To celebrate Halloween this year, Dim the House Lights will be treating our readers to a horror movie recommendation a day for the ten days leading up to everyone’s favorite holiday. So sharpen your knives, carve your pumpkins, sit back and let the terror take over.
Scott Spiegel is best known as the co-writer of Evil Dead II and for his cameos in various other Sam Raimi movies, but as a filmmaker in his own right he is responsible for one of the more interesting entries in the 80s slasher boom. 1989’s Intruder is a zany splat-fest unfolding over one night in a supermarket. After closing, the night crew are restocking the shelves and it’s business as usual, that is until (you guessed it) a mysterious intruder appears and starts dispatching the workers one by one with increasingly bloody results.
Intruder is neither scary or unnerving but it is entertaining and inventive. Spiegel got his start making Super 8 horror movies in backyards with friends Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and it’s easy to see why the group gravitated towards each other. Like Raimi, Spiegel has a penchant for combining slapstick with splatter (splat-stick?) and every drop of blood comes with a gag. In Intruder, one worker spends the first half of the film chopping melons in half, so naturally he gets a knife plunged into the middle of his cranium but not before noticing a nearby safety poster declaring “Knives are sharp. Please be careful”. Fans of Raimi’s skewed eye and rollercoaster camerawork will also get a kick out of Spiegel’s approach. If you thought you’d seen every POV shot imaginable, Intruder is the film to make you reconsider. Spiegel shoots through trolley bars, bins, phone dials and glass bottles ensuring the visual style is always punctuated with some unique perspectives. I’m honestly surprised he wasn’t headhunted to direct episodes of Breaking Bad, a show that prided itself on sticking cameras in seemingly impossible corners and crevices.
Elaborate carnage is the bread and butter of any half-decent slasher movie and Intruder’s inspired murder sequences, courtesy of now-legendary FX house KNB, are a big part of the film’s lasting appeal. Spiegel doesn’t waste any of the sadistic opportunities offered up by the supermarket setting and everything from a hydraulic press to a buzz-saw is utilized for maximum carnage. Blood is spilled by the gallon and, thankfully, anyone who dies rarely does so in one piece. The effects–which should only be experienced in the 88 minute uncut version–hit that sweet spot between being rubbery, splashy and cheap as hell, but completely practical and satisfying. There’s such glee in their execution, you can feel the enthusiasm of the sick minds behind the camera enjoying every second of wiping out their cast in the wackiest way imaginable.
And how about that cast? Intruder’s body count is filled out by an impressive mix of faces ranging from genre faves to future Hollywood heavyweights. Evil Dead almuns Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and Ted Raimi all crop up in addition to Renée Estevez and future writer/director Burr Steers. And let’s not forget that the film’s producer is none other than Tarantino right-hand-man Lawrence Bender, and even he appears in a small role. That’s a lot of trustworthy names to slap on a DVD cover meaning that Intruder has just enough star-power to be passed down from one generation of slasher fans to the next.
As far as B-grade slasher movies go, not many are as fun and kinetic as Intruder. Like a banana peel discarded into a pool of blood, the comedy goes a long way to heighten the film from a mere stalk’n’slash into a screwball bloodbath. Spiegel also has the foresight to deliver on the gore ensuring that it stands up against even the most straight-faced of stabathons. At times the film feels like a living, breathing cartoon in the Itchy and Scratchy tradition which I consider a lofty compliment to Spiegel’s ghoulish tone. Like best bud Raimi (and Raimi’s best buds the Coen brothers), Spiegel is a filmmaker with a pleasantly offbeat eye and he is more than happy to apply it to a genre framework in order to morph the mundane into something a bit more madcap. With Intruder he transforms what could have been a conventional kill count picture into a horror movie that is, refreshingly, kinda funny lookin’.
Intruder is available on home video courtesy of Synapse Films.
Directed by Scott Spiegel; written by Scott Spiegel; Starring Elizabeth Cox, Renée Estevez, Dan Hicks, Sam Raimi, Burr Steers, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Lawrence Bender; 88 minutes