Intruders (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2011)
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. ** ½
Bonus video!: In case you didn’t get the reference in the first thumbnail’s caption.