Can a young woman coming off of a horrid childhood outwit a psychopathic killer who possesses an extraordinarily strong olfactory sense? This is the pressing question driving “Intensity,” an uncommonly disturbing piece of four-hour business that embodies an odd dichotomy: It’s sharply produced and well acted, yet wholly implausible and exasperating.
Filmed in Vancouver, B.C., by Mandalay Entertainment in association with TriStar Television. Executive producer, Tom Patricia; co-executive producer, Dean Koontz; producer, Preston Fischer; director, Yves Simoneau; writer, Stephen Tolkin; based on the novel by Koontz; Mini draws its primary juice from the exceptional performance of John C. McGinley (“Platoon,” “Nothing to Lose”) as Edgler Vess, a serial killer who takes an almost orgasmic pleasure in the intensity and reliving of his shotgun kills. McGinley is so good it’s truly frightening, the demented menace bursting from his every expression.
Director Yves Simoneau uses the camera to great artistic effect. He embraces a washed-out and creepy look that grabs the viewer around the throat and shakes, taking novelist Dean Koontz’s bestseller of the same name and creating a cinematic page-turner that you can’t turn off.
Yet on many levels, “Intensity” succeeds in spite of itself, forced to overcome an adapted script (by Stephen Tolkin) that contains plot holes wide enough to drive a mobile home through.
The heroine of the story is Chyna Shepherd (played by Molly Parker, a kind of disheveled Shannen Doherty). Chyna, as we see often in flashback, suffered a Charles Manson-esque upbringing from a drunk, drugged-out, ineffectualmother and a drunk, drugged-out, mega-violent stepfather. This will become important later on, for sketchy reasons.
Anyhow, Chyna gets all kinds of bummed-out when the family with whom she is spending Thanksgiving gets blown away by the humorless Edgler — a name that might leave any of us feeling a mite homicidal. It’s never really clear what drew the killer to target this family, aside from some hazy, misplaced obsession with the clan’s piano-virtuoso son.
In short order, Chyna is flashbacking her little tail off while simultaneously hiding from and stalking Edgler and his monstrosity of a motor home. She feels compelled to follow the guy after overhearing that he is imprisoning a now-mute teenage girl (Tori Paul), since if there is anything she can relate to, it’s adolescent abuse.
So what does Chyna do? She foolishly puts her life in danger at every turn, going back into the house of carnage to check on her dead friends and then scampering into the motor home to see what’s going on there. She ultimately gets taken prisoner by Edgler, but she has had so many chances to get away (at least a dozen) that it’s tough to muster much compassion.
And Chyna isn’t the only one to suffer from stupidity syndrome. So does Miriam Braynard (Piper Laurie), who decides that the best approach is to tailgate the killer’s vehicle until she rear-ends him.Everything leads to a fairly unsatisfying climax involving killer dogs and angelic wolves (in Koontz’s book, the animal saviors were elk, of all things). No loose ends are tied up, and the motivation behind loose cannon Edgler’s murderous behavior remains unexplained.
Again, however, “Intensity” is one very watchable and — true to the title — intense ride. It holds one’s interest through the full four hours. You just wish there was a little bit more there there, and a heroine with a few more firing neurons.
Cinematography is superior, and other tech credits are all top-notch.