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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Intruders  (2016)
2 Stars
Directed by Adam Schindler.
Cast: Beth Riesgraf, Rory Culkin, Jack Kesy, Martin Starr, Joshua Mikel, Timothy T. McKinney, Leticia Jimenez.
2016 – 90 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for strong violence and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, January 12, 2016.
Not to be confused with the 2012 night-terrors drama starring Clive Owen or the short-lived 2014 BBC America sci-fi series of the same name, Adam Schindler's "Intruders" is the third project of the last few years brandishing this now-derivative title. Formerly known as "Shut In" when it played on the festival circuit, this screw-twisting home-invasion thriller would have been wise to stick with that original, more distinguishable moniker. Much like the title, the film proper is at war with itself between its threadbare premise and a twist midway through adding an intriguing snag to its conventional path. Unfortunately, where screenwriters T.J. Cimfel and David White (2014's "V/H/S: Viral") take their characters from there is of the nowhere-special variety.

When pancreatic cancer claims the life of her last remaining relative, brother Conrad (Timothy T. McKinney), the agoraphobic Anna (Beth Riesgraf) is left alone in their family home. Having not walked outside in the ten years since her dad's death, she cannot muster the courage to attend Conrad's funeral. It is this fateful decision which suddenly puts her in immediate danger when three strangers (Jack Kesy, Martin Starr, Joshua Mikel) break in, in search of her stash of cash. As Anna reveals her true colors, the ever-shifting cat-and-mouse game she is thrust into leaves no one safe or free from guilt.

"Intruders" is a tightly wound potboiler existing in a tantalizing gray area between right and wrong, psychological torment and criminal culpability. First-time director Adam Schindler stops short of living up to the moral quandary his film sets up, failing to fully explore the complicated implications of Anna's past and present while treating the trio of trespassers as stock archetypes. Beth Riesgraf gives Anna pleasing emotional layers all the same, playing someone to be alternately feared and pitied, while Rory Culkin (2011's "Scream 4") is sympathetic as Dan, a grocery delivery clerk caught troublingly in the middle of the robbery gone wrong. "Intruders" isn't unfeeling or without a pleasurably taut dark streak, but the script's predictable machinations insist upon a pat climactic arc for Anna that is not fully earned. As for the home-invasion angle, there isn't quite enough to set it apart from the pack. Much like the title, "Intruders" is just a little too familiar. "You're Next," this is decidedly not.
© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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