Scott (Michael Ealy) and Annie (Meagan Good) have just capped off the beginning of their life together with a dream home in Napa Valley. But the house’s previous owner, Charlie (Dennis Quaid), becomes a bit of a nuisance with his reluctance to let go, showing up announced to do ‘helpful’ chores and criticizing changes the young couple make. Irritation soon turns to terror when Scott and Annie begin to suspect just why Charlie has turned from real estate seller into “The Intruder.”
From the writer of “Lakeview Terrace” comes another home invading psychopath in a racially mixed dynamic. But while Samuel L. Jackson was truly terrifying objecting to his white neighbor’s marriage to a black woman, Quaid’s loony lust for playing house with the black woman who bought his home is so over the top the thriller becomes comedic. “The Intruder” isn’t a good film, leaning heavily into cliche and stolen bits (“The Shining’s” ‘Here’s Johnny!’), but Ealy and Good are committed enough, Quaid hammy enough, for a brainless amusement.
There’s also the real estate porn. Charlie Peck’s Foxglove is the real deal, a luxurious old home full of period detail set in idyllic surroundings. It makes Nancy Meyers’ digs look sterile, even after the Howards’ tasteful redecorating. Their first look at the house sums up the film’s entire modus operandi. Wandering about looking for the owner, they are in awe of the place’s beauty. ‘Look!’ says Annie as she spots a deer munching leaves just beyond the tree line, immediately followed by a rifle blast.
This becomes the film’s motif, a trigger for Scott whose brother was killed with a gun. He’s immediately uncomfortable around Charlie, but Annie feels sorry for the man who lost his wife to cancer and is leaving the home his grandfather built to move in with a daughter in Florida, despite his penchant for slaughtering forest animals. Charlie’s negotiating skills with Scott leave enough to be desired that Scott walks away, but Charlie relents, saying he wants them to have the house, throwing in his furnishings along with a $200K price reduction.
A day or two after they’ve moved in, Annie finds Charlie mowing their extensive lawn on the ride-on mower he took from the garage (‘that’s where I keep it’). She’s a little thrown, but Charlie’s on a charm assault when it comes to Annie and later that night Scott’s the one who’s thrown when she tells him she’s invited Charlie to Thanksgiving dinner. It goes well enough, only we seeing just how much Charlie’s put out that the Howards have replaced his tapestry with modern art (‘That was my gift to you’), but Scott’s business partner and best friend Mike (Joseph Sikora) has an odd feeling of being watched when he goes out to smoke a cigarette. The next morning when Mike and Rachel (Alvina August) prepare to leave, he finds a cigarette burn on the leather seat of his sports car.
Director Deon Taylor (“Traffik”) uses a slew of tried-and-true tricks to get his audience screaming, like suddenly revealing Charlie very close to an unsuspecting victim. But the script he’s working from only makes half-hearted attempts to prop up Charlie’s motivation. A phone call to Peck’s daughter is particularly irrational. A bit of past history is added to Scott and Annie’s marriage to supply a bit of mistrust, but it is wholly unnecessary, Annie and Scott’s initial differing attitudes to Charlie having nothing to do with it. We can believe what Ealy and Good do with their characters, but Quaid is nothing more than a boilerplate boogeyman. “The Intruder” is nothing new, but it’s good for some cheesy thrills and a laugh or two.
Robin did not see this film.
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