Overview: A group of burglars break into the house of a wealthy woman suffering from agoraphobia (a fear of leaving the house). But both the woman and the house offer more than they bargained for. Momentum Pictures; 2015; Not Rated; 90 minutes.
Just Another Routine Home Invasion: It’s clear from the beginning that Adam Schindler’s Intruders isn’t just another cash-grab, horror movie that relies on typical jump scares and men in masks. Unfortunately, this factor still doesn’t make it a necessary viewing experience. The film’s synopsis, which bills Intruders as “Panic Room meets You’re Next,” is an entirely accurate comparison when it comes to the plot setup. The narrative doesn’t consist of anything we haven’t seen before in the past fifty years of home invasion movies, and those aforementioned movies immediately come to mind even without the benefit of a synopsis. Familiarity is not a death sentence, and Intruders could receive a pass regardless of its influences. But this prototypical home invasion movie lacks the benefit of an engaging style, score, performance, or any sense of tension. The first half-hour of Intruders is incredibly dull as it sketches broad characterizations and personal relationships that never have any real weight to them. The filmmakers display an awareness that this movie needs the audience to be invested in the characters for it to work. It allots the time for this, but the characters, even our leading lady Anna (Beth Riesgraf), are so driven by clichéd impulses, inexplicable decisions, and listless performances that it’s impossible to care.
Murder House: Thirty-five minutes into the film, everyone in front of and behind the camera wakes up, and while those subsequent twenty minutes don’t suddenly become a masterclass exercise in thrills, they at least provide something to be curious about. Martin Starr and Rory Culkin inject some much needed life into the proceedings as two of the four unsuspecting intruders. Coupled with the reveal that Anna’s house is a trap, filled with secret doorways and staircases to catch unsuspecting victims, it briefly seems that Intruders may deliver something special after all. Instead it sinks back into tediousness, and the following attempt at a fake-out, jump scare only shows how much this film mishandles tension. Even as the second half of the film offers some decent shots and displays a clever organization of film’s spaces, Schindler never takes full advantage of any of this, ultimately failing to understand that the house itself is more interesting than the characters it contains.
A Way Out: The film’s twist hinges on a traumatic plot element that feels like a poor attempt to create last minute sympathy for Anna. It ultimately strips away what little power and sense of intrigue she possessed. The effort is made to tie everything together in a way that feels satisfying, but this is done by forcing every surviving character to act against all rational thought. Where the film’s climax needed a ‘oh shit’ moment, we’re left without a real sense of threat from either Anna or the burglars. The film ends on a note that feels emotionally and psychologically disingenuous, easy to the point of almost feeling insulting.
Overall: Intruders needed to make us feel something for these characters, to raise questions of morality and mercy, but it never finds a way into these players’ headspaces. The greatest sin a horror/thriller can commit isn’t a lack of originality but boredom. Intruders doesn’t create a racing heart or mind spinning with possibilities but rather heavy lidded eyes. Plot elements for an interesting movie are present, as is the space to set one in, but they aren’t bolstered by the techniques that make these kinds of cinematic experiences worthwhile. Despite brief glimmers of hope, we’re left with a home invasion movie that refuses to let anyone in.