Horror movies tend to rely on a certain gimmick to frighten their audiences. And while these tropes are often good for a movie or two, they run out in future sequels as the audiences grow tired of them. With Intruder, the concept of which has a person observing and watching your every action unbeknownst to you in the place considered most private – home – you have arguably one of the more harrowing ideas created for a horror movie. But while that premise is solid, the biggest problem is that the movie runs out of ideas on what to do with it very quickly.
From the beginning of Intruder, director Travis Zariwny does a sterling job in building the tension. While he is still reliant on frequent jump-scares for the majority of the film, the way he blurs the camera to move things in and out of focus, or jumps between close-up images and long shots through the quick edits, all while layered in a jittery string arrangement in the score, creates an atmosphere of not being in control of your viewing experience and puts you right into the seat of the films protagonist, Elizabeth (Louise Linton). The film also makes great use of its small setting, which for most of the film is essentially a tiny apartment.
While he first half of Intruder sees the story less focused on character building or narrative development, it heaps on the suspense. You know there is someone in the house watching Elizabeth at all times and the films plays on this frightening thought. It’s done to great effect and there is very little let up in intensity during these early moments of the movie. You get to meet a few characters during this time, but the film doesn’t give you enough time to dwell on these and will quickly thrust you back into the feeling of being watched.
The second act of the film though is more deliberate in building mystery into the plot and setting up potential antagonists for you. Unfortunately, this is also where the film starts to lose its audience as its change of pace and drop in tension breaks the grip the film previously had on you. It’s also at this point that the banality of the film’s plot and how the intruder gets away with what he does while keeping his victim oblivious becomes a little unrealistic. The characters in the film are not well-developed and the actors (including Moby, Zach Myers, John Robinson and Aaron Trainor) are never stretched with the clumsy dialogue, leaving you largely uninterested in them.
Many films thrive on the mystery in leaving you guessing who the villain is. In Intruder, I ended up not caring about this at all. By the time you eventually figure it all out, the tension has been deflated, undercutting the big moment. To be fair, the film keeps its cards close to its chest before its final reveal, but if you pay attention to some of the subtle camera effects used by the director, you should figure it out before then.
In the end, Intruder is a film that takes a genuinely frightening idea and presents it well on-screen, before sadly unraveling all that hard work when it tries to build its unbelievable plot. It’s a great concept that sadly just couldn’t keep going for the full length of the movie. If you love horror films though, I would still recommend picking this up, even if just to get entertained for the first 40 minutes or so.
I would also like to point out there are two “endings” to this film, so the first time you see credits pop on the screen, just hang in there for a few seconds to see a more complete ending to the story.