JUNE 4, 2009
For it seems like twenty years, I’ve heard about Intruder (known in region 2 as The Night Crew) being this great slasher movie, but also one that was hacked by the MPAA, who removed 5 minutes’ worth of KNB glory for its VHS release. So when I spotted what was dubbed the “unrated director’s cut” for 3.99 at my Blockbuster, I figured the time had finally come (positive recommendations from readers BloodPepsi and Cam1020 didn't hurt). Of course, the transfer sucks (every DVD I have watched in the past week has been full frame, for some reason) and there are no extras, but I’ll take the terrific gore over a 5 minute EPK or a deleted scene of someone walking down a hallway.
As slashers go, it doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary really. The characters are a bit more likable than usual (particularly in the late 80s, when the slasher film was all but extinct beyond sequels to established franchises), and I’m pretty sure this is the only one that is set in a supermarket, but that’s about it. The closest they get to doing something surprising is sort of setting up two final girls (Elizabeth Cox and Renee Estevez), but Estevez is written out after like 25 minutes so she can be a red herring (pfft, yeah right), and we’re back to strict adherence to the formula.
What it lacks in storytelling originality though, it makes up for in interesting kills and a sense of humor. Killing implements include a butcher’s knife, a trash compactor, a buzz saw (this one is incredible - the saw cuts right through the guy’s teeth!), and whatever you call those spiky things where you place paperwork that you’re finished with. And director Scott Spiegel gives a little goofy touch to most of the kills, like cutting to a sign saying “Be careful with knives” after the butcher knife kill. There are also a couple of terrifically bad lines, such as “If you see him, keep your eyes peeled.” I also loved the bit where Raimi’s hanging body kept getting in the way as Cox and the killer did the whole “she’s pushing the door shut while he tries to break it down” thing.
And back to the setting, I like that the store is stocked with real products: Diet Pepsi, Froot Loops, TV Guide, etc. So many movies have a bunch of generic products when they go to a store, but either they didn’t care or spent all of their money obtaining the rights to show the products. Also, the locale is well used; you’d think that having everyone trapped in a supermarket would limit the slashing potential, but Spiegel does a good job of separating everyone but still allowing us to know where they are in relation to one another. And the idea of a supermarket closing is almost strange to me, as my store is 24 hrs (many a 2:30 am return home from the New Bev has ended with me at Ralph’s, buying milk and chocolate pudding pies to enjoy as the caffeine I drank to stay awake at the movie kicks in and keeps me awake til 5 am). I think it would be hilarious to have a sequel/remake in a 24 hr store, with the killer trying to clear the place out and yet more and more victims keep coming.
The cast is also pretty game. Cox is a great final girl; she’s nice but not a mousy introvert like Laurie Strode or her ilk. She also carries out what may be the longest “find the dead friends” sequence in slasher history, so points to her. Sam Raimi (2nd movie this week with an acting turn by Sam the Man) is a hoot as a butcher, even getting to work in some of his beloved Three Stooges humor when he fights with a ladder. And Ted Raimi’s there as well, as a produce guy who never takes his headphones off. The rest aren’t quite as memorable, but again, they’re all actually likeable for once. And we meet them all in one of the film’s best scenes, an epic fight in the supermarket where nearly every male character tries (and fails) to subdue the film’s most obvious red herring, an ex boyfriend of Cox’s character. The movie tries REALLY REALLY hard to make you think he’s the killer, but come on. Even if it hadn’t been spoiled by the trailer (which I didn’t watch before I watched the movie anyway), it’s pretty obvious.
One aspect of the film that is memorable, if not exactly in a good way, is Spiegel’s obsession with “cool” shots. Granted, having Raimi around probably didn’t help, but after a while I just wanted to smack him and tell him to put the camera down on a tripod and film the scene normally. Some of the shots are cool, like the one inside of the shopping cart as it rolls around the store (a shot like this would have been a far better backdrop for the opening credits, instead of a shot of a moon). Most are just annoying and pointless though: inside a rotary telephone, off the angled mirror at the top of the aisle, gliding back and forth on the meat slicer, etc. I remember the same thing annoying me in Spiegel’s From Dusk Til Dawn sequel, so I guess it’s his “thing”. Some folks like it, and yes, it certainly gives the film its own identity, but it just annoyed me after awhile, mainly because it served to remind me that I was watching a staged movie from the eye of a camera that someone placed in a specific way.
As I said, there are no extras of note on the DVD, unless you count the trailer. However, there IS a bonus movie being described, as the description on the back is totally wrong. The description mis-identifies Estevez as the lead character, features a shot of Bruce Campbell from a different movie entirely (he pops up in this for about 12 seconds as a policeman), and includes this puzzler: “An ex-cop is trying to find out who the killer is and what possessed him to start the bloody rampage” - no ex-cop appears in the film at all. The trailer also has a bit of schizophrenia - in addition to giving away the killer (and his motive!), it dubs itself as “a new dimension in terror!”, as if the movie was either in 3-D or took place in some other dimension. The overly dramatic trailer announcer also announces the cast, which highlights the Raimis and Campbell but skips Cox (the actual star). Kind of fascinating. It's below as usual, but I would urge you not to watch it until you've seen the movie (unless you already know who the killer is, then it doesn't matter).
What say you?