The Intruder (2019)
★★ / ★★★★
It is said that home invasion movies are only as good as the central villain and in “The Intruder,” written by David Loughery and Deon Taylor, Charlie proves to be strong, smart, fast, and genuinely creepy. He is played with wonderful energy by Dennis Quaid, capable communicating plenty with, for example, how he blinks or how he raises his left eyebrow when he hears an opinion he disagrees with completely. It is a great frustration then that the material fails to match Quaid’s wacko intensity on a consistent basis. While the work offers entertaining moments that range from quiet to disturbingly loud, the execution comes across as yet another forgettable thriller in which all the violence is saved for the final fifteen minutes and it offers no falling action.
The opening chapters are generic but mildly curious because of the charismatic couple, Annie and Scott, portrayed by Meagan Good and Michael Ealy, respectively. They look good together and the script is quick to establish what the couple sees in one another. Credit to the writers for making a fresh decision to give the characters—and the audience—an extended tour of the home to be purchased before giving way to the expected creepy happenings. By taking its time, not only does it build suspense—would a particular room, tapestry, or cabinet prove to be important later?—we begin to have an appreciation of Annie and Scott starting a life in the beautiful Napa County.
Particularly enjoyable about the film is that although Annie and Scott have purchased Charlie’s home, it never feels like it is truly theirs. Quaid’s star power is one factor. Another is Taylor’s direction. Take notice, for example, when the husband decides to inform his wife that Charlie may not be the man who he presents himself to be. This exchange takes place outdoors and in daylight. And yet… the house sits on the background. We notice the windows. We look a little closer, checking every single glass frame to ensure that Charlie is not there, listening. The man appears to be everywhere. His presence is so strong that there is a metaphorical shadow even in daytime.
I wished that the picture worked on this level consistently. I grew tired of poor decisions eventually, particularly by the Annie character. As a performer, Good exudes both kindness and intelligence so not for one second did I believe that, for instance, Annie would keep inviting Creepy Charlie into her home after one too many unwelcome visits. There is one scene in particular that should have made a statement. Scott asks Annie whether she had been aware of the way Charlie looks at her. She denies it completely. I felt this is a disservice to the character. If anything, Annie should be the smartest person in the room. It is most frustrating that the writers chose to make her too soft. During the final act, her sudden change as a fierce fighter does not make a lick of sense.
Those looking for superficial entertainment are likely to be satisfied by “The Intruder.” The handful of chases are thrilling, the performers sell the limited roles they are given (with the exception of Quaid who goes above and beyond), and there are a few memorable shots (the aforementioned windows scene, Charlie’s amusing but heart-pounding implosion when he learns that the tapestry/gift he left for the couple had been replaced by a painting). It is shockingly low on body count, however. I demand more from home invasion movies. With so many of them out there, there are a hundred one examples how not to make one. The work is low on ambition.