“Intruders” (2016):  Home Invasion Thriller Delivers Suspense and Unexpected Twists

“You’re an odd bird,” a potential robber tells agoraphobic Anna as he tries to figure out why she didn’t contact the police after he and his two partners break into her house while she is  there. The same can be said for director Adam Schindler’s thriller Intruders. For the first 20 minutes or so, the film seems like a straight drama that would seem right at home on Lifetime, but suddenly, business picks up and the tone shifts to that of a thriller with many surprises.  

Intruders (originally titled Shut In, and not to be confused with two recent horror films with either the exact same name or with the article “The” attached), stars Beth Riesgraf as Anna Rook, a thirty-something woman who has not left her home for the past 10 years. As the film begins, she is caretaker for her brother Conrad (Timothy McKinney), who has terminal cancer. Her sole contact with the outside world seems to be sympathetic meal-delivery employee Dan Cooper (Rory Kulkin), who tries to cheer her up by making jokes about the food he brings, and Conrad’s lawyer Charlotte (Leticia Jimenez). Conrad dies and although Anna is supposed to attend his funeral, she is unable to overcome her fear, and she stays at home.

Anna Rook (Beth Riesgraf) is too afflicted by agoraphobia to attend her brother’s funeral, which could be her undoing in Intruders.

Three men then break into her house to rob it: JP Henson (Jack Kesy), his younger brother Vance (Joshua Mikel), and the psychotic Perry Cuttner (Martin Starr). When they find her and discover her psychological malady, they have differing opinions on what to do about her. As JP and Perry search the house for money, Vance is left to guard her. Dan comes to the house after the funeral finishes. This is when the film kicks into high gear.

Intruders has a lot going for it. Once the suspense and surprises start, the story maintains a fairly consistent level of tension. The players are committed to their roles and do a fine job, although a couple of the characters occasionally cross the line into cliche territory. Beth Riesgraf is convincing as Anna, who is initially equally terrified of going outside on her front porch as she is of the title characters. Rory Kulkin also impresses as the only person Anna seems to have any trust with besides her brother. Jack Kesy and Joshua Mikel are the most believable of the titular trio; Martin Starr acquits himself well enough but is hampered by having a rather boiler-plate character to embody. Some of the characters go through changes in which the actors have the chance to display some stretch in their roles. If I point out who and why, it would make for spoilers, but suffice it to say that viewer sympathy may take some unexpected turns.

JP Henson (Jack Kesy) is the mastermind of the trio that terrorizes Anna.

Although people are injured and killed, and a few mild gore effects and brazen acts of cruelty are on display, Intruders is not an all-out horror film. Screenwriters T.J. Cimfel and David K. White have crafted a thriller that reaches for Hitchcockian heights, with a few horror elements: a bit of Saw here, a smattering of The Fall of the House of Usher there, and so on. The script dabbles in psychological examination but it’s mostly at an armchair level and not deeply probed, which is fine for this style of suspenser. Intruders does get bogged down a bit in its third act, in part because of characters trying to play psychologist, but for the most part, director Adam Schindler keeps things tightly paced.

One of the film’s strongest suits is the stunning set design of the Rook’s home. From the warm, lived-in look of the downstairs rooms with their well-appointed vintage furniture and framed family photos to the cluttered basement, this house feels real. Production designer James Wiley Fowler did a marvelous job, and director of photography Eric Leach captures the personality of the house and the proceedings therein absorbingly.

Perry Cuttner (Martin Starr; right) and JP are at odds about what to do about Anna, who has heard their names and seen their faces.

I have stated this before in some of my previous reviews, but I cannot stress it enough here: If you are at all interested in watching Intruders, you should, without question, avoid watching trailers for it. I watched one after seeing the film and it absolutely spoils the movie.

Hardcore fright-film fans will find Intruders to be on the tame side, but it has enough oomph to keep viewers who don’t often partake of fear fare – as well as viewers  in the mood for a straight-ahead thriller – on the edges of their seats. The film looks great, doesn’t overstay its welcome at a lean 82.5 minutes before the ending credits roll, and kept me entertained and interested in what would become of Anna and her unwelcome visitors.

Anna has some ideas about how to deal with the me who came to rob her home.

Intruders: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Intruders  opens in cinemas and on VOD Friday, January 15th, 2016 from Momentum Pictures.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.