MILD SPOILERS FOR THE INTRUDER WITHIN
Scott Howard (Michael Ealy) and Annie Howard (Meagan Good) have decided to step away from city life and buy up a home in the Napa Valley so that they can raise a prospective family in a more serene environment. The humble abode they’ve purchased previously belonged to Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid), a widow who has spent decades taking care of this house that now belongs to the Howards…in theory. See, Charlie Peck just won’t leave the couple alone. First he shows up to mow the lawn, then he keeps popping up every day to do odd jobs around the house. Annie thinks he’s harmless but Scott has a bad feeling about Charlie Peck that turns out to be more accurate than either of them could imagine.
If any movie was just crying out for an R-rating, it was The Intruder. This PG-13 thriller has a basic concept that feels ripe for an execution in line with classic Grindhouse B-movies that didn’t skimp on the blood or the profane cheesy dialogue. Instead, The Intruder is a sanitized PG-13 exercise brought to life with a disappointing listlessness that eschews any opportunity to take its premise to anywhere fun or delightfully unpredictable. It’s all paint-by-numbers to an insulting degree, right down to a third act twist revealing where Charlie Peck actually lives that’s cribbed from The Boy. How creatively deficient do you have to be to end up coming off as derivative of The Boy?
Only Dennis Quaid’s performance has any real life to it, particularly in the sequences introducing Charlie Peck to the Howard’s and the viewer. Quaid is a hoot playing Charlie Peck as a mischievous rascal who isn’t even trying to conceal that he’s really a psychopath. He can’t even respond to Annie’s inquiry about how poisonous some local flowers are without delivering his lines like a five-year-old child doing the world’s worst job of trying to keep a secret. With this kind of performance, there’s clearly no suspense in whether or not Charlie Peck is actually a murderous individual, but if the whole movie had the same kind of cuckoo energy of the best parts of Quaid’s performance, that wouldn’t matter one bit.
Unfortunately, The Intruder primarily opts for banality rather than schlocky fun. Even Charlie Peck becomes a disposable slasher movie villain by the time the tired finale arrives, though at least that character ends up being fun in earlier spots of the story. Poor Michael Ealy and Meagan Good, two good performances who seem game for this type of material, are saddled with entirely boring lead characters whose marital woes are as predictable as they come. There aren’t any other memorable supporting characters of note in the story so the tedious nature of the Howard’s couple really begins to sink in as the movie wears on.
Even worse than the poorly written lead characters is the direction and editing of Deon Taylor and Melissa Kent, respectively. The Intruder just looks so lifeless in its direction while the editing has a bad habit of refusing to linger on any single shot for a prolonged period of time, which continuously undercuts whatever meager tension the script is trying to weave. Despite having a potentially fun concept for an entertaining schlocky movie on its hands, The Intruder is a sloppily put together mess that ends up being highly forgettable, save for some parts of Dennis Quaid’s occasionally enjoyably off-kilter performance.