It’s a bad night for the late shift crew of a local grocery store. Not only have they just learned that the store will soon be closed and they’ll all be out of a job, but now there’s a madman running around killing them off one by one! The shit you put up with for minimum wage, right?
That’s really all there is to the plot of Intruder, aka Night Crew, Night Crew: The Final Checkout and Night of the Intruder, depending on which version you managed to run down in the ‘80s. Some horror fans consider this one of the last “great” slasher films of the ‘80s. Others find it tedious and disposable were it not for director Scott Spiegel bringing along some of his Evil Dead II buddies including both Sam and Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Danny Hicks, Pulp Fiction producer Lawrence Bender and the legendary KNB effects team. I fall somewhere in the middle.
Because once the film gets going, Intruder is actually a lot of fun. The kills are relatively creative—particularly Ted’s “meat chopping” demise—and the pace really picks up during the second half. Getting to the carnage, the basis of every slasher film good or bad, is a haul, though. It’s difficult to get too invested in the thinly-drawn characters, with the possible exception of “Bill”, played by Dan Hicks, playing the co-owner of the store. Even the Raimi brothers bring little fun to the mix because they basically appear in extended cameos—Campbell has a sum total of 40 seconds of screen time as a cop showing up at the end. Bland and blah “Jennifer” is played mostly by Elizabeth Cox’s gravity-defying hair. There isn’t a single person in the cast who couldn’t take out her stalker boyfriend played by David Byrnes and it’s easy to dismiss Renee Estevez’s Linda because she’s played by Renee Estevez.
What it does have, though, is Spiegel’s trademark inanimate-object-POV (telephone dial, ceiling fixture, shopping cart) which makes the visuals pop. And the climax is quite a nail-biter with a sense of bitter irony to it (which goes beyond the cheap shot ‘Boo!’ moment that became the typical capper of every horror movie following Carrie). The end moments are oddly satisfying and almost makes you rewrite the entire movie with more fondness. Still, if you’re a slasher completist, of course you have to run this one down and fortunately it’s readily available. Be sure to get the “director’s cut” DVD, even though the transfer isn’t the cleanest—it’s darker than prints struck for the original VHS, but it’s uncut, showcasing all that glorious KNB gore. And that’s what you came for, right? Unless you’re a big fan of spectator shelf-stocking.