Annie (Meagan Good) and Scott (Michael Ealy) are a happy well-to-do couple buying a fancy house in fancy Napa Valley. The owner of the home they’re buying, Charlie (Dennis Quaid) is sorry to let his house go, as he lived so happily with his deceased wife there, but his daughter really wants him to move in with her. As Annie and Scott get settled, Charlie is there every step of the way, hanging Christmas lights, mowing the lawn, committing murder. Turns out Charlie is quite unstable and not ready to let the house go.
I can’t watch a stalking/home invasion movie without thinking back to the early ’90s, when this genre was particularly prominent for me: Pacific Heights, The Guardian, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Single White Female. The plots varied slightly, but the emphasis was on the danger to identity and material possessions and wealth: the white picket fence, the perfect couple/family. (And inevitably someone would be tossed off a second story landing.) More current examples that involve the same themes but are a little more diverse include Obsessed (white woman stalks her wealthy Black boss and pisses off his wife, Queen Bey) and Lakeview Terrace (Black cop stalks his neighbors, an interracial couple). Both of those and The Intruder are written by the same dude, David Loughery. The Intruder is the first of them to be directed by a Black filmmaker, Deon Taylor (Black and Blue, Traffik, Meet the Blacks).
As a guilty white person who genuinely gets tired of the sea of caucasians and widespread racism in movies, I needed The Intruder in my life right now. I loved Meagan Good in Eve’s Bayou, and she brightens up anything she’s in, from The Unborn to Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. I enjoyed Michael Ealy in For Colored Girls and The Perfect Guy, and I look forward to his performance in the remake of Jacob’s Ladder. I needed a trigger-happy white guy with a red hat, who’s unwilling to yield what he sees as his property. I needed Mike (Joseph Sikora) the sassy white best friend (and his Black girlfriend Rachel, played by Alvina August) who puts himself in harm’s way just by being hostile to the villain. I needed a movie full of white service people.
Issues of race aside, it is a paint-by-the-numbers style of thriller. The best one can hope for with one of these is little twists that make it stand out. This one does that for me; I don’t want to give anything away, but the depth of Charlie’s madness increases continuously and builds tension successfully. I’ve seen Dennis Quaid in lots of things but never associated him with being threatening. It took some time, but he won me over in the scene when Scott is showing him around the house. Charlie balks at their removal of an old tapestry, and Scott explains that Annie wanted a painting in that spot instead. The camera is close-up on their two faces side by side facing the painting; Scott looks on, oblivious, while Charlie’s face twists in rage for a moment–and then he gets himself under control again.
It’s not movie of the year, but it’s worth watching. Give it a look if you’re in the mood for something homey and inviting. Aaaaaand you don’t have to be a bleeding-heart liberal, but it helps.