Discover the relentless torment of this home invasion thriller

Adam Schindler’s directorial debut Intruders offers a suspenseful blend of tragedy and trauma.


Anton Bitel


Anna’s brother Conrad won’t stop calling her “Birdy”, and though he means it affectionately, the childish nickname just annoys her. Maybe it reminds her of her state of arrested infantilisation, locked into a relationship of interdependence with her brother in their childhood home even though both are now very much adults. Maybe the nickname makes Anna (Beth Riesgraf) think of the pet budgerigar that she keeps in an ornate cage, never able to fly away.

In any case, the spacious suburban house where she has lived her entire life, with her upstairs bedroom preserved just as it was when she was a little girl, has become her own gilded cage, and a kind of tomb – the latter almost literally for Conrad (Timothy T McKinney), who early in the film dies there of pancreatic cancer, leaving Anna to face the outside world alone and for the first time. She is not quite ready yet.

Names count in Adam Schindler’s feature debut. It originally travelled the festival circuit as ‘Shut In’, a neatly polysemic title which not only captures Anna’s status as an agoraphobic incapable of stepping out her own front door, but also slyly foreshadows the fate of any male assailant who makes the mistake of entering her fragile domain. Shut In has since been retitled for the home market with the comparatively bland Intruders, a word that baldly announces the home invasion plotting to come.

A trio of bickering, would-be thieves (played by Jack Kesy, Martin Starr and Joshua Mikel) break into Anna’s home, believing that she will be out at her brother’s funeral service, and looking for the bagfuls of hard cash that Anna’s meals-on-wheels provider Dan (Rory Culkin) has let slip are hidden on the premises. Once they find Anna there, and realise that she is incapable of leaving, they figure they have themselves a Lady in a Cage, like Olivia de Havilland’s helplessly trapped character in Walter Grauman’s 1964 shocker. The presence in the cast, however, of Macaulay Culkin’s brother signals an alternative possibility: a Home Alone-like situation in which empowered intruders have the tables cruelly turned on them by a cunning stay-at-home.

In fact what Intruders delivers also riffs on Hitchcock’s Psycho, with its intimations of a deeply damaged character caught as much in a wounding family history as in a physical space. As Anna keeps shifting from victim to aggressor and back again, we bear witness to a psychodrama that has been playing and replaying long before the film’s events began – a repeating scenario of abuse horrifically executed and remorse vainly sought. The surname that Anna shares with Conrad is Rook – another word with avian associations, but also a piece on a chess board. Conrad’s death introduces the end game, but Anna, in her castle-like home (complete with faux Ionic columns at the entrance) will need both strategy and sacrifice to clear the board and reset the game.

Schindler plays these cat-and-mouse tropes expertly, as hunter and hunted repeatedly swap roles – but Schindler proves equally adept at playing our initial sympathies with Anna off against our escalating moral unease. Here the genre thrills of Intruders gain a deeper resonance from the twinned motifs of tragedy and trauma that have beset Anna since she was 10 years old. In facing the intruders by herself and on her own home ground, Anna is also confronting her deepest, darkest memories of other forced entries, and working through to a slash-and-burn resolution – and we are ultimately left unsure whether being let out might not be worse then remaining shut in.

Intruders is released on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD on 6 June courtesy of StudioCanal.

Published 6 Jun 2016

Tags: Adam Schindler

Suggested For You

Discover the amnesiac chills of this Alice in Wonderland-esque thriller

By Anton Bitel

Indonesian writer/director Joko Anwar’s 2012 film Ritual is now available on DVD.

How female directors are staking their claim in horror

By Katy Vans

Karyn Kusama and St Vincent’s Annie Clark are among those contributing to an all-female anthology film.

How Midnight Special channels the cosmic force of Starman

By Katherine McLaughlin

Jeff Nichols’ new film maps a similar thematic route to John Carpenter’s classic 1984 sci-fi.

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.