Talk about working the graveyard shift down at the old meat market - and I do mean meat market. Prices aren't the only things being slashed at the Walnut Lake Market tonight. Cleanup on aisle 5 - and 7 - and 10 - and, oh hell, the whole darn place is a bloodbath. (Sorry - I thought it would be best if I went ahead and got some of those corny clichéd lines out of my system right here at the start.) You know, there's nothing like a low-budget horror movie that really steps up and delivers the goods - it doesn't happen often, but it definitely happened back in 1989 with the release of Intruder. If you thought The Mist was the first "panic in a supermarket" film ever made, you're really missing out. Intruders, even the edited version (a pox on censors and the studios that give in to them), is a gory classic. Just look at what you get here: lots of blood and gore delivered by some pretty interesting murder implements, a bit of a mystery as to who the killer really is (even though I had no trouble discerning early on just how it would all play out), a fairly hot heroine (Elizabeth Cox) sporting a classic 80s hairstyle, not one but two Raimis among the cast, and even a very funny (albeit borrowed) decapitation story. You'll notice I left the Bruce Campbell cameo out of this list - it's so short and pedestrian that it really isn't worth mentioning (except to point out how disingenuous it is of the studio to market the film as a Bruce Campbell vehicle) - heck, I didn't even notice The Chinned One my first time through.
It's almost closing time at the market when Craig Peterson (David Byrnes - not to be confusing with Talking Heads front man and all-around musical genius David Byrne) shows up wanting to talk to his old girlfriend Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox). He's already miffed over the fact that she never even wrote to him during his recent stay in prison, so it's no surprise that her face-to-face rejection of him results in him causing quite a fracas. Being the super-macho man that he is, Craigie runs off and hides somewhere inside the store. The night doesn't get much better after the night crew finally tracks Craig down and throws him out, as that's when co-owners Danny (Eugene R. Glazer) and Bill (Dan Hicks) announce that they are selling the store. Now, as if their normal post-closing duties aren't enough, the crew also has to start marking down all of the prices in lieu of their impending unemployment. They needn't have bothered working too hard, though, because the vast majority of them are about to be picked off one by one by a bloodthirsty killer. It's almost too easy for the murdering fiend; with everyone spread out all over the store, no one realizes what is going on until it's too late, and the killer has all sorts of implements of death at his disposal - meat hooks, butchers' knives, hydraulic garbage disposals, meat slicers, etc. The special effects aren't always that realistic, but there's plenty of blood and gore for the viewer to enjoy (especially if you have the uncut version of the film). When you get five whole minutes of your bloodiest work edited out by the despicable censers, you know you've done something right.
Some may not care for first-time director Scott Speigel's Raimi-inspired use of wacky camera angles here and there, but you have to admire his success at creating a slasher film uniquely his own - Intruder is in no way a by-the-numbers slasher. Having worked with Sam Raimi as well as Bruce Campbell (both of whom he had known since high school) on the first two Evil Dead films, Speigel knew what he was doing in the director's chair, and it couldn't have hurt to have Sam Raimi right there on hand as one of the actors. Inserting humor into a slasher is always an iffy proposition, but Spiegel gets it pretty close to right here. I would also have to give him my vote for most creative use of a decapitated head in a movie (which really should be an Oscar category, if you ask me).
Even if you figure out what is really going on inside this ill-fated supermarket long before the end credits begin to roll, the conclusion still satisfies with a nice little final twist. That is one of many reasons why Intruder is a true classic of the genre.