Director: Scott Spiegel
Cast: Elizabeth Cox, Renée Estevez, Dan Hicks, Sam Raimi
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Back in the late ’80s, in this particular case we’re talking about 1989, the slasher phenomena was winding down, but a group of plucky filmmakers thought, “Hey, why don’t we give the stalk and slash thing a try?” What set them apart from the thousands of others doing the same thing was the fact that it was the crazy guys that gave the world Evil Dead 2. Scott Spiegel, who co-wrote ED2, would write and direct, Sam Raimi would take a turn in front of the camera as an actor and naturally Sam would bring his brother Ted along for the ride. The gore guys that first came together for Evil Dead 2 would use this film to form their earth-shattering effects company, KNB EFX. Even Bruce Campbell would return, although if you blinked you would miss him. So with all that talent behind it, how could this movie fail?
Ok, right about here is where I would usually make a snarky remark about how this movie sucked. Thankfully this time around, I can’t say that. To be sure this movie isn’t perfect but it does deliver the goods, even if you have to wait a good long while to get them. Yeah, Intruder does start off a little slow, with the first kill not happening until after the thirty minute mark, and that one even occurs off camera. But what saves this movie from becoming a bore are the off kilter characters, and the trademarked Evil Dead use of cameras.
What do I mean by that?
Well here you will have camera Point Of View shots from telephones, doorknobs, store shelves, mop buckets, and a roving camera that shoots the characters from front, behind, above, below, and all places in between. I love neat-o camera tricks like that, they’re fun and they liven up things, which as stated, could be a bit boring at the start of this flick. That also begs the question of just how much of these Raimi-esque camera tricks were actually thanks to Mr. Raimi, and how much were just how that particular group of Michigan born madmen did things.
And speaking of Michigan, Intruder is the only slasher film that I know of to be set in my home state. So yeah, I may be a bit biased towards it for that, hearing the actors drop the names of streets and locations that I know very well, but the movie is definitely good enough to stand on its own merits, with or without that groovy Michigan flavor.
Intruder takes place in a small (read as: not Walmart sized) grocery store where the night crew was just given the bad news that the store has been sold and that they will all be losing their jobs at the end of the week. To make matters worse, someone starts slicing everyone up using many of the sharp and nasty things you can find in your average grocery store. Now this is where older versions of this film sort of sucked, as Intruder was itself infamously slashed by the self-appointed guardians of decency at the MPAA. All of the glorious gore gags were excised and the movie had about as much balls as your typical PG kiddie flick. Thankfully this version is the “director’s cut” which restores most of the missing bloody bits to the film, including a head getting smashed in a trash compactor, and in the highlight of the film, another head gets cut in half, right across the upper teeth, by a ban saw. Yep, it’s as good as it sounds.
Now don’t get me wrong, not everything is golden with this movie. The story is about as basic as it gets. People in an isolated location get hack up by a mystery killer that can be anyone except for the obvious red herring the film keeps bludgeoning the audience with. Also the acting is pretty bad, but it’s honestly bad. Intruder is pure camp, honest camp, and completely unlike many modern movies that try too damn hard to be campy and just come off as forced, desperate, and far from enjoyable. This film is a slice of ’80s slasher goodness, and as such I love it to pieces.
If you’ve ever read any of my reviews of previous releases from the good folks over at Synapse Films, then you know that when it comes to making the picture look great, few companies do it better. And this low budget, often forgotten slasher from the late 1980s is no exception. Intruder looks simply amazing on Blu-ray and for that reason alone you need to get this flick. And if you’re an extras hound, like me, then be prepared to bay with joy over the special features found on this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
There is a making-of retrospective called “Slashing Prices” that runs about 40 minutes long and has a nice collection of people related to the film giving their two cents on various aspects of it. Of course big time director Sam Raimi couldn’t be bothered to show up for this (boo, hiss) but his brother Ted did, and surprisingly so did Bruce Campbell, who’s only in the film for about two minutes. And I must say, few behind the scenes pieces have been this entertaining and informative. Top marks must go to Red Shirt Pictures, the go-to production company for your movie’s special features.
Further goodies in the usual vein include a really good audio commentary with the director and producer, audition footage, a still gallery, theatrical and trailer. There’s about ten minutes of very raw footage from the original workprint that show off a little more gore, and a bit of love is paid to the short, and now sadly lost, film that was a precursor to Intruder called Night Crew, such as a collection of outtakes from that short, and a trailer.
Intruder is a great fun fright flick that certainly, and sadly, falls under the “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” category. The story is as basic as it gets, but it’s loaded with style, skill, and undeniable charm. I love this quirky little film, and when showing it to some friends of mine who had never seen it before, and who are not the diehard horror fan that I am,, they loved it too. Higher praise than that, I cannot think of. Consider this one very recommended.