INTRUDER is essentially a standard ‘80s slasher flick that’s carried out with somewhat more panache and self-awareness than you’d expect—but in the final analysis, it’s still just a standard ‘80s slasher flick.A mysterious wacko is serially dispatching people working the night shift at a supermarket. Who could the killer be? The nutty Craig (David Byrnes), who’s been stalking his ex-girlfriend (Elizabeth Cox), a cashier at the supermarket? Or perhaps someone less blatantly obvious?
Released just around the time the slasher craze was fading out, INTRUDER demonstrates a certain ironic distance from the conventions of the genre. Kill scenes are executed with an eye for comic effect, rather than straightforward brutality, though let us note that the gore bits—e.g., heads cut in half with bandsaws, death by meathook—are fairly impressive. Made on the cheap ($100,000 didn’t get you far even in the late ‘80s), it exploits its single-set locale reasonably well, as virtually every area of the supermarket—the cash registers, the aisles, the back rooms, the trash area out back—comes into play at one time or another.
But in some respects, the film is too playful: director Scott Spiegel betrays a mania for odd-angle shots and various other gratuitous cinematic tricks, like some junior-league Altman. While this arguably gives the film a visual flair it wouldn’t otherwise have, Spiegel’s directorial choices often have no discernable storytelling function, and at times they’re just distracting. You find yourself wondering if it was really necessary to stick the camera inside a garbage can to get that shot. It all comes across like an attempt to artificially introduce “style” into the material, in much the same way that you pour BBQ sauce on bland-tasting steak.
Spiegel also spends far too much time on obvious false herrings and done-to-death twists presented quite unironically, among them the Talking Killer monologue and the “he’s not really dead” reversal in the climax. Attempts to fake out the viewer with late-inning surprise revelations merely fall flat.
INTRUDER is chiefly notable for the presence of cast and crew members who have made far more compelling films. Sam Raimi appears as one of the hapless victims; his partner in crime Bruce Campbell gets a too-brief cameo; producer/co-writer Lawrence Bender helped bring us RESERVOIR DOGS a few years down the road. There are indeed moments here where the unique lunatic touch of the EVIL DEAD alumni is clearly felt, but the film finally doesn’t go far enough.That’s what makes INTRUDER a mild disappointment: Though the film constantly seems to be verging on full-blown subversion of slasher cliché, it never quite gets there.