There are very few festivals on this planet that play as such a loving home for the darkest and most depraved horror films that one could possibly imagine. Throughout the years, SXSW has played, during their midnight sidebar, a various cornucopia of horror films, and 2012’s slate may be the best yet.
However, one of its headlining North American premieres, the latest film from 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Intruders, may be one of the most nonsensical and least thrilling films not only of this year’s midnight selection, but maybe of this, still very young, year entirely.
Starring Clive Owen, Intruders is a story following two families, going through similar issues with an entity known as Hollowface. A hood wearing, faceless being with a penchant for abducting children only to steal their face so that he can be loved, the premise itself is honestly, quite intriguing. Featuring a wonderful cast including Carice van Houten and Daniel Bruhl (giving a great performance), the film has the makings of something truly special, especially coming from someone the likes of Fresnadillo. Which makes the fact that it’s a total thrill-free slog all the more upsetting.
With a rather simplistic set up, Fresnadillo’s biggest flaw here as a filmmaker is that he is able to make the immensely base level narrative make almost nearly no true sense what so ever. Visually, it’s purely your standard horror piece, employing deep earth tones, dark hues and a brooding quality that feels forced and out of place. Simply put, it’s aggressively un-thrilling. Anti-thrilling, shall you say. His 28 Weeks-style shaky cam is here in full force, which makes the action, which takes place in tight hallways or bedrooms all the more nonsensical, Fresnadillo attempts to make an action horror piece, and yet is wholly unable to do either side of that successfully.
Owen is fine here as our lead, playing someone who can best be described as the greatest and most caring father in the history of this planet. In hopes of making the terror his family falls into all the more pertinent, Owen is legitimately given very little to do, and does it all quite poorly. The relationship between he and his young daughter feels forced and false, as does his seemingly rocky relationship with his wife. The familial chemistry feels empty, save for one sequence late at night featuring the burning of a scarecrow type entity, which is truly the film’s strongest sequence.
It’s not all flawed, however. The score from Roque Banos is fantastic, very much fitting the type of story and film that this ultimately is, and it punches up the thrills, which could use as much superficial enhancements as humanly possible. Also, the character design of Hollowface is really great and brooding, but the use of the character as almost a Dementor-like character nearly unravels all of that. Truly deserves to be in a far creepier film.
Overall, Intruders may have a great score and a few tense sequences, but it’s also a horribly dull and absurd feature that is never thrilling nor frightening. With potential to burn, the film is not only genuinely mediocre, but it’s also immensely disappointing. Which may be even worse.