In Spain we meet tiny six-year old Juan (Izan Corchero) who likes to tell his mother (Pilar Lopez di Ayala) the little monster stories his fertile mind draws up. This particular evening he tells his mom quite the doozie of a story, one that’s so frightening that the monster Hollowface comes through his bedroom door, attacks his mother, then attacks him all in effort to steal his face. But it’s all a dream. Or is it? Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s psycho / horror thriller ‘Intruders’ asks us this question.
While little Juan is having his nightmares in Spain, we are introduced to twelve year old Mia (Ella Purnell) who lives in London and who has found a box in a tree, thanks to what we believe is an evil cat, and in this box is a story about this Hollowface character. Not good because apparently by uttering Hollowface’s name, you set him free, and now we have two kids who are being terrorized by Hollowface.
In Spain, Juan’s mom at first thought the little one was just imagining things, but for whatever reason she’s become a true believer. A kindly priest (Daniel Bruhl) tries to help her, but whatever kind of mysticism or devilment that these people are dealing with is beyond his limited abilities.
In London Mia’s dad John (Clive Owen) is observing something strange going on with his baby girl, an otherwise reasonable and mature twelve year old, so he’s a little shocked when she mentions that she’s having nightmares, and not only that but she believes that the creature in her nightmares are real. His wife Susanna (Carice Van Houten) isn’t all that sympathetic… to anything really… and thinks that Mia needs to grow up and her father needs to stop catering to her over active imagination, and he was willing to do this… until he sees Hollowface, or someone, attacking his daughter.
Well now we know for sure that this monster is real since its kind hard to get beat up by an illusion that doesn’t exist. Or is it? And how are the boy in Spain and the girl in London linked to each other, attacked by the same monster? All will be answered. Whether or not you like the answers will play a large part in determining whether or not you will enjoy ‘Intruders’.
So I guess the short answer for us here at the FCU is that we didn’t buy into the answers the screenwriters came up so it stands to reason that we didn’t enjoy ‘Intruders’ all that much, which is true, but it does go beyond simply dealing with ‘the twist’, and the reasoning behind it.
As the movie starts out I have to admit Fresnadilla gets his hooks into you but good. The atmosphere is great, and that doesn’t really change throughout the movie, the monster is eerie and well designed, though our monster seriously loses his kick as the movie goes along. Obviously it’s a good thing to start your movie out strong, if only the film could’ve kept me on that hook instead of allowing this particular audience member to wriggle off and flop around on the floor.
It certainly isn’t the performances that hurt the movie, Clive Owens coming off as very genuine and sincere as a concerned father, and young actors Ella Purnell and Izan Conchero easily selling us on the fact that they are frightened of whatever is out there, real or imagined, it is very real to them. Carice Van Houten was kind of wasted as the shrew of the wife, which had me thinking her sour disposition might’ve been headed somewhere in an earlier cut of the movie, but in this final cut she was just a shrew of a wife for no particular reason other than to irritate.
So with a nice atmosphere, solid performances, a cool monster and an experienced director we should be all good here, but the movie bogs down, after we meet the initial characters, into a sea of repetitiveness. Boy scared, mom scared, girl scared, dad scared… is he there… is he not there… are they crazy… let’s do this again in case you missed it. And they do it again. At this point, after the movie has dragged to a crawl, you’re kind of stuck waiting for the twist to come. You don’t really ever want to be stuck waiting for the twist to come, in fact it’s always best if you’re not even aware there’s going to be one, but with ‘Intruders’ we were in the unfortunate situation of virtual clock watching, waiting for the semi-logical explanation of whatever it is that’s going on to arrive. Then when we find out… well it’s kind of a two sided thing. On one hand, it’s a good twist because I didn’t see it coming and it makes complete sense within the flow of the story. On the other hand the explanation for what caused our little problem left me scratching my head. Recognize that I’m not all that bright so take it for what it’s worth, but I was kind of sitting there saying ‘huh?... how can that happen.’
‘Intruders’, sad to say, is an example of the sum of its parts tallying up to less than the individual pieces that make up the movie, because there are a lot of impressive things going on in this movie, they just didn’t add up to much in the final equation.