Slasher Saturdays: Intruder (1989)

Do you want a slasher movie set in a grocery store? Are you dying to see a killer punch someone with a severed head? Intruder has you covered. Since 1989, there have been numerous horror movies called Intruder, Intruders, The Intruder, or Intruders—just get rid of an article or make it plural, and you have a movie! 1989’s Intruder, though, is what’s on the slasher menu, and it’s a gem. Evil Dead II co-writer Scott Spiegel made his directorial debut and brought along his buddies (brothers Sam and Ted Raimi get their chance to get butchered, and Bruce Campbell shows up in the ending as a dim police officer), and you can just feel the love, spit, tears, and duct tape behind and in front of the camera. Intruder may not be a great movie, but it’s a great slasher movie. Yes, there’s a difference.

Craig shushes Jennifer

The Skinny

As Michigan’s Walnut Lake Market is preparing to close its doors for good, the night crew restocks for the night. One of the cashiers, Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox), is visited by her abusive, seemingly deranged ex-boyfriend, Craig (David Byrnes), who’s out on parole, and her co-workers rush to her rescue. Jennifer manages to call the police, but Craig gets away. As the crew gets back to work—and Jennifer is already ready to go on a date with co-worker Dave (Billy Marti)—someone is stalking and slashing them all. Could it be Craig, or is that too obvious? Well, the marketing during the film’s release actually gave away the killer’s identity, but we’ll get to the kill reveal.

The Setting

“Killing spree in a grocery store” is all you need to know. From the cereal box aisles to the popcorn displays to the backroom conveyor belt and the meat lockers, director Scott Spiegel and cinematographer Fernando Argüelles really went to town in their camera placement here. Not only do they give the viewer a sense of the supermarket’s surroundings, but they’re clearly just horsing around, and the fun they’re having is infectious. We get a couple of dolly shots where the camera is sitting right inside a grocery cart moving down an aisle. Even more clever are the point-of-view shots from a rotary phone, a floor as it’s being swept up, and a turning door knob. The Mist may be a better movie set in a grocery store, but Intruder takes full advantage of its setting.

Camera sits in grocery cart

The Kills

Thanks to special effects artists at KNB EFX Group (Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger), the kills are the raison d’être of Intruder, and there are eight of ’em.

Poor Linda (Renée Estevez) is the first to go. Ready to get home to her boyfriend, she walks to her car and gets spooked by some rattling noise around the trash cans. Before she can put away her groceries in her trunk, our mystery killer kills Linda off-screen with a giant knife. Poor thing.

While sitting at his desk in the office, store manager Danny (Eugene Glazer) is strangled and impaled through the peeper with a paper receipt spike and, soon after that, decapitated off-screen. Ouch!

While cutting up a giant watermelon, produce Joe (Ted Raimi) takes a big knife to the back of his own melon.

Beer stocker Tim (Craig Stark) gets stabbed in the tummy, as do six packs of beer; what a waste.

Stoner Bub (Burr Steers, future director of Igby Goes Down and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) gets his head put through a box crusher.

Man impaled through chin on meat hook

Butcher Randy (Sam Raimi) gets picked up and set on a meat hook through his chin like a fresh slab of meat.

Dave getting his head put through a band saw, cheek to cheek, might be the major standout. Butcher’s kiss! It’s just too bad Jennifer and Dave won’t be going on that date after all.

Finally, Scott Spiegel (the director himself) gets killed on-screen as a bread delivery man by being stabbed in the back by the already-revealed killer.

The Killer

Drum roll, please…assistant manager Bill (Dan Hicks) is the killer! He wasn’t about to let his beloved store get taken from him, even if it meant killing everyone working for him. Perhaps the generic title of the movie is a misnomer (and there is a history with title changes for marketing purposes), but the killer isn’t actually an intruder, as Bill was there all along. Once Bill is revealed to be the one behind all of the grocery store killings, Dan Hicks goes big and shows no fear in chewing the scenery to bits with demented relish. Among some of his best killer moments, Hicks gets to beat a character with a severed head and walk around with said severed head and a half-eaten sandwich in his other hand. Also, in the midst of stalking Jennifer down one of the aisles, Bill stops to put a couple of paper towel rolls back on the shelf.

Killer and the severed head of a victim

Final Verdict

Intruder is a lot of bloody, goofy fun, and it deserves more attention. Writer-director Scott Spiegel and co-writer Lawrence Bender try setting up the mostly-likable characters long enough so we care about them, which we do for the most part, but slasher fans could get a little antsy waiting for the first slash. To make up for that, Scott Spiegel peppers his film with so many playfully inventive, we-learned-this-in-film-school camera angles and cheeky smash cuts. There’s also a hilarious jump scare by musician Sting on a magazine cover and a severed hand in a lobster tank that our final girl continues to not notice. All in all, the wait is worth getting to the novelty murders. Blue Lives will hate the ending (and it’s a little frustrating, given that the characters aren’t believed for a second by these dunces with badges), but it must be an ‘80s slasher movie! It is unfathomable that Intruder was originally released on VHS with so many cuts (and much less gore), but the uncut, unapologetically crimson-flowing Intruder is the only version slasher fans would want.

The film is available to stream on Shudder.

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Written by Jeremy Kibler

Jeremy is a film graduate from Penn State University, an Online Film Critics Society member, and altogether a film obsessive. He lives to watch the latest horror releases and write about them.

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