Intruder (1989)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #89

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Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: March 1989
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Budget: $130,000
Running Time: 88 minutes
Director: Scott Spiegel
Producers: Lawrence Bender, Douglas Hessler, Charles Band (uncredited)
Screenplay: Scott Spiegel
Story: Scott Spiegel, Lawrence Bender
Based on The Night Crew by Scott Spiegel
Special Effects: Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, Gregory Nicotero
Score: Basil Poledouris
Cinematography: Fernando Argüelles
Editing: King Wilder
Studio: Beyond Infinity, Phantom Productions
Distributors: Empire Pictures, Colourbox
Stars: Elizabeth Cox, Renée Estevez, Dan Hicks, David Byrnes, Sam Raimi, Eugene Robert Glazer, Billy Marti, Burr Steers, Craig Stark, Ted Raimi, Alvy Moore, Tom Lester, Emil Sitka, Bruce Campbell, Scott Spiegel, Lawrence Bender, Greg Nicotero

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Suggested Audio Candy:

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Timing is everything. By 1989 the once hugely profitable slasher phenomenon had long since reached its zenith and was on the severe decline. Audiences had been pummeled for too long with all manner of half-assed sequels and low-rent Friday the 13th wannabes, leaving things in a particularly sorry state. With the nineties looming large, it was time for any eleventh hour throws of the dice and Scott Spiegel’s resourceful body count flick Intruder was the very last of its breed. Had it arrived on the scene several years earlier, then it would surely have been a success and likely would have spawned a sequel or three. Instead, Spiegel’s film went unnoticed by many and had to bank on good old-fashioned word-of-mouth to make its fine name.

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In many ways, Intruder represents the slasher equivalent of The Evil Dead. Spiegel was old college buddies with Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell and had recently co-wrote its sequel when the idea came to fruition. Originally a short film shot on Super 8 under the title Night Crew, it was all hands to deck as all three pitched in with cameos. Campbell was predisposed with William Lustig’s Maniac Cop so his appearance was fleeting but its plain to see that the intention was to prove that Raimi’s earlier success had been no fluke and use the slasher template to create something that belied its meager origins. With around $130k at his disposal, Spiegel filmed after hours at a real-life grocery store in his home town where he used to work and this involved stocking the shelves with two tonnes of spoiled products night after night. It is easy to see where every last red cent was used as he made his limited funds stretch further than he had any right to expect.

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Renamed Intruder at the studio’s request as they believed it to be more instantly appealing with slasher enthusiasts, Spiegel’s film actually arrived in the UK first courtesy of Colourbox, uncensored no less, before attracting the attention of the BBFC, who predictably demanded cuts before granting it certification, virtually obliterating the fine work of KNB Effects Group whose gruesome effects were easily the film’s main point of discussion. You could count yourself very fortunate if you could get your grubby hands on an uncut copy as it would be years before it would become available in all its glory once again. Make no mistake, this is one bloodthirsty movie and features a number of inventive dispatches courtesy of meat hooks, a sharp-edged letter opener, box crusher, meat slicers and all the tools afforded Spiegel within his chosen setting. Moreover, it is one commendably shrewd piece of splatter cinema.

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Intruder tells the story of the night staff at Walnut Lake Market on a particularly eventful evening. Cashier Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox) is set upon by her crazed ex-boyfriend Craig (David Byrnes), who has recently been released from prison and is looking to rekindle their broken romance, somewhat aggressively I might add. After her co-workers attempt to eject him from the store and fail miserably, the remaining staff are tasked with tracking him down before he can cause any more trouble. To make matters worse, owners Danny (Eugene Glazier) and Bill (Dan Hicks) ask them to throw an all-nighter as they have been forced to sell the store due to its poor performance. Bill is reluctant but, considering he owns a 49% share to Danny’s 51%, his hands are tied. However, this the least of their concerns as an anonymous killer has decided to perform his very own mark downs, at the night crew’s sole expense.

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Intruder takes its sweet time getting to the meat and gravy and it is almost forty minutes before the first kill arrives. The performances are what we have come to expect from cut-price works such as this and the night crew in question have one real goal, that being to “check out” in increasingly repulsive fashion. Once the bloodletting starts, the pace remains expeditious and our cast is whittled down in super fast time although, to his credit, Spiegel has a number of tricks up his sleeve in order to hold our interest. While most of the actors are pure fodder, he builds a commendable amount of tension and this is aided by a typically ominous score from Basil Poledouris, atmospheric lighting and some impressive camerawork, which adopts all manner of innovative angles and POV shots. Throw in some wonderfully ironic dialogue and a delightfully cynical conclusion and he’s onto a winner.

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However, the eradication is always going to provide the highlight and he really does craft some beauties. FX maestros Greg Nicotero, Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger were still pretty fresh-faced at the time and had only worked on a handful of films before Intruder but they certainly earn their stripes here. Moreover, Spiegel takes full advantage of any opportunity for dark humor with priceless moments such as a dissected victim stuffed into two containers, with lower torso protruding from one side and a sign attached proclaiming “1/2 off”. This is no less than you would expect from a lifelong friend of Raimi and Campbell’s as The Evil Dead relied on similar sight gags amongst its magnanimous carnage and it strikes the same shrewd balance. Granted, its tongue never strays far from its cheek, but it is never too self-conscious and plays it straight throughout.

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Is it a bona fide classic? Not quite although I would still argue passionately that it remains a strong entry into the eighties slasher sub-genre. Perhaps that is partially due to the fact that night shopping has always appealed to me (less crowds, more tranquility) and the fact is I amble through the aisles imagining the slaughter going on in the stock rooms behind closed doors. However, it is more than that as Spiegel’s film gets far more right than wrong and makes the absolute most of its environment and every last tool at its disposal. Granted, the film’s shameless marketing tells a few little porkies as anyone expecting Campbell riding along in aisle six in a supped-up trolley cum chariot brandishing a sawn-off will be disappointed by his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance. Also, the original VHS sleeve hilariously reveals the villain of the piece, relieving much of the sense of mystery. However, none of this detracts from the truth that Intruder is a solid slasher, providing more than enough Fangoria-favoring moments to satisfy all but the most bothersome of customers.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 5/5

 

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Spiegel’s film is like a mass warehouse clearance for deviants and the deep red coulis is all over the place. You cannot move for lifeless cadavers, the body count is higher than the norm and right up there with the most mean-spirited. The much-celebrated vertical face dissection may require a little squinting of the eyes to hold onto credibility but it certainly doesn’t hold anything back, using various angles to further ram the point home. Elsewhere, there is a glorious head crush via box opener complete with sickening splat, eyes pierced, heads lopped off, numerous stabbings, impalement, and more than enough gushing grue to fill those baskets shoppers.

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