Intruders (2016) review

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Intruders, originally titled Shut In while navigating the festival circuit, possesses an appealing premise, but even the best plans are subject to ruin. Plot turns take the highest priority and a game of cat and mouse framed as a home invasion devolves into a showing of perpetual upstaging. Things don’t completely fall apart by the final act, but an interesting take on the home-invasion subgenre becomes something less by attempting too much.

Anna (Beth Riesgraf) is an agoraphobic young woman taking care of her brother Conrad (Timothy T. McKinney) during his final battle with a terminal illness. Having not left her home for the past 10 years, her only interactions with people other than her brother are with Meals on Wheels delivery man Dan (Rory Culkin) and her brother’s attorney Charlotte (Leticia Jimenez). When her brother passes, Anna is left alone with an enormous house and a significant cash inheritance. A suspiciously short time after she offers to give Dan a large sum of money, three intruders (Martin Starr, Jack Kesy and Joshua Mikel) break into her house in search of the cash she’s rumored to have while she is supposed to be attending her brother’s funeral. Upon their arrival, the intruders are surprised by Anna’s presence and they quickly discover she’s unable to leave the house, but not without a few tricks up her sleeve. As the trio figures out what to do now that Anna has thrown a wrench in their plan, she introduces them to her grisly family history and some very uncommon features of the home.

First-time director Adam Schindler and writers T.J. Cimfel and David White put together a story with as many surprises as the house that’s featured in the film, but the effect of each surprise is short-lived. The superb practical effects illustrate the adeptness of the set designer and effects team. A certain staircase becomes an integral part of the story, and the entire film would have crumbled if the presentation had suffered on account of the budget.

Tight pacing takes the audience through the first act with ease, and the characters provide a lot to consider regarding their motives and morals as the film progresses to its climax. Unfortunately, unnecessary gore and needless revelation of backstory relating to a vague reference in the beginning of the film fill the time between climax and conclusion. The violence is relatively tame until the climax where it makes a giant leap—a common element of the movie. An overuse of blood and gore diminishes its fair share of scenes and gives a feeling that the filmmakers feared this film would be a thriller if not for the inclusion of gratuitous and exaggerated violence.

Riesgraf shows off her skills as her character switches back and forth between the vulnerable damsel and intimidating menace. Her character isn’t great, but it’s good enough that she’s able to bring enough out of it to impress—more of a testament to her ability as an actress than the quality of her character’s construction. The actors who portray the intruders aren’t as fortunate, as they do their best to stand out in cliché roles of so many other ill-intentioned ensembles, with Starr playing the hot head, Mikel the reluctant newcomer and Kesy the calculated leader. Starr gives a skilled performance by conveying a feeling of unhinged aggression and loss of control, and the other two are serviceable in their respective parts. The weakness on the acting front is unmistakably Rory Culkin. He’s unable to make a lasting impression with his delivery and fails to make the audience care enough about him or his relationship with Beth’s character.