For a while, “Intruder” (which, sadly, is not a remake of Scott Spiegel’s ridiculously bloody supermarket slasher of the same name) almost seems like it’s going to work. The premise is simple, almost archetypal, but promising: Elizabeth (Louise Linton) comes home from a hard day at the philharmonic, and, unbeknownst to her, a mysterious intruder is lurking in the shadows of her house, stroking her hair as she sleeps, drinking her milk, biting into her apples. Who is this shadowy stranger? Is it Elizabeth’s oddly absent boyfriend? Her creepy neighbor? The nice blogger who approaches her in the laundromat? Or could it be none other than electronica superstar Moby(!), who is inexplicably cast as Elizabeth’s vituperative mentor? In these moments, the film plays on a popular domestic fear, that someone could enter one’s home, rifle through our things, eat a bit of our food, even urinate in our sink and replace everything just as he found it.
Travis Zariwny (a.k.a. Travis Z)—who directed the pretty abysmal remake of “Cabin Fever” earlier this year—is not exactly Mario Bava, but he nevertheless manages a certain blunt-force suspense, leaning heavily on a loud-quiet-loud sound design that alternates between ominous drones, jumpy sound effects, and ear-splitting Ligetian dissonance. I can’t count the number of times the intruder moves through the corner of the frame or appears in the reflection of a mirror while the soundtrack unleashes a 100-decibel whomp. It gets pretty exhausting after a while, but it does effectively prime us for the seemingly inevitable final confrontation.
The problem is that “Intruder” turns out to be a big tease. “Intruder” is writing checks its ending can’t cash. One sticks with a movie like “Intruder” because the incessant lurking and ultimately monotonous jump scares are supposed to be leading to some satisfying endpoint—a kooky plot twist, an elaborate battle, a gory kill, something!—but, here, things end exactly how you expect them to without any real surprises or sense of fun. It’s as if Zariwny exhausted himself on cheap jump scares and then just kind of threw together a halfhearted conclusion on the fly.
There are some bright spots. The pacing is pretty swift, Linton is quite watchable, and the presence of Moby provides a much-needed camp element. Zariwny also makes a very odd choice in the editing of the film’s ending that might have been brilliant in a different film but only serves to underline the lameness of the final act here. (I won’t reveal the choice here—it’s best to experience it, in all its baffling and briefly exasperating weirdness for oneself.) Ultimately, though, “Intruder” suffers from overbearing tension and underwhelming plotting. In addition to the underwhelming ending, Zariwny also throws out some strands that he completely abandons, (a seemingly important cat, several suggestions that Elizabeth is a luddite, the intruder leaving hints of his presence around the house). All the jump scares and loud noises in the world can’t drown out a script this underdeveloped.