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kilowog [Celluloid 03.26.12] horror thriller

Year: 2011
Directors: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Writers: Nico Cadariego
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: kilowog
Rating: 3 out of 10

Nightmares resonate the most during our youth. It's not hard to remember waking up in the middle of the night; alarmed by our dreams, only to have them reinforced by a shadow on the wall or a mysterious noise coming from our closet. Fueled by such disturbances both psychological and physical, acclaimed Juan Carlos Fresnadillo returns to the director's chair with Intruders, his long-awaited follow-up to the 2007 hit, 28 Weeks Later.

It's hard to believe it's been five years since Fresnadillo's English language debut and more than double that since his Goya Award winning first feature, Intacto. It's with as much anticipation as it is disappointment that Intruders is finally set to have its theatrical release, and a very quiet one at that. The thriller treats us to a dual narrative, spinning two separate stories, one set in England, the other in Spain. We open in the latter where we are introduced to a young boy named Juan who in typical fashion is disturbed by a Boogeyman, this time cloaked with a hood and possessing wispy and clawed tendrils. What quickly ensues is a battle between this nightmarish demon, the boy, and his young mother. It's a battle that continues to plague the boy, so much so that they seek out the help of their local priest, Antonio (Daniel Bruhl) in search of an answer. Are the boy's visions real or they just a phantom sprung by his overactive imagination, after all, the creature does bare a striking resemblance to the monster in the tale that young Juan had been detailing in a "flashlight under the covers" led story not long before the attack.

Meanwhile, a Eurail Pass away in London, John Farrow (Clive Owen) and his wife Sue (Carice Van Houten) are struggling through their marriage particularlly following the death of one of John's construction worker colleagues. The two are loosely holding it together for the sake of their teen daughter, Mia (Ella Purnell). Upon Mia's discovering a piece of paper outlining the legend of "Hollow Face," a faceless entity determined to steal children's faces so that he may have his own, the gentle, but equally imaginative Mia is attacked by the same creature that felled young Juan. Awoken by his daughter's screams, John barges into her room just in time to catch the hooded figure swipe it's hand across Mia’s mouth and jump out the window following a brief struggle. The next day it is discovered that Mia is unable to talk, and the only one who can speak for her is her father who feverishly tries to detail not only to the police, but to his wife the strange intruder. Much like young Juan, John is difficult to believe and becomes even more so as his story quickly unravels under a tighter level of scrutiny.

As the story jumps back and forth between the two cities, we never gain an appreciation for either one, nor the stories they are determined to tell. What we manage to learn is that "Hollow Face" is a poorly constructed CGI-effect, and that the big "reveal" detailed in the films closing minutes is something that we all picked up on about an hour earlier.

Nevertheless, Fresnadillo is still keenly aware of how to visually frame his story, and he makes a strong point of letting us know when we are in the cold yet country sytle of London and it's outlying districts and when we are in Spain woven with religion and the brown and red hues to match. Yet overall the camer work feels as "hollow" as one of its characters when the film’s low budget weighs too heavily on it's viability as a would-be dark and interesting urban legend; often resorting to ghastly green screen and soundstage settings. The story of Intruders is not without it's spark. Both John and his Spanish counterpart, Luisa (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) play their roles as desperate parents with a high level of acuity. For a short moment you even empathize with poor John as he begins to doubt himself and what he has witnessed, but yes, it is a short moment.

As we come to learn, unfortunately for John and the rest of the characters in Intruders, too often when a director is on ice for more than a couple of years they lose their footing and are quick to make mistakes in front of and behind the camera, and this film is ripe with them. If you want a great horror story, take another look at Alejandro Amenabar's The Others. Just be careful. He hasn't made a film in eight years.

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