[SPOILER ALERT] Intruders [SPOILER ALERT]
It’s day 29 of the Horror Movie Marathon! I was actually nervous about watching this movie as part of our review marathon for reasons that I’ll disclose later. I’m glad we did it anyway.
Intruders is rated R and is available on Vudu ($2.99). At the time of our viewing, it has the following online ratings:
Rotten Tomatoes 47% critics, 28% audience
Note: This is one of many movies with the title Intruders, and it also has an alternate title, Shut In, which is also the title of another movie released in 2016. So to be clear, this is the 2015 (or 2016 – it was released in January 2016) movie starring Beth Riesgraf, with cover art of a house floating in the air with assorted knives and axes hanging down from it. Cool cover art.
It’s evening of a super windy day. We’re waiting for a rainstorm to hit. We both take notes throughout the movie. Afterward, we conduct a simultaneous interview/discussion via Google Docs.
Solee: So, I want to start this interview with a little background information because I’m a little intimidated by this particular review. After we reviewed the movie No Tell Motel, I received a tweet from @TeaJaySee (not someone I knew) saying, “I genuinely enjoyed reading this exchange! Thoughtful, funny and spot-on.” A little research clued me into the fact that he was the author of No Tell Motel! We had a great little back and forth, which ended with him suggesting that we watch his latest work, Intruders, to see an example of a movie that turned out closer to what he had imagined in his head when he wrote it.
Mikey: So scary! Are we going to make him angry today and feel his wrath?
Solee: Well, he was super chill about the first review, which is cool because it wasn’t particularly flattering. I think he’ll be fine with whatever we say. (He’s obviously got a thicker skin and better sense of self-worth as a writer than I do!) However… after seeing the movie, I’m more concerned that he’s going to think I’m trying to kiss up to him by saying nice things. I just want to be clear up front that I actually forgot until about ⅔ of the way through the movie, that it was his movie. So, most of my notes were made without any sense of “ooh… I can’t say that!” I think I got more critical after I remembered because I didn’t want to sound too fangirl. Did you remember we were reviewing a movie by someone who might actually read it?
Mikey: I did, it’s why I picked it! Don’t worry, I will be unflinchingly honest: this movie was a bucket full of turtles!
Solee: Yeah. I don’t know what that means. It sounds good to me, though. Turtles are cool.
Mikey: I guess it does. So, this is our second Leverage connection (and 3rd mention of it) of the month, with Beth Riesgraf starring, and once again typecast as a crazy person.
Solee: Stereotypes are created for a reason… just saying… I was actually really excited to see her. I am a fan. And she just has one of those faces that make you want to fix everything for her if she’s sad. Like Willow or Kaylee. She’s the “heart” of a cast.
Mikey: Yes, just jumping right into mega-spoiler territory, she was not the in-control mastermind of this house of terror that she was supposed to be. That was something unexpected that brought a big dose of realism and empathy to things: she was barely holding it together, despite having an elaborate deathtrap on remote control. One could argue she wasn’t holding it together at all.
Solee: Not really. I don’t think anyone who is so trapped in place that they can’t walk through an open door to escape three guys who are definitely going to kill her is really holding anything together. I don’t know what it feels like to be so agoraphobic that I would rather face certain death than stepping out my front door, but I liked the way she portrayed it. In those moments where she was frozen, you could see the internal struggle.
Mikey: There were a bunch of times in the movie where she ‘let’ somebody escape, or gain the upper hand, and just based on Hollywood convention, I was just waiting for her to let the other shoe drop, like a huge blade on a pendulum slicing them in half. But every time it turned out she just wasn’t doing a good job of controlling them. It was just a very unique thing that made her more of a real person than a movie villain. And for that matter, her victims, who were in some ways the actual villains of the movie, were also drawn in an empathetic way.
Solee: For sure. The brothers had some interesting interactions that felt real, with the irritation and bickering turning to protection and grief so quickly. I know that feeling. And I thought Danny’s character and her relationship with him was fascinating. There was a will-they-won’t-they thing that kept getting overshadowed by the actuality of their lives.
Mikey: I guess there was one true villain: Perry. And in fact, killing him was her one time she acted like a supernatural killer herself, just popping up behind from out of nowhere and taking him down. Once he was out of the way, everything was very muddled and grey.
I had a note that it was great that we were seeing people (both sides) being smart and tough, instead of hearing them scream and whine about their situation like most horror movies.
Solee: That stood out to me, too. I absolutely hate the screaming and flailing about that most horror movie characters do, falling down and rolling around on the ground while the bad guy catches up to them instead of getting up on their freakin’ feet again, or huddling in a corner instead of finding SOMETHING to protect themselves with. These were people I could relate to. And you know how much scarier I think things are when they are relatable instead of supernatural.
Mikey: Oh oh oh! Back to where we started, I think we’ve found T.J. Cimfel’s trademark: in this movie, there are some stairs, which are controlled by a remote to slide away into the wall. She stores the remote in a drawer, so in fact in this movie, as in No Tell Motel, we find characters looking in drawers for a set of stairs!
Solee: You were so happy to see that! 🙂
Mikey: It was my favorite part of No Tell Motel.
Solee: We still talk about that. I don’t think we’ll ever talk about stairs or ladders in our house again without referencing No Tell Motel.
There’s another commonality I noticed: rape victims who get revenge. Both movies have female characters who have been victimized, but who do something to throw off the mantle of victim. Not necessarily in a healthy, therapist-approved kind of way in this case, but still…
Mikey: No, her coping strategy wasn’t really straight out of the diagnostic manual, but I guess it works for her. I had a note about the ending of the movie, in that it felt too low key, not like the big dramatic showdown it should’ve been, but that kind of ties into everything in the movie – everything kind of subverted expectations to go a little more simple and real, instead of the big bang you expect. I don’t know why I made a note of it negatively in the ending when I liked it before that.
Solee: I want to share the sequence of notes I made at the end…
“She killed rapist herself… will it change anything?”
“Nope. She still can’t go out.”
“Culkin eye roll. LOVE IT.”
“Or maybe… YES!”
“BURN THAT S**T DOWN.”
I thought it was great that there was a moment where everything she had just experienced might have been for naught, that she might still be trapped by what had happened to her as a child, as so many people are. I would have accepted that as an ending – I’m sort of a fan of the really depressing ending – but I got VERY excited for her when she finally took those steps out and removed all chance of her retreating back into her shell.
Mikey: Removed them pretty thoroughly. Yeah, it’s kind of sad for her that she is about to end up trapped again for the rest of her life in an even smaller space, but for the purposes of this story it’s cathartic.
Solee: Woah. I didn’t even think of that. I think she will be less confined than she’s been for the last 10 years. Even if she’s physically confined, her mind has been freed.
Mikey: Deep. Although maybe by burning it down, the evidence that’s left just points to surviving an attack by the three guys and engaging in self-defense, and not decades of murder and torture. Who knows?
Solee: It depends on how well the contents of that chest-freezer survive.
Mikey: Oh man, I completely forgot the freezer! It’s probably worth noting that every time we are in a Home Depot, I like to check out the chest freezers and see if there is one big enough to hold you.
Solee: I’m glad you pointed that out. Now it’s on record, should I make a sudden disappearance in the future.
Mikey: That would make me sad. I wanna keep you by my side!
Solee: Hence the Solee-sized freezer!
I think it was interesting and a layer deeper than I expected that JP decided to try to rape her himself. She was using him as a surrogate for her original abuser, but he put himself into the role for real. That had the dual benefit of making her actions more acceptable to me as a viewer (she didn’t just kill him because she’s screwed up, he was putting her in actual immediate danger) and giving her actions the extra realism that “fixed” her agoraphobia.
Mikey: That was one of those moments I was expecting more Hollywood than I got – when he shoved her down, I was thinking like “Oh man, that was a big mistake.” and it was… he did get killed, but in a way that realistically was very much on the edge, could’ve gone either way. What I had expected was some hidden switch to drop bricks on his head or whatever. Something where she’d give a little evil grin and destroy him. I’m really actually glad we never got that kind of fake stuff, but just a rough and real situation. So many times I had those “ah yeah, here it comes…” moments in my head, always subverted.
Which leads me into my alternate ending. About midway through the movie, I had an idea of a huge twist that was kind of blowing up in my head. And my twist would’ve been really cool… but it would’ve flipped the entire movie on its head, and we would’ve lost all that subtlety and realism, because I was thinking big and crazy. My idea was that Conrad had never been her brother. He was just the latest in a long line of surrogate brothers, drugged beyond comprehensibility (notice nobody but her ever saw him coherent and speaking), and by the end of this movie, she was going to make JP the next one (“put on the shirt in the drawer!”). It kinda would’ve been cool… but it would’ve made her a standard horror villain.
Solee: That would have been fun. It’s become clear to me that we both enjoy a good “unreliable narrator” twist, but I agree… it would have been a much more Hollywood plot then. I really loved the interactions between her and her brother in the beginning. They were obviously very close. It was kind of fun to suddenly realize that her sweet, caring, protective brother was also a massive serial killer. For what some might consider a good reason… but still a serial killer. I suspect he would have killed one way or another. This just gave him a sense of justification.
Mikey: I’m glad we have a legal system and vigilantism is illegal. I do so love a big twist. But this movie really was all twists, because everything always went a different direction than I expected. Pretty impressive.
Solee: What I find impressive about that, is that the writing, acting, directing, whatever, made the twists flow together smoothly. We’ve seen plenty of movies that were constant twists and turns, but that end up just being exhausting. There’s a fine line between a well done complex storyline and a convoluted rat’s nest of ideas (ahem, Beacon77, I’m looking at you!). This movie did a great job of staying on the right side of that line.
Mikey: Cease your prattling! No twist is ever bad! ALL TWISTS ALL THE TIME.
Mikey: They always kill the pets first :(.
Solee: I know. It’s awful. That’s a psychological thing, I think. Build up the tension by killing off something less than human. It backfires with people like you, though.
Mikey: Yes, I like animals much better than people. Case in point: they don’t smash peoples’ heads with hammers.
Solee: Very valid point. I want to bring up Perry again. We mentioned his death earlier, but we didn’t really talk about what a completely waste of skin he was. He was just a horrible, horrible person – in a very realistic, I’ve met people like this kind of way – and I was very much looking forward to his demise.
Mikey: Don’t let those people near your birds. I would add that he had some really funny lines, in a horrible way. He was well-played by Martin Starr.
Solee: “He WAS your friend. Now he’s a doorstop.” That was a terrible thing to say, but Martin said it so brilliantly. He makes a really good jerk.
Mikey: That may not be to his credit… seems like he played that in Party Down too. Less murdery though.
Solee: Well, if you take away the murdery bits, he’s just a snarky guy. I can relate to that.
Mikey: Yes you can. What else you got here?
Solee: I’m trying to come up some criticisms… Oh. The Lawyer Lady was stupid beyond belief. “Oh, sure… of course that’s your radiator shouting “help” from inside that locked wooden box. I’ll just be on my way.”
Mikey: She just didn’t want to get stabbed. She was so far from stupid, she saw the knife block missing one, and she even had you fooled!
Solee: Maybe that’s the case. I honestly don’t have any other complaints about this movie… Wait. I did struggle just a bit with the initial premise that she’d just bust out her duffle bag full of money and shove it at the Meals On Wheels guy. Except that she had just lost the only person that meant anything to her, and she obviously had feelings for Mr. M.O.W.… so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. How did you feel about that?
Mikey: That totally works for me, because I identify with it: total shut-in, doesn’t know how people interact, who is at her greatest stress level possible at this moment having just lost the only person she interacts with… once again I am identifying with the crazy serial killer. It made perfect sense to me.
Solee: Yeah. Me, too. I just was hoping to find something I could be harsh about… but nope. I’m totally fangirling over this movie.
Mikey: Sorry. Give me your shocking twist of a rating.
Solee: ZERO OUT OF FIVE!
Mikey: SHOCK!!! TWIST!!!
Solee: Just kidding. I’m giving this a 5 out of 5. It was scary enough to fit in a horror marathon, but did such a nice job of avoiding stereotypes and tropes that I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were some truly gruesome moments – Danny’s knee!! shudder – but mostly it was just a really good foray into the horror that is humanity. My favorite kind of horror. What is your rating?
Mikey: This is where my problem lies. I am so stuck. I really want to give this a 4.5 out of 5. But I don’t know what is wrong with it to knock it down from 5. It is doing something very unique and I really respect that, but somehow I feel like I need to not give it the 5 (maybe because I’m no fangirl!). I just don’t know how to justify it. What should I do!?
Solee: Trust your gut. Ratings are about how the movie made YOU feel. Sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly where those feelings come from… but that doesn’t change them. If the movie didn’t WOW you in the same way that the other 5 out of 5s did… then 4.5 is very respectable.
Solee: See for me, Intruders is just as good as The Uninvited. And possibly Green Room. I should have given House of 1000 Corpses a 5.5.
Mikey: Illegal! And still amazing to me to hear coming out of your face (or fingers)!! I should note that you have one other 5/5 that I don’t: The Voices. Anyway, I don’t see why this is any worse than those movies for me. I will begrudgingly allow it. Five of five.
Solee: I will say that watching Intruders makes me wish I could see what No Tell Motel looked like in T.J.’s head. I bet it was interesting. I’m looking forward to more stories by him.
Mikey: I am dead certain that in the original script, those stairs were in the drawer.
Solee: Hahahaha! Maybe he’ll tweet me and verify that. Tomorrow, we return to the world of found footage.
Mikey: Hooray! Yes, I felt that with only 3 found footage movies this month, the ratio was much too low for my usual October, so it was time to kick it into gear one last time.
Solee: You like your shaky-cam.
Mikey: I’m not even sure I do. I must, because I always want more. I just don’t know why. This one is entitled Hollows Grove, and not Grover’s Hollow, which is the terrifying story of a beheaded muppet on a rampage.
Solee: Hahahaha. You’re so dumb. ❤
*If you have comments to leave specifically for Mikey, you can see this same interview/discussion posted here, on his website.