Intruder is a lousy movie, and lacks some of the over-the-top elements that might make it a so-bad-it’s-good classic.
There can be great joy in watching bad movies, and that joy is overflowing from director Travis Z’s new woman-in-peril thriller. Intruder allows us to watch a tale unfold unencumbered by narrative cohesion or common sense. The film is so rife with inexplicable events and behavior that a viewer may wonder if the film is brilliantly plotting the course for a huge, game-changing surprise or post-modern takedown of the genre. It’s not. But the thrill is in the journey, not the destination.
Bradley Sellers’ cinematography is first rate, highlighted by gorgeous long shots of storm-struck Portland and extreme close-ups of the film’s glamorous cellist-protagonist Elizabeth (Louise Linton, of the recent Cabin Fever remake). But the rest of the production falls terrifically short. The score overpowers the film, and horror movie tropes such as bursts of sudden, cacophonous strings play at such inopportune times that you’ll search the screen to make sure you haven’t missed something scary. The script and editing are the most glaring problems, making everything from the time of day to the location consistently confusing.
It is impossible to judge the performances, as everyone appears to be simply trying to do the best they can with the material. The musician Moby appears as Elizabeth’s conductor and is forced to deliver several profanity-laden speeches that come across as potential Billy Eichner sketches rather than creepy encounters. Linton fares better; although most of her dialogue is delivered to a cat that Elizabeth is inexplicably babysitting for the weekend, Linton has an inherent star quality that makes it hard to take your eyes off of her.
Unfortunately, that same star quality makes Linton seem completely out of place as a struggling Portland cellist. Her hair and make-up are perfect in every frame, and her distracted gaze and slight smile as she wanders around her home makes Intruder often feel like a series of discarded Maybelline commercials. That far-off stare, coupled with her character’s frequent inability to detect an intruder that is in the room with her, unintentionally gives the impression that Elizabeth is suffering from blindness or narcolepsy.
Perhaps blame shouldn’t fall to writer-director Z (Cabin Fever, Scavengers), but rather his influences, a mix of B-movies and classics that include Scream, Black Swan, House of the Devil, Alien and The Strangers. He faithfully recreates scenes from these and other films but forgets to bring along the underlying elements that made them successful. For instance, Intruder copies Scream’s opening, placing a beautiful character alone in her isolated, palatial home and then (spoiler alert) murdering her horribly after mere minutes. But Scream’s brilliance lay not in its plot but in the fact that it broke the rules by killing Drew Barrymore, arguably its biggest star, 10 minutes into the film.
While Scream played with audience expectations, Intruder deflates them. The driving questions of the film (outside of how Elizabeth could have a Scottish accent while her mother’s is English and her brother’s is American) are whether or not our leading lady will notice the intruder who has taken up residence in her closet, and if she’ll know who this intruder is. Neither question has a satisfying answer.
Intruder is a lousy movie, and lacks some of the over-the-top elements that might make it a so-bad-it’s-good classic. But it does have some value. The movie evokes genuine smiles as it forces its viewers to ask themselves questions they may have never asked: “Who puts on fake eyelashes to go to bed alone?” “Why would the fear of missing your child’s first steps make you hire a cat sitter?” It also showcases the mysteriously watchable Louise Linton and the talents of Travis Z, who, in spite of everything has put together a visually compelling film. Sometimes it’s okay to just sit back and enjoy the audacity of a bad movie.