Intruder (2011)

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Who came to the lonely housewife’s aid?
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US / 20 minutes / color / Senese Films Dir & Scr: Billy Senese Pr: Brinn Hamilton, Billy Senese Cine: Jeffrey Stanfill Cast: Jennifer Spriggs, Josh Graham, Kayte Miller, Jeremy Childs, Craig Armstrong, Iain Montgomery, Adonni Samuels.

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A nifty little psychological thriller that declines to speak down to its audience—in fact, you might find yourself immediately replaying it to try to confirm in your own mind exactly what happened.

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Samantha (Jennifer Spriggs) gazes wistfully at her sleeping daughter Allie.

Rendered a paraplegic by his injuries, soldier Nathan (Graham) is being looked after in their small, dismal apartment by his wife, Samantha (Spriggs). She’s at the end of her tether trying to cope with both him and their small daughter, Allie (Miller), with seemingly no more help than an occasional visit from the Army occupational therapist (Armstrong).

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Nathan (Josh Graham) as we first encounter him, being wheeled along by his minder.

Just to make matters worse for her, the new, vicious-looking guy (Childs, who also casted the movie) in the next-door apartment has the habit of playing loud, grinding heavy metal (performed by the band Asschapel, it says here in the credits) at all hours of the day and night.

One evening, as Samantha, Allie and Nathan are slumped in front of the TV they hear not just Asschapel from the neighboring apartment but a woman screaming. Samantha calls the police, and two cops (Montgomery, Samuels) arrive to check out the guy’s apartment; as they leave they warn him to keep the noise level down in future.

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Allie (Kayte Miller) knows something’s wrong with Daddy but at the same time she accepts the situation.

Of course, the neighbor knows exactly who sicced the cops onto him, and after a prudent delay comes hammering on Samantha’s door . . .

And it’s at that point that our uncertainty starts. By the next morning the neighbor seems to have been dealt with, perhaps terminally. Parts of the narrative appear to be happening in someone’s dream—but whose? Other parts seem to be brief snatches drawn from Samantha’s deeply repressed urges—or are they violent images surging through the raging neighbor’s mind? How much of what we have seen is real? Have we seen Samantha’s later reconstruction of a terrifying ordeal?

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The neighbor (Jeremy Childs) deals with the cops.

This is no David Lynchian exploration of the nature of meaning, or whatever; instead, for the most part the presentation is quite down-to-earth, as we watch Samantha taking Allie to the playground or trying to get Nathan to rock forward into her arms so she might tug him to his feet the way the occupational therapist showed her. At the end we guess the solution to what happened must be the obvious one, however improbable that might seem; but there’s another possibility, one that’s in a way more logical even though it seems inconceivable . . .

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What is Samantha (Jennifer Spriggs) thinking as she observes Nathan (Josh Graham)?

Senese directs tidily (he also scripted), and Stanfill’s cinematography is unobtrusively satisfying, especially when he has Jennifer Spriggs’s wonderfully expressive face as his canvas. In both of the other two movies of hers that I’ve discussed on this site—Shattered (2008 TVM) and the short Dirty Little Secret (2011)—she appears in a fairly spruce mode. Here, though, she’s completely convincing as the housewife wearied and downtrodden by circumstances that could defeat the will of any of us. And, make no mistake, it’s Samantha who’s entirely the focus of this movie: we experience every event through her agency.

At a mere 20 minutes’ running time, Intruder punches, I’d say, considerably above its weight in terms of its ability to provoke thought. It’s also a quite absorbing watch.

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Should Samantha (Jennifer Spriggs) open the door?

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11 thoughts on “Intruder (2011)

  1. Whoa! Just watched this – think I need to see it again. Jennifer Spriggs is FAB here, and I love the minimal dialogue.

    It’s everything you said it is, and I’m glad you didn’t give away the ending.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! I’m always nervous when recommending things.

      Jennifer Spriggs is FAB here

      Agreed. I’ve no idea why her career hasn’t really taken off, because she’s been good in everything I’ve seen of hers.

  2. Pingback: Sunday Post – 18th September | Brainfluff

    • I’m glad you took the opportunity to watch it, Sam. Spriggs strikes me as being a bit like Brit Marling in that she’s a good, intelligent actress (in fact more capable than Marling, I’d say) who has surrounded herself with similarly intelligent moviemakers . . . which may be why neither of them is exactly destined for megastardom. Sarah Polley’s arguably another in the same category. It’s a shame that Spriggs is, unlike the other two, still sort of knocking at the door.

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