PLOT: Upon the death of her father and brother, a young agoraphobic woman left alone at home with a large stash of cash becomes the target of a trio of interlopers. However, the young gal has a sadistic plot of her own!
REVIEW: Not to be confused with the Clive Owen or Miranda Cosgrove thrillers of the same name, INTRUDERS (aka SHUT IN) may not seem or sound all that original on paper, but with its keen makeover designs on fully bulldozing and redecorating the home invasion template - as well as effectively gerrymandering the lines between protagonist and antagonist - the film actually amounts to an entertaining and sturdily founded feature debut for director Adam Schindler. Not a great film, mind you, as it does tend to suffer the low-budget strictures of a tiny cast and a monotonous single-set, single-scenario story that calls attention to far better executed examples like WAIT UNTIL DARK, PANIC ROOM, et al. But again, for a first foray into a feature filmmaking, this here band of INTRUDERS are most certainly welcome!
Anna (Beth Riesgraf) is a bereft young woman dealing with the recent death of her brother Conrad, as well as her terminally-ill, bed-ridden father. As the film opens, the latter too croaks, which directly causes a debilitating bout of agoraphobia in Anna. She's paralyzed at the thought of leaving her gaudy mansion-like abode for even a second, so much so that she relies on a food deliver guy named Dan (Rory Culkin) to bring her fresh meals every day. The two grow a bit chummy, as it's clear Dan is starting to harbor a crush on the sexy blond lass. Soon after her father dies, Anna tries to give Dan a large satchel of cash left behind by the old man, which he politely declines. Sweet guy, right? Well, a few days pass before Anna is paid a visit to by Vance (Joshua Mikel), Perry (Martin Starr) and Jack (Jack Kesy) - a trio of cash-strapped interlopers intent on doing whatever it takes to procure the cash and hit the road scot free. Of course, wracked with her affliction, even when presented with the opportunity to make a clean escape out of the front door, poor Anna can't do anything but hunker down and try to outwit her assailants from inside the household. Think she's up to it?
It's here where the film refreshingly veers into unforeseen territory. In most flicks of this ilk, our one-dimensional heroine, whose crippling affliction meant to draw our sympathy, would find the strength to survive by foiling the varied plots of the criminals inside the house. Not so with INTRUDERS. See, it seems Anna hasn't just a deep dark fear of the outside world, she also has a heinously violent past involving the exploits of her sadistic brother Conrad and her abusive father. To wit, Anna takes advantage of the labyrinthine layout of her childhood home, ambling through secret passageways, hidden stairwells, panic rooms, surveillance mirrors and retractable-walled slaughter-rooms. She turns the tables on the bad guys, one by one, drawing them into the various deathtraps and sadistic pratfalls she's festooned her abode with. Not to give away too much, it's safe to say Anna gets pretty hands-on with the carnage she exacts.
But here's the thing. As admirable as the film is in muddying the boundaries between who's good and who's bad, ultimately leading to varying shades of mostly antagonism, there's a pretty costly tradeoff. Sympathy. Once Anna's true ulterior motives are revealed, we're sort of left with little more than an assorted band of irredeemable characters to cling to. Most downright detestable. This clearly saps any emotional ties to the outcome of story and any of its characters, Anna included, but the swap of sentiment and sympathy for at least partial originality, in this case, plays pretty excusably. In other words, I was willing to forgo a real rooting interest in the name of seeing something I haven't before. In that way, as a fresh perspective on the home invasion angle, the story works. Granted, the film would be far more effective overall had the emotional resonance established early on remained intact, but hey, I'd rather see an unsentimental original than a mawkishly rote retread of the subgenre.
Other strong suits the film boasts include the acting and cinematography. Martin Starr for example does a good job of disguising himself under a thick beard and contact lenses, playing in complete opposition to the sarcastic-comic type we've come to expect. I actually didn't realize it was him until recognizing his voice about halfway through the flick. Again, he's no Arkin as Roat terrorizing a blind Hepburn, but still, he does a nice job here. As for more root-worthy types, I suppose cherubic-chinned Rory Culkin has the most upside, a man more a victim of his own stupidity and large mouth than an evil inflictor of sadistic pain and anguish. Aside from Riesgraf as Anna, these two are your likely standout performers in the flick, though again, none of them are all that enjoyable to side with. As for the look of the film, longtime camera operator turned DP Eric Leach (WHAT LOLA WANTS, THE NEIGHBOR) does a solid job of establishing the house as a major character in the film. As a shut-in single locale, Leach and director Schindler stage the action well enough throughout to lend both a feeling of claustrophobia, as well as one of spatial disarray. At times the action feels trapped-in and inescapable, while others the action feels wide open and difficult to pin down within the walls of the maze-like mansion. A lot of that has to do with the interiors of the house chosen.
Look, INTRUDERS is a small film, one not likely to make a huge dent in your memory long after seeing it. That said, for the subgenre it essays, untilled ground is most definitely forged here. By subverting the sympathy of an afflicted damsel in distress by equipping her with her own set of deplorably evil baggage, the overplayed modalities of the home invasion thriller become completely null and void here. At the same time, however, the bucking of convention tends to snip any and all emotional cords that are cast out early on in the film, as it becomes harder and harder to establish just who in the film warrants our sympathy as protagonist. But so what. In the end, the tradeoff feels worth it, especially with such a consistent level of entertainment among a cast of seven and a location of one. Do wise friends, invite these INTRUDRERS into your home at once!