Inadvertently, “The Intruder” contains many useful tips for prospective house buyers. This movie is a checklist of what not to do.
First off, don’t ignore the 20-minute rule when the former owner hands over the keys and leaves you alone in the place for the first time, whereupon you decide to christen the place by making sweet love in the kitchen surrounded by windows on all sides. Also, do not invite the former owner to Thanksgiving dinner when he has already indicated his stalking tendencies.
These problems can be avoided altogether: When you tour the home for the first time and you meet the owner as he is slaughtering a deer on the property and he menacingly asks you if you like venison, simply turn tail and run.
The couple in question does not obey these basic rules. “The Intruder” would not exist if they did. But then you probably guessed that.
The young marrieds are Scott (Michael Ealy), some kind of high-paid branding expert, and Annie (Meagan Good), a magazine writer. We learn this about her in a quick bit of dialogue, since she doesn’t seem to do anything but fix up the house and be shadowed by the overbearing former owner.
He is Charlie (Dennis Quaid), a widower with a big ol’ smile and a handy hunting rifle. Scott and Annie buy the Napa Valley house because life in San Francisco is a little too urban.
For a while, David Loughery’s script toys with the possibility that creepy Charlie actually stands for something more authentic than these city folk. Scott wears designer eyeglasses (movie language for a man who can’t handle himself in a fistfight) and knows nothing about yard work, while Charlie not only drives a manly pickup truck but can probably bench-press it.
Scott and Annie take all the nice antiques Charlie included in the sale price and replace them with bland modern stuff, and their friend (Joseph Sikora) relieves himself in Charlie’s beloved garden one night.
Charlie being Charlie, you can bet he’s lurking out there, watching.
The film isn’t concerned that Scott and Annie are black, and Charlie is white. Director Deon Taylor (“Traffik”) doesn’t mention race; he’s occupied with making sure every scene contains at least one jump-scare with Charlie suddenly appearing in the rose bushes at night.
Everything is telegraphed a mile in advance, and the plot depends on various characters doing the dumbest thing possible at the worst time. This means “The Intruder” should only be watched with a big audience that can shout their warnings and disapproval at regular intervals.
Let us take a moment to acknowledge the gonzo commitment Dennis Quaid brings to the project. Never much of an under-actor (please see his performance as Jerry Lee Lewis in “Great Balls of Fire” for evidence), Quaid happily goes over the top here, growling and leering and generally having a high old time. Buyer beware, indeed.
“The Intruder” (1½ stars)
Young couple (Meagan Good, Michael Ealy) buys a lavish Napa Valley house, is menaced by the overbearing former owner (Dennis Quaid). Lots of jump-scares in this one, plus characters doing the dumbest thing possible to keep the plot moving — and there’s Quaid going way, way over the top.
Rating: PG-13, for violence, subject matter
Opening Friday: Alderwood Mall, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall