The specter of a menace who invades one’s home turf and can’t be ousted is universally disturbing, and director John Schlesinger goes all out to make this creepy thriller-chiller as unsettling as it needs to be.
Story has babes-in-the-woods home buyers Patty (Melanie Griffith) and Drake (Matthew Modine) spending their every dime to restore an 1883 Victorian house in San Francisco, counting on the income from two downstairs apartments to meet the mortgage.
A nice Asian couple takes the one-bedroom, but the studio falls to reptilian Michael Keaton, who smoothtalks Modine into handing over a key without money up front. After he ‘takes possession’, it becomes clear they’ll never see a dollar from this unnerving man. They encounter the shock of a legal system that’s always on the renter’s side.
First-time film scripter Daniel Pyne sets up a menacing cat-and-mouse game as sociopath Keaton plays the system to his advantage, finally provoking Modine into attacking him so he can go after his assets with a lawsuit. But pic loses its grip when it tips over into psycho-chiller territory.
Griffith lights up the screen as the kittenish but in-control Patty who lets her instincts be her guide when she takes off after Keaton on a one-woman crusade for justice.