Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Runtime: 100 minutes
Intruders is a film that relies on buildup, but delivers all too little payoff. In terms of suspense and structure, director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo‘s psychological horror tale never quite lives up to what it’s promising. There’s impressive sequences scattered throughout, but they never form into an all-around absorbing film.
Mia, a young girl played by Ella Purnell, one day discovers a mysterious scroll while climbing a tree at her grandparent’s. On that scroll she reads of Hollowface, a “horrifying” nightmarish figure. She takes that faceless man in search for a face to steal and starts writing a story about him. As she does, he starts to come alive; instead of putting her story away, she goes the obvious route and continues to write about Hollowface. There to defend her, as much as an average father can, is her dad John Farrow (Clive Owen). Paralleling this story is a reminiscent one set in a timeless-feeling Spain, following a boy experiencing the same problems as Mia.
With an interesting premise, Fresnadillo hooks you, pulls you in, and then doesn’t quite finish off the catch as well as you think he could. The director is more than capable, with his atmosphere building and stand-out skills in framing. If there’s one star of Intruders, it’s Fresnadillo’s style. Early on in the film we’re treated to a nightmare sequence which is approached in a refreshingly realistic way. What makes the sequence effective is how grounded Fresnadillo remains, which is the key to scary nightmares; the less shown, the better.
When Fresnadillo does start pulling the curtain back, the resulting answers are clunky. The explanation for how the parallel stories are tied together isn’t difficult to figure out early on, so the reveal doesn’t pack much of a punch. That thematic and structural disappointment also applies to the “antagonist,” who should be far scarier than he is. Instead of being a creation only a child’s nightmare could make up, it could have been any random stranger in a rain coat.
Fresnadillo’s third feature is enjoyable to a certain extent as it moves fast early on, Clive Owen is watchable as always and certain scenes of suspense are chilling. Sadly, Intruders does not fare respectably with time or conversation. You come to see what’s lacking in horror, especially when the third act arises. Intruders is a reminder Fresnadillo is a director worth watching, but not in the way 28 Weeks Later and Intacto told us he was.
Intruders is now in limited release.
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