In a genre tailor-made for outrageous performances, one that revels in ridiculous plot twists and outlandish characters, Dennis Quaid delivers. He oscillates frequently between mysterious, beguiling, but mostly he sticks his landing in the magical realm of “oh wow, so you went there”.
Throughout his new film “The Intruder”, his face is tense with a plastered smile and eyes widened to an absurd diameter while he maniacally checks his reflection in mirrors or car windows to see if he’s doing the whole normal human thing right.
It’s hard to say if Quaid’s performance is career-ending or a career highlight in a decade that’s seen him in a “Footloose” remake and a talking-dog movie. Or, as of this month, two talking-dog movies. His character has little backstory and his motivations are - well, they fit well within the modern marketable horror film genre, which is to say, the conundrum of what the hell he’s doing on screen is half the fun in watching it.
Meagan Good and Michael Ealy star as Annie and Scott Russell, a young couple looking to move out of the hustle and bustle of San Francisco and into a quiet suburb where they can raise a family. Despite the fact that the renowned wine country town of Napa is a good hour and a half outside the city and there are plenty of other quaint towns closer that are just as viable for child-rearing, the Russells buy Foxglove, the family home owned by Charlie Peck (Quaid), a widower looking to downsize and eventually move to Florida to be nearer his daughter.
As the Russells work at making Foxglove their own, they are met with greater resistance from Charlie who mows their lawn and digs through the property’s tool shed, unannounced and uninvited. Much to their chagrin, he is still living nearby and has pushed back his move date back indefinitely. He’s also becoming more and more enamored with Annie.
Here is where the film reveals its greatest influence: it attempts to run parallel to arguably one of the greatest horror films of all time, “The Shining”. Man obsessed with protecting a hotel (or house, in this case) from faux-enemies, his loved ones. Charlie Peck is Jack Torrance if Jack had survived, escaped and traveled through time and space to modern-day Napa.
It isn’t just the mirroring plot that forces this conclusion. Director Deon Taylor incorporates the score from “The Shining”, and Quaid replicates that infamous splintered door scene, both of which garner some chuckles from film nerds in the room. But where the film fails is in its shallow build and lazy writing. There is no substance behind what we’re shown or told, and therefore, Quaid’s outlandish performance feels overdone. Unlike Nicholson’s role, Quaid has the handicap of starring in a film that prefers to take the easy shot over the methodical one.
If you enjoy gratuitous sex scenes on kitchen counters interrupted by flashes of headlights exposing the villain lurking in the <insert woods, doorframe, window>, then perhaps this is for you. It’s predictable, ridiculous and funny in all the wrong ways, which is to say, it’s exactly the type of bored-on-a-Friday-night kind of movie we could get behind, though it may feel better catching it on Netflix than seeking it out during its theatrical run.