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THE INTRUDER

He Never Can Say Goodbye

Dennis Quaid
Dennis Quaid
Screen Gems
 102 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed ByDeon Taylor
Starring: Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Dennis Quaid    
C-
The Intruder

In one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies, John Badham’s Blue Thunder, the late, great character actor Warren Oates dressed down an inexperienced subordinate by saying, “You’re supposed to be stupid, son. Don’t abuse the privilege.” Somehow, Oates’s words came to mind when watching the inept thriller, The Intruder. In it, Meagan Good plays a character who is as totally clueless, gullible, and downright idiotic as anyone I’ve ever seen in a horror movie, a genre that by its very nature attracts its share of nitwits and imbeciles. Of course, there’s a reason for Good’s character acting this way; if she showed an ounce of common sense, the movie would have lasted about 22 minutes instead of 102.

 

In The Intruder, Good and Michael Ealy play Annie and Scott Russell, a couple looking to move away from San Francisco to the countryside to raise a family in rustic peace and tranquility. They find what they at first think is the perfect location out in the woods somewhere in the Napa Valley. Unfortunately, that house winds up being as bad a choice as the one selected by the family in Pet Sematary. The only difference is that the danger here isn’t supernatural in nature; instead, it’s the owner, Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid).

 

The first sign that Charlie isn’t normal occurs when Annie and Scott visit the property. As they are walking around the house, they spot a deer in the front yard, at which point, Charlie steps out of the woods surrounding the house and proceeds to gun down the deer into the front yard. Later, Charlie shows Scott a gun collection that would qualify him for a free lifetime membership in the NRA. And, when Charlie is showing the couple around the house, director Deon Taylor makes sure to zoom in on the upstairs linen closet, which Charlie a bit too casually passes off as “just a linen closet.” (Later in the movie, Taylor makes sure to zoom in on the closet every time a characters walks around upstairs. Anyone want to guess where the secret entrance into the house is?)

 

Scott is reluctant to buy the house, but Annie loves it and feels sorry for Charlie, a widower who is downsizing to move in with his daughter in Florida. So, when Charlie offers to throw in the furniture as well, Scott and Annie buy it. Almost immediately, they realize that Charlie has not moved to Florida as claimed, but shows up at every opportunity with one lame excuse after another about just being in the neighborhood. And, as time goes on, Scott gets more and more suspicious of Charlie, especially when he gets run off the road while jogging one evening and spending the night in the hospital. But Annie still believes and feels sorry for Charlie, who, in the best tradition of Eddie Haskell, puts on his earnest, hangdog face in front of her, while showing a lot of cracks in his façade when she’s not looking.

 

There is not one single surprising plot development in The Intruder. Some bits of business, like the linen closet with a false back, which might have been shocking or suspenseful if the reveals were handled skillfully, instead are delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. Others, like a dream sequence in which Charlie imagines wreaking havoc on Scott and Annie’s friends during a Thanksgiving dinner, are so lame that I can’t imagine any way they could have worked. Director Taylor went over this same general dramatic territory in his last film, Traffik, which was no masterpiece. However, Traffik seems like a Hitchcock thriller in comparison to The Intruder.

 

What makes The Intruder especially annoying is the fact that, to work at even this basic level, Annie has to be a complete, gullible idiot. She thinks nothing of sharing a pizza with Charlie one night (the old, I just ordered too big a pizza trick) while wearing nothing but a bathrobe. And, when Mike’s investigator reveals some financial skeletons in Charlie’s closet, Annie basically dismisses the notion that good old Charlie isn’t all there. Then, to top it off, the film has a big action finale that results in a final scene that’s intended as a big crowd pleaser. Unfortunately, the events shown in the last minute of the movie require the audience pretty much to forget everything that the characters did during those first 101 minutes of the film.

 

Although The Intruder at best resembles a mediocre episode of a TV action show and, at worst, a student production for a high school theater class, it does manage to be watchable and occasionally entertaining whenever Dennis Quaid is on screen. For most of his career, Quaid has used his good looks and friendly demeanor to play a variety of likable nice guys. But now, as he is aging, his face is showing some wear, which gives him a wider range of more sinister expressions at his disposal. (Ironically, in one good throwaway scene, he practices his smile so that he can continue to fool Annie.) And the wild expressions work incredibly well. Quaid’s Charlie is clearly nutty, and director Taylor gives the actor free rein to overact pretty much as he wants. The results are a hoot, especially when even the gullible Annie recognizes the full extent of Charlie’s lunacy.

 

Without Dennis Quaid and his enjoyably loopy performance as Charlie, The Intruder would have been one of the worst and dumbest films of the year. But coming in the wake of other horrible cinematic misfires like Hellboy and The Curse of La Llorona, The Intruder doesn’t come off all that badly. The scenes between Ealy and Good, especially when they argue with each other over a long-ended affair whose only reason for being in the movie is to give Annie an excuse to side against her husband, are annoying. Later, when the action starts, it proves somewhat routine. But even during the most intense fighting, Charlie is still Charlie, and Dennis Quaid is still working the audience. Quaid’s enthusiastic performance is not enough to recommend The Intruder, but it is lively enough to ensure that audiences won’t fall asleep.

In this clip, Michael Ealy reminds Dennis Quaid that the house isn't his any more.

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The Intruder (2019) on IMDb

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