Such was the world of “Intruder,” the directorial debut of Scott Spiegel, forever a god among cult filmdom for co-scripting “Evil Dead II.” That sequel, of course, was directed by longtime pal Sam Raimi, who grew up shooting homemade shorts with brother Ted, Spiegel and Bruce Campbell.
“Intruder” is a feature-length version of the inventive, creative spirit of those Super-8 days. In fact, “Intruder” began life as a Super-8 movie, “Night Crew,” long lost to the world. That’s OK, because I suspect Spiegel’s souped-up production here is the superior one. Plus, it features Campbell and the Raimi brothers among its supporting cast, securing its B-movie cred.
Although I used to pass by its spoiler-ridden VHS box daily during my college-long stint at Blockbuster Video, I somehow never saw “Intruder” until Synapse’s nice-looking, new Blu-ray package arrived, which includes a DVD of the film as well.
A slasher film, but done the Spiegel way, it takes place in a grocery store late one night. Just before closing, one of the two young cashiers, Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox, “Night of the Creeps”), is bothered by the sudden appearance of her freshly paroled ex-boyfriend, Craig (David Byrnes, “Witchcraft” entries seven and nine). She wants nothing to do with him, but he causes a scene that escalates into an altercation that requires calling the police.
Craig makes like a tree and leaves, but after the cops put in their appearance, someone starts killing the Ranch Market employees one by one. You know, there is a surprising number of methods to off a person in a grocery store, and beyond just the butcher’s area at that! It is here, of course, that this director’s cut makes use of its five extra minutes, with unapologetic, in-your-face gore.
Although the murders certainly look fake by today’s tech-advanced standards, it’s tough not to flinch at Spiegel’s refusal to cut away as the psycho, well, cuts away. Of particular note for being one of the most gruesome effects I’ve ever seen finds an unfortunate minimum-wage laborer having his head sawed in half, right down the middle in one clean line as a good meat-market worker should.
While no great shakes in the story department, Spiegel differentiates himself by treating the camera like a kids’ toy — much like he and Raimi did. He places it anywhere he thinks would make an interesting angle: inside the phone, the trash can, the grocery cart, a bucket of water. On a door knob, through a liquor bottle, into the Final Girl’s mouth. Anywhere. The fun makes up for the rough-around-the-edges flaws.
Synapse has given “Intruder” the full special-edition treatment, including a great retrospective for which even Raimi and Campbell found time to participate in, and several minutes of “Night Crew”’s surviving outtakes. See you in the ecch-spress lane! —Rod Lott