It takes a lot of skill and dedication to make trash this good. The Intruder is a movie for people who wish Lifetime movies would dial it up a notch, then rip off the dial completely. It’s a roller coaster where anticipating every twist and turn amplifies the thrill when it arrives. You can’t even call it so-bad-it’s-good, because it intends to be what it is. It’s ridiculous, it’s predictable, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
The Intruder stars Michael Ealy and Meagan Good as Scott and Annie, a young, successful couple who leave the bustle of the city for the quiet of Napa Valley. They buy a house from Charlie (Dennis Quaid), who is leaving after his children grew up and his wife passed away. His quirks initially seem to be no worse than those of a lonely retiree, but as his impromptu visits become more frequent and his behavior more erratic, the nice guy facade crumbles, and Scott and Annie have to decide how far they’ll go to defend their new home.
The first comparison that comes to mind is The Boy Next Door, possibly the best bad movie of the decade. Though it’s obvious, given the cheesy psycho-stalker vibe, it’s not exactly fair to The Intruder and those who made it. Some of the things that condemned The Boy Next Door to eternal ridicule were the uneven acting, the nonsensical twists, unintentional humor, and the sheer disbelief that Jennifer Lopez would be caught anywhere near it. It is the current standard bearer for so-bad-it’s-good. With The Intruder, director Deon Taylor and writer David Loughery leave the impression that they genuinely enjoy this sort of cheesefest. Loughery in particular has some terrific guilty pleasures and B-movie goodness in his filmography, including Money Train and Passenger 57, not to mention the fantastically strange Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
The Intruder is a lean movie, with only four or five locations and only a handful of speaking parts. The three leads take the burden with committed performances, effectively self-aware of the purpose they serve in the story. Some may call the characters thin, but the way they each embody one personality trait for the film’s entire duration is almost vaudevillian: Scott is intelligent yet cocky, Annie is sweet and trusting, and Charlie is fucking weird. This movie never intends on keeping you guessing—it sets your expectations, raises the stakes, then delivers, and the actors do a terrific job inhabiting the roles while understanding the camp value of it all.
If you’re wondering why Scott and Annie don’t just call the cops the first time Charlie does something disturbing, just kick back and let the silly movie do its thing. The Intruder is more fun if you meet it halfway.
The Intruder / PG-13, 102 minutes / Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
PG-13, 100 minutes / Regal Stonefield Cinema
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema 377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056, drafthouse.com/charlottesville z Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213, regmovies.com z Violet Crown Cinema 200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000, charlottesville.violetcrown.com