Following the long trend of psychological horrors with a twist (started by The Sixth Sense), Intruders rightfully takes its place at the back of the line. Although competently directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) and starring the always likeable Clive Owen, this Anglo-Spanish production is mostly style over substance in an attempt to add something new to the genre.
The film follows two separate storylines running concurrently; in London, John Farrow (Clive Owen) is a construction worker who experiences a ghostly apparition after an incident at work. His teenage daughter Mia (Ella Purnell) also begins to have the same experiences of this bogeyman, coined ‘Hollowface’, after discovering a hidden letter detailing it in her grandmother’s country garden.
Meanwhile, a little boy, Juan, is going through a similar experience in Madrid. His mother Louisa and local priest Father Antonio (the underused Daniel Bruhl) attempt to exorcise Hollowface from Juan, but with little luck. In both instances, the attacks are physically real to Juan, Mia and John, and they believe that Hollowface is truly there. But is he?
In what was no doubt a complex film to edit, at least Fresnadillo has put some effort into trying to forge an interesting narrative using two plot lines. Unfortunately, although there is a common theme running through both of them in the form of Hollowface, there is just not enough connection to keep the flow of each from stalling, despite knowing that it will all link up somehow in the end.
It is nice to try and decipher where a film’s going but it needs to keep the audience interested otherwise people just give up – which is what happens here. There’s not enough focus on Juan and his role with the family in London until the very end, and by then you feel as though there have been too many plot holes and contrived elements to make it link.
That’s not to say it is all bad; there’s some strong acting and good chemistry between Clive Owen, Carice Van Houten as Farrow’s wife Susanna, and Ella Purnell as Mia. As for the main source of scares, Hollowface brings a few moments of chills in a sort of Freddy Krueger way and, in the first half of the film at least, there’s a bit of intrigue and thought needed because not everything is laid out on a plate.
The main hook in the second half is an interesting psychological concept called ‘folie à deux’, which is disappointingly under-explored. Although this explains much of the incidents involving Louisa, Juan, Farrow and Mia, it doesn’t really explain much else to convince us that the psychological bond between each pair is tangible enough to be believable.
While it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the twist at the end, it will still make little sense to a lot of people. It drags further into the realms of fantasy of the mind and subsequently prolongs a cheesy and convoluted ending of a happy resolution.
Intruders produces an interesting concept and memorable horror character, but is sadly let down by a weak script and uneven pacing. Despite the early promise and atmospheric chills, this leaves an altogether hollow experience and does little else to make it stand out.