19 March 2012 | D_Burke
Besides One Really Clever Plot Twist, "Intruders" Lacks Shock Value
A supernatural creature terrorizes a child, and the adults in that child's life either dismiss the child's fears as nightmarish, or assume the child has some sort of psychosis. This plot line has been done so many times that it's amazing that adults in present-day movies don't second guess themselves more often.
"Intruders" has a bit more of a clever twist to this tired horror movie story line in that the terrorized child, 12-year-old Mia (Ella Purnell), at least has an ally in her father John (Clive Owen), who has actually seen the being trying to harm his daughter.
The being, known to Mia as Hollowman, wears a dark hood and cloak that moves mysteriously in the air like something out of "The Matrix" (1999). The mysterious spirit has the shape of a man, but its face is completely obscured by its hood, making it look a lot like Bruce Willis in the underrated "Invincible" (2000).
The unwelcome visitor does not speak, but Mia somehow knows it does not have a face, and is willing to steal one from a child. Also, despite the plurality of the movie's title, there is only one intruder: this one.
Mia is apparently not the only child haunted by this creature. A much younger Spanish boy named Juan (Izan Corchero) also receives visits from it. The film intersects between the nightly terrors of Mia and Juan, and it makes you wonder what the connection is between these two children. Why did this spirit choose to haunt these two children in two different European countries (Great Britain and Spain), when there are millions of other children in this world whose face (or faces) he could steal? The way these two children's stories intersect is revealed late in the film in a twist I honestly did not see coming. Because it was so clever, I can't ruin it for you, the reader, either.
Unfortunately, it being a horror movie and a suspense thriller, the moments that were supposed to be shocking, and scary, weren't either. The film made the fatal mistake of making the music, which gradually got louder as a scary moment or a "gotcha!" part was approaching, ruin the overall suspense. By the time the mysterious hooded person appeared from out of the dark closet, the score felt more like a great opening act for a weak headliner.
The shock value of this film, or lack thereof, is even more unfortunate when you consider the superb cinematography and great acting from just about everyone involved. Clive Owen rarely fails to disappoint, and fortunately plays a parent who actually believes his petrified daughter.
I especially liked Ella Purnell, who is the kind of child actress who guys in their 20's look at and say, "In five years, she's going to be really hot!" Besides being strikingly beautiful, Purnell looks genuinely scared during the scenes with the creature in the hood, and she is very convincing as Owen's daughter in other less-intense scenes.
I also thought every scene with Corchero, as Juan, and his mother Luisa (Pilar Lopez de Ayala), scary or not, was done incredibly well. They played in good contrast to scenes involving John and Mia. Whereas John believes his daughter's problems are more than nightmares, Luisa believes her son, but uses words of comfort almost in vain. She tries to tell her boy it's only a bad dream, when she's really trying to convince herself. It's a fascinating paradox.
Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is best known to American audiences as the writer & director of "28 Weeks Later" (2007), the well-received sequel to Danny Boyle's acclaimed "28 Days Later" (2003). He definitely knows his horror films, which is why it's so disappointing that "Intruders" didn't live up to his previous effort. While great acting and a dark, eerie atmosphere strengthened this movie, it wasn't enough to scare me.
Putting it another way, I consider a great horror film one where my hands are covering my entire face except one eye, and two of my fingers are on standby to affix over that eye should a scary moment present itself. With "Intruders", throughout the scary parts, my hands remained at my sides.