Earlier this month, I saw Intruders, the latest film from director Juan Carlo Fresnadillo. Spanish horror films are currently the trendy genre to love and Intruders has everything that we’ve come to expect from Spanish horror: creepy children, gothic atmosphere, claustrophobic staging, ineffectual representatives of the Church, and a feeling that the society of the present is held hostage by the sins of the past.
Intruders tells two parallel stories about two children who are haunted by a malevolent, faceless spirit known as Hollowface. Hollowface comes out at night and searches for a new face (and who can blame him, really?). As the film opens, he is haunting a young boy (Izan Corchero) and his mother (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) in Spain. The boy deals with his fear of Hollowface by writing a lengthy story about him. Meanwhile, in England, 12 year-old Mia (Ella Purnell) finds a copy of the boy’s story in an empty tree stump and reads it aloud. Shortly after doing this, she starts to see Hollowface in the shadows of her bedroom. The only person who believes her is her father (played by Clive Owen). The film proceeds to cut back-and-forth between these two haunted children until finally, in its final few minutes, the two stories come together.
Intruders starts out strong but then quickly starts to fall apart. As a malevolent force, Hollowface is effective as long as he’s just a shadowy figure floating through childish nightmares but, as the film progresses, he becomes less and less intimidating until finally he’s just another poorly defined villain in a costume. By that same token, Fresnadillo’s direction is nicely atmospheric and creepy during the first half of the film but then, as the two parallel stories come together, the film starts to feel more and more generic. The two stories are, of course, linked together by a big twist. Oddly enough, even though I managed to guess the twist, it still felt like it came out of close-to-nowhere.
That said, Intruders isn’t a disaster. The film is fairly well-acted (especially by Clive Owen, who in a perfect world would be playing James Bond in Skyfall) and even once the narrative falls apart, Fresnadillo still comes up with the occasional effective shock. Even if I wasn’t familiar with Fresnadillo’s previous films, I would probably take a chance on his next movie.
Just as long as it’s not The Return of Hollowface or anything like that.