The Intruder (2019)

Medical science has long established that the human craving for nostalgia lies within the very chemistry of our brains:  It’s called “rosy retrospection,” and it involves amplifying our positive memories of the past, while dismissing the more negative components.  Rose-colored glasses are a real thing, y’all, and I’ve never felt smarter than when I just kicked off this review with the words, “medical science.”  In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I’m gonna use it again later.  Anyway, The Intruder depicts a genuine wacko so in love with his lifelong house, that it drives him off the ravine into madness.  The creaking floors, the various knick knacks, even the very soul of the house all compel him to do evil deeds in the name of reclaiming what once was his.  Dennis Quaid, who has built a career around his impish, Cheshire cat grin, does a fine job conveying this volatile mix of charismatic menace and wounded pride.  He’s such a solid pro that it makes most of the rest of what’s around him feel like an even deeper disappointment.

Scott Howard (Michael Ealy) is a San Francisco businessman who makes Scrooge McDuck bucks and lives well with his lovely wife, Annie (Meagan Good).  She wants to start a family, so the couple starts scoping for houses in Napa Valley.  They find a beautiful estate and haggle with the current owner, Charlie Peck (Quaid).  Charlie is a hearty, wholly friendly man, which in horror movies usually means he’s about one millimeter away from full-blown psychosis.  Scott and Annie ignore the obvious red flags in Charlie’s behavior and buy the house on the spot.  Pretty soon, Charlie is back mowing the yard, creeping in the bushes, and driving a wedge between the young couple.  It’s clear he wants his old house back, and he’ll do anything to make that happen.

My biggest beef with movies like this is how the writers take smart characters and force them to do stupid things.  Scott and Annie, two intelligent, level-headed people, basically have to ignore the fact that Charlie is Jack Nicholson from The Shining.  (The movie makes an unsubtle reference to that movie, and if I could put an eye-roll emoji right here, I would.)  This movie puts any sense of logic on life support for all of its 100 minutes.  It also doesn’t help that the movie saddles Scott with a best friend (Joseph Sikora) who’s a preeminent douchebag.  This dude litters in Napa Valley, whines about the leather in his Porsche, and condescendingly refers to people as “cowboy.”  I can’t speak for anybody else, but I was kinda rooting for Charlie to kick off his hatchet spree with this asshole.

On the subject of Charlie, Quaid elevates the entire movie.  With a voice that sounds like a pack of Marlboro Reds, Quaid brings an infectiously weird charm to his house-hungry psychopath.  His performance has more spark and campy zip than this movie probably deserves.  Ealy and Good do what they can with underwritten parts, but this creaky horror outing is the sole property of Dennis Quaid.

The Intruder is a suspense movie that moves like molasses.   You can probably guess where the story ends up, but it’s a hedge maze of jump scares and clunky dialogue to get there.  My experience with this film made me want to go back and experience A Quiet Place or Us again.  I could even go back to The Shining, for that matter.  Bad movies just make us long for the better ones.  And that ain’t just me talking.  That’s medical science.

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Author: Todd Wofford

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