[Screen It]


(2019) (Michael Ealy, Meagan Good) (PG-13)

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Suspense/Thriller: After moving into an old house in Napa Valley, a young couple realizes the former owner isn't ready to give up the place.
Scott (MICHAEL EALY) and Annie Russell (MEAGAN GOOD) are looking for a new place to live and raise their future family and thus decide to move out of San Francisco to Napa Valley. And they believe they've found the idyllic place in an old house set deep in the woods. After getting a tour by the owner, widower Charlie Peck (DENNIS QUAID), who's lived there his entire life but is planning to move to Florida to live with his daughter, the couple buys the place.

But they're somewhat surprised when they discover Charlie mowing the grass one day after they've moved in, and when Annie invites him to join them and their friends Mike (JOSEPH SIKORA) and Rachel (ALVINA AUGUST) for Thanksgiving, Mike -- who works with Scott -- comes to the conclusion that Charlie isn't ready to give up the place. From that point on, and with Charlie repeatedly showing up for a variety of reasons, Scott's suspicions that Mike's assessment is correct continue to grow, as does his concern that the man might end up being much worse than just an uninvited guest.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
At their core, and regardless of the package in which they arrive, horror films are suspense/thrillers designed to unsettle, spook and scare viewers by placing characters in perilous situations. One of the oldest and most basic is the haunted house story where one or more spirits terrorize inhabitants of a home. Some have been there all along, and others are brought in by outside circumstances, but many are simply the result of something bad that's previously happened there, such as a death, natural or otherwise.

In "The Intruder," the latter occurred two years ago, but it's not the spirit of that dead person who's haunting the new residents. Instead, it's her still very alive and kicking (and then some) husband who can't quite accept he's no longer the owner and keeps showing up, unannounced and uninvited.

While technically a suspense/thriller, this offering has the look and feel of a haunted house flick, including having those affected by the "haunting" engaging in ill-advised behavior that ranges from head-scratching odd to downright preposterous, especially as things unfold and are revealed in the third act.

Sure, I suppose there's some potential here and some script tweaks could have resolved or at least explained the ever-increasing stupidity, but the flick can't escape the fact that we've seen this sort of thriller before (especially in the 1980s and '90s when they spread through theaters like some sort of cinematic infectious disease).

Had the film (and director Deon Taylor and screenwriter David Loughery) taken the bold step and segued over into horror (by having the dead woman's spirit show up to further complicate matters) this might have turned into something interesting and perhaps remarkable. Alas, that -- or anything else imaginative or surprising -- never materializes.

Instead, the fairly simple (and uber predictable) story follows Scott and Annie Russell (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good) who decide to move out of downtown San Francisco to the more future kid-friendly confines of an old house in Napa Valley. The owner (Dennis Quaid) literally shows up with a bang as he shoots a flower-eating deer and then delivers the kill shot before showing the would-be buyers around the place.

Scott is unnerved by the guns he spots -- what with having lost his brother to gun violence back when Scott was a preteen -- but Annie loves the place and soon they're christening their new home with a brief on-the-counter romp. The first sign of down-the-road trouble is when Charlie shows up and mows the lawn and then keeps pushing back the date of his eventual move to Florida to live with his daughter, what with his wife having died from cancer (or so he says) two years ago in the house. He also acts somewhat menacingly toward Scott's coworker and friend (Joseph Sikora) out in the backyard.

Soon chore-related and advice-filled visits go from irritating to maddening, with the couple disagreeing on the severity of that, all while the audience sees the old man has his eye on the pretty wife. That pretty much goes where you expect it. Yet, despite Loughery introducing a cheating past on the part of the hubby, the scribe doesn't have as much fun with that as possible.

For example, that could have led to the wife play flirting with the older man (as a lesson, comeuppance or what have you) which could have added layers of complexity to the plot (and explained away some of the questionable and distracting character behavior that otherwise occurs). Similarly, there's a brief moment where Charlie smashes a wine bottle across Mike's head, only to then be shown as just an imagined bit. Had that route been continued, a lot of misdirection could have been deployed and kept viewers on their toes -- and maybe the edges of their seats -- wondering what's real and what's not.

Instead, we simply get more of the same old, same old, with the characters behaving pretty much in line with those found in most haunted house flicks -- meaning stupidly in service to the needs of the story. That said, and aside from the dumb behavior, the performances are generally okay, with Quaid perfectly cast as he's always had that mixture of a mischievous glint in his eye and a broad smile on his face as mixed with inner intensity and the perception that he could fly off the handle at any moment.

It would have been fun not to mention interesting if his character would have had to contend with the arrival of his dead wife's spirit, thus complicating his ever-increasing obsession with the younger woman. That ghost could have told all of them to get out of her house, but in her absence, it's my duty to tell you to get out of the theater so that you don't have to sit through this predictable and not terribly imaginative offering. Feeling like the worn-out spirit of similar films that had their heyday decades ago in Hollywood, "The Intruder" rates as a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed April 30, 2019 / Posted May 3, 2019

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