Monday, March 28, 2011

Raimifest: Intruder (1989)

In honor of Things That Don't Suck's Raimifest, I didn't just want to write up one of Sam Raimi's well-known films, or even one of his misunderstood lesser works. Plus, I wanted to see a movie that I hadn't seen before, so I combed through Raimi's IMDb page and came up with Intruder, a 1989 horror movie written and directed by longtime Raimi associate Scott Spiegel. Although Raimi has a number of onscreen cameo appearances to his credit, this is one of only a few that looked to be actual decent-size roles, and indeed Raimi has plenty of screen time as one of the grocery-store employees getting picked off one by one in this mediocre slasher film. He plays Randy the butcher, who's really no more or less important than most of the other characters, although he does survive nearly two-thirds of the movie. Raimi isn't much of an actor, but he fits in perfectly well with the loose cast, which also includes his brother Ted (as a spastic, oblivious produce stocker) and fellow filmmaker Burr Steers (who went on to direct Igby Goes Down and, uh, 17 Again).

More than onscreen, though, Raimi's presence in Intruder is felt in the shooting style, which is full of odd, creative camera angles and swooping point-of-view shots that recall Raimi's work on the Evil Dead movies. Spiegel goes a little overboard with the visuals, seemingly unable to shoot a scene without placing his camera inside a phone or behind a glass bottle or under the floor. What at first seems impressive eventually just becomes distracting, although the by-the-numbers plot and shaky performances probably warrant the diversion. Whereas Raimi uses his stylistic flourishes in service of atmosphere or suspense, Spiegel just seems like he's showing off.

Still, the movie has an amusingly casual feel to it, like a bunch of friends just hanging out in an empty grocery store and deciding to make a movie. Spiegel obviously just rounded up everyone he knew and put them in the movie whether they belonged in front of the camera or not, and Raimi is clearly game for whatever ridiculousness is thrown at him. Unlike Raimi, Spiegel never went on from low-budget B-horror to bigger-budget productions and acclaim; his later directing credits include straight-to-video sequels to From Dusk Till Dawn and Hostel (coming later this year). But for one moment, at least, he had both the potential and the endorsement from the man himself to become the next Sam Raimi.

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