Aside from rude cell-phone owners and overpriced concessions, one of the most frustrating aspects of being a movie lover is sitting through a film in which all of the factors -- acting, direction, cinematography, costumes, and set design -- come together except for one. When the potential onscreen is plain to see, yet one nagging component prevents it all from creating a satisfying whole, it can be worse than watching a movie that’s downright terrible. The eagerly anticipated follow-up to his breakthrough film 28 Weeks Later, Intacto director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s third feature scores on every front but the screenplay. And more disheartening than failing completely, the worst part is that it feels like writers Nicolas Casariego and Jaime Marques were merely a draft or two away from crafting a clever, inventive supernatural-psychological thriller -- if only they’d taken the time to flesh out their ideas a bit more, Intruders could have been the kind of sleeper that steadily gains a loyal audience thanks to strong word of mouth.
A shadowy figure terrorizes two children in different countries as their parents face the daunting task of exorcising a demon that displays no fear in its determination to claim the young innocents. Attacked in his bedroom by a faceless, hooded specter who nearly drags him to his death, young Juan (Izan Corchero) begs his mother Luisa (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) to protect him from the vicious shadow. But the harder Luisa and a local priest (Daniel Bruhl) work to vanquish the demon, the more apparent it becomes that Juan’s imagination may be getting the best of him. Meanwhile, far away in another country, 13-year-old Mia (Ella Purnell) discovers a handwritten story about a ghost named Hollowface, and claims authorship of it before reading it aloud to her terrified classmates. Soon thereafter, the same figure stalking Juan appears in Mia’s closet, mounting a nightmarish midnight attack as her parents John (Clive Owen) and Susanna (Carice van Houten) fight to protect their daughter. Later, when Mia loses her ability to speak, her doctor makes a shocking discovery about the elusive cloaked figure that hunts her from the darkness.
As the mystery of Hollowface unfolds, there’s little question that a respectable amount of talent went into making Intruders: The cinematography is handsome, the ghost-attack scenes are spooky and well-executed, and a daytime scene atop a towering construction site keeps the suspense high even when we’re not peering into the darkness in search of menacing figures. Yet despite some tense sequences and inspired imagery, the stilted pacing as we jump back and forth between Juan and Mia’s stories prevents the movie from ever really hitting a compelling stride. Likewise, the mythology of Hollowface feels too threadbare to truly take root in the film’s reality, and the resolution comes off as decidedly anticlimactic after a methodical buildup that demands patience and close attention on the viewer’s behalf. Though solid performances from an all-around talented cast keep us rooting for the characters, Casariego and Marques’ almost-there script prevents us from losing ourselves in the story enough for it to really hit home.
Intruders isn’t an awful film, but after Fresnadillo’s impressive debut and his strong work with 28 Weeks Later, it’s hard not to see it as a disappointment. Here’s hoping the next time the emerging director gets behind the camera, he’s got the screenwriting talent to back up his impressive vision. leave a comment --Jason Buchanan