Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , ,


DIRECTED BY: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

WRITTEN BY: Nicolas Casariego, Jamie Marques

STARRING: Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Daniel Bruhl, Kerry Fox

RUNNING TIME: 100 mins

DISTRIBUTED BY: Millenium Entertainment

In Madrid, 8 year old Juan, who likes to tell scary stories to his mother Luisa, keeps having nightmares about a faceless robed creature that enters his bedroom at night.  Meanwhile in London, 11 year old Mia finds an old piece of paper containing part of a story remarkably similar to the events occurring in Spain, and pretends she made it up when she reads it in class.  The story’s faceless demon, called Hollowface, who in the story is out to take the face of a child and wear it himself, starts to appear to Mia. On the night of her birthday, Mia cannot sleep and wakes up John, who calms her down by burning a recreation of the monster. Then he sees the monster too…..

The idea of the ‘bogeyman’, which began as a way for adults to frighten children into behaving, is a very scary one but generally not one that has been done well in films.  It gets its latest variation in Intruders, which is really quite a frustrating experience.  It’s absorbing and never less than interesting, but never gets as good as it seems like it is going to get, and overall is a bit of a disappointment from director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who made such a good job of 28 Weeks Later that I thought it bettered its predecessor.  The most disappointing thing is that it isn’t really scary, a sure sign that the film isn’t working when it has such a frightening idea as its premise.  It’s still fairly compelling though, and if you’re a very regular cinemagoer you’ll have already seen considerably worse this year!

The opening is very strong, at least at first, when, as rain pours heavily outside, we witness Juan telling Luisa some of his story, a nice twist as it is usually the parent telling the child stories to help him get to sleep.  Luisa continues the story a bit, and I wondered how on earth such a scary story was supposed to get a child to sleep, until I remembered that when I was a child, I used to read horror novels before I was probably old enough to, and they rarely prevented me from having a decent night’s sleep.  The demon appears, and at first the briefly glimpsed figure, usually partially hidden in shadows but resembling a close cousin of the Black Riders in The Lord Of The Rings, is quite an unnerving menace.  Then it starts to chase the boy, and everything goes all ‘shakycam’, meaning that not only will you be unable to see what the hell is going on but you may get sore eyes and feel sick too. Though I dislike the technique, I admit it has its place in ‘found footage’ movies, but it should stay there, and is certainly out of place in this movie, in which it occurs in most scenes where Hollowface attacks people.  Intruders is the second film I’ve seen this week in which I was not given the pleasure of seeing key scenes properly, and I am so totally and utterly sick is this inane attitude to shooting scenes [God forbid that we should be allowed to see action anymore] that I want to scream.

Anyway, ‘shakycam’ aside, Intruders progresses at a very stately pace as it switches back and forth between the two similar stories, with a little more time spent on the one set in London.  It subtly but carefully shows us two situations where a parent just does not appreciate that his or her child is growing up fast, with the ensuring troubles perhaps representative of children changing and their parents having trouble dealing with it or not being willing to deal with it. The story delves into the twisted fairytale aspect of a monster born out of a child’s imagination, and then escalates the appearances of Hollowface, but as he becomes more and more prominent the film loses its touch.  Hollowface becomes less and less effective, something which usually happens the more a monster is shown.  Perhaps it would have been better for him to be gradually forming in the early stages of his appearance, or for him to not be shown at all for a while?  The film fails to make sense in places too – surely if the children are compelled to continue the stories about Hollowface, surely they can make him go away or die?  Unless of course they are possessed, and possession is suggested a few times, especially in the Spanish story, where it almost threatens to turn into an Exorcist-type tale, but this aspect, like several others, remains very vague and unsatisfying.

Intruders lacks sudden shocks, but doesn’t really have enough creepy atmosphere either and often seems about to get nice and frightening but doesn’t follow though.  A good example is a scene in a church, which may I say is one of the oddest churches I’ve seen in a film for a while, with ‘art deco’ stain glass windows eerily bathing the floor in blue and purple like something out of a Mario Bava film, and emphasises how scary churches can actually be.  A priest is trying to hypnotise Juan to get rid of the demon, with his mother present. The situation is tense and the setting eerie, with statues around them and one even looking like Hollowface.  The screeching orchestral strings get louder and louder, as Juan is convinced that the Hollowface-like statue is Hollowface, and then the scene just ends.  I will admit that I was a little on edge in a few of the quieter bits, with the age-old [but always effective] bit of someone opening a fridge door and the possibility that that door might close to reveal something there, but I think anyone expecting scares a la The Orphanage will be bitterly disappointed.

Though I think that Intruders doesn’t really merit the ‘15’ certificate it has received, there are some arresting images.  The sight of people with no eyes, nose and mouth always works for me, and there is one fantastic bit where Mia’s bedroom becomes a huge pit filled with deadly snake-like tree branches, though the CGI special effects are not very special.  The script by Nicolas Casariego and Jaime Marques nicely toys with the possibility that it’s all in people’s heads and gives us one reasonable twist which I certainly didn’t see coming, but overall it just doesn’t know what to do with its main ideas and this helps ensure that the film mostly stays in one place: that of  ‘average’.  Despite some solid performances including a nicely judged one from Clive Owen, Intruders never really becomes the film it should be, and what it makes it worse is that there are occasionally annoying signs of that movie buried within the one we have now, kicking and screaming to get out!

Rating: ★★★★★½☆☆☆☆

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About Dr Lenera 1985 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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