Early in his new home-invasion thriller, Intruder, director Travis Zariwny (billed as Travis Z) follows up a cheap jump-scare (it’s the neighbor! opening a door!) with a couple minutes of such on-the-nose chatter that one figures it’s bald-faced exposition.
It is, but that’s also just how people talk in this rainy Portland neighborhood, where every conversation is so bland you really have to concentrate even just to pick out the nouns. Zariwny is a student of Alfred Hitchcock’s notion of suspense; instead of a bomb under a coffee table, however, he gives us an intruder hiding in a concert cellist’s apartment, but even that looming threat can’t enliven the plotless lollygagging in the foreground.
The cellist, Elizabeth (Louise Linton), wants her boyfriend to go to London with her while she takes a residency with…arrgh, it doesn’t matter, it’s all as bland as a milk sandwich. Meanwhile, the lurker lurks and ludicrous distractions prevent Elizabeth from spotting him.
Most of Zariwny’s credits are as a production designer, so maybe it’s no surprise that the most effective scene shows the intruder interacting with the set, idly messing with Elizabeth’s possessions while she’s asleep. A false ending makes the dawdling even more infuriating, but there comes a point when any ending is a blessing.
Written and directed by Travis Zariwny
Opens June 24, IFC Center
Available on demand
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 23, 2016