It's closing time at the Walnut Lake Market grocery store, and the night crew are there to clean up, restock, and generally have a good time with each other. With check-out girl Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox)'s psychotic ex-boyfriend Craig (David Byrnes) making one heck of a scene, everyone on staff is on notice, and an announcement from the ownership about the store's impending closure leaves an entire store to be re-priced. Over the course of the night, one by one the staff will be slaughtered in various bloody, cruel ways, and the identity and motives of the murderer are anyone's guess.
Scott Spiegel and future mega-producer Lawrence Bender crafted this late '80s slasher horror remake of a short Super 8 film of the same premise into a tense, yet sometimes humorous experience, and listening to their anecdotes about the film's production in the included supplements really helps one respect what they pulled together with this flick. This isn't a movie where we're to praise the elaborate special effects or powerhouse acting, or the memorable characters, as there really aren't any. Instead, what makes this fun movie click is its atmosphere, its basic yet effective structure, and its unforgiving, brutal dispatching of your everyday kids working a menial job to get by.
'Intruder' employs some very basic, well-worn filmmaking tricks, yet it still doesn't seem cliched or hackneyed in its delivery of the goods. With the introduction of the leather wearing, abusive ex, we have our probable villain, a guy who is easy to dislike, whose temperament makes him easy to pinpoint as a butcher, with plenty of motive and opportunity. Once he creates his fuss and takes on nearly the entire crew, he vanishes, hiding from the workers as they sweep the expansive store and its dark recesses, looking for their unwelcome guest. Through this, we learn the layout of the building, and meet all of our characters, from the stock boys to the checkout girls, the butcher and the management. Once we're in familiar territory, recognizing these characters as everyday normal people with ordinary lives, they start dropping off, singled out and eliminated in a fashion that prevents them from coming across each other, removing potential witnesses and setting the stage for the next kill.
This basic formula doesn't sound special, but 'Intruder' makes it work. From the inventive shots (like the camera in the shopping cart being pushed through the store, a mock "in-the-telephone" shot, a distorting liquor bottle, and an overturned lamp that has blood dripping on it, projecting a red haze over the room) to the unique, tongue-in-cheek murders (a cleaver through the skull splitting open a pair of headphones, a head smashed in with a trash compactor, a body hung from the meathooks, or even an eyeball and skull pierced through with a desk-mounted records spike), to even the lovable, relatable characters (portrayed by brothers Sam and Ted Raimi, Dan Hicks, Burr Steers, Renee Estevez and Eugene Glazer), and even a cameo by Bender and the king of B-movies, Bruce Campbell, the simplistic movie hooks you and doesn't let go, until the moment when the truth behind the senseless murder is finally revealed.
'Intruder' isn't a dumb film; if anything, once viewers know the culprit, they'll be keen to watch the film again to look closer at the clues one otherwise dismisses due to the obvious misdirect. It's catchy and fun, light hearted even in the face of being cold blooded. There's something to be said about a movie featuring a killer who beats on a victim with the decapitated head of one of the night's earlier kills. There's a lot of heart and soul in this feature, and the effort into making every scene enjoyable or interesting really shows through. For a one-off, somewhat forgotten feature in the era of the cheap and dirty slasher flicks with franchises springing up left and right, 'Intruder' really hits the spot. Twenty three years later, it's worth a trip back to the Walnut Lake Market, or even a first time visit to the store.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Intruder' comes to Blu-ray on a Region A/B/C BD50 disc. This package also contains a Region 0 (aka Region All) DVD disc. The film is presented in its uncut form.
The first 500 customers who bought or pre-ordered 'Intruder' from Synapse's store were treated to a very special bonus: a DV-R of the workprint cut of the film. It contains alternate cuts, but also is missing some audio from the film, as it is in an unfinished state. Those lucky enough to get in on this promotion did good, as the disc by itself can fetch up to $100 on Ebay, while the workprint complete with the Blu-ray/DVD combo has gone as high as $150. Much like other odd exclusives, the bonus disc is in a paper sleeve. This edition is among the rarest/hardest to find Blu-ray releases to date due to the limited print run and lack of major distribution.
Presented in 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 encode, 'Intruder' looks surprisingly good on Blu-ray, all things considered. Grain levels, thick as they can be, are entirely undisturbed, and I didn't notice any edge enhancement or other digital trickery. A few ugly noise spikes have to be mentioned, but so too does the amount of detail in the picture, from the fine distinction in hair to the strong amount of information in the now-retro merchandise on display. There are a few dirt blips here and there, but they're fairly small, and, pretty surprisingly, the picture is very stable, without any real wobble. This disc also sports clear, strong colors, with no awkward neons, and more than a few powerful shots, including thick, nasty blood. This disc has everything fans of the film would want: strong picture depth, good detail levels, and an absolute lack of real problems. For its age and history, this one is a real winner!
'Intruder' only has an English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 2.0 track to accompany it, but really, for the age and budget, it's not as bad as the star score it rightfully deserves sounds. For one, the few moments with real high end come through sharp enough to pierce eardrums, and while dialogue isn't always perfectly fitting of the scene or environment, it's always easy to understand, even over the occasional fuzz or static beneath it. While dynamics are off, and sometimes there's a hum due to the placement of the sound equipment near lighting fixtures, there's no prioritization or lost information in the mix. I had a hard time believing effects, due to the fact that impacts or thuds often came a little too early or late, but that's hardly the disc's fault. If anything, the timing issues are brought to a better light here. Come in with low expectations for the audio and you'll be just fine.
As is mentioned in the vital stats section of this review, a bonus DVD disc is included in this combo pack.
'Intruder' is a fun, fun slasher flick, from the decade that did 'em best. There's lots to love with the relatable cast, simple setup, and nasty kills. Plus, there's a great Ted Raimi death that is only outdone by his undoing in 'The Midnight Meat Train'. This Synapse Blu-ray is solid if not head-turning, with good video qualities, and audio that's about as good as it will get. The extras aren't just throwaways, either. This release is worth a purchase, blind buy or no. It's definitely a film not to be missed.