Scott Spiegel – arguably best known to casual movie goers as the dude who is denied a cheeky slice of free pizza in Spider-Man 2 – is actually someone who has been intertwined with indie genre cinema for quite a while and has known some major, Hollywood players as they’ve come up through the ranks while staying relatively anonymous. Need some examples? Sure, ok then, how about the fact that he was a school chum of Sam Raimi and co-wrote Evil Dead II, or that he once flat shared in LA with Raimi, the Coen brothers, Holly Hunter, Frances McDormand and Kathy Bates, or that he’s the one who introduced Quentin Tarantino to future Reservoir Dogs producer Lawrence Bender – in fact, for someone who hasn’t made that much of a mark on popular culture first hand, behind the scenes he’s figuratively moved mountains. That’s not bad going for the director of From Dusk Till Dawn 2 and Hostel 3, but before those movies, there was Intruder.
The slacker staff of a supermarket close up shop at the end of yet another day and get to work restocking the shelves before they can all go home, but this night turns out to be noticably different than the others. The first problem is that cashier Jennifer has recently split up with her sneering, leather jacket wearing boyfriend Craig who really hasn’t taken the rejection particularly well and is dealing with his emotions by stalking his ex and breaking into the store. Elsewhere, store part owner Bill is dismayed that his partner has decided to sell the store making everyone unemployed in one callous stroke, so aside from tracking down Craig and ejecting his ass through the nearest door, everyone has to stay the night and re-price all of the stock to shift it all fast.
But as these assorted misfits go about their evening in the weirdly cavernous store, a shadowy assailant is stalking them, waiting for their moment to strike and murder them in unfathomably gruesome ways and scatter their body parts around the place. It seems no one is safe, especially considering the vast majority of the staff seem to be utterly clueless at the best of times, but who is actually behind these extreme acts of cost-effective carnage? Has Craig’s recent dumping caused him to snap in the worst way or is it someone else who is perpetrating such brutality with some of the most health and safety lacking equipment you’ve ever seen – seriously, you’d be safer working in a paddock full of fucking lions.
As the staff each get a dismissal way more final than any pink slip you can imagine, it’s left to Jennifer as the last survivor to try and last the night, but when the killer is finally revealed, a final twist means that getting rehired may be exceedingly difficult.
Intruder is something of an intriguing beast that’s racked up quite a modest following thanks to it’s quirky, Sam Raimi-lite nature and some truly boffo gore effects that makes the viewing of an uncut version not just advisable, but practically vital. Released when the 80’s run of the slasher genre had basically run it’s course, Intruder admittedly came late to a party that was long since past it’s prime, but despite lacking the polish of an early Friday The 13th, you can tell that the filmmakers are really trying hard to turn in something made with a little more imagination that your average example of your basic slice and dice. While the plot is standard fare with a location change of a strangely, TARDIS-like supermarket, if you could contain the energy and imagination of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead in a standard slasher pic, Intruder is what you’d get. Prioritizing incident over actual plot, the movie is full of neat little touches as Spiegel chooses to stuck his prowling camera all over the place in order to mask his minuscule budget with bursts of quirky, directorial flair and it’s here that the movie is mostly at it’s best when screwing with conventions.
A pair of boots spotted under the door of a toilet cubicle turn out to be severed feet and after Ted Raimi’s nebbish produce guy gets a knife buried in his skull, the painfully generic pop music playing on his portable cassette player gradually runs down which means that the song is slower and more sluggish every time we come across his body. Elsewhere the killer is alerted to the hiding place of Jennifer thanks to her over taxed bladder giving way from fear and there’s a really neat bit where the killer is stabbed and collapses onto his back only for the knife to pop out of his chest on impact and imbed itself into a box next to him. It’s fairly cool stuff and goes a fair way to distancing itself from the usual dreck, but as hard as Spiegel tries, a lot of his Sam Raimi inspired camera work doesn’t actually service the story and ends up often being quite annoying. There’s literally no need for him to have the camera peer up at the actor from behind the dial of a rotary phone or having it plonked in a shopping cart and it feels distinctly distracting and even glaringly amateurish, even compared to what his old buddy pulled off while making The Evil Dead eight years prior.
At the end of the day, however, this is a Slasher flick and as we all know, a slasher lives and dies on the strength of its slaughter and Intruder contains some scenes that are so hardcore, it feels very much like the genre’s output in the days before the censors caught on to what these movies were up to. Thanks to the work of the boys of KNB EFX (Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman) we are treated to the dubious sights of an eye popped on a spike, a skull messily crunched in a press and, more memorably of all, the sight of a screaming face bloodily cleaved in half just under the nose by a bandsaw. On top of this jackpot for gorehounds, there’s also a clutch of stabbings, cleavings and a rather marvellous scene of the killer beating someone unconscious with a severed head.
Ah, yes. The killer. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been trying so hard to keep the identity of the violent maniac so quiet when his identity is plain to see on the majority of the poster designs that exist for the film, but in a movie full of ropey performances, Danny Hicks (Jake the hillbilly in Evil Dead II) gives good psycho and his severed head speech (later rehashed while he’s holding an actual severed head) is a highly memorable moment.
Illogical, amateurish and more than a little dopey, Intruder nevertheless wins points for shooting for the moon with an obvious lack of resources and scores with some inventive gore, a cruel ending and a rash of Sam Raimi related cameos that includes brother Ted, buddy Bruce Campbell and the man himself.
Flawed, but still an admirable stab…