Dennis Quaid plays the villain in this particularly silly home-invasion thriller, which is about at the level of those persistently goofy made-for-TV network movies that were so numerous back in the sixties and seventies.
The script might have been written on one side of a napkin. A well-to-do San Francisco couple, Scott and Annie Howard (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good), buy a lovely Napa Valley home from widower Charlie Peck (Quaid). Charlie says that he’ll be moving to Florida to live with his daughter, but he hangs around indefinitely, dropping by incessantly to mow the lawn, show the newcomers where they can find the Christmas decorations, protest over a hole being drilled in a wall to install a security camera and so on.
To make matters worse, he drives a wedge between Scott and Annie, whose relationship has previously been shaken by her suspicion that her husband might have been involved with a co-worker. She is more welcoming to the fellow than her husband is.
Truth be told, Quaid, scripter David Loughery, director Deon Taylor, cinematographer Daniel Pearl and composer Geoff Zanelli (who tosses in an explosion of sinister music whenever Charlie goes into one of his moods) go out of their way to make it abundantly clear very early on that Charlie is a dangerous, mentally unstable guy. (He scowls menacingly at— and even imagines doing harm to—a character that might as well have a “Dead Meat” sign hanging on his or her neck at first appearance.) That heavy-handed note is simply sounded over and over again, particularly when Charlie keeps exhibiting his utter love of rifles, practically caressing them whenever they’re shown on screen—which is often. (Scott, by contrast, doesn’t like guns at all.)
You know where all of this is leading—to a big confrontation in the final reel. That includes the unveiling of secrets from Charlie’s past that are meant to be shocking but will have been guessed by virtually every viewer long before they’re revealed, as well as a fact about the house that comes straight out of the horror movie playbook. The ending then panders abjectly to the audience’s basest instincts.
Quaid holds absolutely nothing back here, chewing the scenery to such an extent that you might fear the nails from the floorboards are getting stuck in his gums. (There’s a scene where he’s examining himself with a mirror where his grotesque mugging suggests that could in fact have happened.) He leers, he smirks evilly, he practically spits out his lines. Actually, the actor had what amounts to a rehearsal for the part in an earlier movie, Martin Guigui’s little-seen 2012 horror flick “Beneath the Darkness,” in which he played a wacky widower who stalks a bunch of teenagers who have broken into his house, which also serves as the town mortuary. He was terrible in it, too.
Ealy and Good are both extremely attractive performers, but they’re completely defeated by characters that are as dumb as horror movie conventions demand. That’s especially true of Good, whose Annie takes so long to come to the realization that Charlie’s a rotter that she must have been held back several grades in school. Joseph Sikora and Alvina August are a bit more perceptive as the Howards’ closest friends, but not by much, and their performances are rote. The actors who appear as local townspeople, and Lili Sepe as Charlie’s daughter, all have what amount to walk-ons, as do those who play Scott’s co-workers.
The only positive thing one can say about “The Intruder” is that the Peck house is actually a nice-looking place (credit production designer Andrew Neskorommy and set decorator Ingrid Burgstaller), except for a basement that’s awfully run-down.
This is one of those movies that wants to scare you but is more likely to make you burst out laughing, so awful that it could be considered instant camp. Don’t let it intrude upon your time, unless unintentional humor is what you’re searching for.