‘Intruders’ Plays With Genre, But Not Enough to Stand Out

Director Adam Schindler’s first film shows promise, but its' lack of distinguishing features hold it back.
2015-01-15 (Limited & VOD)

Originally titled Shut In, Intruders has been described as “Panic Room meets You’re Next”. Even though there is merit to that claim, it doesn’t quite match the visual panache of Fincher’s Panic Room or the refreshingly understated humor of Wingard’s You’re Next. That said, Intruders does distinguish itself from the glut of indie thrillers in a few notable ways, but the film’s shortcomings don’t do much to rescue it from the saturated mire of indie horror films. Even though it’s story is inventive and fresh, its’ visual aesthetic and plotting leave a lot to be desired.

The film follows Anna (Beth Riesgraf), an agoraphobic woman that has not left the family home since the death of her father ten years prior. Anna’s only contact with the outside world is Danny (Rory Culkin), a food delivery boy, and a lawyer (Leticia Jiminez). When the terminally ill brother she’s been caring for dies, Anna, unsure of what to do with the vast sums of money the two had, gives some to Danny, a motion that unbeknownst to her, draws a trio of opportunistic robbers looking for the cash.

From the beginning, the set-up of an agoraphobic, shut-in protagonist is an inventive take on the home invasion genre, establishing a boundary that cannot be crossed, and one that is typically the goal for escaping danger in such films. Not being able to go outside means that, for Anna, the beginning of her story is all about hiding in closets, under tables, and so forth. This initial set-up is executed well, mining ample suspense while at the same time revealing the house’s labyrinthine layout. By not revealing much in the way of the home’s topography, the glimpses of the house that we are given contribute to disorientation, putting the audience in a vulnerable place ripe for tension and thrill.

At the same time, the trio of robbers — Perry (Martin Starr), along with brothers Vance (Joshua Mikel) and JP (Jack Kesy) — are introduced. Their playful, contrasting dynamic doesn’t do much to clue the audience in to their motivation for the robbery. It’s a given that everyone loves having lots of money, but why do these men want this money at this time? Their characters feel undeveloped, and they end up not moving past the outline phase of their genesis.

As the story progresses, the requisite twists and turns are well-executed and for the most part, surprising. The novelty of the situation far exceeds the film’s initial blandness, and it’s a curious turn that the film even includes some faint glimmers of feminist thought hiding behind its’ veneer. But as the story progresses, its outward unoriginality becomes more apparent. Death scenes are executed in predictable, uninteresting ways, blending together in a vague vision of dark rooms, crunching noises, and predictable angles.

It’s apparent that what Intruders lacks most is a sense of a personal touch, and as a result, the film’s original reversal of home invasion genre is lost in the blandness of its’ presentation. To take some inspiration from the excellent home invasion films of the French New Extremity — such as Martyrs, Them, or Inside — would have been fruitful, as those films executed the genre in ways that are creative, suspenseful, and grandiose. Unfortunately, Intruders’ really suffers from not being more playful with its’ music, cinematography, and execution of key moments.

As for the acting, it’s unquestionably Starr’s show here. His portrayal of Perry has an undeniable charisma, lending to the character a captivating sense of gleeful sociopathy. The rest of the cast play their assigned roles well, with Beth Reisgraf’s portrayal of Anna being surprisingly fleshed out and convincing. While the script could use a bit of polish in terms of fleshing out the robbers’ motivations, it does do a great job of making each character distinctive.

Even though Intruders is far from perfect, it shows more originality than much of the indie horror-thrillers that pad streaming libraries around the web. Where it falters is in that particular director’s signature, which isn’t much of a problem given the context of Intruders being director Adam Schindler’s first film. Ultimately, it shows a lot of promise for the fledgling director and is worth a watch, especially for genre fans.

RATING 5 / 10