Review: Intruders (15) / Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo / Screenplay: Nicolas Casariego, Jaime Marques / Starring: Clive Owen, Kerry Fox, Carice van Houten, Ella Purnell, Danielle Bruhl, Mark Wingett / Release date: Out now
Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who made a surprisingly-good fist of the zombie sequel 28 Weeks Later in 2007, returns with his third feature (his debut being Intacto in 2001); Intruders is a more measured and traditional something-in-the-shadows shocker which attempts to combine old school thrills with the more contemplative psychological style of horror offered up by recent continental efforts like The Orphanage and Ils (Them - no, not the one about the giants ants).
Intriguing and vaguely competent as it is though, Intruders stumbles in its execution and in its laboured, apparently wilfully opaque storytelling which leaves the audience not only incredulous by an unexpected - but not terribly exciting - twist in the last reel, but also struggling to make sense of a story that doesn't seem too keen to join the dots. Unfortunately Intruders isn't an interesting enough effort to justify the time spent trying to make the pieces of its fractured jigsaw narrative fit into place.
Intruders concerns itself with two unconnected family units - construction engineer John Farrow (the increasingly-impressive Clive Owen - my eyes have been well and truly opened to him since his astonishing turn in last year's David Schwimmer-directed Trust) is disturbed when his twelve year-old daughter Mia (Purnell) suffers vivid nightmares about a creature named 'Hollowface' which has body-stealing designs on her. Over in Spain young Juan (Izan Corchero) is being terrified by similar dreams. When Mia's vision becomes a reality and Hollowface appears in her bedroom, John chases him away and sets about securing the family home against further intrusion. But how real is Hollowface and what's the connection between Mia and Juan, if any. More importantly perhaps, what's the connection between John and the Spanish boy and his family?
In truth there's much to recommend in Intruders. It's refreshing to see this sort of supernatural tale playing itself in the incongruous setting of a typical suburban British family home and there are some interesting cultural differences highlighted in the different ways Hollowface is dealt with - in Spain Juan's mother turns to a Catholic priest for help and in the UK John heads straight for the Police and, in time, a psychologist. The film skirts carefully around the issue of John's attitude towards his daughter; he treats her like a child and yet she's clearly growing up, on the edge of womanhood and the suggestion of a delusion shared by both John and Mia is an interesting one which is never really allowed to pay off. Instead the script is manoeuvring itself towards its fanciful conclusion and a final three-way battle of wills between John, Mia and Hollowface making his final attack on her subconscious. But the sum of all these parts isn't enough to keep the film's momentum going, punctuated as it is by the odd sit-up-and-notice moment; the sequence where one of John's co-workers falls from his perch high up on a construction site looking across the London skyline isn't exactly Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol but it adds a bit of much-needed excitement in a film which is too often content to drag one leg along behind it in its desire to he moody, mysterious and, ultimately, frustratingly ambiguous.
There are a few simple scares to be had in Intruders; Hollowface himself is an interesting design, part-hoodie, part Death Eater from the Harry Potter movies and at least there's a bit of a sense of threat in the last scenes as John fights to save his daughter's life from the creature attacking her in her dreams, and I suppose we're all a bit uncomfortable with the idea of a stranger invading our home and terrorising our families. But in the end Intruders is just a bit too languid to linger long in the memory and its derivative style and storyline just serve to call to mind a rash of similar, more accomplished movies.
Intruders is enjoying a limited cinema run but in all honesty you'd be better off waiting for the DVD release.
Excepted rating: 6 out of 10