Fresnadilla previously helmed "28 Weeks Later" and didn't do a very good job but at least here he eschews the rapid editing that butchered that movie. He instead goes for brooding atmosphere but lacks the skill to create any real tension.
For a genre film this has a lot of quality acting talent but it's Purnell as Owen's victimised daughter who really shines here. Last year she showed Kiera Knightley to be average at best by playing her younger self in "Never Let Me Go" and the Waffler predicts a big future for her.
The main problem with this movie is that the film-makers take it too seriously and just don't have the skill to aim so high. If they focus more on their villain this could potentially become a fun little straight to DVD franchise.
I found myself enjoying the first half and the ideas it imposed, but the film just falls flat from there. And the ending was stupid. Really stupid.
Fresnadillo, whose 2001 thriller Intacto kicked off five years of fantastic Eurocrime thrillers, and followed that up by being just as good at shooting the 28 Days... franchise as Danny Boyle was, turns in his latest offering with Intruders, a ghost story that is unfortunately not as good as either of his first two features, but isn't quite as bad as you may have heard. Spain has quietly been putting together a solid horror environment over the past decade or so (as long as you ignore Jaume Balaguero's attempts at direction that do not involve Paco Plaza); Fresnadillo tapped into that same well, and ended up with the same strengths (fantastic atmosphere-Spanish horror directors, in the main, have learned very well from the Southeast Asian horror contingent) and weaknesses (unfortunately, he forgot to include a plot) that mark such overlooked Spanish horror flicks as Eskalofrio and Hierro.
Our parallel plot introduces two families-one Spanish, one British-who seem to be haunted by the same hooded, faceless apparition who looks a whole lot like classic depictions of Death (without the scythe). In Spain, mom Luisa (Alatriste's Pilar López de Ayala) keeps telling her son Juan (Audacia's Izán Corchero) that the apparition, who Juan calls Hollowface, doesn't exist, but her mannerisms belie her words more often than not. In England, a second storyline follows John Farrow (Croupier's Clive Owen) and his wife Susanna (Black Death's Carice van Houten), whose twelve-year-old daughter, Mia (Never Let Me Go's Ella Purnell), is haunted by a ghost she calls Hollowman. While Susanna does not believe, John does, and much of this part of the movie focuses less on the hauntings than on John's attempts to convince Susanna and Mia's doctor (An Angel at My Table's Kerry Fox) that she's not hallucinating. (One of the best things about Casariego and Marques' script is a parallel between Farrow trying to convince people Hollowface DOES exist and Luisa attempting to convince the family priest, played by White Smoke's Héctor Alterio, that Hollowface doesn't exist. Which, of course, she doesn't believe...)
The main problem with Intruders is a very simple one: the one-two punch of plot twists at the end of the film (and they come in quick succession) just isn't punchy enough to hold up the entire movie, even if you never saw 'em coming. While Owen and van Houten are exemplary at combining eye candy with acting chops, the movie's not worth it for an hour and a half of Owen trying to punch ghosts, even if he does look very good doing it. Well-acted, well-shot, and chock full of atmosphere, but ultimately trite. ** 1/2
That's the tagline of this movie. And believe me, a nightmare it is. But maybe not the kind you were expecting. This movie walks a line between thriller and horror. Believe it or not, that line is just one thing: boring.
Yes, there is a plot. Yes, there is a twist. They even have obligatory CGI effects in the last 15 minutes of the movie. But it's all too little and all too late.
This movie moves at a draggingly slow pace for nearly an hour an a half. You're treated to semi-scary stories about two families. One speaking Spanish, the other speaking English (and some Dutch at a birthday party).
It's not that it is directed badly, or acted badly. Quite the contrary: the performances are above average for a movie these days. But it just never picks up the right pace, it never connects the dots in a pleasing manner. There are even several loose ends after the whole big "tie up the story sequence" in the last 15 minutes of this movie.
There is only one line from the movie I can quote after this movie was done: "Hiep Hiep Hoera!"
p.s. As far as I can see online, the budget of this movie was 13 million dollars. It grossed just shy of $65.000 in the U.S.A., so I won't have to worry too much about a sequel. I guess the "Nightmare" was most real for the production company.
It's much the same with horror movies. While over the history of cinema, there have been plenty of good full-length horror movies...the stinkers far outweigh the classics. (Please note, I'm not even thinking of slasher movies in all this. Different genre, IMO.) A very recent example is THE WOMAN IN BLACK (with Daniel Radcliffe). It very effectively built an atmosphere. It established a good setting and backstory. It introduced a likeable character. And then it dragged on and on...with the same basic scares over and over. What started out so well was finally over-stuffed needlessly in order to get it to be "full length." THE OTHERS (with Nicole Kidman) could have been half the length and twice as effective.
And the same is true with INTRUDERS. There is much to admire here. An excellent, effectively creepy beginning. Some fine atmospherics. Acceptable performances (although I would not cast Carice Van Houten in anything where she speaks in English). The movie simply takes to long so that when the climax and revelations come at the end...we've nearly stopped caring and the "twist" ending isn't strong enough to support a 90 minute build-up.
So often with horror movies, the ending feels lame because we've invested so much time in getting there. Imagine if the film were only 45 minutes instead of 90. You'd be more tolerant. I know this sounds shallow, but I believe it is true. Having watched plenty of half-hearted episodes of MASTERS OF HORROR (coming in just under 1 hour)...I'm much more forgiving of their plot shortcomings than if they had padded by 30 more minutes.
INTRUDERS has an intriguing story and introduces a creepy villian, namely Hollow Face, who seems determined to literally take away the faces (or at least senses) of its young targets. Half the film takes place in Spain, and features a young boy and his mother, as they attempt to use the church to help them fight the horror that the boy alone sees. Half the film is in England, where Clive Owen and his teen daughter both see the frightful creature, and attempt to use science and police work to battle it.
It was all interesting enough, but then merely became repetitive. "He's in my closet!" YIKES!! Next day: "He's in my closet!" HO-HUM. INTRUDERS is simply a ghost story with too thin a plot (and not enough legitimate scares) to really be worth your time. Sometimes, a movie holds promise but fails, yet is worth watching. INTRUDERS is not one of those. It holds promises but is a failure and a bore.