The boredom is coming from inside the house.
Home invasion thrillers have an upper hand when it comes to scaring viewers because unlike zombies, monsters, or ghosts a violent intruder is something that could actually make his way into our lives. It’s easy to feel a character’s fear and transfer it to our own home, and that simplicity means most films in the sub-genre achieve at least some degree of unnerving creepiness.
Fortunately for film makers, it takes real effort to screw up that simple formula. Unfortunately for viewers, writer/director Travis Z has made that effort.
Elizabeth (Louise Linton) is a Portland-based cellist who lives in a TARDIS-like house that’s much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. She’s just been offered a prestigious job in London, but despite the aggressive support of her symphony conductor/instructor (Moby, doing his best JK Simmons in Whiplash impression, and yes his best is not good) she’s considering turning down the offer in order to stay closer to her on-again/off-again boyfriend.
She spends the weekend debating her decision, showering, and doing laundry at a laundromat – apparently her seventeen-room apartment lacks a washer/dryer – utterly unaware that someone has entered her home. The intruder watches her sleep and shower, eats her food, pisses in her sink, and repeatedly stands mere feet from her oblivious ass. He even caresses her face and lips several times while she sleeps, but if you thought any of this would be enough for her to notice you’d be wrong.
This goes on for seventy minutes.
Again, this should be pretty simple. The idea that someone has entered our home is terrifying on its face, but Z’s film squanders that unease almost immediately by settling into a boring and repetitive routine of actions. The blurry figure moves in the background of a shot. The closet door he’s hiding behind opens or closes. The cat watches the intruder. Much of this is accompanied by a score that’s allowed to trample over the images and deflate the terror. The Strangers gets this right by having background figures announce themselves solely through their silent movement – it’s incredibly effective and creepy – but here loud sound cues tell us to be afraid.
We are not.
The film holds the intruder’s identity until the end – is it the weird neighbor? is it the stranger at the laundromat? is it Moby?! – but if you’ve seen any thriller ever you’ll have no trouble identifying the killer well before the movie does. Just as poorly handled is the killer’s repeated proximity to Elizabeth. It’s an interesting character choice having the lead suffer from weak peripheral vision and dead nerves in her face – again and again he walks or stands near her or touches her sleeping head, again and again she’s clueless. It grows tiresome after ten minutes, and it goes on for over an hour.
All of these issues combine to create a movie completely devoid of suspense or scares. Instead, we get generic killer cliches – he has a wall covered in photos of Elizabeth! he’s anguished seeing her have sex! – and lifeless thrills.
And then there’s the ending.
Don’t worry, you’ll get no spoilers here, but the end credits roll a full eight minutes before they end. In between those two points are two additional scenes that provide information that belongs in the movie itself – not that it would have made much of a difference.
The bottom line here is don’t let this Intruder into your house. Watch Intruders instead to see how sometimes a generic title can still come with a worthwhile movie. (To be fair, Intruders was originally titled Shut In, so maybe that’s the secret.)