Director: Scott Spiegel
Writers: Lawrence Bender (story), Scott Spiegel (screenplay/story)
Starring: Elizabeth Cox, Renée Estevez, Dan Hicks, David Byrnes, Sam Raimi, Eugene Robert Glazer, Billy Marti, Burr Steers, Bruce Campbell
18 | 1hr 23min | Horror
Budget: $130,000 (estimated)
Intruder is something of an anomaly.
Made at the tail-end of the 1980s, it was released long after the MPAA had stepped in to curtail the wanton bloodlust of the slasher boom, an imposition on civil liberties that would lead to years of tepid horror, and the political degradation of a much loved genre. Thankfully, just as Jason Voorhees was setting sail for Manhattan in perhaps the most censored of an ever-diluting franchise, director Scott Spiegel let rip with his supermarket splatterfest of ingeniously graphic proportions.
With his 1981 classic The Evil Dead, director Sam Raimi had led the video nasty revolution. One of the 72 movies banned by the BBFC, Raimi was forced to remake his low-budget baby as a horror comedy. Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn was a quasi-sequel with the exact same premise. In many ways the movie was just as gruesome, but the insidious nature of its predecessor had been replaced by a smash-mouth, slapstick approach, a movie whose zany humour would prove self-censoring in a manner which made the horror more acceptable. Rather than detract from the original’s potency, Dead by Dawn explored a whole new realm of extremity, and many believe it to be a superior film to the original.
Intruder takes more than a leaf out of Dead by Dawn’s Book of the Dead, which isn’t surprising when you consider that Spiegel co-wrote the latter’s screenplay along with Raimi, who also stars in this movie, with Dead by Dawn’s cult lead Bruce Campbell even popping up for a cameo. There are many comparisons to be drawn here. First of all, the movie has its tongue firmly in its cheek. The murders may be gruesome – devastatingly so – but like Dead by Dawn its sense of fun and Days of Our Lives characterisation softens the blow, while a ludicrously comical killer is perhaps enough in itself to keep the censorship wolf away from the shop floor.
The plot is extremely and effectively simple: on the eve of a corporate takeover, the employees of a local supermarket are plunged into joblessness by conflicting co-owners, and while a checkout girl’s jailbird ex-boyfriend comes a knocking, everyone there has a reason to feel aggrieved, and the movie quickly becomes a by-the-numbers whodunit which will perhaps keep you in the dark due to how peripheral it is to the overall movie. Although, if you’re distracted enough from the action to have a stab at the killer’s identity, you will likely drown in the proverbial blood of the blatantly obvious.
Like Dead by Dawn, Intruder is also technically playful – although sometimes to its detriment. While the former used bizarre angles to represent Ash’s claustrophobia and descent into madness, Spiegel uses a similar approach for seemingly no reason at all, filming redundant interactions from dizzying angles which make absolutely no sense, and only serve to baffle the viewer on a technical level. While Dead by Dawn utilised anonymous POV shots to convey the existence of ethereal spirits, Spiegel shoots from inside a moving shopping cart simply for the hell of it.
That being the case, there are some inspired examples of this kind of carefree creativity – an ingenious shot of our murderer’s blurred reflection being one of them, while a bloodied light bulb motif, again borrowed from Raimi’s Evil Dead, is particularly effective – perhaps even more so than its source material. The movie also borrows heavily from John Carpenter’s Halloween as our POV killer stalks with a perverted breath, and a series of seemingly innocuous shots hint at the presence of an unseen menace. It is because of this that the movie is able to muster instances of palpable tension.
In the end, the movie is all about a series of murders and their creative extremities. This is the kind of picture that relishes in its ability to make its audience cringe, and thanks to the special effects maestros at KNB Efx Group – who went on to work on cringing classics such as Misery and From Dusk Till Dawn – you find yourself anticipating each kill wondering just what they’ll do to top the last.
Tom Savini would be proud.
There are so many to choose from, a paper spike through the eyeball and a head squashed in a garbage compressor proving two of the most unsettling, but for pure cringing terror nothing beats one unlucky customers date with a band saw. Cripes!
Most Absurd Moment
Intruder offers its fair share of visual jokes in its attempts to counterbalance the gore, but that of our resident killer beating red herring Craig with the severed head of a previous victim probably pips it for plain absurdity.
Most Absurd Dialogue
After being fingered as the unlikely culprit, our killer goes some way to explaining his psychopathic psyche.
Killer: Don’t you see? I’m just CRAZY about this store!
Intruder is a technically proficient run-of-the-mill slasher elevated by a series of quite astonishing kills, and a whimsical tone which prevents it from descending into the kind of cynical, perverted trash which once plunged the sub-genre into commercial purgatory.