Intruders Review TIFF 2011

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I think the horror genre often gets accused of not having anything important or interesting to say about real issues in the real world. I know that some genres are better suited for discussing serious issues, but sometimes a topic comes along that the horror genre has a claim to. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s Intruders explores one of the more fundamental aspects of human nature, the birth and promulgation of fear. More specifically, the passing of specific fears from parents to children. I think that parents take too much blame in today’s society for how their children turn out, but a few issues, such as religious indoctrination, anxieties and certain types of fear are without a doubt often passed on from parents to children, and they likely need to take more responsibility for these dubious family heirlooms. This is the topic and the message of  Intruders, it is both an urgent and intelligent issue.

The film follows two interwoven narratives. One part of the storyline takes place somewhere in Spain, and follows a young boy and his mother as they are terrorized nightly by a supernatural being named ‘Hollow Face’, who would like nothing more than to rip off the young boy’s face and make it his own. The other segment of the film centres on John Farrow (Clive Owen) and his twelve-year-old daughter Mia (Ella Purnell). One day at her grandparents country home, Mia makes quite the discovery as she finds an aged unfinished children’s story in the hollow of an old tree. Unfortunately for Mia, the story is about the legend of Hollow Face, and not long after reading the story, Mia finds herself the victim of Hollow Face’s latest attempt to steal the face of a child.

Intruders is not a straight horror film, and really belongs in the psychological horror sub-genre. It is a mature horror film, but unfortunately the scares and horror do not feel as mature as they should have been. That being said, Intruders does a marvelous job of blurring the line between fantasy and reality. Even though I have alluded to the transmission of fears from parent to child, Intruders will keep you guessing about the true nature of Hollow Face until the final scene.

The acting is solid all around, with Clive Owen doing a particularly good job, although I’m sure many viewers already expect this of him. Hollow Face looks quite creepy at times and rather mundane at others, as he takes different forms throughout the film. I can’t help but feel that his most successful appearance was his introduction, climbing scaffolding at night and looking reminiscent of ‘Death’ from Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners. However, some encounters with Hollow Face could have been more frightening. Many times the film is too dark to see what is going on and unfortunately this may take some viewers out of the story, as they try to figure out what is happening onscreen.

In the end, the true strength of Intruders is that it is an intelligent horror film. The film makers and distributors may have some important decisions to make as they decide how to market a smart adult horror that is a little short on the actual horror. The next time someone says that horror films are brainless, turn them onto Intruders, although those looking for something horrifying may have to look elsewhere.

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