Night Of the Intruder: The Raimi Bros Vs Supermarket Slasher (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

The whole gang that made the Evil Dead movies actually made a bunch of fun horror movies together. They switched roles around, so sometimes Sam Raimi acted, sometimes Bruce Campbell did sound design, etc. Admittedly, none of them are operating on quite the level of the Evil Dead films that Raimi directed (especially the larger budgeted sequel), but they're all good times: Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except, The Carrier, Lunatics: A Love Story, and perhaps the best example of all: (Night Of the) Intruder.
In this instance, Scott Spiegel takes the writing and directing helms, with the Raimi brothers are both acting and special effects by the full KNB triumvirate. And the plot is simple enough: a bunch of employees are trapped in a supermarket over night with a mysterious killer. A lot of the writing and acting feels beginner level, but the real supermarket location adds a lot of production value to a well paced slasher film that doesn't take itself too seriously. It also some clever, inventive camerawork and of course some great kills. What more do you want? Bruce Campbell cameo as a cop? Okay, that's in here, too.
So Intruder's one of those home video staples that's kinda been available in some capacity since the days of VHS. On DVD, it was released first by Germany's Dragon Entertainment in 2002, and then re-released that same year by Dragon as an upgraded special edition. Then Screen Entertainment put it on in the UK in 2004 and USA's Wizard Entertainment released it in 2005. I've hung onto that Dragon special edition over the years for a couple unique features we'll come to later. But finally in 2011, Synapse created the definitive release in HD with their special edition blu-ray release, the first 500 copies of which also included a limited, hand-numbered bonus disc of Intruder's longer workprint. Oh, and it's a combo-pack, so I'm including Synapse's SD DVD in the comparison, too.
Dragon's 2002 special edition DVD top; Synapse's 2011 blu-ray 2nd,
Synapse's 2011 DVD 3rd and Synapse's 2011 workprint DVD 4th.
So Dragon's disc looks pretty poor; but we were actually happy to get it in 2002. They did improve the picture quality (and sound) over their earlier non-special edition, and none of the other country's DVD releases were much better. It was always put out in fullscreen until Synapse got their hands on it. The earlier DVDs are open matte, so at least they have a little curiosity value; but Synapse's new widescreen transfer is correct (or close to it... their 1.78 is probably a bit more open than the originally envisioned 1.85 theatrical ratio) and makes the image look more refined and less clunky. And as you can see, if you get a copy with the workprint, that gives you an opportunity to see the film with all the extra picture anyway, so no need to track down and old DVD just for that.

The Dragon disc is still clearly over-saturated, but that's still probably preferable to the super faded workprint, which almost looks black and white. But the colors, clarity of image (you can finally read the headline on those TV Guides - yay!) and really everything about the Synapse's new 2k transfer is so superior, it really invalidates everything that came before it. Plus, as you can see in the second set of shots, Dragon's DVD had interlacing problems.
So none of the Intruder DVDs had any extras except for Dragon's special edition. They included two short deleted scenes of more gruesome special effects shots taken from the workprint, two trailers for the film, and a photo gallery. And most interestingly of all, and why I still own this disc, it features two early Scott Spiegel short films. There's Torro. Torro. Torro!, co-written and directed by Josh Becker, about a killer lawnmower. It features all of the old crew again: both Raimi's, Bruce Campbell, John Cameron and Rob Tapert. And then there's Attack Of the Helping Hand, where the Hamburger Helper mascot goes on a killing rampage, starring Sam Raimi and shot by Campbell. They're both just silly little home-made films, mostly of interest for fans of the guys. Dragon also included a booklet, but the text is all in German.

Synapse has produced a more traditional and fully loaded special edition. It has an audio commentary with Spiegel and producer Lawrence Bender, which is quite good. Spiegel has mastered the art of commentaries by working as a moderator on other director's horror films, so this one moves along at a brisk and informative click. There's then a substantial, 40 minute 'making of' featurette which interviews everybody from Bruce Campbell to Renée Estevez, a brief interview with Vincent Pereira about the censored cut originally released on VHS, audition footage, outtakes from the now lost film Night Crew, the short Spiegel shot to raise funding for Intruder, trailers and a photo gallery. And if you missed out on one of the limited editions with the workprint, don't feel too bad, because there's also a selection of the most important unique scenes from that included as an extra on the main disc.
This isn't an objectively great film, but if you're looking for an enjoyable 80s slasher flick, this delivers in all departments. And Synapse has given it top of the line presentation. Now we just need them to tackle Lunatics: A Love Story (it's in seriously dire need) - oh, and Code Red to create a blu-ray of The Carrier - and that's this whole line of films pretty much covered with excellent home video releases. And if you're a huge fan, you can track down the Dragon disc for those two shorts. And you can get many of the gang's other shorts on DV-R direct from Josh Becker's website.

4 comments:

  1. Isn't NIGHT CREW the original title of INTRUDER before it ended up going into post-production with Charles Band's Empire Pictures(during Empire's last days as a film company),since I remember the Variety magazine AFM(American Film market) 1988 issue's poster sporting that very title(and with INTRUDER's very same stars and filming crew),as well as an issue of Deep Red magazine sporting that same exact poster.

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    1. Yeah, you're right. It's actually both. He first made a super 8 short called Night Crew to raise funding for the full-length (like how Raimi did Within the Woods before Evil Dead). And the full-length was also called Night Crew, originally.
      (I'm only such an expert thanks to watching the extras in Synapse's set haha)

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  2. Are you gonna do a comparison with the new 88 films blu ray release of Intruder?

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    1. Probably not, at least no time soon. I'd really like to get more multiple editions for the sake of this site, but I don't get sent screeners or anything, so I have to pick and choose what I really want to add to my collection on my limited budget.

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