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Feature


Intruder isn’t a good film by any measurable means, but it’s an inspirational film. It’s a testament to the will and ingenuity of young filmmakers, and the fact that it doesn’t suck is more or less a ringing endorsement. The story behind Intruder outweighs most of its other attributes. Before they were world famous for creating the Evil Dead series, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell made a series of Super 8 shorts with their friend Scott Spiegel. One of these shorts, which starred Raimi, was called Night Crew, and followed the late shift at a grocery store as a mad slasher picked them off. Years later, following Evil Dead II (which Spiegel co-wrote with Raimi), Spiegel was approached dancer-turned-film producer Lawrence Bender to turn Night Crew into a feature length film (that’s the plot, by the way, night shift being offed by a mad slasher). Spiegel took advantage of his relationship with the Evil Dead II crew to bring many of them onto the feature length Night Crew, later retitled Intruder by distributors. The film’s graphic gore effects were cut to ribbons by the MPAA, and the film was dumped straight to video, much to the chagrin of everyone involved. Word spread through fan magazines like Fangoria and Gorezone, though, and a cult was built around the film, leading eventually to an uncut DVD release. The postscript of the story sees Spiegel introducing Bender to his friend Quentin Tarantino, and Tarantino and Bender making a series of films together including Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds.

Intruder: Director's Cut
Spiegel clearly learned a little something working with Raimi over the years (not to downplay his given skills), and despite his modest surroundings and script manages to capture some high-energy, wacky style in his directorial practices. His wide and varied tricks include especially amusing P.O.V. shots, like a shopping cart’s P.O.V., a rotary phone’s P.O.V., a pile of swept dirt’s P.O.V., a twisting door knob’s P.O.V., and a bucket of water’s P.O.V. as a tear trickles into it.  His transitions are consistently clever too, especially in montage form (the broom wipe being a sort of highlight). Spiegel also does a good job establishing a reasonably creepy tone. I wouldn’t exactly call Intruder scary, but again, based on what little he has to work with (and the fact that he’s not trying to make an oppressively grim film) there’s a decent degree of dread throughout. There’s also no denying that this cast is better than the usual body count flick movie. Non-horror fans will simply notice that the performances are above type, but those of us in ‘the know’ appreciate the film on a different level for its casting. Coming off of Evil Dead II Spiegel snagged Dan Hicks and both Ted and Sam Raimi for relatively major roles, as well as Bruce Campbell, producer Lawrence Bender, and Spiegel himself all appearing in cameo roles (Campbell’s name often appears on advertising materials, which is funny since he doesn’t show up until the last two or three minutes of the film).

There’s a general sense that the dialogue here is being made up as the filming commenced, but this also lends a general sense of natural discussion to the mix. The story, as it were, can be summed up quite quickly, and the bulk of these 88 minutes are made up of unimportant character development and discussion filler, but the down time is rarely boring, and the characters are actually pretty engaging. Some of the best filler here is a series of expertly cut montages of people going about their business, most of which act to foreshadow violence. You see, the fun of a slasher is in often in the kills, and these kills are all based around objects found throughout the grocery store. I happen to relate to this quite a bit. As a horror movie fanatic that was bored with my dead-end, copy-boy job I created many a slasher movie scenario in my mind using the various dangerous tools around the shop. They always say you should write what you know. The gore effects here are the huge draw, and supplied by a very young Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman and Greg Nicotero, only a couple of years out from their first major collaboration on Evil Dead II, and years before they’d formed KNB Effects. In fact, one could argue that Intruder is KNB’s first effects reel, and the quality of the effects aren’t only beyond the usual zero-budget slasher, but some similar big budget releases from the era.

Intruder: Director's Cut

Video


There are so many classics still not available on Blu-ray, and while these masterpieces dwindle, a little $130K anti-masterpiece has been given the full 2K digital restoration by the fine folks at Synapse Films. Some would call this an injustice, and be offended by the prospect. The rest of us chuckle at those people. Based on the nearly unwatchable state of Wizard Entertainment’s 2005 DVD I had assumed that Intruder had been shot on 8mm film, or at best 16mm, which made an HD restoration kind of a joke, but apparently it was shot on good old 35mm, and this new transfer looks a whole lot better than I expected. We’re not talking full-on revelatory levels of amazing, but there are major motion picture releases that don’t look this good. The general palette is natural, evoking the slightly soft look of a fluorescent light-lit grocery story. Skin tones are warm, black levels are relatively deep, and some of the more poppy hues (usually supplied by product labels), especially reds and blues, are respectfully vibrant and consistent. Detail levels come and go depending on lighting, but the depth of field is impressive when Spiegel isn’t using short focus, and some shots are relatively complex in terms of the number of elements clearly represented. Fans are also allowed to revel in the gore effects now. The Wizard DVD was basically a series of light spots in a sea of darkness. Film grain is obviously present throughout the entire film, and tends to increase based on the lighting, but there’s very little in terms of print damage outside of occasional flecks of artefacts and a few tracking lines.

Intruder: Director's Cut

Audio


Synapse has done well by not wasting anyone’s time with some kind of elaborate 5.1 remix. This disc features an uncompressed, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono soundtrack, and despite its general lack of frills, it sounds pretty good. The lack of stereo enhancement makes for some overly busy sequences, but the basic sound design is thin and natural enough for the mono to work. There’s definitely some high volume distortion on the track, and this is the only real notable shortcoming. The problem arises when characters scream, or when the music, which I believe is mostly made up of copyright free library recordings, hits a particularly strong note. The heavily aspirated ‘s’ sounds are also a bit hissy.

Extras


Extras begin with an audio commentary featuring writer/director Scott Spiegel and producer Lawrence Bender. This is a pretty jokey track, with a fun tone, but it’s all a little unfocused. There’s some good information, most of it coming from the slightly more professional Bender, but a lot more in the way of congrats and back pats. Next up is Slashed Prices: The Making of Intruder (38:30, HD), a relatively full-bodied retrospective featurette including interviews with friend/actor Bruce Campbell, director Scott Spiegel, producers Lawrence Bender and Charles Band, actors Elizabeth Cox, Burr Steers, Craig Stark, Danny Hicks, Ted Raimi, cinematographer Fernando Arguelles, and effects supervisors Greg Nicotero, Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger. Subject matter follows the film’s birth as a 8mm short, early production, finding a location, stocking the location, casting, shooting, Spiegel as a director, the gore, and the truncated straight to video, R-rated release. Next up are a series of extended kill scenes from the work print version of the film (10:30, SD), followed by outtakes from Night Crew, the original Super 8mm short version of the film shot several years earlier (6:50, SD). The Slashing of Intruder (3:30, HD) features filmmaker Vincent Pereira ( A Better Place) describes the film’s heavy censoring for an R-rating, which prompted him to write a letter to Gorezone (I have the issue), which prompted Spiegel to send him a VHS copy of the uncut film. The disc is completed with original cast audition footage (11:00, SD), a behind the scene still gallery (4:10, HD), a trailer, and the Night Crew trailer.

Intruder: Director's Cut

Overall


This Blu-ray release of Intruder doesn’t quite have me jumping up and down with joy, but the quality of this release is so brilliant I find myself reevaluating the overall quality of the film for the positive. I can only imagine fans saddled with years of R-rated VHS copies and ugly unrated DVDs will be ecstatic. The image quality is way beyond anything I expected, the sound is good enough for the material, and the extras are about as inclusive as we can expect from the material. Highly recommended for the film’s fans.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality, but were taken from the included DVD, so they are a good indicator of the image improvement over the Wizard release.


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