Dennis Quaid Gives A Chilling Performance As He Twists His Trademark All-American Smile Into Something Evil As “The Intruder”, A Throwback To The Psycho Thrillers Of The 90’s.
The 1990’s was a big time in Hollywood for the psychological thriller genre. You know those films where we watch as some psychotic manipulator takes advantage of well meaning folks or a nice young couple. Screenwriter David Loughery has studied up on the thrillers of that decade, such as: “Unlawful Entry”, “Never Talk to Strangers”, “Pacific Heights”, “Single White Female”, or “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”.
Sony’s other label Screen Gems has found a niche in the market and in recent years started pumping out variations on those types of psycho thrillers. Films such as: “Obsessed”, “The Perfect Guy”, “When the Bough Breaks” and the best of the bunch “No Good Deed”. They all have been universally populated by giving the starring roles to African American actors, instead of the all-white thrillers that dominated before them.
Director Deon Taylor directs “The Intruder” a throwback to those thriller’s of the 90’s. A film like this is right up Taylor’s alley as seen in his past films including his 2018 underrated thriller “Traffik” with Paula Patton and Omar Epps. Taylor’s skill as a filmmaker is how he showcases the power of family and love. Taylor also knows how to show us ordinary people who become victims to terrifying circumstances, but somehow find the inner strength to survive.
Deon Taylor directs in a Hitchcockian style and gives us a monster that is more frightening and creepy thanks to an insanely brilliant evil performance from Dennis Quaid. “The Intruder” succeeds at what it intends to do, by keeping the audience stress-eating their popcorn and leaves you entirely satisfied for it’s short and tight 1 hour and 24 minute running time.
“The Intruder” focuses on young couple Annie and Scott (Meagan Good and Michael Ealy), just your average couple living the dream of a very financially secure and well-off dream. Scott works and lives to please Annie. Something that Annie doesn’t have that she wants is a house and kids, to get out of the city and complete her dream. That dream includes a beautiful six-generation estate with exquisitely manicured lawns, wooded grounds, a stream, and at the center of it all, a stone house that is breathtakingly impressive and imposing. Currently owned by it’s life long owner Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid). Charlie is selling his beloved home to start fresh in Miami with his daughter, and to put distance between himself and his memories of his wife dying from cancer in the house. Annie takes a liking to Charlie and feels his sorrow. Scott on the other hand is more cynical. And while Charlie says he wants to leave the past behind, does he really?
At every turn, Charlie shows up at the house whether mowing the lawn, offering up bottles of wine or yelling at contractors installing surveillance cameras. The house is no longer his, but Charlie can’t seem to let go, which plays to Annie’s sentimental side as she feels a somewhat paternal bond with Charlie. It doesn’t take long before Charlie’s invited to Thanksgiving dinner and soon thereafter helping Annie put exterior Christmas lights on the house. Annie sees it all as Charlie just being a bit sad about being alone and now with no home to go to. As tensions rise Scott becomes more and more suspicious about Charlie.
Screenwriter David Loughery has long been a favorite thanks to writing films like Wesley Snipes “Passenger 57″ and “Money Train”, and other credits like: “The Three Musketeers”, “Lakeview Terrace”, “Obsessed” and his first collaboration with Dennis Quaid in “Dreamscape”. Loughery knows how to write a character, how to meld the characters and pit them against each other to bring out the emotion or tension within the story. And he does that exceedingly well with “The Intruder”.
David Loughery’s script for “The Intruder” might not exactly be the most original but Loughery’s script knows exactly what kind of movie “The Intruder” is, and he successfully leans into the popular thriller tropes we all know so well. While at the same time he finds a way to make it a super thrilling experience as he throws some nice curve balls to avoid a completely cliched story.
A big contributor to the success of “The Intruder” features a trio of strong performances. Both Michael Ealy and Meagan Good are compelling and engaging here as the young couple. After Ealy’s recent turn as a psycho villain in “The Perfect Guy”, to seeing him now as the truly perfect match to Meagan Good’s Annie just further endears him as an actor. He brings an ease to Scott which over the course of the runtime turns into an edginess, uncertainty, fear, and confidence.
Then there is the beautiful, gorgeous and sexy Meagan Good. Knowing Michael Ealy off-screen and having worked together previously a few times, both Good and Ealy feel very natural together as Annie and Scott. They already have an established rapport between them and it is reflected on screen. You feel the love between Annie and Scott, but Good delivers a rich and believable soft hearted and caring feeling towards Dennis Quaid’s character Charlie. Thanks to Good’s performance, she makes Charlie feel as almost sympathetic and empathetic character.
The real glory of “The Intruder” is veteran actor Dennis Quaid. For everyone that knows me, knows how much I adore the actor that Dennis Quaid is and have been a huge fan of his for years. Meeting him at the Maui Film Festival will always be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It’s so exciting to see him in a performance that gives new meaning to the word “maniacal”. He plays a true villain here, something we haven’t seen from him since his much forgotten 2011 horror/thriller “Beneath The Darkness”. Since no one remembers the atrocity of “Beneath The Darkness”, technically this is first vile villain role.
There’s something so unsettling about watching the charming, all American actor with that 1000 watt smile of “The Parent Trap”, “The Rookie”, “Frequency” and “Undercover Blues” to be such a vile creep, especially because he’s so good at it. While Taylor’s staging of certain scenes allow Quaid to channel a touch of Jack Nicholson from “The Shining”. He maintains a Joker like smile, Quaid is downright chilling and in one scene your stomach will churn as he attacks Annie. Quaid is clearly having a blast in his go for broke performance as Charlie. He isn’t the typically sinister stalker; as his charm here and of what audiences know from his decades of work on screen, is what makes Charlie interesting and his flip to bad guy mode so enjoyable and creepy. His trademark smile twists into something evil.
Quaid’s Charlie is a character that can be compared and become on par with Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof’s” Stuntman Mike played by Kurt Russell. I dare you to watch Quaid sit shirtless in a basement, practicing turning his too-large smile on and off, and tell me Quaid isn’t a transformative actor. He knows exactly what’s being asked of him and he’s happy to deliver and at 65 Quaid is in insanely ripping shape.
There’s a lot brewing in the big emotional pot that builds the characters and story together. It also gives the audience something to latch onto that creates doubts, suspicions, uncertainty and ultimately fear. The third act is where Deon Taylor’s directorial talents and visual storytelling kick into kinetic high gear, including Melissa Kent’s sharp editing which gets intensified with tension and terror as the film unfolds.
Since this is a Deon Taylor film, he keeps to his trademark filmmaking style with exterior night shoots and a chase through dark wooded areas with only a single torch light for the camera. Taylor gives us visual nods to classics like “Psycho” and “The Shining”, not to mention Taylor’s own film “Traffik”.
Taylor and his cinematographer Daniel Pearl create a compelling visual tone as Pearl is an excellent choice here as cinematographer, delivering some beautiful and polished imagery. Night shoots within the house are chilling as we move into a blue and black color palette.
Deon Taylor’s “The Intruder”, is an endlessly entertaining and enthralling thriller of the 90’s, that is well paced and well done. It is Quaid who steals the proverbial show with his completely bananas and nutso performance that is just obscenely compelling to watch. Quaid, who has been everyone’s mom’s favorite actor and mine, swings for the fences as his portrayal of Charlie, a man who is far more dangerous than he seems. You can tell he is having the time of his life, and I just can’t remember the last time I was as terrified of a home invader like I was of Dennis Quaid’s Charlie. The most interesting thing to see is how Quaid gives such a evil performance like this and in two weeks from now he will have his second film of the year open in theaters. The sequel to “A Dog’s Purpose”, titled “A Dog’s Journey”. Just goes to show the range he has and why he has been such a beloved and respected actor all these years as “The Intruder” is one of his finest roles and performances of his established career.
GRADE: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3 & 1/2 out of 5)