I am 110% a “city boy.” I have literally been to rural areas and had people comment on the softness of my hands after a handshake. I then remind them about the importance of moisturizing and self-care. Moisturizing is important y’all, but before I spend the rest of this review preaching the importance of it, the city-meets-country dynamic in one we’ve seen so many times before. It’s such a great culture clash because it works with almost any genre, like comedy, thriller, and horror. The Intruder offers up a bit of everything, even if some of it seems mostly unintentional.
The Intruder starts as these films often do: idyllic. A picturesque couple with almost everything seeks to complete their family by moving to the country and having a baby. Everything is going perfectly, they even found their dream home (and at only $3 million, what a steal!). Just as they are settling into their new, rural, far-from-everyone-and-everything life, they quickly realize that there is always one thing you can never account for: pesky neighbors. In this case, the “pesky neighbor” takes the form of the former owner of the house, Charlie (Dennis Quaid), who seems to have a sort of separation anxiety with the house and its new tenants.
This isn’t David Loughery first time around this type of ridiculous rodeo, having penned such films as Obsessed and Lakeview Terrace. The central commonality between all three films is that they center around a couple, in bliss, being harassed by some external, psychotic force. Yes, it’s the perfect setting for a thriller, basically dating back to the beginning of moving pictures, but what this film lacks in premise, it more than makes up for in outrageous plot progression. A warning before you move forward with watching this film: You will have to fight the urge to yell at the screen. I know, you are already in disbelief because you know you’re not the type of person that does that kind of thing, and trust me, I’m not either, and yet, here we are. Some of the characters don’t fall for the nice guy charade Charlie presents (whether it’s for toxic masculinity reasons or just a working sense of intuition), while others are frustratingly fooled by it until it is literally on top of them, licking them in the face.
That is a testament to the power in this film, which is equal parts funny as it is farcical. We see every story device and plot twist coming, but that was always the intention. They spare no time in revealing how creepy Charlie genuinely is, which is a little to the detriment of the film’s development, but a huge plus when it comes to the runtime. Director Deon Taylor understands how important pacing is in horror/thriller films, and The Intruder is definitely a combination of both. Although he lifts the villain’s veil fairly early, he uses this reveal to establish just how creepy our antagonist is, but slowly builds to the why. Even after we find out the ‘why’, it’s not important because this haunting figure is already cemented in our minds regardless of how nonsensical his backstory ends up being.
There are a few serious topics that the film briefly touches on, like sexual assault, toxic masculinity and gaslighting, but nothing to the extent of Taylor’s previous film, Traffik, which serves as a good PSA about human trafficking in America masquerading as a thriller. There is a focus on returning to traditional values, but that ends up proving to be the true villain of the story because of how much of a double-edged sword that can be, especially for women and gender roles. That is where the rustic charm of Dennis Quaid comes in and takes a potentially flat film and elevates it to a popcorn throwback thriller.
There is a good amount of the film where they focus on how much of a “daddy” the women see Quaid as, attracted to his hands-on masculinity. They even go as far as to say that they feel safe with him because he reminds them of their grandfathers and fathers, who did everything by hand. If you’ve seen Quaid shirtless (and if you see this film, you definitely will), you’ll understand the appeal. His casting was perfect solely based on how counter the character is to most of the roles we know him for. He’s essentially America’s dad (in a non-sexualized way), and that plays perfectly into his character’s deceit as that is what he ends up presenting to everyone else. So when it all takes a much darker turn, our pre-conceptions of the actor start working against us, but greatly to the film’s benefit.
He plays harmoniously with his co-stars Meagan Good and Michael Ealy, who each do a great job feeding off of his energy and matching it in their own way; Good as the naive-until-too-late wife and Ealy as the paranoid-but-also-kind-of-jealous husband. Although The Intruder will likely get swept over by the most recent Avengers wave, it serves enough nostalgic thriller elements and a truly magnetic performance from Dennis Quaid to deserve your screen-yelling attention.