SYNOPSIS: Two children living in a different countries are visited each night by a faceless intruder, a terrifying being who wants to take possession of them. Anxiety and tensions increase when their parents also witness these apparitions. From visionary filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later), "Intruders" is a disturbing thriller where reality and imagination overlap.
You know with a lead actor like Clive Owen that ‘Intruders’ isn’t going to be your standard-issue horror film, and indeed, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’ follow-up to his Hollywood debut ’28 Weeks Later’ is an atmospheric psychological horror-thriller that utilises all the familiar tricks in the genre’s playbook adroitly for some good old-fashioned scares. The nameless, faceless terror here is simply called Hollow Face, the kind of black hooded figure that’s usually the stuff of children’s nightmares- and Fresnadillo uses the same enigma for two separate stories set in two different territories.
The first set in Spain has young Juan (Izan Corchero) terrorised by the very character in his own bedtime story, a dark ghoul who lives in the shadows and desires to tear off the faces of children and wear them around his own. His mother Luisa (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) seeks help from the local priest, but religion proves to be little comfort for Juan as night after night the very dreaded figure of terror appears yet again in his bedroom. We never know why until the end of course, which makes the nightly terror slightly repetitive no matter how spine-chillingly they are staged by Fresnadillo.
The other story is set in London where a father, John Farrow (Clive Owen), sees the very apparition haunting his teenage daughter Mia (Ella Purnell), his favourite hiding place the dark recesses of her bedroom closet. After a failed attempt at purging the terror by burning a straw model of the figure in their backyard, Hollow Face returns more powerful than before, and that encounter leaves Mia speechless. Instead of religion, John and his wife Sue (Carice van Houten) turn to science, but Mia’s psychiatrist suspects something more when a video recording of one supposed encounter shows nothing in the image.
Despite their rather disparate nature, you’d probably have already guessed that both tales are in fact related, the twist a key reveal that gives meaning to both Juan and Mia’s haunting. Nonetheless, it seems the pair of writers Nico Casariego and Jaime Marques wrote the movie with very much the end in mind, so much so that the rest of the movie becomes little more than a slow but recurring buildup to that climax. The thin script is a disappointment, for Fresnadillo does his darnest to build tension and excitement in every scene.
Eschewing the obvious boo-scares, Fresnadillo opts for slow-burning scares, hinting at shadows in the corner, noises in the dark and the most terrifying of them all, our own imagination run wild. That makes ‘Intruders’ an unusually classy experience, complemented by solid acting by each one of the cast. Besides Owen and Houten, Purnell (who played young Keira Knightley’s character in ‘Never Let Me Go’) oozes terror in every riveting frame, and draws you in with her gripping portrayal of a young child in the grips of terror. Next to Purnell, Corchero is unfortunately sidelined- the young Spanish actor with more of his scenes set in the dark given less chance to shine (pun intended).
Yet in spite of a weaker than expected script, ‘Intruders’ is a surprisingly effective old-school horror that gets under your skin and unnerves you from within. Like Juan and Mia, Hollow Face remains pretty much unexplained and unknown to us throughout the movie, which only adds a sense of mystery and intrigue. And like ‘The Orphanage’ or ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, ‘Intruders’ joins the league of Spanish thrillers that have successfully mixed horror and fantasy into one powerfully unsettling concoction. .
There are seven Deleted Scenes here, adding up to about ten mins of cut footage. Most substantial are the first three scenes, which show Mia's interaction with a fellow classmate Ella whom becomes a victim of Hollowface as well.
Two featurettes- 'Fantasy Vs Reality' and 'Two Worlds, Two Cities'- provide a brief perspective on different aspects of the movie. The first explains the fine line between fantasy and reality that director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo tried to achieve with the movie. The second talks about filming in Madrid and London, and how the specificities of each city's culture were reflected in the respective tales of religion and science.
'Who is Hollowface: The Making of Intruders' is a slightly longer 20 min behind-the-scenes look at the film. Interesting points to note are- Clive Owen's casting meant to invoke Gary Grant's in Hitchcockian thrillers, Fresnadillo' discomfort about terrorising young Izan Corchero in front of the camera during shooting, and the visual effects that went into the creation of Hollowface.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is a solid treat for horror fans, making use of the back speakers for maximum jolt effects. Visuals are sharp and clear, with the blacks nicely moderated especially for the night scenes.
Genre: Horror/Thriller Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo Cast: Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Daniel Brühl, Ella Purnell, Kerry Fox, Ella Hunt, Lolita Chakrabarti, Mark Wingett Rating: NC-16 (Some Nudity) Year Made: 2011
- Deleted Scenes
- Who Is Hollowface? The Making of Intruders
Languages: English/Japanese/Thai Subtitles: English/Japanese/Chinese/Cantonese/Thai/Korea Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Region Code: 3 Distributor: Scorpio East Entertainment