The Intruder breaks no new ground in the breaking-in subgenre – which it doesn’t necessarily have to, but its real fatal flaw is not using the recycled tropes to push far enough into either true terror or camp. Even with a serviceably wackadoodle performance from Dennis Quaid, the film plays everything too straight, with little tension or wicked wit, to use his mugging and menace effectively.
Young, successful couple Annie (Meagan Good) and Scott Howard (Michael Ealy) – shout-out to Teen Wolf! – are relocating from their posh San Francisco city home to Napa Valley for that laid-back country life Annie craves to start a family.
The home she zeroes-in on is a $3.3 million estate in need of some TLC. It’s named Foxglove after the poisonous plant that grows on the grounds and the couple first meets the owner, Charlie Peck (Quaid), as he shoots a deer on the property, a frenzied expression on his face. So, there are several warning signs here that may make a non-dumb-movie-couple move on to the next “idyllic” listing.
You’d also think in a transaction at this price point there would be Realtors involved who could mention there was a violent death in the home, but astute (in terms of The Intruder) ad exec Scott is satisfied when he convinces Charlie to drop the price to $3.1 million and throw in the furniture. Never mind the dried blood stains on the wall in the sewing room.
After the Howards move in, Charlie keeps popping up, seemingly unable to let go of the only home he’s ever lived in and delaying his move to live with his daughter in Florida. Each visit is an unnerving mixture of awkwardness and rage, that, of course, eventually bubbles over.
Good is very likable here, but the compassion for lonely Charlie is only believable to a point. Annie’s kindness quickly morphs into silliness in a script that requires her to side with the clearly crazed former owner of her home when he has macho standoffs with her husband. Ealy is also at the mercy of undeveloped writing, going from aggressive and overreactive in one scene to easy-going in the next, often leaving the wife he’s so concerned about alone. Relationship rifts and past infidelity are hinted at but only used to have the couple bicker and then make up, occasionally with a cheap scare like lighting or headlights revealing Charlie watching in the background.
Also nonsensical is the build to the inevitable final confrontation, interactions between Charlie and the Howards having no real progression in intensity. There’s just a mishmash of uncomfortable pleasantries and hostilities that leave in-the-moment motivations elusive and make it impossible to become invested in or unnerved by any of the goings on, either on a visceral or fun, genre-celebrating level. When all is revealed about what REALLY happened at Foxglove and Charlie’s REAL motivations for selling his beloved home, it’s all surface-level, laughable tripe that only magnifies the foolishness of the characters.
The only interesting moments are when we get a look inside Charlie’s mind, either when he’s alone practicing fiendish expressions or fantasizing about what he’d really like to be doing while feigning cordialness.
What could’ve been a fun throwback to thrillers like Unlawful Entry and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle instead comes off as a bland pastiche of familiar beats, right up through an unpleasant final moment. It’s played as if it’s making some kind of statement, but makes just as little sense as what’s come before.