Written by: Lawrence Bender and Scott Spiegel
Directed by: Scott Spiegel
Starring: Elizabeth Cox, Renee Estevez, Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, and Bruce Campbell
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďIĎm just crazy about this store.Ē
The horror genre has seen its share of Hollywood talent get its start in front of the camera over the years; however, plenty of guys behind the scenes got their start there as well. Scott Spiegel and Lawrence Bender admittedly arenít exactly big time A-Listers, but genre fans probably recognize the names. Bender is the guy who produced Reservoir Dogs and has gone on to produce most of Tarantinoís other films; Spiegel (who actually introduced Tarantino to Bender) co-wrote the genre classic, Evil Dead II, and heís been able to carve out an odd little niche by being associated with guys like Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell over the years. Back in the late 80s, all of their paths crossed when Spiegel wrote and directed his first feature film, Intruder, a slasher set inside of a supermarket.
Itís closing time at a local supermarket, and the night crew is taking over and stocking for the next day. Itís pretty uneventful stuff until one of the cashierís crazy boyfriend, Craig (who just got out of jail for accidentally killing a guy in a bar fight), shows up and demands an explanation for why she broke up with him. Things turn violent, and the rest of the crew shows up to fend off the insane ex-con. He scurries off, the police are called, and everyone resumes their duties until a blood-thirsty maniac shows up and begins brutally killing off the night crew one by one. Has Craig come back to exact his revenge?
Intruder is a good little slasher that seems to have been lost amongst fans, no doubt because it was released when slashers were going out of vogue. After all, 1989 is seen by most as a pretty embarrassing year for even the genreís heavyweights (Jason, Freddy, and Michael, who all released less-than-stellar entries that year). Itís certainly not a movie that breaks a lot of ground, but Spiegelís effort feels like a refined, workman-like take on the body count and splatter movie cycle that dominated video stores for a decade. It exists only to be a fun little gore-fest, and it succeeds at it once it gets going.
It does take a while for that to happen, and you wonder at one point if anything is really going to happen. You spend a lot of time watching these people do mundane things like stock store shelves, chop up produce, and take a lunch break together. Itís not exactly riveting, but somehow the film manages to draw you into the charactersí world--these all feel like pretty down-to-earth, real people who seem like theyíve been hanging out and working together for years. Thereís a scene during the lunch break where one of the store managers tells a humorous, macabre story about a cop who once found a severed head, yet kept on eating his burger. Itís little things like this that keep the crew interesting; you can also tell that Spiegel spent time working at a grocery store because he captures other nuances, like the screeching intercom system and the irritating way that stuff will just fall off of a shelf.
Enough of that small talk, though, because we all know that audiences are here to see these characters get killed off in gruesome fashion. With KNB handling the effects, you can rest assured it happens in a glorious and graphic way. The first two kills will likely worry you because they happen off-screen, but that changes pretty quickly because the second half of the film is a quick-moving blood bath that uses all sorts of implements of death: meat hooks, cardboard compactors, meat cleavers, etc. Visually, it pulls few punches, as the effects work carves up the cast on camera, and we see plenty of the aftermath as well when the store gets littered with severed body parts. As pure splatter, itís exactly what you expect from an 80s slasher, and itís no surprise this sucker was heavily edited when it was originally released.
Not so surprisingly, the film adheres to a lot of other 80s slasher cliches: the threadbare plot has a requisite twist, the score is minimalist but effective, and the acting is pretty spotty at times. On that front, itís interesting to see both Ted and Sam Raimi show up; Bruce Campbell is also advertised as being in the film, but heís literally only there for about three minutes at the end. Renee Estevez (of Sleepaway Camp II fame) also plays a store cashier, and sheís cute in the role; I suppose itís unfortunate that the slasher cycle died down when it did because she could have been a decent little scream queen. One thing that does set Intruder apart is Spiegelís interesting direction--thereís an assortment of odd angles and camera work that perhaps reveals Raimiís influence on the film. Somehow, it works well enough to make the bowels of the supermarket a pretty foreboding and eerie place, which is an accomplishment itself.
Another possible Raimi influence is the presence of a sort of wry, clever humor in the form of sight gags. Itís not the over-the-top splatstick fare of Evil Dead II, but rather a more reserved, understated humor that relies on clever cross-cutting between scenes and visual puns. Itís a welcome element because it indicates that Spiegel and company really were just out to have a good time, and they want you to laugh right along with them. Tonally, it embodies the overall feel of 80s slashers fairly well; itís also pretty well put together overall to boot, so it rises towards the top of the blood-soaked slasher pool. To check it out in all its unrated glory, pick up Wizard Entertainmentís DVD (which is where the screen caps here are taken from). Itís about a five year old release, but it boasts a full frame transfer thatís strong, given the source material. The 2-channel audio track is also adequately clear, but there are no special features besides a handful of trailers. Synapse Films also just recently released it with a DVD/Blu-ray set that restores the film's widescreen ratio and is by all accounts a fine disc. Hopefully it helps Intruder find a wider audience because this is a pretty good obscure slasher waiting for rediscovery. Just about the only thing really missing here is some gratuitous nudity (as if no oneís ever knocked boots in the aisles after closing!); otherwise, itís a fine slasher that does for supermarkets what The Burning did for summer camp. Okay, so you might not exactly be looking over your shoulder the next time you stroll down the liquor aisle, but you get the picture. Buy it!
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