It's closing time at the Walnut Lake Market, but one customer isn't ready to leave: Craig Peterson, the unstable, explosively violent ex-boyfriend of cashier Jennifer Ross. When an argument between them turns physical, Bill Roberts, one of the store's owners, and several of the male employees attempt to throw him out, but he manages to escape into the store. Jennifer tries to call the police but when Craig assaults her again, he's restrained and this time, they manage to shove him out the door; he continues stalking the grounds afterward, though. After that little crisis is over, Bill and the other owner, Danny, inform everybody that they've sold the store and it'll be closed down by the end of the month, putting all of them out of a job. The night crew's task is to now begin marking down everything but, as work commences, Craig begins making harassing phone-calls to Jennifer, and while the police do finally arrive, the two bumbling officers do little to help and only suggest that they be careful about Craig. After her shift ends and she buys some groceries for herself, Jennifer's friend Linda prepares to go home for the night, before getting stabbed to death by a shadowy, knife-wielding figure. Following that, Bill investigates outside the store when he sees that someone is trying to get in through a back entrance and when he spots Craig spying on Jennifer through the bathroom window, the two get into a fight that leaves Bill unconscious on the ground. Someone then begins murdering Danny and the other employees in very grisly ways and hacks their bodies up to leave various pieces here and there. When Jennifer becomes the only one left, it is up to her to discover if the killer is Craig or someone else, all the while trying to escape with her life.
While not loathsome (for the most part), the characters are mainly your typical slasher movie cannon fodder, with little to no substance to them. The final girl, Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox), is likable enough to where, during the third act when it's just her and the killer, you want to see her live and Cox does a good job at coming across as scared to death but, at the same time, proactive enough to where she fights back, but there isn't much to her character. That said, she does have more to her than some of the others, in that she's having to deal with an obsessive and unpredictably violent ex-boyfriend who shows up at the store and won't leave her alone, even after he's thrown out, and you learn that when she broke up with him at a bar, he went into such a rage over it that he actually killed someone in a fight. And like everyone else, she's worried about her future now that the Walnut Lake Market is closing down. Speaking of said ex-boyfriend, Craig Peterson (David Byrnes), he becomes the red herring when the murders begin after he's thrown out of the store and continues stalking the grounds, but he's so blatantly obvious that you know right off the bat it's not him. Even so, Byrnes does give a very intense, intimidating performance, coming across as very unstable and violent. When he first shows up at the market and confronts Jennifer, it doesn't take long for you to realize his threats aren't to be taken lightly, as he snaps with very little provocation, actually slapping Jennifer in the face when she calls him crazy as he's trying to drag her away, and he puts up a real fight and struggle when he's restrained and eventually tossed out of the store. And yet, he becomes something of a hero during the climax when it's just him and Jennifer left to take on the killer (not that it matters anyway, as we'll see). The person you expect to become the hero in the end is Dave (Billy Marti), this really likable, good-looking employee who helps out in getting rid of Craig, tries to comfort Jennifer about it, and the two of them become a couple during the night's events, with him asking her out on a date and such, but, when he finds the dead bodies and tries to help Jennifer when he sees that Craig has gotten back into the store, he ends up getting killed in a very gruesome and painful way, screaming in absolute horror the whole time.
Linda (Renee Estevez, who some early releases tried to pass off as the lead), Jennifer's friend, is the one hits the panic button when she's being confronted by Craig early on, as well as tries to help out and then comfort her afterward when she confides in her about what happened between her and Craig. She also ends up accidentally cursing out her boyfriend when he calls right after Craig has made a harassing phone-call to Jennifer, and she buys some groceries to take home with her after her shift is over. However, she's the first one to die, as she's stabbed just as she's put her groceries in her car out back. Bub (Burr Stevens) is memorable in that, I swear, he sounds and acts like a proto-Owen Wilson, mixed with a little bit of Bill and Ted era Keanu Reeves! He sounds like that kind of laid back, stoned surfer dude (Bill does mention at one point that he caught him smoking some "wacky tobaccy" up in the attic), and comes across as not too smart, as well as a bit of a prankster and annoying, such as when he's aggravating Dave as he tries to put merchandise on the shelves. His voice and rather dumb attitude does tend to grate on my nerves, I must say. Most significantly, he used to be friends with Craig, who he says used to be a cool guy but just went nuts at one point, with the death of his father and drugs being a big a part of it, and the two of them got into a fight at one point that would've turned deadly for him had his brother not been there (he says that his brother whacked Craig over the head with a blender). Ultimately, his death is just as gruesome and agonizingly slow as Dave's, in that he gets his head crushed in a hydraulic press in the back. Tim (Craig Stark), who works in the back where the drinks are kept, is the least developed of them all, as he does little more than play a prank here and there (according to Bub, he once gave him a wedgie) and more or less hit on Linda at one point, and there's not much else to him before he ultimately pays it back there with a butcher knife to the gut. In fact, that image of him dying is the only decent one of him I could find.
Sam Raimi has appeared in a lot of movies, both his own and those made by friends of his, like Scott Spiegel, but his role here as Randy, who works in the back with the meat, has to be one of his most significant, as he has a fair amount of screentime with several lines. His most memorable moment, aside from the beginning when he walks right into the altercation with Craig and he gets shoved into a display of soda cans as a distraction, and his death scene, which ties into his occupation, is when he's walking around back, looking through the keyhole of the co-owner's office when he sees a red light coming through it (blood dripping all over a light on the floor in there), when a ladder suddenly falls on him from offscreen. He angrily says, "What idiot left that there... oh, I did," and when he has trouble putting it back, he kicks at it, growling, "Get out of the way!"; both of those are references to lines from the Three Stooges, which Raimi absolutely loves. He can also be heard, at one point, singing the song the characters were singing at the very beginning of The Evil Dead to himself. Ted Raimi, who has appeared in numerous movies through the years, is also here as Joe (billed as "Produce Joe" in the ending credits), a completely oblivious geek who's always in the back, jamming to some very gay-sounding music over his headphones while chopping up vegetables. As a result, he has no clue when anything's going on, be it that he's soon going to be unemployed as a result of the store closing, that it's time for lunch, or even his own imminent death. He also acts all tough when Dave mentions Craig during his first appearance, saying that he kicked his ass in a fight, but when he hears that Craig is currently hiding somewhere in the store, hiding somewhere, he very quickly loses that smug confidence.
Going back to Sam Raimi's love of the Three Stooges, Emil Sitka, one of their most frequent costars and who'd appeared in Raimi's earlier film, Crimewave (incidentally, his final film appearance would be The Nutt House, which Spiegel was involved with), shows up here in the beginning as Mr. Abernathy, a hapless old man whose grocery bag tears open at the bottom when he picks it up. As he's leaving, he says his famous line, "Hold hands, you lovebirds," to a young couple who walk past him. Just as bumbling are Officers Dalton (Alvy Moore) and Matthews (Tom Lester), who show up at the store long after Craig has been ejected from it, do nothing to help, and prove to not know what they're doing, like when the latter can't find his card and when they try to leave afterward and can't get the door open. I have a feeling that Spiegel doesn't have a very high opinion of the police force, a feeling that's reinforced when you get to the ending where Bruce Campbell (whose face they put front and center in an image on the back of the Wizard Entertainment DVD) and Lawrence Bender, who also produced the film and wrote the story with Spiegel, show up as two utterly loathsome police officers who immediately arrest and charge Jennifer and Craig with the murders, won't listen to them, and get verbally and physically abusive towards them to the point where it's infuriating. I'll get more into that later but I cannot tell you how much that last scene very nearly makes the movie irredeemable. (Their actions are somewhat understandable, given what they know about Craig and that they find him and Jennifer with blood all over, but they still take it to hateful extremes.) And finally, Greg Nicotero, who did the makeup effects with Bob Kurtzman and Howard Berger, appears very briefly as a guy who shows up at the store but leaves when he can't get in, oblivious to the carnage that's going on (I didn't even know it was him until I saw the credits).
Like I said, at first, I was pretty incredulous about the idea of a horror film being set entirely in and around a grocery store (literally, we never leave this location throughout the duration), as that's hardly a place that inspires fear or atmosphere, but when I actually saw it, I thought it was handled fairly well. First of all, I like the look of the store, and that it's one of those little local markets you see in small towns rather than being part of a nationwide chain, with generic types of products along with the actual brands (I know it is a chain but, regardless, it reminds me of the little Save-A-Lot in my hometown). It has a more honest, nicely quaint feeling than the big chains and I like the idea that it was made into what it currently is by just two guys. Plus, as random as this may seem, I like that it has a lobster tank, as it reminds me of a big store near my home that used to have one when I was very, very little. And, while it's never exactly scary, Scott Spiegel and company do manage to give the store something of an atmosphere, particularly after closing time, when the customers have gone home, and the night crew are working there by themselves. Having never worked in retail, I never thought about it that way before but it is true that being in a place like that at night, with few or no other people around, could be kind of eerie. While the main part of the store doesn't become creepy until the third act, when the lights go out, other parts like the back, where the drinks, meat, and fruit and vegetables are stored until they're ready to be put out, and the attic, where the holiday decorations are kept, are shown from the beginning to have an unsettling air about them and, therefore, they're where the majority of the killings take place. The exterior of the store, particularly the back, is also pretty creepy, as you see little of the town itself, making it look as if the place is completely isolated and enveloped by the night, and it's heightened by Craig's constantly stalking around the grounds after he's thrown out. Finally, during the climax, you have the notion of being trapped inside a dark place like that with a madman, as you see Jennifer desperately trying to get out the locked front doors, with any chance of help either just missing her or being killed by Bill, and she ultimately has to get out through the restroom window while fighting Bill off and getting help from Craig, of all people.
One thing I really picked up on when I watched the movie again for this review is that Spiegel used a lot of clever foreshadowing in the early parts of the movie. For instance, when Jennifer is struggling with Craig and he slaps her in the face when she calls him crazy, he leaves her with an injured nose that tends to start bleeding every now and again, which later gives away her hiding place to Bill. Also, it's revealed that some of the kids have a habit of riding on this conveyor belt meant for goods in the back of the store, something that Bill chastises them about, and when Jennifer is discovering the hacked up bodies during the third act, she sees Joe's body coming down the conveyor belt, only for the limbs to fall off from the shaking of it. The most notable examples, though, are when Bill demonstrates his ability to imitate Danny's voice to freak out Jennifer and Dave when they're talking in back, setting up when he later uses it and the severed head to lure her to him, and the story that he tells about "Parker," with him later doing the very thing with Danny's head and a sandwich that he appears to pull out of nowhere. And you also sometimes see the weapon that'll later be used to kill the victims juxtaposed with them, like the bill spike in Danny's office that his eye gets impaled on, the butcher knife Joe uses to cut up produce, and the meat cutter that slices through Dave's head.
Like his friend Sam Raimi, Spiegel is a director who likes to experiment with camera angles and film from unusual spots. You see this right from the beginning in Intruder, when you get two point-of-view shots from inside a shopping cart, and then throughout the film, he proceeds to shoot from all kinds of angles. Sometimes, they're simple, overhead shots, like when Randy looks up at the opening to the attic while looking Craig early on or when the conversation between Bub and Linda about Craig is shot from above and tilted, but other times, they're far more elaborate, like shooting up through the floor as Jennifer sweeps across it, from the bottom of a wastebasket, or from the point-of-view of a lightly-turning doorknob facing Bill. As I mentioned earlier, the one I always remember is from inside an old rotary phone as Linda talks to her boyfriend, as it's not only not something you see every day but also comes out of nowhere, with no warning whatsoever. Later on, in From Dusk Till Dawn 2, Spiegel would shoot a phone conversation through the cord but looking through the rotary has to take the cake. But, going back to what I was talking about earlier, these camera angles, while inventive, get kind of egregious and pointless after a while, like Spiegel is only doing them to be like, "Hey, look what I can do with the camera!" Furthermore, there's often no reason to film certain scenes the way he does other than because he can and they tend not to fit with the tone of the moment. I may not be a fan of the Evil Dead movies but one thing I can say about them is that they're so constantly manic that the crazy camerawork and editing Raimi filled them with worked with what was being shown. As such, it would've been nice if Spiegel had gotten creative with how he shot the kills, putting in unexpected POVs and angles as the victims are getting it, rather than wasting them on the quieter character moments for the most part. That's not a knock on the photography as a whole at all, though, because it is very well-done, especially in the shooting of the darkly-lit store and exteriors, the creeping POVs of Craig stalking around outside, the way the blood from Bill's attack on Danny drips onto a light on the floor and bathes the entire room in a red glow that can be seen through the keyhole (the way he puts a jar in front of the camera to obscure the killer's face when the attack starts is also clever), and the way Spiegel sometimes uses reflections in the front doors' windows; you just kind of wish he'd ease up on the nutty and distracting angles.
What most people remember about Intruder are the gore effects and kills, courtesy of KNB, which had just recently been formed and worked with Sam Raimi on Evil Dead II, and there's a very good reason for it. While the original video release from Paramount was heavily cut in order to get an R-rating, the later releases by Wizard Entertainment and Synapse have all of the uncut effects work and it is spectacular. These kills are brutal, wicked, and pretty creative: eyeballs impaled on bill spikes, butcher knives to the chest, gut, back, and the back of the head, Raimi's character Randy getting hung up on a meat hook through the bottom jaw, Bub getting his head crushed in a heavy, hydraulic press, and Dave's head getting sliced straight through by a meat-slicer, all with blood and chunks of meat running and splattering everywhere. In addition, you have Bill's sickening habit of hacking up the bodies and placing their parts in various spots throughout the store, like a hand in the lobster tank and another packaged up like a piece of meat, an eyeball in a jar of olives and on the floor (which gets squished), Dave's sliced through head being found by Jennifer in the back amongst the soda cans, Tim's torso and legs found in two separate garbage cans (complete with a sign that says, "As Advertised: 1/2 off,") and Bill using Danny's head not only as a means to trick Jennifer but also as a weapon against Craig during the climax. And by the end of the movie, the remaining characters are virtually covered in blood, especially Bill, who gets attacked and stabbed in a phone booth, including with a meat cleaver right between the fingers! It does get pretty sick at points but it's never not entertaining and, while it may sometimes have you covering your eyes, going "Ew!", more than likely, you'll be laughing at the same time.
That's another thing this movie has in common with the Evil Dead films: combining gory special effects with tongue-in-cheek, even slapstick style humor. Besides those gory sight-gags, including the reveal of a small sign on the wall telling employees to be careful with knives after Joe's been stabbed in the back of the head and Jennifer, at one point, having to use Randy's hanging body to try to keep Bill inside the meat locker, as well as the other instances of Bill's sick sense of humor, you also have that over-the-top, ridiculous visual of him beating on Craig with Danny's severed head and the editing providing moments of morbid humor. Just about every time someone's killed, it'll cut to something that makes it uncomfortably funny, like how Bub's head getting squished to a blood pulp cuts to a low angle of Randy wrapping up some pieces of meat and such. In fact, the very tone of the movie is kind of campy and not meant to be taken seriously, given the attitudes of some of the characters and the slapsticky moments, with the addition of the crazy gore effects and everything else giving it an over-the-top, almost comic book-type of feel. It's entertaining enough for the most part but, as with Spiegel's directing style, it does overstay its welcome as the movie goes on and you want to tell the filmmakers, "Okay, I get it." And as John Stanley said in his Creature Features book, all of this comic stuff makes the ending feel all the more out-of-place and upsetting.
The film doesn't waste much time in getting started. Right after the beginning, as closing time nears, Jennifer walks out into the parking lot and gathers up some shopping carts, when the camera pulls back to reveal Craig Peterson watching her from nearby, standing behind a cart that he pushes towards her (of course, we get a point-of-view shot from it). She stops it, wondering where it came from, but when she doesn't see anybody in the direction where it came, she puts it with the others and rolls them back into the store, closing the door behind her, the glass of which reflects Craig standing nearby. Inside the store, the lights begin to shut off and Jennifer says goodnight to one of her last customers, when the next one turns out to be Craig. He immediately confronts her about not returning his calls or writing back to him, and when Linda tries to intervene and Craig harshly tells her, "Fuck off!", she pushes the panic button. The alarm rings inside Danny's office but Bill is forced to simply look out the window to see what's going on, as Danny's more interested in the contract and says the girls should handle their own problems. Back at the checkout, Craig is getting more and more irritable, and when he tries to talk to her calmly, Jennifer tells him that it's over, making him angrier. All she wants from him is $1.35 for the pack of cigarettes he brought up to her but when he pulls out some money and she reaches for it, he grabs her by the wrist. Linda tries to help but Craig shoves her off, and Jennifer tries to run for it but he catches her and tries to pull her away. When she makes the mistake of calling him crazy, he slaps her in the face, telling her not to call him that, and Dave comes in, managing to pull him loose, but gets pushed into a rack of chips for his trouble. Bill runs in behind Craig, grabs him, and wrestles him to the floor, but when Craig gets the upper hand, Dave rushes back in and pulls Craig off of him. Craig manages to reach around, grab Dave by the hair, and throw him to the floor, but Bill gets back up and punches Craig right in the face, only to get punched himself, but is able to return the punches. Danny and Tim come in, followed by Bub, as Dave tries to restrain Craig from behind. Danny punches Craig in the gut but he manages to get up and shove him into the others with his feet, elbowing Dave in the stomach to get him off. Outnumbered, Dave backs away from the others, when Randy obliviously walks down the aisle to his right, only to be grabbed and thrown into a display of Diet Pepsis, giving Craig the distraction he needs to escape and hide. Danny tells Jennifer to call the police and everyone else to search the store for Craig.
As Jennifer tries to get ahold of the police, while wiping away the blood from her bleeding nose, the others search every inch of the store, with Bub looking down an aisle full of cereal boxes (as well as stopping to munch on some cookies), Randy peers up the ladder leading to the attic after hearing a loud creak and then checks the meat locker in back, while Dave is looking around in the attic, and Danny checks the restroom and one of the stalls, only to find that whoever used it last didn't flush (thankfully, we don't actually see that but rather can tell from his expression and his flushing it himself). Bill then uses the window in the office to check the entire shop floor, while Jennifer is put on hold by the police department, and Dave checks down in the produce section, only get to be startled when Joe comes sliding down the conveyor. When Dave mentions Craig, Joe boasts that the two of them had a fight one time and he beat the crap out of him, but becomes less smug when he's told that Craig's currently hiding somewhere in the store. Linda is seen looking down an aisle full of beer, when Tim reaches through the shelves and scares her, an act that Bill, who came running with Bub when they heard Linda shout, chews him out for. Bub then suggests that Craig may be hiding up in the attic and he and Bill go to check it out, while Tim and Linda argue a little about her getting him in trouble. In the next cut, Bill climbs up the ladder to the attic and asks Bub to give him a flashlight, when the top rung breaks out of his hand and he falls roughly to the floor. Bub helps him up and Bill, after yelling, "Son... of... a... whore!", comments, "Well, if he's up there, he's gonna have a hell of a time getting down." Meanwhile, Jennifer is still trying to get through to the police, when Craig rises up behind the booth she's sitting in. Just as she gets through and is about to file her report, Craig bursts through the door, hangs the phone up, and demands she give him his change for the cigarettes. Not expecting this, Jennifer does so, only for Craig to grab her wrist again, put his other hand on the back of her neck, and forcibly try to kiss her. He doesn't get far along in it before Dave grabs him from behind and he and Danny pull him out, the latter again telling Jennifer to call the police. Joined by Bill, they carry the struggling Craig to the door, and after Danny warns him that he'll have to deal with him if he comes back, Bill unlocks it and they shove him out, closing it behind him. He stands out there, staring at everyone, for a bit before creeping backwards into the darkness and everyone then goes to get back to work.
Things then simmer down for a while, as the night crew then learns that Bill and Danny are selling the store, but it's revealed that Craig is still creeping around outside and uses a phone booth to harass Jennifer with threatening phone calls. Her telling him that she called the police, who said they'd send a car as soon as possible, doesn't deter him one bit, as he continues calling. As Jennifer tells Linda that Craig has been in prison recently after a fight at a bar that turned deadly, the camera shows him standing outside the store nearby, watching both of them. Jennifer's paranoia about him being out causes her to wheel around and look at a magazine on a rack with a yelling face on the cover; Craig has disappeared from the door by this point as well. Jennifer said she felt like someone was watching her, when the phone rings again and Linda answers it, saying, "Look here, shithead, if you call here one more time..." only to then realize it's her boyfriend, Teddy. A POV shot shows Craig walking away from the phone booth to the garbage dumpster in front of the restroom window in back, while inside, Jennifer is sweeping up when she finds that, while he was hiding, Craig wrote on a savings sign hanging on a shelf, "Jennifer, I love you and will do anything to get you back." Jennifer rips the sign off, crumples it, and sweeps it away with everything else on the floor. Everybody then gets on to doing their respective jobs, with Dave inviting Jennifer on a date Saturday night and Bill promising to give Jennifer a recommendation for a job at a friend's place. Bub tells Linda of how his friendship with Craig went sour and, during lunch, Bill regales them with when he used to work at the fire department and the incident that made him quit. After the police finally show up, only to tell them that Craig's out on parole and to keep an eye out for him, Linda buys some groceries for herself and Teddy, while Jennifer excuses herself when her nose begins bleeding again. Outside, Craig is still prowling around the back of the store, looking for a way in, when Linda heads out to her car with the groceries. Getting spooked when a box in a pile falls (said pile was up against the back door before), she asks, "Who's there?", but when she gets no response, she proceeds to put her groceries in the trunk. A shadow falls over the open trunk and when she closes it, an obscured, knife-wielding figure grabs her by the throat and uses his weapon to cut her down.
After he's forced by Danny to sign the contract that finally does give the store over to the city, and while Jennifer is still trying to stop her bleeding nose in the bathroom, Bill goes downstairs in the back where the hydraulic press is, when he hears something behind him, grabs a hammer for protection and heads to the back. There, he sees the knob to the back door jiggle and turn a little bit, while, unbeknownst to Jennifer, Craig is watching her through the window in the back of the restroom. Bill walks outside to catch whoever was trying to get in, and after getting startled by a small dog out there, the lid on the dumpster out there suddenly falls to reveal Craig watching Jennifer change her shirt inside. Bill drags him off the dumpster, only for him to kick him up against it when he stomps towards him causing him to drop the hammer. The two of them grapple and Bill gives Craig a couple of punches to the face, knocking him to the ground, but when Bill lunges at him, he gets whacked in the side of the head by his own hammer, sending him tumbling into some boxes nearby. Back inside, work continues as usual, although somebody seems to be stalking Jennifer after she gets through in the restroom, while in his office, Danny is drinking some booze from the bottle. After he sets it down on his desk, somebody comes through the door and grabs his neck from behind. Danny struggles in his grip and tries to call for help on the store's PA system, but the sound goes unanswered and he ends up ripping the cord out in the struggle. While Jennifer gets a phone call from Teddy, asking if Linda's still there, Danny's head is pushed towards the bill spike on his desk and, in spite of his struggling, his left eye is slowly and painfully impaled through it. He knocks over a lamp onto the floor and blood from his convulsing body drips onto it, turning the light in the office red, and, before heading out, the killer looks out the window onto the store floor to make sure no one heard the commotion.
In the next scene, Dave's reassuring towards a still distraught Jennifer turns into some making out on the checkout station, which Tim begins watching from behind the beer shelves. However, when he walks in front of the shelves to get a closer look, it becomes apparent that someone else is watching him watch them. The unseen person unintentionally causes a loud clinking sound and he ducks out of sight when Tim glances back but, fortunately for him, he does nothing else. Elsewhere, Bub is putting away cereal boxes (as in, piling them up behind those that are actually sitting on the shelves, while in the back, Randy steals an olive from a jar (barely missing grabbing an eyeball that's in there as well) and puts a platter in the cold storage. However, when he closes the door when he steps out, it reveals that a large butcher knife that was hanging up on the wall is now missing. In the produce section, Joe is still jamming to his music while cutting up some carrots, when he gets a knife similar to his own to the back of his head. As blood streams out of the wound, he drops to the floor, with the camera showing a sign on the wall that reads, "Safety First. Knives are sharp. Please be careful." Back in the front, after dealing with the frustration of a couple of bags of detergent ripping open on the bottom, Dave then finds he can't get two boxes of the stuff to stay on their shelf. He then sees that it's Bub screwing with him, who then asks to let him borrow his box-cutter. In the back, the killer is pulling Joe's body across the floor, with his Walkman slowly dying as well, while Randy walks over to the manager's office, calling for Danny and Bill. He finds the door locked and is perplexed by the red light streaming through the keyhole. A shadow appears on the wall behind him, when a ladder suddenly falls over on him, startling. He curses whoever left it standing there, only to release that it was him. In another room in the back, Tim is marking down cans of soda, when the door on the other end of the hall slowly creeps open. He tells whoever it is to shut the door but, when he gets no response, he walks over to it and looks through, thinking it's Bub. He yells at the pranksters to quit screwing around and closes the door, when a knife-wielding shadow falls over his own. He looks to his left in time to get a butcher knife in his stomach, which goes all the way through him and punctures the soda cans behind him. Blood and soda are sprayed all over some other cans on the shelves nearby as Tim slowly expires, just barely able to touch the blade that's stuck inside him.
Bub is then shown working with the hydraulic press, when he sees somebody on the other side of it across from him. Thinking it's Tim trying to pull a prank on him, he walks around to the other side, chastising him, but the person ducks out of sight and when Bub comes back around, the person is nowhere to be seen. He hears the sound of glass breaking to his right and when he goes to investigate, he sees Tim on the other side of the shelves, staring ahead blankly. He tries to get him to speak but he doesn't get an answer, and when he leans in closer, a pair of hands suddenly come up, grab him by the hair, and pull him yelling through the shelves. Dave sees some beer cans rolling across the floor on the other side of the aisle he's working in but doesn't pay it any mind; Bub, meanwhile, is carried over to the hydraulic press, the killer shoving his head underneath the edge of it and, keeping him there by holding him by the throat, turns the machine on. Bub screams in sheer terror but is unable to do anything to save himself and, within seconds, the press comes down and squeezes his head into a bloody pulp, the lever on top getting covered with it in the process. Randy is then shown working in the meat locker, inspecting wrapped pieces of meat on the shelves, when he finds a severed hand wrapped up in the plastic. Right before he realizes what it is, he's grabbed from behind, hoisted up, and impaled on one of the meat hooks through his bottom jaw, the blood dripping on the floor and leaking out from under the door. Dave is then still working in the laundry detergent aisle, dealing with boxes that continue to fall, while elsewhere, the killer drops a severed hand in the lobster tank, filling the water up with blood.
Dave calls for Bub to throw him his box cutter and it is tossed to him from behind the shelves, only for the uncovered blade to give him a nasty slice on the palm of his hand. Bleeding, he goes in the back to find Randy's meat-cutter running by itself and, after turning it off, gets a band-aid for his hand. Walking out and into the restroom, he calls for Randy and Bub, when he sees a pair of shoes sitting in the stall in there. When he opens the stall to see who it is, he finds that there are actually two blood stumps in the shoes, which he thinks is a prank they left for him using pigs' feet. Next, he walks over to the meat locker and finds the blood running out from under the door, only to hear some rustling up in the attic, followed by some dust floating down. Climbing up the ladder, calling for Bub, he's startled when he opens the hatch and a Halloween mask falls into his arms. Peering up through the hatch, he scans the attic with his flashlight, and when he doesn't see anything, he climbs all the way up. That's when Danny, still alive but missing an eye, pops up on the other side of the hatch, scaring him and causing him to fall onto the attic's floor. Scrambling over to a spot in the wall that looks over the store floor, he sees Craig creeping up on Jennifer at the checkout station. Panicking upon seeing this, he pounds on the window and yells but Jennifer hears nothing more than some muffled sounds that she ignores; Craig, however, appears to hear the sound. Dave then scrambles back to the ladder, having to deal with Danny, who begs for him to help, and ends up falling down the ladder in the process. He gets to his feet, only for the killer to rush at him, grab onto a meat hook, and use it as leverage to kick him against the wall. He then cuts Dave across the face with a meat cleaver and drags him across the floor by his legs, the guy trying to grab the cleaver on the floor but unable to get a grip on it. Dave struggles to get free but is dragged over to the slicer, his head is forced down beside the blade, the killer switches the machine on, and Dave screams absolute bloody murder as his head is sliced straight through, blood and chunks of flesh splattering everywhere.
She doesn't know it yet, but Jennifer is now the last one left alive. Realizing how quiet things have gotten, she starts walking around, looking for everyone. Calling and getting now answer, she walks down the aisle with the laundry detergent to find that the one box has fallen again and shouts, "Where is everybody?" After a short montage of the now empty, blood-soaked store, Jennifer puts the box on the shelf, only to be startled when the one sitting beside it falls, and starts walking down the aisle while calling for everyone again, passing by the lobster tank with the severed hand, which she doesn't notice. She heads into the back, looking for Randy, and heads for the meat locker, unknowingly stepping on an eyeball on the floor as she goes. She wipes her feet in response and notices a jiggling meat-hook nearby, when a side of beef slides down towards her. Disgusted, she yells, "That's not funny, Randy!", but when she turns around, she screams at the sight of his hanging corpse. Seeing a silhouette standing nearby, she ducks inside the meat locker and hides in the back between sides of beef, grabbing a hook for protection. She keeps an eye on the door, unaware of a pair of severed human legs behind her, when another side of beef across from her to the right moves. She then runs for the door and, once out, slams it on the killer's hand, trying to keep him in. The two of them play a game of tug-o-war, pushing against each other on either side of the door, but even stabbing him in the back of the hand with the hook and using the extra force of Randy's hanging body doesn't deter him, forcing Jennifer to run back onto the store floor. She runs to Danny's office, pounding on the door and calling for him and Bill, and when she doesn't get an answer, she tries to look through the keyhole, only to then notice the blood streaming out from under the door. Backing away from this as quickly as possible, she ends up falling down the conveyor belt down into the produce section, where she's greeted by the grisly sight of Tim's torso and legs in two separate garbage cans, with a "1/2 Off" sign hanging on the former as a sick joke. Getting off the slide, she runs towards the press, only to find a pile of crushed boxes and Bub's remains mixed in with them. Going back to the conveyor when she hears it running, she sees Joe's body sliding down, and when it reaches the bottom, it stops a second before going back up, knocking loose the head and other body parts as a result. Jennifer then runs down the corridor to the back door but can't open it and runs into the section behind where the drinks are stored, opening the door to see Dave's sliced head sitting with the cans on the shelves. Barely able to stifle a scream when seeing this, she's even more horrified when the lights in the store go out.
Seeing some headlights along the wall, Jennifer quickly scrambles to get to the front door, but by the time she reaches it, the two people who pulled up have seen that the store is closed and driven away. Craig's reflection the appears in the glass and, terrified, Jennifer backs up into him and swings around to get him in the side of the neck with her hook. He tumbles to the floor, hitting a shopping cart as he goes, and she begins to cry at the prospect of having possibly killed him and him being the killer. Backing away from his body, it seems like she really is now the only person in the store left alive, when she hears the sound of a door closing in back, followed by the sound of approaching footsteps. Bill then appears and Jennifer runs to him. He comforts her, telling her how Craig knocked him outside the store, and tells her to wait while he goes to call the police. A cutaway shows Craig's eyes open, but as she watches Bill dial the police, Jennifer notices that there are splotches of blood on her shirt and her hands are covered in it. Looking back at Bill as he turns around, holding the phone, she sees a severely bleeding puncture wound on the back of his hand (it's now on the wrong hand, by the way), and he then notices that she sees it. She realizes that he's the killer, as he slams the phone down and chases after her to the door, running across the checkout stations to keep up with her and grabbing her by the hair at the end. Pulling her around to the side of the counter, ripping out some hair in the process, he hops down in front of her, staring at the hair stuck to his bloody hand. Jennifer asks why he killed everyone and Bill explains that he did it to keep Danny from selling the store, killing the night crew as well in order to keep them from getting in his way. Calling him sick and spitting in his face, Bill shows how right she is when he licks it up and tells her that he's crazy about the store. Making it clear that he's going to kill her as well, he lunges at her but she grabs a bottle on the checkout counter and hits him in the head, knocking him to the floor.
Running into an aisle, Jennifer hits a display and smashes a bottle on the floor, as Bill gets to his feet and grabs a meat cleaver. Jennifer then hides inside the display's hollow interior, liquid from the bottle streaming across the floor, as Bill searches for her. She tries to get her nose, which has started bleeding again, under control, when she sees him walk up and stop beside the display through the small holes in it. He stands there, scanning the store, as Jennifer tries to stay quiet, when drops of blood from her nose mix with the liquid on the floor, something that Bill notices. Turning his attention to the display, he smiles, knowing he's found her, and hacks into the flimsy material with the meat cleaver, forcing her to duck out and run for it. Watching her run down the aisle, Bill decides to skirt around it to cut her off, while she runs in the back and grabs two knives. After getting up her nerve, she walks cautiously back onto the store floor, while Bill continues looking for her, stopping at one point to put some paper towels back on their shelf. Jennifer runs into the cereal aisle, stopping to look for him, when he bursts through the top shelf behind her and grabs her by the hair. She drops one knife and only manages to stab into a box with the other, as he tries to pull her backwards over the shelf. She then grabs a jar of wheat germ and smashes it over his head, causing her to let her go and run off after grabbing her knife. Jennifer runs to the front door, trying to force it open before attempting to smash the glass with a nearby gas tank but nothing works. A man delivering some bread to the door then shows up outside but before she can warn him, Bill attacks him from behind, stabbing him and causing him to spit up blood on the glass. The body slumps down against the glass, although Bill has to force it down to the ground with a bop to the head, and he then reminds Jennifer that he has the keys to the door before heading around back to reenter the store. Standing there, exhausted, she hears knock in back of her and yells for whoever it is to identify themselves. Getting no answer, she picks her knife back up and heads again into the depths of the store. Walking down one aisle, she hears what sounds like Danny yelling for help and she then sees his head and arm around the bend of a nearby aisle. Running to his aide, Jennifer pulls on his arm, only to see that the arm was Bill's and he was using Danny's severed head and his impression of him to lure her over. Sickly kissing the side of the face, he growls, "You're next," and actually grabs her knife by the blade when she tries to stab him, seemingly not bothered by its cutting deep into his hand. Marching towards her as she backs down the aisle, Bill eats a sandwich while carrying the head, almost singing, "Here comes fucking Parker, walking down nine miles, swinging the goddamn head by the hair in one hand and his sandwich in the other." When she doesn't run, he gets irritated at her for "playing hard to get," and forces her to run and hide again.
She runs into Craig, who grabs her and pulls her into the cereal aisle, and after he gets her to stop yelling, he explains how Bill tried to set him up, that he saw him kill Linda following their scuffle outside (again, that doesn't line up at all with how things played out), and that they're going to get out through the restroom window, which is how he got in. However, Bill then comes yelling around the corner of the aisle, attacking Craig by using Danny's head as a weapon, and sending Jennifer running. As Bill beats Craig down to the floor with the head, Jennifer runs into the back, into the restroom, to try to climb out the window. Leaving the head on top of Craig, Bill prepares to finish Jennifer off, as she struggles to open the window and climb out it around the dumpster in front of it. She manages to get out and run just as Bill reaches the window. Running amongst the junk piled around outside, she heads for her jeep and unlocks the driver's door, only for Linda's body to tumble out, startling her and causing her to drop the keys. Bill then reaches from under the jeep and grabs her by the leg, managing to pull her underneath the jeep to the other side. Once he's got there, he prepares to kill her with his meat cleaver, when she reveals that she pulled out the knife he left sticking in Linda's torso and stabs him right in the chest. Shocked, he asks, "Where'd you get the knife?", before falling to the ground hard enough to send the knife flying out, sticking into one of many boxes beside him. Getting up, Jennifer runs to the nearby phone booth and calls the police, telling them that she needs help. Right after she tells them to send a squad car, Bill bursts through the glass to her right, still brandishing his meat cleaver, and while she manages to beat him back with the phone, he runs to the door and rocks the entire booth back and forth until he pushes it completely over. She crawls out of the hole in the glass as he comes in through the door and tries to pull her back in, when Craig shows up, grabs the meat cleaver, and hits him with it repeatedly, including right between the fingers on his hand. He then hits him with it repeatedly around the shoulder, splattering blood all over the inside of the booth, until he stops moving. Convinced that he's dead, the two of them just stand there, looking at the body, as a police car pulls up.
Here, we get into the incredibly shitty, mean-spirited ending, and talking about it is just as infuriating as watching it. The police car pulls up to Jennifer and Craig, the officers jump out, pulling their guns on them, and immediately throw them up against the hood of the car and begin handcuffing them. They won't listen to what they have to say, tell them to shut up, even when Jennifer tries to tell that she's the one who called (the cop restraining her, unfortunately, finds her box-cutter in her pocket), and then, to make matters worse, Bill is able to croak out that they're the ones who killed everybody. The one cop heads into the store to check it out, telling his partner to keep an eye on them, and he gets really rough with Craig when he tries to tell him what's going on. He even smacks Jennifer's head against the hood when she again tries to tell them they didn't do it and screams at her to shut up, and when Craig tells him to leave her alone, he gets slammed back down and hit on the back of the head, all while Bill chuckles at what he's seeing. The other officer comes back out, tells him of the carnage he's found inside, as Bill seems to expire, but when Jennifer and Craig are being read their rights, his eyes pop open, as Jennifer lets out a blood-curdling scream and the movie ends. Not only are these cops themselves absolutely hateful with how they immediately handcuff the two of them without even asking what's going on, in spite of the fact that the dispatcher had to have heard Jennifer screaming after she called, but, from a dramatic standpoint, it's just so awful to see this happen to her after everything she's been through. I've heard that on Scream Factory's Blu-Ray edition of Army of Darkness, Bruce Campbell basically mocks the test audiences who didn't care for the original apocalyptic ending for that film, where Ash ends up sleeping for centuries and waking up after mankind has destroyed itself, so it seems like he, Sam Raimi, and everybody else in that group and inner-circle of theirs likes these kind of downbeat endings. While I think Campbell's attitude about that isn't the best, I myself can take unhappy endings if they fit with the movie (heck, one of my favorite directors, John Carpenter, often ends his films on a downbeat or, at the very least, ambiguous note); but in this instance, it feels like a more extreme example of what Fred Dekker was talking about when he explained why he hated the studio-enforced ending for Night of the Creeps. To each their own, but this ending just about kills the movie for me. I guess it's better than the original idea for it, though, which had Jennifer's heart stopping after she screams!
The music score was composed by the late Basil Poledouris, who's best known for doing the music for the original RoboCop, and it's every bit as unusual as the film itself. The main theme, which you hear during the opening credits, the latter part of the ending credits, and often whenever someone is killed, is a pretty freaky, nightmarish piece, with foreboding, eerie foreground music accompanied by some distant, shrieking sounds in the background. It's surprisingly bloodcurdling for a movie that's as gory and over-the-top as this is (from what I've read, it comes from another movie made around that time called Transformations), and is what really helps in giving the setting of the store some kind of a palpable feeling. Another piece that you hear a lot is this crazy-sounding, chaotic, electronic bit that you often hear when someone gets attacked, especially during the third act, and there's also a very rousing, exciting bit that plays during some of the fights, is intermixed with another piece during the first part of the ending credits, and sounds like something you'd expect to hear in a Chuck Norris 80's action movie. The rest of the music is similarly unusual, both when it's meant to be foreboding, such as during the stalking scenes, and more down-to-Earth, like the moments between Jennifer and her friends and such. Finally, I have to again mention the cheesy, overly upbeat that Joe listens to while he's working, which is later used to comedic effect after he's been killed and it gradually slows down, as if it's dying along with him (that's another gag that I think they took from a particular Three Stooges short). That music right there should show you what kind of movie this is.