly any buildup through a speedy introduction of the Russell’s, who are the central focus of this film, one of “The Intruder’s” themes became nearly neutralized. Emotional triggers, the things and events that set us off or make us anxious, make up the very fiber of these characters, so importantly so, that their weaponized to divide and conquer the morality of their being. Annie’s emotionally deteriorating trigger is receiving a working late text from Scott because of his pre-martial affairs, verbally ripping into him when he returns home and reminding the circumstances of his last text of that nature and Scott’s traumatizing trigger stems from his youth when his brother was gunned down so every time he sees a gun, Scott’s visibly agitated and shaken. These coattail effects of these backdrop moments were implemented into the heart of the story, never emphasized initially as a flaw the character would overcome; instead, the triggers are thrown kind of haphazardly into the middle, jostled out indirectly or directly by Charlie Peck, and then revisited for the finale but doesn’t warrant a viewer appreciated response as anticipated. Peck’s trigger, of course, is losing the precious home to a relatively ungrateful couple and his trigger has been present since the start, making Charlie a more well-rounded character, even if an antagonistic one.
Screen Gems, a Sony Pictures sub-label, presents the Hidden Empire Film group production, “The Intruder,” onto DVD home video. The DVD is in an anamorphic widescreen presentation, a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, on MiniHawk Lenses digital camera as noted on IMDB. The aesthetic picture has virtually no issues, as typical digital recorded films go, but was taken aback by the lack of eloquence into cinematographer Daniel Pearl’s work. The man who began his career with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” turned more toward his forte in the music videos, patterning sleek speedy cars with some warm neon tinting into a delicate, woven tapestry that really should have focused on the cottage itself, as a calm before the storm character in the film, but the interior and partial exterior became the game plan for Pearl. There was a scene or two where thick mist envelops the house that forebodes a menacing factor much needed throughout. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has ample qualities and will deliver range and depth as Charlie Peck moves through a creaky old house. Dialogue is clear and welcoming. Bonus features include an alternate ending, which to be honest was about the same, deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel, cast and crew commentary, an interview style behind-the-scenes featurette. Dennis Quaid was destined for Charlie Peck, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who shines as an absolute emphasizer on the “The Intruder’s” belaboring shock palette worthy of an effective modern horror-thriller available July 30th. Pre-order your copy below!