Phase 4 Films
Home invasion films come in various flavors from the vicious (Kidnapped) to the fun (You’re Next), but the key to their success oftentimes comes down to the degree of intelligence displayed at both ends of the knife blade. Smart intruders are more of a threat, and smart protagonists make it all more interesting. Intruders (formerly Shut In), the newest entry in the sub-genre, knows this and delivers the goods with wit, brains, and intriguing story turns. It’s Home Alone for people who think breaking and entering should be punishable by death.
Anna (Beth Riesgraf) hasn’t left her home in nearly a decade. Her father’s death ten years ago left her crippled with agoraphobia, and even stepping onto her front porch is enough to debilitate her. She’s kept busy though caring for her sick older brother, but when he finally succumbs she’s left unsure as to her next move. Her hand is forced after a trio of young men arrive with plans to steal what they’ve heard is a fortune stashed away in the house. Unable to escape, Anna’s only hope is to fight back using her will to survive and an intimate knowledge of the house’s secrets.
The setup to director Adam Schindler’s feature debut (from a script by T.J. Cimfel and David White) makes great use of a characteristic – agoraphobia – that thankfully has yet to reach a saturation point. Copycat handled it with real thrills and suspense back in ’95 while last year’s Big Sky was less successful, but Intruders trumps both with an intense lead performance, fun story progression, and a terrifically realized single location. The house offers up a world that’s familiar while still being full of surprises, and the live-wire personalities roaming its halls light up the environment with their darkness.
Riesgraf has our attention from the beginning as a wounded soul with a heavy burden. It’s one that appears to be shared with her brother, but his death leaves the weight solely on her shoulders leaving her visibly weary and down. She perks up when pressed though – both romantically to the kind words of a delivery man (Rory Culkin) and aggressively to the men threatening her life and well-being.
One of the trio is brought to frightening life by the normally chill and comedic Martin Starr, but as he showed in 2014’s Amira & Sam he’s a lot more than just a funnyman. His character here shows real menace in his intentions and a casual indifference to the suffering he causes, but he never loses control or focus. He’s an intelligent monster. Happily, he still finds time to offer up some dryly humorous observations as the day’s events take continually unplanned turns.
The script moves through some expected beats but does so with energy and fresh eyes. Just when you think you have a handle on it though the film shifts gears to open up the story in engaging and twisted ways. Intruders is a highly competent, suspenseful, and fun thriller that never overstays its welcome. Do it a favor, and open the door.
Intruders is currently playing on VOD and in limited theatrical release.