Everyone must go! The uncut return of INTRUDER (1988)!

Any horror fan worth his or her salt (blood salt!) will be asked from time to time to recommend to genre outsiders a spookshow they haven’t already seen… something off-canon, something that isn’t, you know, THE HAUNTING (1963) NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), THE EXORCIST (1973), THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974), THE SHINING (1980), THE EVIL DEAD (1981)… something that is obscure but worthwhile and will bestow upon the new viewer, by virtue of its rarity,a measure of cult  credibility and bragging rights. This query tends to put me into answer-a-question-with-a-question mode: “How hard do you want to look? How far do you want to go? How badly do you want it?” I ask this because a.) I believe the good stuff needs to be earned, it needs to be mined, searched for and b.) there is, as all horror geeks know, a world beneath the one on which we walk around, a netherworld rich and ripe with movie titles not found on the New Releases rack or in the Torture Porn section of your local Best Buy or in the Top 10 lists of established critics who condescend from time to time to write about fright films. Some of these films are foreign and never got a release in the United States; some are American-made and given only a perfunctory release before being remaindered to VHS; some were never given a video cassette release or were dumped onto tape in a form quite different than the way they were meant to be seen. Such is the case of Scott Spiegel’s INTRUDER (1988), which came and went nearly a quarter-century ago and was released by Paramount’s home entertainment arm in a version so truncated, so emasculated, so watered down and namby-pambied that you wonder why the studio bothered acquiring a slasher movie in the first place. Gray market tapes of INTRUDER have circulated for years – some of them from the desk of Scott Spiegel himself – but one still had to put a little effort into acquiring the full Monty, guts and all. Clearly, the people who run Synapse Films are in this camp as they have just released the uncut INTRUDER in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that is in its completeness and comprehensiveness nothing less than stunning. And I’m talking meat cleaver to the face stunning.

Set inside a Michigan supermarket after hours, as the night crew not only puts the store back in order from a day of business but sets about marking down the entire stock in preparation for the market’s closure and sell-off, INTRUDER is in many ways boilerplate slasher film. With only the most fleeting of introductions, the dramatis personae (a single-trait roster of types, including The Stoner Guy, the Hunky Guy, the Bad Boy, the Nerd and the Final Girl) is set up only to be cut up, chopped up, sliced up and shut up by the shadowy UnSub who has infiltrated their ranks and may even be – gasp, choke – one of them. Where INTRUDER distances itself from the stank-and-file of FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) and HALLOWEEN (1978) sequels that proliferated at the time is in its macabre sense of humor, coupled with a ghoulishly unblinkered approach to its catalog of carnage. The George Romero-Stephen King film CREEPSHOW (1982) was done in the manner of an old EC Comic but INTRUDER has a truer sense of that vibe and is more fleet of foot without the cumbersome comic book style of panels and speech balloons. Cast with a mix of industry newcomers (Renee Estevez, daughter of Martin Sheen), first-timers (Elizabeth Cox, a former model and now an El Paso, Texas news anchor) and veterans (Emil Sitka! Alvy Moore!), the film has an at times regional horror feel that encourages laughter not only with it but at it and yet that reaction does not seem at all unexpected. A long-time friend of EVIL DEAD maestro Sam Raimi and cult hero Bruce Campbell (both of whom pop up here in small roles), Spiegel has that same Stooge-influenced love of palate-cleansing mayhem, be it a simple blow on the head from a claw hammer or a magical slice-tory tour through the business end of a bandsaw, and an aesthetic that falls somewhere between Brecht’s Theatre of Alienation and Oscar Méténier’s Théâtre du Grand-Guignol.

Shot in two weeks on short ends for something like $130,000 (a budget half, Tim Lucas noted in his January 1990 coverage in Gorezone magazine, the cost of the ten second studio logo seen at the beginning of the old Paramount Home Video cassette), INTRUDER is one of those rare horror movies in which seeing the filmmaker’s handprint actually adds to the enjoyment. It’s fun watching Spiegel and his cohorts try to top themselves setpiece by setpiece, both in homage to earlier films (including a nod to HALLOWEEN achieved with not much more than a couple panels of pegboard and a worthy contender to the drill press scene from Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) and in gag-inducing effects sequences (courtesy of Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger… the KNB Crew currently putting you off your lunch with their work on HOSTEL, KILL BILL, DEADWOOD, THE MIST and THE WALKING DEAD). The removal of almost all of the gore effects from the Paramount tape makes this DVD combo pack from Synapse Films all the more welcome. Not only does the 2K digital restoration give the low budget independent film an at times dazzling visual quality but it restores all of the nasty bits that are INTRUDER‘s raison d’être. Seen in its intended form, INTRUDER plays as more than just an amped up slasher manqué but as a decade-capper, a saucy swan song for ten years of cinematic slaughter, all bagged up and carried to your car.

The deluxe Synapse treatment packages INTRUDER with a number of juicy extras, not the least of which is an audio commentary by Spiegel and producer Lawrence Bender (who also turns up briefly as a prowl car cop at the film’s conclusion). The commentary is as rollicking and laugh-fueled as it is informative, guiding the viewer through the intricacies of shooting low budget in the spring of 1988 (at which time a disused supermarket in Bell California stood in for the Walnut Lake Market, its shelves stocked with expired food from the Ralphs’ Spoilage Warehouse and donated cases of generic beer), detailing the project’s origins as a 1979 8mm movie titled NIGHT CREW and explaining the similarity of a tall tale told here by cast member Dan Hicks (EVIL DEAD II) to one related by M. Emmett Walsh in RAISING ARIZONA (1987). Paired with the commentary is a making-of featurette, SLASHED PRICES: THE MAKING OF INTRUDER (38 min.), a Synapse Films/Red Shirt Productions retrospective that brings back many of the principals involved in making INTRUDER, including Spiegel and Bender, executive producer Charles Band, actors Elizabeth Cox, Dan Hicks, Burr Steers (of late director of films starring Zac Efron), Craig Stark, Ted Raimi, director of photography Fernando Arguelles (PRISON BREAK), effects men Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger (who collected the princely sum of $700 apiece for their labor) and everybody’s pal Bruce Campbell. Fleshing out the complement of extras are a rather sweet reminiscence of filmmaker Vincent Periera about his experiences with chasing the uncut INTRUDER, extended murder sequences from the film’s pre-release work print, outtakes from the lost 8mm short NIGHT CREW, cast audition videos, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, a theatrical trailer and a preview of the movie under its video release title NIGHT CREW: THE FINAL CHECKOUT.

The red carpet treatment afforded INTRUDER for the purposes of this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack puts me in a funny place. I’m glad this gnarly little piece of slashiana, more whispered-about than seen, is finally getting the respect it deserves, both as a gooey, crowd-pleasing lark and for its historical importance as a career-starter for so many people. I’m glad that Synapse Films went the extra mile, packaging the film in such a way that it can be appreciated within the context of its particular history and its origins and also that it looks so damned good twenty three years down the pike. But now that it’s out there in the real world in a legitimate package, complete and uncut and with a price tag on it and available for viewing by everybody, that just means another dark corner of horrordom has been flooded with light and no longer exists on the nightmare plane. Soon hipsters everywhere are going to be able to say they’ve seen the uncut INTRUDER … and that it was easy… and they’ll be quoting its dialogue (“I’m just crazy about this store!”) and critiquing the kills and… ooo, I’m gettin’ mad now, gettin’ mighty mad… Where’s my bandsaw?

8 Responses Everyone must go! The uncut return of INTRUDER (1988)!
Posted By Suzi : November 26, 2011 5:24 pm

I am not familiar with this film, but I love that it takes place in a supermarket after hours. I hate going to the supermarket at any hour, because people seem to be at their worst behavior at a supermarket. This only confirms my discomfort!

Posted By Suzi : November 26, 2011 5:24 pm

I am not familiar with this film, but I love that it takes place in a supermarket after hours. I hate going to the supermarket at any hour, because people seem to be at their worst behavior at a supermarket. This only confirms my discomfort!

Posted By swac : November 28, 2011 10:25 am

Saw the cut version years (okay, decades) ago on VHS, and even then we knew we weren’t getting the full meal deal. I’ve been waiting for this release for a looooong time. I got very excited when I got the notification of this post in my inbox.

Thanks for the heads up, RHS!

Posted By swac : November 28, 2011 10:25 am

Saw the cut version years (okay, decades) ago on VHS, and even then we knew we weren’t getting the full meal deal. I’ve been waiting for this release for a looooong time. I got very excited when I got the notification of this post in my inbox.

Thanks for the heads up, RHS!

Posted By changeling : November 28, 2011 4:18 pm

I have yet to see this movie in any version actually….thanx for the heads up :):)

Posted By changeling : November 28, 2011 4:18 pm

I have yet to see this movie in any version actually….thanx for the heads up :):)

Posted By Sarah : November 30, 2011 6:27 pm

I like this film a lot and am happy to see that it’s getting some due. Have you seen Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except…? It’s made by some of the same people (Spiegel, Campbell) and has Sam Raimi playing a Charles Manson-like cult leader and serial killer. The Michigan (or maybe California again) countryside stands in for Vietnam. It’s a silly movie, but it’s fun to watch. There’s a weird sense of glee to all the films that these guys made together at least through the early 90s. I haven’t seen some of Spiegel’s other work, like the From Dusk Til Dawn sequels…or the new Hostel sequel apparently.

Posted By Sarah : November 30, 2011 6:27 pm

I like this film a lot and am happy to see that it’s getting some due. Have you seen Thou Shalt Not Kill, Except…? It’s made by some of the same people (Spiegel, Campbell) and has Sam Raimi playing a Charles Manson-like cult leader and serial killer. The Michigan (or maybe California again) countryside stands in for Vietnam. It’s a silly movie, but it’s fun to watch. There’s a weird sense of glee to all the films that these guys made together at least through the early 90s. I haven’t seen some of Spiegel’s other work, like the From Dusk Til Dawn sequels…or the new Hostel sequel apparently.

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