Released Jan. 15, 2016
Rated R – 1hr 30min
Directed by Adam Schindler
Starring Beth Riesgraff, Rory Culkin, Jack Kesy
Anna (Riesgraff) suffers from intense agoraphobia and has not ventured outside her sprawling home in ten years. In the meanwhile, she has been caring for her terminally ill brother, who finally succumbs to his pancreatic cancer. During his funeral, a group of career criminals break into the home, expecting it to be empty, only to find Anna, who had been too terrified to leave even then. They think their greatest problem is figuring out what to do with her, completely unaware of what she might be capable of doing to them.
After a strong set-up, Invaders becomes a home-invasion thriller with a number of cat-and-mouse sequences, as Anna is able to elude and escape from her captors several times. Once the tables are turned, the tone switches to mystery, as it’s obvious that neither Anna nor the house itself are anywhere near as harmless as they initially appeared.
Intruders is a movie that kinda fell through the cracks and, from what I saw, didn’t receive anywhere near the attention it deserved. The script is damn near perfect – aside from stopping to catch its breath somewhere around the halfway point, the tension rises on a smooth arc, even when it switches up its focus between the two halves. The notion that things are not quite what they seem are playfully hinted at throughout that first half, when the intruders believe themselves to easily have control of the terrified and vulnerable Anna. That is until, in a fantastic reveal, the shoe is suddenly on the other foot and the compelling revelations unfold as to who Anna really is and why she lives in such a, let’s say, interesting home.
Scripts alone don’t make movies though, and we’ve all seen good ones botched. Fortunately, the acting is top-shelf too, and it needed to be, because these characters are rather nuanced compared to average horror fare. Nobody here is fully sympathetic – there’s no clear divisions of good and evil – yet each have their human moments, hinting at a definite conscience that they often find themselves at odds with. The real star of the show is Beth Riesgraff as the full-of-surprises Anna – she can be warm and caring, paralyzed with fear, or cold as ice while making it seem like all these disparate elements truly reside within the same person. Rory Culkin (who gives the film an ironic link to the structurally similar yet thematically very different Home Alone) does well as the picked-upon wet blanket Dan, alternately pitiable yet deserving of the misfortunes that befall him. Jack Kesy also makes a memorable turn as J.P., the tough-as-nails but pragmatic leader of this burglarizing group of thugs who came into the situation not wanting complications or violence, yet comes unhinged as things spiral out of his control. They, along with the several other cast members, form an interesting dynamic that continues to shift throughout.
If there’s something that holds Intruders back from the highest eschelon of horror cinema, it would be the direction. That’s not to say that Adam Schindler, with this being his one and only feature film to date, does a bad job. Quite the contrary, he puts everything together very well and deserves credit for that – he should definitely be making more movies. However, his style is very workmanlike – every scene is shot in a way that adequately serves its purpose, but with no artistic flair to speak of. Intruders is missing that iconic scene – that piece of striking visual imagery or the presence of a very distinctive look that sears itself into the brain of the viewer. For instance, there’s a great moment when this film shifts gears into a different beast, but it’s presented in a matter-of-fact way that undersells its impact. I believe it’s because of this adequately perfunctory style that this movie found itself unfairly lost in the crowd – it’s deserving of a wider audience that it probably won’t get after the release of far more prominent and extremely comparable Don’t Breathe (which this might actually be somewhat superior to).
With an attention-grabbing showstopper element or two, I’d be willing to call Intruders an overlooked modern classic, but I think ‘very good’ will suit as a perfectly acceptable consolation prize.
Intruders gets a