Year: 1989
Director: Scott Spiegel
Cast: Renee Estevez, Elizabeth Cox, Dan Hicks, David Byrne, Sam Raimi
Fright Meter Award Winner: Best Horror Movie

By the time Intruder was released, the slasher film craze that dominated the early to mid-80's was pretty much over. The market had been so saturated with this genre (especially the DTV market), that so many of these films that were being released were just clones of various predecessors, and not very good ones. Films like The Last Slumber Party and Killer Workout highlight what went wrong with the genre during this time; filmmakers became lazy. Anyone thought they could make a slasher flick and what resulted were films that were full of clichés, bad acting, and awful production values. Besides die-hard horror fans, most lost interest in the genre.

But in 1989 Intruder came along. And while it has its share of clichés and other flaws, it stands out simply because we can tell that true effort was put into the film. It looks good, there is some great, inspired moments of direction, the acting is decent, the atmosphere foreboding, and the gore effects extremely impressive. All of this on top of a setting not seen in a horror film before-a grocery store-elevated it into one of the best slasher flicks of the 80's.

The plot involves a group of workers at a local grocery store who are told that the store is closing its doors for good and that that night will be there last being employed. This causes a few grumbles, this on top of the fact that one of the clerk's, (Elizabeth Cox), boyfriend who was just released for jail for manslaughter shows up to harass her, makes for a tension filled evening for the employees. After an attempt to attack her, the boyfriend is quickly ejected from the store, though not without a fight. However, after the store officially closes, it doesn't take long for an unknown intruder to begin butchering the crew in very very very brutal ways. The film is extremely graphic and contains probably two of the most graphic death scenes of any slasher from the 80's--one involving a trash compacter and one involving a meat slicer. As disturbing and noteworthy as they are, the deaths are not even the best thing about this film. Spiegel obviously is a fan of the genre and his direction illustrates this. He knows how to build tension and implements some pretty creative camera angles. That foreboding atmosphere that is created is incredibly creepy, and the soundtrack certainly adds to the dark, isolated setting of the supermarket. The film never manages any real jumps or scares, but still creates a uncomfortable, dirty feeling that is almost just as frightening. The pace is fast, the acting decent (though I would have preferred Renee Estevez cast as the lead, as she was the stronger actress and was definitely underused).

My only gripe with this film is the last 15 minutes or so. Once the killer is revealed, Spiegel abandons the creepy, unsettling tone that he tried so hard to successfully create, and the film adopts a lighter, almost comical tone. The killer makes some wise-cracks that are completely unnecessary and the film almost loses its effectiveness. The ending also tries to be unconventional, but comes of as unbelievable, and again, abandons the horror aspect of the film.

Still, this film is a must see for slasher fans and is truly a great ride. It has aged pretty well and truly is one of the best slasher films to come out of the 80's.

Fright Meter Grade:

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