Friday, December 23, 2011

Blu-ray Review: INTRUDER (1988)

 Blu-ray/DVD Combo
LABEL: Synapse Films
DURATION: 88 minutes
VIDEO: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
AUDIO: DTS-HD MA English 2.0 Mono, Dolby Digital English 2.0 Mono
DIRECTOR: Scott Spiegel
CAST: Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Elizabeth Cox, Danny Hicks, Renée Estevez

TAGLINE: Tonight, This Supermarket is Having a Sale... ALL HEADS HALF-OFF!

SYNOPSIS: "It’s 10 pm and the employees of Michigan’s Walnut Lake Supermarket are in for a really bad night. The place is shutting its doors for good, and the night crew has a long shift ahead of them… longer than they think! The lovely check-out girl has a deranged ex-boyfriend, the store’s phone lines are cut, and the employees start dying in the most stomach-churning ways imaginable (courtesy of Academy Award®-winning KNB EFX Group). A deranged killer is on the loose in the grocery store! Can anyone stop this murderous intruder?"

Scott Spiegel's probably best know as the co-writer of Sam Raimi's EVIL DEAD 2 (1987) and the producer of the HOSTEL film series but some of you fiends out there may recall him as the director of the late 80's splatter classic INTRUDER (1988), a film that's probably best remembered for it's extreme gore courtesy of the pre-KNB EFX team of Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman and Greg Nicotero who were willing to do the effects on the film for a song to help launch their new effects group and what a calling card it was, the gore effects are outstanding even two decades later and under the scrutiny of 1080p high-definition, they're ingenious, blood soaked and fucking awesome.

It's been a few years since I last watched the film and what struck me aside from the effects and how great the transfer is were the crazy amount of POV camerawork from director Spiegel, these are some of the nuttiest POV shots ever committed to film with odd views from a rotary phone, a milk crate, a wine bottle and a shopping cart, not once but twice. The inventive visual gags not just look great but create a quirky sense of atmosphere that's hard to peg down. The script is pretty witty and the film is nearly a comedy in some respects, perhaps even a send-up of the genre which by the late 80's had really run it's due course.

Looking at the characters I wouldn't say we get a lot of development but I've never been one to require much of it when I throw on a slasher either. What we do get is quite serviceable with appearances from EVIL DEAD alumni Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi and Danny Hicks with a cameo from Bruce Campbell. Without spoiling the killer's identity I'll just say that I really enjoyed how unwound and bat-shit crazy the culprit becomes, really unhinged stuff. At one point he's puppeteering a decapitated head and then beating down a victim with it in the next scene, that's just entertainment pure and simple. The film is definitely offbeat which I think might throw a few folks off but the humor is dark and demented just the way I crave it and really delivers the goods, so it worked for me.

I have to once again give it up to the KNB EFX Group who really shower the film with scene after scene of bloody death. There's just so much to choose from here, we get a head crushed in a cardboard compactor, machetes flying everywhere, a nice eye-skewering, a meat hook through the neck and what must surely be the centerpiece of the film; a head grotesquely sawn in half with a band saw sending brains, teeth and meat everywhere, it's a showstopper and sickening brutal.

Great slashers were slicing through the cinemas in the early to mid 80's but to find a really brutal, well done slasher in 1988 seems a rare feat indeed. Scott Spiegel deserves some major love for this late entry in the game particularly when you consider what was to come to the cinema post-SCREAM just a few years later. Unfortunately Spiegel didn't go onto direct a ton of films but I'm pretty amped to see him back in the director's chair with HOSTEL III after taking this in.

BLU-RAY: Synapse's brand-new 2K HD transfer of INTRUDER is presented in 16:9 widescreen (1.78:1) - this is the uncut director's version of the film with all the tasty extreme gore presented in all it's splatteriffic glory - the KNB FX shots are nasty effective, gore hounds are gonna be delighted. The transfer looks pretty sharp, colors are vibrant and the film's fine grain is nicely intact, no unnecessary DNR scrubbing here folks, par for Synapse the transfer is pretty phenomenal considering that this shoestring budget splatter classic was filmed using 35mm short ends. Audiowise we get a DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono track on the Blu-ray that sounds very nice, dialogue, score and effects sound very good, the mono soundtrack doesn't offer much depth of separation but seems accurate and decently robust.

Special features are plentiful beginning with a feature length commentary from director Scott Spiegel and producer Lawrence Bender, it's a fun commentary with tons of great behind-the-scenes anecdotes from financing the film on through to the MPAA butchering of the films upon it's initial VHS release. There's also a great half hour featurette featuring interviews with most of the principal cast, director, producer and executive producer Charles Band with clips from the 8mm short film NIGHT CREW and actress Elizabeth Cox is kind enough to demonstrate her various screams as heard in the film providing commentary about the subtle variations, good stuff. On top of that we get over 10 minutes of extended murder scenes from the workprint, nearly seven minutes of outtakes from the NIGHT CREW short, a picture gallery, two trailers and a featurette wherein the director of A BETTER PLACE tells of his experience renting the VHS only to find the gory bits as seen in Fangoria were missing. It's a jam-packed Blu-ray and there's a DVD edition of the film included with all the same special features which is a always nice value add when considering a purchase, don't think too hard though, just buy it. Clearly Synapse have done right by this film and an upgrade is easily recommended if you own the previous DVD edition because this 1080p presentation is gonna blow you away when compared to that murky mess.

- All-New 2K Digital Restoration of the Original Uncensored Director's Cut
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Scott Spiegel and Producer Lawrence Bender
- Slashing of Intruder (3:26)
- Slashed Prices - The Making of Intruder (38:22)
- Never-Before-Seen Extended "Murder" Sequences from the Original Workprint (10:25)
- Outtakes from the Now-Lost Short Film, NIGHT CREW (6:47)
- Original Cast Audition Footage (11:04)
-Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery (4:20)
-Original Theatrical Trailer (1:19)
- NIGHT CREW Trailer (1:19)

VERDICT: INTRUDER is an entertaining, visually imaginative splatter-flick filled with nutty gore that's in need of some serious attention, a classic deserving of some shelf space for any serious gore fan. Sure, it's a bit silly and quirky but above all else it's a super-gory slasher that's finally been given a gorgeous release courtesy of Synapse Films, a must own. 3.5 outta 5