[Review] – Intruders

24 Apr

Title: Intruders
Year: 2012
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Writers: Nicolás Casariego and Jaime Marques
Starring: Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Daniel Brühl, Pilar López de Ayala, Ella Purnell, Kerry Fox, Izán Corchero
MPAA Rating: R, terror, horror violence, some sexuality/nudity and language
Runtime: 100 min
IMDb Rating: 5.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Metacritic: 45

Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is the Spanish filmmaker who made 28 Weeks Later, which though obviously not as great as Danny Boyle‘s film from which it spawned, was still a terrific sequel and a really solid horror flick that showed Mr. Fresnadillo was a director who definitely knew how to craft a really effective atmosphere and deliver some strong direction. That had me looking forward to his next film, not necessarily excited about it, but I wanted to see what this guy did next. So I went into Intruders with some hopes and expectations, and found that through the first half hour or forty minutes those expectations were actually holding up quite nicely, but then the film just fell apart and became a totally generic horror film with scares that weren’t scary at all.

So yes, I was disappointed by Intruders. This is a director who I think is actually a very talented guy, but who here has crafted a film that has a great start but then it just starts feeling like a terribly weak scarefest, with countless allusions to genre tropes that have been done better by others and a sort of hesitant approach to it all that is surprising to think came from the man that showed such a confident hand in 28 Weeks Later. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this should have gone straight to DVD or something like that, because there are some nice ideas somewhere in here, but by the final act of this film you do start thinking stuff like that; and it sucks because I wanted Mr. Fresnadillo to succeed, and it sucks even more because Clive Owen is the star of this film.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a big fan of Mr. Owen’s. Though maybe you don’t know because it seems that he’s been taking bad career advice lately and I haven’t been able to really praise him. I mean yes, last year he was in Trust which I thought was pretty great, but his big film of the year was Killer Elite which I wan’s too fond of. He’s a guy who seemed to making all the right moves, making the most out of small-ish roles in Gosford Park and The Bourne Identity to then score bigger, juicier roles in Closer and Sin City, both of which he knocked out of the park, to then have a career year in 2006 when he was in Inside Man and, of course, Children of Men, one of the best films of the past dozen years. Then we had The International and Duplicity, the latter I liked far better than the former. And after that he just went left and this is the stuff we’re getting.

Not to say that Mr. Owen is bad in Intruders, because he isn’t, but it’s just material that he shouldn’t be tackling now that he’s a big name. Anyways, career analysis of Clive Owen aside let me digress a bit and talk about the man he plays in this film, John Farrow. A family man, husband to Carice van Houten’s Sue and father to Ella Purnell’s Mia (which would make her Mia Farrow, nice shout-out to one of the all-time horror classics), and also a construction worker in London, where one part of the film takes place in. The other part of the film takes place in Spain, where a bright and imaginative small boy lives. What connects the two, you ask? The appearance of a faceless creatures that haunts them.

The film plays a lot with the power of storytelling and imagination. You see, the kid in Spain loves to tell stories, and eventually he starts believing in them himself and this faceless man starts to haunt his dreams; her mother, scared about what this is doing to her son’s health, contacts a priest to get help. In London, Mia too tells the story of this faceless man, whom she calls Hollowface and explains is out there to steal the factions of children like her. She too starts seeing her imagination come to life, but what’s most alarming is that John does too, chasing off the intruder who comes to haunt her daughter at night. The problem is that John installs cameras, and then he sees that he was chasing nothing, and the detectives find no proof of a break-in.

Evidently Mr. Fresnadillo thought this was a mystery worthy of carrying a film, and they thought it would play out awesomely as we saw what went on in these two different storylines. Except it isn’t that great a mystery, in fact if you’ve seen a few horror films you’ll be able to decipher it all really fast, and once you do that in a film like this, what’s left to really get into? Sure, Mr. Fresnadillo has some good stuff to say about parenting and I actually liked that, and the guy is quite skillful in creating a nice atmosphere and some sequences are really well done. But the twist that’s supposed to hold the whole movie together is too obvious to hold our interest, and like I said, this one doesn’t go out for some actual scares because it was counting on that mystery to do the psychological tricks to keep us at the edge of our seats. By not doing the first thing and failing at the second, I’m afraid to say Intruders really doesn’t cut it.

I don’t want to be too harsh on the film because I do believe in the talents of Mr. Fresnadillo, and I do believe there are some salvageable things about Intruders. It’s just that the sum of its parts isn’t enough. Hopefully it won’t be another five years before we get to see a new film from him, and hopefully he’ll still be able to create such an effective atmosphere but back it up with a mystery that does engage us. And hopefully it won’t be long before we get to see Mr. Owen in some amazing projects again. For now, however, Intruders is what we have, and though there’s nothing inherently bad about, there’s just not many good things in it either.

Grade: C+

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