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Jordan Peele ruined ‘Intruder’ for me

I blame Jordan Peele. The brilliant director of Get Out and Us has recently raised my expectations of what genre pictures can deliver. In those two films, Peele managed to take stock horror material and elevate it by infusing it with sociological and political import.

His shining example may explain why I spent at last half of The Intruder straining to give this inept home invasion thriller the benefit of the doubt. It kept getting dumber and dumber, so I eventually threw in the towel. And then the movie got even dumber, so I had to go pick up that towel just so I could throw in the towel again, even harder.

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The plot of The Intruder is pretty basic. The longtime owner of an old mansion and its beautifully forrested grounds sells this home to a very successful young couple from San Francisco. After the new owners move in, the former owner keeps showing up on the premises in creepier and creepier circumstances. It’s clear he’s having a hard time letting go and that makes for a nerve-wracking time for the young couple. Tensions inevitably arise.

Perhaps the situation is a telling metaphor for the displacement of the rural way of life by the moneyed urban class. Or, since the young couple seems to have had a rocky emotional past, perhaps the owner represents the unresolved hurt the two have only superficially papered over. Or, since the young couple is African-American and the old owner is white and partial to wearing red baseball caps, maybe this is really about racial resentments. But, sadly, no. None of these scenarios pays off. I eventually realized I was working harder at making sense of this movie than the movie-makers.

Instead, I just accepted the fact this is one of those dumb thrillers in which the wife keeps inviting the intruder into her home, no matter how unstable and threatening he becomes. It’s one of those dumb thrillers in which, of course, the wife decides to go down into the basement alone, to check out some mysterious sounds. And it’s one of those dumb thrillers in which the wife keeps taking baths and showers whenever her husband leaves, so the intruder can leer at her, and maybe kill her.

So who in his right mind would want to see The Intruder? Maybe people who crave audience-participation because, at least at the screening I saw, there’s a lot of shouting at the screen.

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