“Home is where the heart is,” the throw pillows tell us. But maybe that sentiment, if true, isn’t always such a great thing.
All his life, Foxglove has been home to Charlie Peck. His great, great grandfather built the elegant mansion in the wooded heart of Napa Valley in 1905. Charlie was raised here, married here, reared his kids here. He loves the smell of Foxglove’s spring flowers and its freshly cut grass, thrills to the feel of its wood and brick beneath his fingers.
But Charlie’s getting older now. His family’s all gone. It’s time for Charlie to move on¬—to Florida, in fact, where he says his daughter has a room waiting for him. It’s time to hand this cherished home over to a new family.
A family just like Annie and Scott Russell
They’re a power couple from San Franciso: Scott’s a big-shot ad man, Annie’s a freelance writer. They’ve got loads of money (because let’s face it, an estate like Foxglove doesn’t come cheap), and Annie loves the place. She wants to leave the chaos of the city and start a family here.
Yep, Charlie knows he’s found his buyers. He lowers the price (to a mere $3.3 million), throws in the furniture and, heck, he’ll even let them have the Peck family tapestry for free.
“You’re gonna love my house,” he tells them.
And they do. Or, at least, Annie does. Sure, Scott likes it well enough. But for him, Charlie’s words—my house—feel like more than just a slip of the tongue.
Charlie’s trip to Florida seems a long time coming. He still hangs out at the property like a ghost that won’t leave. He mows Foxglove’s lawn. He offers advice on caring for the garden. And when Annie invites Charlie over for Thanksgiving, he sulks when he discovers the beloved family tapestry’s been replaced with a piece of modern art.
But is it just the house Charlie stares at with longing? Scott watches as Charlie eyes Annie, too—smiling just a little too broadly, holding his glance just a little too long. And he wonders.
At night, Scott begins to hear prowlers in the woods behind Foxglove and has a security system installed. Charlie storms up the driveway, demanding the workers stop putting holes in his house.
“If you want to protect your wife, get a gun.” Charlie says.
Did I mention that Charlie also owns lots of guns?
Annie and Scott’s marriage isn’t perfect, as we’ll see. But they do love each other, and they work at their relationship. And while Charlie’s constant presence puts a strain on their marriage, both Scott and Annie deal—at least initially—with Foxglove’s former owner with a generous spirit. (Appropriate, if Foxglove’s former owner was actually sane and decent.)
Annie knows that selling the house was hard on Charlie. So she makes an effort to be friendly to him, inviting him over to Thanksgiving dinner and showing him little acts of kindness. She wants to be friends. And while lots of people increasingly question Annie’s naive do-gooding, it comes from a good heart.
From the beginning, Scott’s more suspicious of Charlie’s motives. But he too tries to give Charlie the benefit of the doubt. And when Scott becomes convinced that Charlie’s not quite the man he pretends to be, Scott takes strong steps to try to protect his wife.
Scott and Annie make out and, it’s suggested, have sex plenty. They “break in” their house on the kitchen island. (Articles of clothing are removed, and the couple kisses and caresses in their underwear. Later, the two have sex on the living room floor, between a Christmas tree and a fireplace. (Again, Annie’s in her underwear, while it’s not clear what Scott is or isn’t wearing.) They kiss and canoodle elsewhere, too. We glimpse Annie in the shower, albeit from the side and through frosted glass.
We learn that their relationship weathered at least one instance of infidelity. Though it happened before they were married, that betrayal still impacts their relationship. Annie takes issue when it seems as if Scott’s flirting with a young ice-cream scooper, telling him he looked like he wanted to “give her a lick.” And when Scott’s out at a bar with clients and sends Annie a text telling her he’ll not be home for dinner, Annie’s furious: He hid his past act of infidelity behind a text, too. After the two fight over the phone, Scott’s young, female client approaches Scott and lays a massive kiss on him. Scott smiles awkwardly and immediately leaves for home.
Annie and other women wear tight, and sometimes revealing, clothing. We see her take a bath from the shoulders up.
[Spoiler Warning] Scott suspects Charlie has designs on his wife, and boy is he right. Charlie spies Annie in the shower and strips off his shirt, as if preparing to jump in with her. Later, Charlie attacks Annie and throws her down on a bed, lying on top of her while he partially pulls up her shirt with his teeth and licks her neck and face. He also leers at her uncomfortably (the camera also lingers, focusing its own unblinking gaze on her jeans-clad posterior) quite often, with the ogling growing evermore uncomfortable for viewers.
Someone is killed via an ax blow to the midsection. Two people die (both off screen) from shotgun shells to the head. We see red stains in the wallpaper around a door frame—residue, Scott believes, from an alleged suicide that took place in the room. A corpse is found in what appears to be a large freezer.
As mentioned, Charlie has a lot of guns, and that’s a problem for Scott. We learn that Scott’s brother was killed by a gun some time ago, and Annie explains that the weapon is something of a “trigger” for Scott. (The pun seems unintended.) The first time Scott and Annie see Charlie, ironically, is right after Charlie has killed a deer in the woods behind his house. (He shoots the animal twice, once at close range, and carts around the carcass for a couple of scenes before he hangs it up in a shed to dress it.)
Someone’s stabbed in the back. A guy gets hit by a truck and is sent to the hospital. Someone falls from a story or two up onto glass furniture. We see people hit each other and violently wrestle. One character chokes another. On television, Scott and Annie watch a nature documentary where a pack of lions attack a zebra.
One f-word and half a dozen s-words. We also hear “p-ss,” “p—y,” “a–,” and multiple uses of “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused six times, including once with “d–n.”
One character smokes, and Charlie seems to do want to do so as well (even though he hasn’t smoked for 30 years).
After a nice Italian dinner with wine, Annie asks Scott if he’s OK to drive. Instead of driving, though, Scott walks across the street to a bar and confronts Charlie—drinking down two shots of tequila as he makes some rather polarizing, alcohol-fueled remarks. (She tells him that perhaps he’s “been drinking a little too much” on another occasion, too.)
Charlie and Annie drink a bottle of wine from the neighbor’s vineyard. Wine, champagne and beer are consumed elsewhere, too. We see lots of bottles of liquor at a fancy shindig. Scott goes out to drink with some clients at a noisy bar.
Someone urinates on a lawn. And we eventually see the depth of Charlie’s deception.
“Don’t go in there!”
“Turn on a light!”
“What are you thinking, inviting that crazy man over for dinner?!”
The Intruder is a brand of suspense horror that encourages robust audience participation.
But really, calling movies like this suspense isn’t even very accurate. After all, there’s precious little suspense involved. Everyone in the theater knows where the movie’s going. (To a violent, life-or-death finale, of course.) They know Charlie’s no good. But Annie, for some reason, isn’t quite the judge of character that we are. And so moviegoers moan and groan and gasp at these protagonists’ collective cluelessness. The “fun” is less about what’s on the screen and more about our reaction to it.
I use the term “fun” loosely, of course.
Admittedly, The Intruder is a reasonably well-made, by-the-book thriller. And, as today’s horror films are wont to do, it makes some feints toward deeper social relevance, too. I don’t imagine it’s an accident that The Intruder pits a traditionalist white landowner against a hip black couple from San Francisco: old versus new, country versus city, with a little racial tension thrown into the mix. Movies like this use a funhouse mirror to reflect, and perhaps try to grapple with, the audience’s real-world anxieties.
But let’s not give this movie too much credit: At its core, The Intruder is a simple, schlocky and salacious diversion, stuffed to its PG-13 gills with as much sex and violence as the MPAA will allow.
“Don’t go in there!” The audience shouts. Pretty good advice for us, too.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.