If HGTV and Lifetime had a TV channel baby, it would produce movies like The Intruder.
This is a lurid thriller that’s part real estate worship, part real estate horror — a wealthy young couple (Michael Ealy, Meagan Good) buys a Napa Valley dream house, then is stalked by its insanely possessive former owner (Dennis Quaid).
In truth, it tilts more Lifetime. The premise fits very comfortably into the channel’s reliable “Stalked By” (my doctor, my nanny, my neighbor, my teacher, my ex, etc.) profit center. The narrative might not stand up to the rigorous procedural standards of HGTV — there is mysteriously no Realtor or lawyer involved in the purchase transaction, and no home inspector, which would have saved Scott (Ealy) and Annie (Good) some major headaches.
Their main headache, actually a full-on murderous migraine, goes by the name Charlie Peck (Quaid), who greets the couple by shooting a deer in front of them. The prospective owners are horrified, but Charlie explains that it’s legal, and practical, because the deer destroy his flower beds — a sign that Charlie is willing to kill to preserve what’s his, and by the way, the house has been in his family for generations.
He’s leaving, though, because he’s a widower, and his children have grown and moved away to Florida, where he plans to join them. But once the sale goes through, Charlie starts dragging his feet — he shows up to cut the lawn, to bring over a pumpkin pie, or a pizza, usually when Scott’s not around.
He develops a bit of a crush on Annie, who loves the house as Charlie thinks it should be loved. Certainly she loves it more than Scott, who is at home in the city, and gets some Get Out vibes from whole Napa situation.
Where the movie goes from here is entirely predictable. It makes a few nods in the direction of more complicated racial/cultural thrillers like Jordan Peele’s film or Neil LaBute’s Lakeview Terrace, but The Intruder director Deon Taylor is really dedicated to delivering boilerplate thrills — you can be sure that during a thunderstorm, a flash of lightning will reveal Charlie in a dark corner of a room, and that in the next instant he’ll be gone.
The more relentlessly guessable the movie becomes, the harder it is to excuse the actions of the credulous characters. No amount of evidence can convince poor Annie, for instance, that Charlie is a dangerous maniac. Somehow, he reminds her of her dad.
Was her dad once a heartthrob? Quaid’s famous grin used to make rom-com viewers go weak in the knees. Here, he amplifies it into a twisted Joker smile. And so the romantic leads of yesteryear, Quaid and Isabelle Huppert in Greta from earlier this year, follow the inevitable aging-star trail to the stalker bin. Perhaps from an actor’s perspective it beats the alternative: becoming supporting character in a Marvel movie.
The Intruder. Directed by Deon Taylor. With Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Dennis Quaid, and Joseph Sikora. Distributed by Screen Gems.
Running time: 1 hour, 42 mins.
Parents’ guide: PG-13 (violence)