Intruder (1989) – WTF Happened to This Horror Movie?

The Intruder episode of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? was Written by Emilie Black, Narrated by Adam Walton, Edited by Juan Jimenez, Produced by Andrew Hatfield and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

Slashers, one of the most popular sub-genres in horror. One with hundreds, if not thousands of entries. While it was certainly on the downturn in the late 1980s, it still seemingly had a new title released every week. In 1989 alone, the slasher world saw the releases of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, Deadly Manor, I Madman, and a whole bunch more. It was a year for slasher sequels with a few originals peppered in. Slashers were big box office and direct-to-video draw in general and studios were churning them out. The slashers were on the prowl and people loved to watch them find new and creative ways to end people with as much violence as they can. Now, add Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, and Sam Raimi as the stars and you get the marketing for the 1989 movie Intruder  (pick up a copy of the unrated Blu-ray HERE).

Well, yeah, that was the marketing, but the three of them are barely in the film. Paramount promoted the film as starring the three of them for the original release and for the VHS release, going so far as to top list them on the artwork for the film all the way to the DVD release. The only problem with this is that it was faulty marketing, exaggeration, a sort of bait and switch that is often seen in the film industry. Top bill your biggest names even if they each get just a few minutes of screen time. The appeal to market the film as starring them is obvious given their history and how popular the first two Evil Dead were at the time and still are now. Also oddly pushed as a star of the film and possibly the final girl is Renée Estevez,, who is actually the first one to go. The idea makes some sense as she as just seen in Heathers, but this is not a film starring her. This kind of marketing just feels off to this day, but they clearly did it to get eyes on the film.

So, who does the film actually star? The film has Liz Kern who had previously been in Sixteen Candles, Night of the Creeps, The Wraith and The Allnighter. She had a bit of a name, known as Elizabeth Cox at the time, so it would make sense to put her on the posters. Then there’s Dan Hicks, credited as Danny Hicks, who had been in Evil Dead II and Maniac Cop before Intruder, Eugene Robert Glazer who had been in Charlie’s Angels, TJ Hooker, Falcon Crest, and more. David Byrnes, Billy Marti, and Burr Steers are prominent on the cast list, but Intruder was their first film, so not exactly bankable names at the time. Other cast members had experience as well, so it’s not like they were lacking cast members they could top bill here.

The director and one of the co-writers here is Scott Spiegel, a Fake Shemp from both Evil Dead and Evil Dead II. In other words, the reason for Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, and Bruce Campbell to be involved at all here. Their bud was making a film and as good friends, they assisted. The man has decent credits that should have made him more of an appealing name here and that should have gotten him more respect. He has writing credits for seven short films and four features before Intruder, including Evil Dead II. Since Intruder, he has had a few writing jobs, but has mostly worked as a director. His directorial credits before Intruder include a whole lot of short films. Intruder was his directorial debut. Since then, he has directed 5 movies including From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Hostel Part III, and the upcoming Spring Break ‘83. Not exactly a large career since Intruder and well, not all good movies. His connection to Evil Dead is obvious though and it’s pretty easy to guess why Paramount decided to bank on his friends to sell this movie.

Before they get forgotten, the special effects here are pretty good and done as practical effects as the film is a low budget film from the late 1980s. CGI was around, but very limited with uses in some of the shots in a few of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels and the owl in the opening of Labyrinth. CGI was super limited and expensive back in 1989, so Spiegel and crew opted, logically, to use practical effects for their blood and gore, giving the work to a small crew known to horror fans as KNB. Ok, they were never small and have always been super talented. These guys have done just about everything in the genre and their work showed great promise for any film they were involved with. For the few in the audience that still need an introduction to these guys, they’ve done effects on everything from Day of the Dead and Evil Dead II before Intruder to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 and Halloween 5 released the same year as Intruder. Since then, they’ve been involved in so much, it’s hard to pick just a few examples, but these include Army of Darkness, From Dusk Till Dawn, Wishmaster, and so much more to this day. Of course, for the original release, some of their blood and gore was cut down, 5 minutes of it to be precise, but do not despair, those minutes have been restored in the film since then.

Now, what IS this movie about? Well, it’s a slasher, so it’s easy to guess what the general idea is. More precisely: A maniac stalks and kills the overnight crew at a grocery store. That’s it. That’s the plot. Honestly, it doesn’t need to be more. It’s a simple slasher and it works pretty well. It’s not particularly scary, but it’s still a fun watch, so fans of slashers have been loving the film for a few decades now. While the film is limited in budget, scale, and originality, it does make up for it in ingenuity and heart. It’s a small film, but it’s a small film made by people who love horror. It was also shot using everything they could to save some money. The film was shot in a real grocery store at night, helping save money on décor, sets, background, little things like actual groceries, and everything else that adds up quickly. This is something fans mention when they speak about the film, they love how it’s a film that they could have made with their friends, it makes filmmaking feel more accessible, something many early slashers films have done, launching imagination in many who end up making films themselves later on. This is something the more famous cast members here seem to have been doing for years before Intruder.

To check what reviewers thought or currently think about the film, Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t much help. The film does not have a Tomatometer rating as it only has 2 reviews, but both of them are positive, so there is that. Searching through the archives, JoBlo’s own Jake Dee said of the film that he was “for the most part was amused by the silly tone and occasional blood-splatter.” On the audience side of things, the film is standing at 52%, so not great. However, there is a crowd for the film, it has its fans. It’s been available on DVD following the VHS release which had followed the theatrical release. The fact that the film didn’t completely die after its original release and is still finding audiences says something about it. Yes, there is the chance that it could be loved for being bad, but anyone who has seen it would say there is more to it than that. Viewers seem to be split between “it’s nothing special” and “a great slasher” but there IS an audience for it clearly.

In terms of the film being a box office hit, well, it’s hard to tell as the numbers are difficult to find. The film’s cost is easy to find online and it was reported at $130,000 USD, so a very low budget film. It would be easy to think it’s a micro budget film, but that’s more in the realm of $7000 like El Mariachi. Here, the film was made on a shoestring budget and with the help of friends willing to come in for most likely no pay or very little pay to help out their buddy.

But when was Intruder released? It was released in theaters on January 27, 1989, but the box office reports for that day and weekend show no presence of the film at all which leads to believe that it didn’t make much of a dent in theaters. Of course, it was coming out against films such as Rain Man, Beaches, Twins, Working Girl, and Paramount’s other release at the time: The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! So, it was not an easy box office to crack. Multiple box office websites show no numbers or even listings for the film at all. However, the film did find its audience eventually. The VHS helped get it in the hands of Evil Dead fans and slasher fans. This was the early 90s, after all, which was still huge for the home video aftermarket. For a while, it was considered hard to find and people needed to go to horror conventions to find themselves a shoddy quality release or a bootleg unfortunately. It had its audience though and eventually, Paramount decided to release it on DVD, helping fans and those curious to see it to get their hands on the film.

Intruder (1989) - WTF Happened to This Horror Movie

The film has seen a few releases in the last 2 decades. In 2005, Wizard Video released a director cut of the film, then in 2011 Synapse Films released the film on DVD and Blu-Ray as a combo in an uncensored version. Then, in 2017, the film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray from 88 Films also in its uncensored version. In 2019, the film was re-released on DVD for its 30th anniversary. The release was a remaster of the film from the original negatives and offered an uncut version of the film. It was probably the best version this film has seen on the home video market. The film’s currently available versions restore the 5 minutes of blood and gore that had been cut for the VHS release back in the day. With all these releases, it became easier and easier to find the film for those who wanted to see it for the time and for those who loved it enough to pick it up. Finally, these releases gave the film more visibility and viewers more ease of access. These days, it’s available for streaming on multiple platforms, making it even easier to find for anyone curious to check it out and the quality on the streamers is quite good.

As a side note, the film was not always called Intruder, it started its life as The Night Crew, a more descriptive name that the distributor decided to change for something more generic in the hopes of selling more tickets. While that title would have worked just fine for the plot and tone, Intruder works great, even if it could just be called The Slasher.

Intruder didn’t exactly make much of an impression on general audiences upon release, but horror fans took notice and slowly got to see it. A few, very few seemingly, saw it on the big screen, while most saw it on VHS when it hit video stores. It took its sweet time to make it to a general audience, but slasher fans were curious early on. Of course, the marketing was aimed at horror fans, but it was also very misleading, causing some frustrations with viewers up to this day. Eventually, the film made its name and reputation and became a bit of a cult hit. The talent involved here is strong with Evil Dead cast and crew coming along for the ride with their friend writer-director Scott Spiegel and the folks at KNB on effects. These days, it’s a dated film that hits that nostalgia note for most genre fans and it really seems to have found its footing since being restored to its original length with all the cut blood and gore intact. Give it a watch and see for yourself.

A couple of the previous episodes of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? can be seen below. To see more, head over to our JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/intruder-1989-wtf/

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