Tuesday, December 13, 2011

INTRUDER (Blu-ray & DVD)

As a teenager, director Scott Spiegel made Super-8 home movies with his pals Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. And, like his talented friends, he went on to make films professionally, mostly for the direct-to video market. His first full-length feature was the supermarket-set stalk and slay thriller, INTRUDER (a/k/a THE NIGHT CREW, 1989), making its uncut home video debut on Blu-ray & DVD this week, courtesy of Synapse Films.

The evening shift employees at a small Michigan supermarket, have closed and locked the doors, and have been ordered by their bosses to conduct an all-night inventory in preparation for the store's imminent closing and sale. As the night crew set about their work, a shadowy intruder moves silently among them, and before long, the young staff finds themselves being brutally murdered, one by one.

Spiegel's film came out near the end of the 80s slasher cycle, and while there's really not anything particularly original about the story, it does have an engaging sense of dark humor, and a lively visual style, both of which were also evident in the director's later films, like FROM DUSK TIL DAWN 2 and HOSTEL PART 3. Produced and co-written by Lawrence Bender (PULP FICTION), the witty and suspenseful low-budget film also benefits from an interesting cast comprised of up and coming young actors including Renée Estevez (SLEEPAWAY CAMP), Elizabeth Cox (NIGHT OF THE CREEPS), and Ted Raimi (THE GRUDGE), director/buddySam Raimi (THE EVIL DEAD, SPIDER-MAN) and a last-reel cameo by Bruce Campbell (TERMINAL INVASION, BURN NOTICE).

Before its original release, the movie earned a bit of notoriety from a Fangoria magazine photo spread that showcased its graphic gore effects, executed by then-newcomers Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger (soon to be known as KNB and renowned for their effects make-up in films like FROM DUSK 'TIL DAWN, HOSTEL and TV's THE WALKING DEAD). Unfortunately, when it was released on VHS by Paramount, virtually all of that material was excised, severely undercutting the film's effectiveness, and leaving its intended audience disappointed and dissatisfied.

This new Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Synapse finally brings INTRUDER to home video as it was intended to be seen, with every blood-soaked kill and gory thrill intact.

The Blu-ray disc sports a very solid, 1.78.1 widescreen, 1080p HD transfer that looks pretty good for a 20+ year-old, $130,000 indie horror film. Audio is a perfectly satisfactory, DTS-HD MA Mono. (The enclosed DVD is in Standard def, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 2.0 Mono audio.) Bonus features include an energetic and entertaining audio commentary by Spiegel and Bender; SLASHED PRICES, a terrific retrospective documentary featuring most of the cast and key crew members; extended effects footage from the original workprint; outtakes from Spiegel's 8mm version of the story, NIGHT CREW; original casting tapes; theatrical and VHS trailers, a still gallery, and a video interview with INTRUDER fan and filmmaker, Vincent Periera.

As I mentioned above, the story's not particularly fresh, and the actual filmmaking is a little crude, with the low-budget and general inexperience of the director evident in the final product. But it's fast-paced and suspenseful, several of the "kills" are real show-stoppers, and it's honestly entertaining in a way that a lot of slicker, more-polished fright flicks aren't. Synapse's new edition is terrific, and highly recommended to 80s horror fans.

BUYIntruder (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)