For nearly eight years of my life I worked at grocery stores. Two different ones in fact. So I got to have some insight into what makes a supermarket tick. First off, the jobs suck. Impersonally efficient managers, long hours standing doing the same simple, mind-numbing task over and over again, annoying, idiotic customers who wouldn’t know their asshole from a pineapple… the whole rotten thing added up to generally be a rather unpleasant occupational experience.
Second, that experience tends to build a good deal of camaraderie amongst the unfortunate working stiffs who get paid minimum wage to hear crabby old ladies bitch about coupons. We tend to bond over the bitching, developing an insular cluster of misanthropic fiends defending our blackened souls from express-lane succubi with our sneering glares of register-glazed apathy. It’s kinda like being in a foxhole, only with fewer mortar shells and more paper bags.
Third, supermarkets can be downright fucking creepy places. Especially at night, when the majority of the horde have vanished with their Ho-Hos and Haagen-Daaz. It’s eerie the way they manage to be wide open and cloistered and claustrophobic at the same time. The symmetrical, rising walls of groceries that cut an even swath through the sales floors ever few feet, long one-way aisles that promise escape…or an unseen maniac hiding just around the corner. Then you go behind the scenes. The epic storage areas packed with towers of boxes. The miscellaneous freezers and refrigerators with their thick metal doors. The warren of random halls and tunnels that branch out into breakrooms, bathrooms and manager’s offices. Add on top of it all the sharp and pointy potential tools for murder that have a regular home in your neighborhood Big Y and you got yourself a perfect setting for a creepy-ass horror film…
Which may explain why I have love in my heart for Intruder, a bizarrely obscure supermarket splatter-slasher from the ass end of the 1980s. In some ways, I’m not that surprised that only a small handful of raving mad horror-maniacs have ever heard of this flick. It was released at a time when a slasher film was demanded by absolutely no-one, exhausted from the tireless, never-ceasing work of chopping up badly-acted, gratuituosly-nude nubile flesh. It was low budget. It has an uber-generic title (not that the original moniker, Night Crew, was any more scintillating.) Frankly, if you never watched it, and didn’t know much about it, its just another formulaic body counter, deservedly lost to the VHS ages.
Except…this film has some pretty good pedigree attached to it. Fer one thing, you froth-mouthed loonies, the film boasts of “starring” walking man-God Bruce Campbell, Spiderman and Evil Dead director Sam Raimi and Sam’s horror vet brother Ted. True, Campbell appears for a tiny cameo only, while the Brothers Raimi only have small supporting parts, but they are there, dear ol’ Sam and co. doing their best to help out the late 80s horror scene (the elder Raimi also starred in Josh Becker’s similarly obscure Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except and did uncredited producer work on J.S. Bookwater’s zombie-gore epic The Dead Next Door.) Veteran actor Emil Sitka, one of only two people to have acted with all of the various hooligans who made up the Three Stooges, also makes a cameo. The movie was produced by Lawrence Bender, who would later go on to work with and introduce us to a young film savant named Quentin Tarantino. Co-star Burr Steers went on to become a mainstream director (Charlie St. Cloud). Oh, and the film marks the first major credit for a fledgling special FX company named KNB (you know their work. Just turn on “The Walking Dead”…)
Oh, and the film is a damn fine piece of formulaic body-count splatter, if I say so myself.
Intruder, like most films of this type, features a bevy of young folk ready to be mowed down and gutted like fish, in a small, contained location, with the usual ineffectual cops making their usual ineffectual appearances, with an unseen killer lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce. Here, its the closing night shift at Walnut Creek Market that’s being knocked off in jaw-droppingly gory ways, with the locus of suspicion falling on Craig Peterson (David Byrnes) the violent, ex-con ex-boyfriend of our heroine Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox.)
To be fair, Intruder‘s story, and most of its acting, leave a lot to be desired, but that’s generally par for the course when dissecting an old school 80s slasher film. There’s nothing particularly unique about the narrative, save for the setting, and the acting could charitably be considered good enough for a student production. What makes this joyous burst of bloody beauty work is the way director Scott Spiegel handles the production…and the oodles of wet, sloppy, no-holds-barred gore.
Frankly, for a itty-bitty budgeted film made on the extreme downside of a horror trend’s popularity cycle, Intruder is a remarkably well-directed bit of teen-offing mayhem. Spiegel makes clever use of his camera, shooting the film from a variety of angles, and even catching shots from an assortment of random, and strangely awesome, spots: from the floor (underneath a pile of sweepings!), from inside a shopping cart, even from inside a telephone. Spiegel brings a great amount of style to the proceedings, and makes great, shivery use of the supermarket settings, looking down dark, dank corridors, peering into shadowy storage facilities and capturing the wide glaringly-lit, open-yet-closed ambience of most grocery facilities.
Spiegel’s direction is exceedingly stylish, yet he also pays attention to the cannon-fodder characters as well. Eschewing any kind of unnecessary skin shots, and avoiding plugging us into the carnage right away, Spiegel (who also wrote the screenplay) takes his sweet time letting us get to know his motley crew of miscreants, and — lo and behold! — they turn out to be a likable bunch of goofballs. Every single one of them is familiar to anyone who’s ever worked in a supermarket, from the food-snatching stoner and happy-go-lucky nerd to the pretty cashier girls, the all-business boss and the “cool” manager who never really gets mad at you when you misbehave. Most slasher films give us a bunch of obnoxious horny wastoids to cheer when they get killed, but with Intruder, as bland and one-dimensional as the characters are, we don’t wanna see them killed….until we get to revel in the messy slaughters.
And messy it is. A spike through the eye, a bisected head, and another cranium crushed in a bailer …ahh, Intruder ladles on the red stuff with aplomb. Rather than feeling gratuitous, the death scenes in Intruder feel like much-needed money shots, and because Spiegel and the KNB guys stage them with such wit, zest and grace they should get a room in the Top Kill Scenes of All Time Hall of Fame. Almost every death is punctuated with some clever bit of editing, making the experience actually more fun than gross or unseemly (not there’s anything wrong with unseemly), keeping in the cartoonish Evil Dead tradition associated with Raimi and his pals. (How can you not love a movie in which someone is beat down with a decapitated head?)
Of course, maybe its just me. Maybe I can relate because I’ve worked at supermarkets, and the whole experience made me wanna whip out a meat clever on every lottery-looting, produce-groping jackwad the world over, but I thinks Intruder is a lost classic waiting to be found, and with a new Collector’s Edition DVD haivng just announced, it’s sure to ring up an appreciative new audience of retail-ravaged bloodhounds like yours Grue-ly. Now, Mad Loves, that’ll be a total of $6.66. Thank you for shopping with us, have a nightmarish day …and would you like your blog bagged in paper or plastic?