Do a Shot: every time someone gains the upper hand.
Take a Drink: each time Anna’s demeanor changes.
Take a Drink: for each new, creepy layer that gets peeled back.
Do a Shot: every time you learn something new about the house.
By: Hawk Ripjaw (A Toast) –
It’s clear from the very start that Anna (Beth Riesgraf) is troubled. It’s also clear that she has a sordid past with her terminally ill brother, who she takes care of in the house. For reasons that are initially unclear, Beth is severely agoraphobic and has been unable to leave her house for years, with an awkwardly witty delivery man (Rory Culkin) bringing her meals each day. Her friend is also stuck where he is, for different reasons, and the two have a brief connection.
The day after her brother finally passes away, Anna is dressed for the funeral and attempting to steel herself to step out of the house and attend. Before she can reach that point, three men (Martin Starr, Joshua Mikel, and Jack Kesy) break into the house, seeking a significant stockpile of money Anna has stashed. While initially the terrified Beth evades the intruders through the labyrinthine house, something inside her snaps and she manages to turn the tables and trap them in the basement. From there, it becomes a weird, unsettling game of cat-and-mouse where the roles are occasionally reversed and Anna may be a bit more sinister than she initially seems.
Like You’re Next, the excellent 2014 thriller that Intruders likens itself to, this film puts a cathartic spin on the home invasion thriller and settles comfortably into the too-little-explored subgenre where the victim doesn’t just get back at her captors, but unleashes satisfyingly nasty violence upon them. Intruders doesn’t go hard for the gore quite like its inspiration did, but opts instead for a slightly more psychological angle as Anna imprisons the men and makes them furtively wonder what she’s up to. In these scenes we spend an unusual amount of time with the antagonists, and see very clearly how frightened and out of their element they are. By turns both Anna and the men become aggressors and victims, and this creates a fairly intriguing power struggle.
It’s a stroke of genius that Anna is agoraphobic. Home invasion movies often go out of their way to prevent the main character from escaping. Why run upstairs when you can just run out the front door? Here, Anna literally steps outside but cannot handle the stress of leaving the house, and, defeated, allowed her captors to drag her back inside. It creates a tangible reason for the movie to confine itself to the house without feeling hokey.
Martin Starr, who up until now has mostly played nerdy pricks, ditches the glasses and sports a lumberjack beard for a terrifying turn as the bloodthirsty prime villain. But for as scary as he is, he’s got nothing on Riesgraf as Anna, who is positively skin-crawling with the level of crazy she displays once she’s set off. Riesgraf’s performance here is key, as the character doesn’t really devolve into full-on supervillain, but rather an extremely troubled woman who can thank some deep-seated psychoses for her behavior. Riesgraf seriously sells the performance and is one to watch going forward.
I want to give away so much, but I shouldn’t. Intruders paves a similar path to its sisters in the subgenre, but director Adam Schindler makes his own fun little detours to freshen the execution, and does so with a character that feels a bit more nuanced than what we’re used to. While the actual cathartic payoff of vengeance on the intruders takes a slight backseat to a brief investigation into the character of Anna, the movie still ends up being a satisfying thriller. There’s still enough room in this sub-subgenre of home invasion thriller in which the victim turns out to be a crazy motherfucker to make the idea of more of these films tantalizing, because when they’re done right, as Intruders is, they’re a very satisfying sister class to the revenge thriller.
Note: Intruders was previously known as Shut In, as it was called at its debut at the Los Angeles Film Festival, to assist you in searching out the correct film. If you come across something starring Clive Owen, you’re in the wrong place.