Boogeymen might be overdone in horror, but every so often a genre film like Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s “Intruders,” makes one of these monsters seem remarkably fresh and incredibly creepy. What Fresnadillo lacks in the originality of his premise, he strives to compensate for with suspenseful visual tricks and some inventive plot devices cooked up by his screenwriters Nicolás Casariego and Jaime Marques. Fresnadillo largely succeeds in crafting a skin crawling tale with these means, although he does stumble a bit along the way.
“Intruders” concentrates on two children in different countries: a Spanish boy named Juan and a British girl named Mia. For a large portion of the film, their mysterious connection keeps you guessing, as you witness their more obvious correlation. Both Juan and Mia are haunted nightly by a faceless creature named Hollow Face, who terrorizes them as soon as they try to sleep. To make matters worse, Hollow Face’s daring attacks steadily escalate, until the kids regularly wake their parents with frantic screams for help.
Contrary to horror tradition where the skeptical adults hardly ever see anything unusual, Mia and Juan’s parents aren’t immune to the commotion. Juan’s mother (Pilar López de Ayala) is assaulted by Hollow Face, and Mia’s father (Clive Owen) chases the monster out of their home. Unfortunately, that’s still not enough to keep him at away for good. The parents realize that they must resort to more drastic measures to destroy him, and sadly neither exorcism nor psychotherapy are the answer.
As a creature, Hollow Face is freaky because his lack of face is concealed with shadows and a hood. Not even being able to see a blank visage furthers the villain’s eerie mystique. Hollow Face is also scary for the shape-shifting qualities that he possesses in each setting. When Juan sees him, the monster has long flowing robes and floats around, whereas when Mia encounters him, Hollow Face wears a hooded jacket and walks like a normal man.
Thankfully Fresnadillo and his team make sure that Hollow Face’s appearance isn’t the only unsettling thing about him though. Fresnadillo makes him one part Freddie Krueger, dripping a black muddy water onto the faces of the children, and emerging from the ceiling. The writers Nicolás Casariego and Jaime Marques on the other hand, turn Hollow Face into another part Beetlejuice, where just thinking or saying his name can cause him to appear in your room.
Similar to the evil POV camera perspective utilized in “Evil Dead,” Hollow Face becomes a frightening voyeur with Fresnadillo’s direction. Hollow Face creepily lurks inside Mia’s closet while he spies on her at her desk, and he hides in the bushes after being chased by her father.
Fresnadillo manages to create some extremely suspenseful and weird moments when Hollow Face is around, however the scenes in between tend to lack the same thrilling pace. The slower portions of the film cause it to feel much longer than its 100 minute run time. On top of that, the movie’s ending lacks the necessary punch to wrap everything up successfully. The connection between Juan and Mia is annoyingly simple, and the explanation for Hollow Face’s existence will leave you scratching your head when the credits roll. After you think about it for a few minutes you’ll get it, and then realize, “Oh…well that’s pretty dumb.”
My Grade: B-