‘The Intruder Within’ (1981) Review

ff-intruder-within-featured

Sometimes I get an itch to watch an oil-rig based horror movie. That’s a horribly specific itch, isn’t it? When I was a kid I saw this made-for-TV horror movie about a monster stalking people on an oil rig. It was your basic Alien ripoff, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I always thought an oil rig was a great setting for a horror movie, and I’ve looked for it ever since, without much luck. In the absence of the specific film I figured maybe 2010’s The Rig would do the job.

Spoiler alert. It did not do the job.

Gah. I hated it. I mean, it’s better than some movies I’ve watched, but it was just lifeless and poorly made. I couldn’t adjust my expectations and ended up bailing more than halfway through – I just couldn’t bring myself to give a crap about the characters, and the production – editing, writing, acting, cinematography – contained nothing worth sitting through.

My disappointment provided the impetus to try, once more, to find the TV movie I remembered. And this time the internet gods were kind. Not only did I find the title – The Intruder Within – the whole movie is available on YouTube! It was apparently also released on VHS, but I don’t have a VHS player anymore and besides – where the hell could I find a copy?

ff-intruder-within-vhs

Anyway, I streamed it to the basement and was finally able to sit and relive a moment from my childhood.

The Medium
Streaming on YouTube. There’s no other option to see The Intruder Within unless you have one of the few VHS releases from the 1980’s. I’d love to see this in a better format, but for now it’s all we’ve got.

The Movie
It’s always a crapshoot re-watching something you remember from your childhood. Will it be as good as you remember? Almost never. Usually it disappoints you tremendously and you end up wishing you’d never watched it again and kept your golden memories intact. So I started watching with a bit of trepidation, expecting little and still thinking I’d be disappointed. And you know what? It’s not bad! It’s an Alien ripoff made only a couple of years after that film. It’s an early 80’s TV movie, with all the framing, lighting, music and acting that implies. It’s low-budget cheesy horror, with broadly drawn characters, bad music cues and really, REALLY low budget monster effects. Yet somehow it’s ten times the entertainment The Rig was. It’s also pretty scary for TV, especially 80’s TV.

ff-intruder-within-2

We’ve got your standard group of characters, quickly but likeably drawn with some small character bits, including the rough-but-honorable foreman (Chad Everett), the new woman who’s competent and tough (played by Slap Shot’s Jennifer Warren), the big-with-a-heart-of-gold, right hand man (Rockne Tarkington) and, of course, the requisite scientist bad guy (played by The Black Hole’s Joseph Bottoms). There’s the plot setup when the rig brings up a handful of mysterious eggs. (Just going all-in on the Alien ripoff.) Of course they hatch and chaos ensues. Was it an accident, or is there something more sinister going on?

ff-intruder-within-3

One of the characters, Chili, is played by an actor I couldn’t recognize at first. Turns out it’s because he’s so young and has dark hair in the movie. I mean, how am I supposed to recognize Michael Hogan – Colonel Ti from the Battlestar Galactica reboot – without the bald head and permanent scowl? All of the actors are vaguely familiar, actually. I’m sure they were all in various TV shows in the 80’s.

There are some icky moments – the alien-impregnation storyline is a disturbing hack I’d like to never see again – and some unexplained plot points (how and why is the radio being blocked again?), but in general it’s all good monster movie fun, with plenty of tense moments and a monster that, for all its low budget glory, is still better than the one in Prophecy. Don’t get me wrong – it’s also terrible, with incredibly low-budget special effects and music that borders on the ludicrous. It’s just got a little life to it, a little character and the people involved obviously wanted to make a real horror movie.

ff-intruder-within-1

The Bottom Line
The Intruder Within is not the best monster movie you’ll ever see, but it works well within its constraints and is much better than it has any right to be. And I loved getting a chance to see it again.

Author: Bob Cram

Would like to be mysterious but is instead, at best, slightly ambiguous.