‘Intruders’ offers a fresh spin on home invasion terror

There are an estimated 8,000 home invasions in the United States every single day. Most occur when the home is empty, and very few ever involve physical altercations between perpetrators and homeowners. Intruders tells the story about one such crime, which takes a turn that no one could foresee, and the peculiar woman who is at the center of it all.

Agoraphobia is a disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives the environment to be dangerous, uncomfortable or unsafe. In the case of Anna, the depressed woman who leads Adam Schindler’s new film, the environment that incites the most anxiety is the outside world. Anna has spent every day for the last 10 years living inside of her house, and until recently she spent the majority of her time caring for a very ill sibling. On the day of her brother’s funeral, Anna finds herself alone for the first time in years, and before she can absorb the weight of that fact she notices a group of strange men approaching her front door.

Home invasion films are a dime a dozen these days, but Intruders is far more than a tale of angry men and the frightened suburbanites they terrorize. The men who enter Anna’s home assume she will bend to their will, which at first she does, but they soon come to realize their victim’s phobias are numerous and that there is far more mystery to her and her home than they might have initially anticipated. For starters, the basement stairs are retractable, providing Anna the opportunity to set a trap. Once that happens, the tables are officially turned, and it’s on the men who ransacked Anna’s home to fight for survival.

At its best, Intruders plays like a mix containing the best mean-spirited violence from No One Lives, the unnerving tension of Panic Room and the unpredictable nature of your favorite mystery thriller. There are no monsters in this movie per se, but there are unspoken histories revealed through visual cues that make you see the world Anna inhabits through a new, truly terrifying lens that will no doubt shake some to their core. They say the quiet people are the ones you should worry about the most, and in this story that could not be more accurate.

All that said, these dark turns often come with a gruesome price, and the abundance of physical punishment unleashed on the unsuspecting robbers throttles the line between art and overkill. Some violence is justified, but not all, and before long things begin to spiral into the kind of generic revenge thriller fare that one might expect in something like I Spit On Your Grave. I’m not talking rape, though the idea is mentioned once or twice; I’m talking about the brutal undoing of men who saw a woman and thought they could control her. It’s a theme as old as cinematic horror itself, and here it’s only handled slightly better than average.

What helps elevate Intruders is its impressive cast, which is lead by a fearless and ferocious performance from Beth Riesgraf. Anna is one of the most complicated female leads in recent horror cinema, exuding both deep-seeded fear at the world around here and a sickly-sly understanding of just how in control she really is at all times simultaneously. Reisgraf conveys all of this and much more with the skill of a silver screen veteran, and her talent is only matched on-screen by a villainous turn from Martin Starr that must be seen to be believed. Rory Culkin, Joshua Mikel and Jack Kesy also appear.

While it does bring a good amount of new ideas into the often repetitive world of home invasion thrillers early on, Intruders cannot resist devolving into predictable genre fare long before the credits roll. This fact is forgivable to an extent thanks to several strong dramatic turns from a largely unknown cast, but the familiarity of the third act is leaves you longing for something more. I cannot help feeling this movie should be better than it is, but as is it is still worth your time.