An important cautionary tale about the dangers of buying homes whose owners aren’t ready to part with them, Deon Taylor’s The Intruder should definitely be seen by all one-percenters considering plunking $3.3 million down for properties in Napa Valley. Whether anybody else should see it is a question of the viewer’s enthusiasm for domestic stalker pics: A cookie-cutter thriller that takes its time getting to the (sorta) good stuff, it’s for die-hards only.
Michael Ealy and Meagan Good, who both starred in Think Like a Man and its sequel, play Scott and Annie Howard. He’s “the number-one earner” at a San Francisco marketing firm; she writes the occasional magazine article and daydreams about a home far from the city where they can raise kids. So they go shopping in wine country.
They find a gorgeous property whose owner, an empty-nest widower named Charlie (Dennis Quaid), clearly has put his soul into every strip of caulk and musty bit of decor. The estate is called Foxglove, and when Annie asks, “Foxglove is poisonous, isn’t it?” Charlie cheerfully replies, “Highly.”
That evidently seals the deal, as our heroes are soon at the place with a crew of movers. But days after they’ve christened their new home with a slow-jam makeout, Charlie is still dropping by unannounced at inconvenient moments. He gets the riding lawnmower out of the garage when he thinks the grass is too high; he brings potting soil when local deer have gone on a garden-munching rampage. Wasn’t this guy supposed to have moved to Florida?
The couple’s responses hew closely to gender stereotypes: Scott wants nobody trespassing on his new property; Annie is sad for the lonely guy. But there’s a wide gulf between sympathy for one’s elders and dangerous naivete: Long after Scott has (correctly) guessed Charlie’s spying on them, and made Annie promise she won’t tolerate his intrusions, Annie’s still inviting him into their home when Scott’s off at work. Whether he started off with this in mind or not, Charlie soon develops some unhealthy expectations about where things might lead with this beautiful married woman who could be his daughter.
David Loughery’s flat script makes Annie and Scott a wholly generic pair of yuppies (sample exchange: “We’ll go to that Italian spot that we read about”/ “I’d like that”) whose friends are even duller. And Taylor does not seem made for tension-building drama: The first two acts offer a few lukewarm jump-reveals, in which we briefly glimpse Charlie in places he’s not supposed to be, but little more.
Lacking much really menacing dialogue, Quaid tries to pick up the slack with his features: His cheeks become mask-like when he contorts that familiar grin into a caricature of aw-shucks goodwill. It sometimes looks as if Charlie’s pain were not emotional but physical, but people here don’t seem to recognize the difference between a grimace and a smile.
Silent stalking does eventually give way to action, with a nice twist that would be more satisfying if Taylor hadn’t telegraphed it in so many shots. Quaid occasionally resembles Malcolm McDowell as a Z-grade horror villain, but the film isn’t ready to launch him into over-the-top trashy glory. Taylor gets a couple of cheap crowd reactions when he has Quaid chop through a door like Jack Nicholson or lick Good’s torso while Annie’s unconscious. But these lurid moments arrive too late to make The Intruder feel like it belongs in a genre where so many former residents have made themselves at home.
Production company: Hidden Empire Film Group
Distributor: Screen Gems
Cast: Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Dennis Quaid, Joseph Sikora
Director: Deon Taylor
Screenwriter: David Loughery
Producers: Roxanne Avent, Brad Kaplan, Jonathan Schwartz
Executive producers: Mark Burg, David Guillod, David Loughery
Director of photography: Daniel Pearl
Production designer: Andrew Neskoromny
Costume designer: Seth Chernoff
Editor: Melissa Kent
Composer: Geoff Zanelli
Casting director: Kim Coleman
Rated PG-13, 101 minutes