“I’m just crazy about this store.”
Anyone who has worked the night crew in a grocery store, restocking shelves after the place is closed, knows how creepy it can be walking the aisles in the belly of a half-lit behemoth. Now imagine if you were being stalked while you stocked by a mutilating psychopath. This was obviously the motivation for writer/director Scott Spiegel when he created his Super-8 short film Night Crew with childhood friends Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi and Bruce Campbell. After co-writing Evil Dead 2 with Sam Raimi, Spiegel chanced on an investor’s meager budget to elevate the short into a full-length feature slasher flick. The distributors didn’t care for the original title, and the film was released as Intruder.
Makeup special effects masters, Robert Kurtzman, Gregory Nicotero, and Howard Berger had recently joined to together to form KNB EFX Group and, as a favor to Spiegel, Intruder was the first movie the three agreed to work on as KNB. They went above and beyond the constraints of the budget, creating outrageous death gags that easily rivaled anything in Jason Voorhees’ or Michael Meyers’ modus operandi. They did the gore so well the MPAA wanted to slap on an X rating (now known as NC-17).
Unfortunately this was in 1989, and the slasher film was already long in decline, so Intruder was released straight to video. To make matters worse, the studio cut out all of KNB’s debut gore to get their cherished R rating and, even with Sam and Ted Raimi playing supporting roles, Bruce Campbell making a brief cameo and Spiegel forcing his cameraman to turn more tricks than a Brooklyn streetwalker (even a telephone dialer gets its own POV shot), the remaining film simply didn’t stand on its own merits. Frankly, without the over-the-top splat-happy mutilations, the movie ended up kind of boring. Adding insult to injury, Paramount’s packaging clearly identified the mystery murderer on the VHS cover, thereby killing any suspense which might have been left in the film.
Over twenty-five years later, the director’s cut in all its gory finally saw the light of day on DVD. Sadly, the transfer was decidedly sub-par, once again showing little respect to the movie, but KNB’s legendarily crazy carnage was finally on full display. A cult following, consisting of Raimi/Campbell fans and Evil Dead enthusiasts, grew around Intruder. In 2010, Synapse Films announced that they had acquired the original uncut negative, and now at last we get to see the film as it was meant to be seen, in a pristine unrated transfer showcasing all of KNB’s ingenious decimations in glorious high definition.
We’re not talking CGI gore either; this is the good old-fashioned prosthetics and animatronic makeup. Call me old school, but it just simply looks more real than CGI. The band saw through the head gag ranks up there as one the all time great slasher deaths.
Intruder often nods to the great Italian Giallo genre, most notably the works of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Intruder may lack of the cinematographic elegances of Giallo movies, but it more than makes up for it with raw, visceral ingenuity. Considering the entire film is shot in one location, after-hours in an actual grocery store, it never grows claustrophobic because the camera constantly moves in crazy angles from unsettling points of view, and each death sequence is treated like true Grand Guignol.
Intruder is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 1080p encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and running an average of 28 Mbps. Even though it was shot with 35mm film, the source negative is still a bit soft and grainy. Considering the time and the budget of the sources, the results on Blu-ray are astounding. Colors are deep and full. The black levels stay stable and rich. All and all it’s a fine 2K digital restoration from the original uncensored negatives making Intruder look better than it has any right to.
The two-channel mono DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack didn’t transfer as well. Considering the low-budget source material, it is understandable. There is a certain degree of mild noise and buzzing in the background. The high-end is crushed and suffers from a bit of distortion. There is very little LFE if any at all. However, the dialog is clear and the SFX gruesome. Music/SFX to dialog is a little imbalanced. The culprit for these anomalies once again lies in the quality of source material. In a Grindhouse way this only adds to the charm of the presentation.
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Scott Spiegel and Producer Lawrence Bender I found this disappointing. Spiegel and Bender pretty much watch the movie and react like fanboys. There is a lot of laughing, oohing and aahing, as well as mock disgust at the gore. Completely unenlightening.
- Slashed Prices: The Making of Intruder– Featurette/Retrospective (38:00; HD) An excellent retrospective, easily the best extra. Cast and crew reunite to detail the trials and triumphs in the making of Intruder. Wonderful anecdotes and glimpses behind the scenes. A must see!
- The Slashing of Intruder (3:00; SD) Vincent Pereira discusses the censoring of Intruder.
- Original Cast Audition Footage (11:00; SD) Camcorder audition footage of Billy Marti, Renee Estevez, Elizabeth Cox, Eugene Glazer, David Byrnes, Burr Steers, and Danny Hicks.
- Extended “Murder” Sequences from the Original Workprint The meat is served with all the fixings, including an alternate meathook impaling and a messier head crushing.
- Outtakes from the Now-Lost Short Film, Night Crew (7:00; SD) Although the legendary twenty minute Super 8 short is lost, Scott Spiegel found enough snippets of the outtakes to recreate some of it. Bruce Campbell served as the cinematographer manning the Super-8 camera. This was definitely more of a masked maniac Halloween style story and less Giallo in the short.
- Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer
Keep in mind, this is the 80s slasher genre, so the characters are incredibly dumb and often annoying. The situations are contrived and the character’s behavior unbelievable, but if you love 80s slasher flicks or if Evil Dead 2 sits high on your favorites list, you really should do yourself a favor and get Intruder. The acting is arch (especially the Raimi brothers), the dialog inane, the Eighties hairstyles and clothing kitsch, but the KNB death gags are pure splatter joy.
“I couldn’t let ANYONE get in the way… and… I guess I got a little carried away!”