When a young married couple (Michael Ealy and Meagan Good) buys their dream house in the Napa Valley, they think they have found the perfect home to take their next steps as a family. But when the strangely attached seller (Dennis Quaid) continues to infiltrate their lives, they begin to suspect that he has hidden motivations beyond a quick sale.
The Intruder, directed by Deon Taylor (Traffik) and written by David Loughery (Lakeview Terrace), who is also Executive Producer, stars Michael Ealy as Scott, Meagan Good as Annie, Joseph Sikora as Mike, and Dennis Quaid as Charlie.
Screenwriter David Loughery is no stranger to the kind of domestic thriller that puts everyday people in the crosshairs of unhinged interlopers, as evidenced by the movies Lakeview Terrace and Obsessed. When he was searching for a new vein of highly charged menace around which to build a screenplay, he thought about a certain community staple.
“In every neighborhood, there’s an older, retired guy who is completely obsessed with his house and his property, and his yard, and he keeps everything in meticulous shape, and it’s a reflection of him. The house, the property, represents him. And I thought, what if a guy like this had to give up his property? Had to sell his property? Was forced to do it. Would he be able to really let go of that place? Would he be able to stay away, or would he have to come back and make sure that the people he sold it to were taking care of it in the way that he needed them to take care of it?,” says Loughery.
That inspiration led to the creation of unnervingly fixated retiree Charlie Peck, a disturbing scenario that arises from a married couple purchasing his house, and a screenplay that was at the time called Motivated Seller.
After a few years in which it sat in Loughery’s drawer – “I didn’t really know what to do with it,” says Loughery – the writer’s manager eventually read it, and realized it needed to be made. When the script got into the hands of producer Mark Burg of the Saw franchise, the ball was rolling.
“David wrote Lakeview Terrace, which I thought was great. He wrote Obsessed, which I thought was terrific, and he wrote Passenger 57, which I loved. He just created a really unique idea, and I happened to be on the set of a movie called Traffik, directed by Deon Taylor, and I said, ‘Deon, I just read this script on the plane. You may want to check this out, I think there’s something to this.’ He’s in the middle of directing a movie, and he calls me the next day and says, ‘I love it. I want to make it.’ It all happened very quick, over a Saturday morning,” says Burg.
Loughery couldn’t believe how rapidly the movie was coming together. “Within a week, I had met Deon and loved the guy,” he says. “He loved the script. This is the fastest I’ve ever seen a script go into production. [Deon] made it come true, and it’s really a thrill. Most of the directors I run into are just very jaded, a lot laid back, but Deon just has this kind of life force 4 that makes you feel like, ‘Wow, I’ve got to get on the train with this guy ‘cause I think he’s going somewhere.’”
Taylor recalls that after making the issue-driven Traffik, which was a fast, intense shoot, he was ready to do something different with his partner at Hidden Empire, producer Roxanne Avent.
“I said, I’m going to try to find something that’s super commercial and fun, and I’ve always been driven to the thriller horror space,” he says.
“So I read the first 20 pages and I was like, oh, what is this? I kept turning the page, turning the page, turning page, and I got to the end of it and I was like, I’ve got to make this movie.”
For producer Roxanne Avent, branching out for the first time from creating their own content at Hidden Empire, and optioning another writer’s script, made complete sense when reading Loughery’s script.
“Everybody’s got their thing that speaks to them, and at Hidden Empire we try to pick things that will not only be relevant, but that will talk to everybody, in every walk of life. And for me, the scariest, creepiest stuff is the stuff that can really happen, and as soon as I read it, what this couple go through with this house, it was, oh my God, this is the weirdest, and so cool!”
Beyond Taylor’s enthusiasm for what was eventually retitled The Intruder, Loughery appreciated that the director brought his own ideas for making the concept as relatable as it could be in its portrait of a marriage unexpectedly under siege, and as vivid as it could be as a drama that becomes a thriller that becomes a full-on fright picture.
“I’ve been writing these suspense thrillers for a long, long time, and some of them have been successful, but I feel like the playing field is changing, and you can’t just get away with a generic thriller anymore. So one of the things that was great about this script and Deon’s attachment to it was that he wanted to take it further. He wanted to push it, so we decided to get rid of this idea of a classical, elegant suspense thriller and really take it more into the horror range. We want to double cross [the audience], trick them, and give them some thrills and chills they didn’t really see coming.”