out of Five
Running time: 100
Creepy and atmospheric, this is a well written and stylishly directed psychological thriller that's heightened by strong performances from Clive Owen and Ella Purnell, though it's slightly let down by a predictable final act and some pacing problems in the middle section.
What's it all about?
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto, 28 Weeks Later), Intruders stars Clive Owen as John, a construction engineer married to Susanna (Carice Van Houten), whose 11-year-old daughter Mia (Ella Purnell) starts having horrific nightmares involving a hooded demon known as Hollowface, after she finds a handwritten story hidden inside a tree at her grandparents' house. After Mia passes the story off as her own and reads it to her terrified classmates, she appears to bring Hollowface to life and her nightmares soon become terrifyingly real, with both her parents powerless to help her.
Meanwhile, in Madrid, the same thing is happening to young Juan (Izan Corchero), forcing his mother (Pilar López de Ayala) to seek the help of a kindly local priest Father Antonio (Daniel Brühl). As the two stories unfold in parallel, Father Antonio considers exorcism for Juan, while John and Susanna seek the help of a child psychologist (Kerry Fox), but her findings have unexpected repercussions for the family.
Clive Owen turns in another solid “obsessive concerned father” performance (possibly a little too soon after Trust), while newcomer Ella Purnell (previously seen as young Keira Knightley in Never Let Me Go) is terrific as Mia and there's strong support from both Izan Corchero and Pilar López de Ayala.
Fresnadillo's stylish direction and strong use of shadow creates a suitably creepy atmosphere, while the cleverly constructed script taps into some effectively nightmarish primal fears, particularly when Hollowface appears to steal Mia's voice. The film also explores some interesting ideas about the power of storytelling and the imagination, with John insisting that “You have to enter the monster's story in order to kill it,” (leading to an amusing scene that provides a welcome note of humour) and Mia commenting, “I know that Hollowface doesn't exist, but he thinks he does.”
The main problem with the film is that it drags in the middle section in an attempt to delay a final act reveal that isn't quite as clever or as shocking (or as well hidden) as it thinks it is. Similarly, the film is likely to get mis-marketed as a horror film, when it's actually more interested in the psychological thriller element than in delivering scares.
Intruders is an effectively creepy psychological drama that's worth seeing for some nice ideas and a strong performance from newcomer Ella Purnell. Great final shot, too.