Published Sep 23, 2011The question on the mind of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's tenuous, often dry horror film, Intruders, is that of parental influence and the unexpected manifestations of repression on the adult psyche.
It's a question examined with far more energy and passion than the actual plot, wherein a father (Clive Owen) and his daughter, Mia (Ella Purnell), routinely fight a hooded intruder that enters their home after dark, which makes for some mildly thought provoking, but less than compelling, viewing.
Referred to as Hollow Face, the attacks come after Mia discovers an old handwritten story in the knot of a tree telling of a lonely man without a face trying to steal the features of a child in order to walk through the world and be seen. It's an interesting mythology, building on the desire for youth and rejuvenation in those corrupted by life, but it's never explored with much depth beyond concept.
Now, the opening sequence, which features a young Spanish boy being attacked by the same faceless assailant as Mia some years prior, is actually quite intense, suggesting visceral thrills at their finest. But once we jump into the present, these thrills are exchanged for talks with psychiatrists (Kerry Fox) and a lot of brooding from Clive Owen, after he's involved in the workplace death of a friend and colleague.
Some added dimension comes when Mia's mother (Carice Van Houten) claims that she can't see the intruder, suggesting possible delusion, but, again, this plays out as didactic more so than plot variation, resulting in more dry exposition than anything else.
The notion that a father's anxieties may play a large part on the development of his child is actually quite astute. It's just a shame that the balance of horror and art film pedagogy never gels in a satisfying manner, leaving a forgettable film with only a couple of interesting sequences to propel it. (Universal)