PLOT: Hollow Face is waiting. He is watching. And he is hiding in the dark corners of the night, just out of sight. He haunts two children in two stories that somehow may be connected. Yet it is a desperate father who must face the monster to save his beloved daughter from Hollow Face and his deathly hold.
REVIEW: There is something utterly terrifying about hearing a child cry out that there is something hiding in the dark at night in their room. Or even worse, the idea of a stranger breaking in through a window with the intention of stealing someone away. These are childhood fears come to life in the latest feature film by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, INTRUDERS.
The story follows a young Spanish boy Juan (Izán Corchero) and a young teenage girl named Mia (Ella Purnell), both of whom are being terrorized by a frightful boogeyman they call Hollow Face. One night, in Spain, young Juan tells his mother that he is afraid of the monsters he has been writing about. She comforts him, yet in his heart he knows that something evil is waiting for him. During the night, he finds out that Hollow Face is real. This sinister nightmare-of-a-man has no face and he is looking for one to take this young innocent’s face from him, a very chilling thought for this child. This creepy urban legend-like tale is told effectively enough as we find that another family in England is being tormented by this same fiend.
Mia is the thirteen-year-old daughter of John Farrow (Clive Owen) and his wife Sue (Carice van Houten). And like many awful parents in horror films, it isn’t until John comes face to face with Hollow Face that he believes Mia. These are the most unsettling moment in INTRUDERS which does a decent job of conjuring up your deepest, darkest dreams. It’s a shame that nothing else in the film is as startling as this particular sequence. In fact, they even attempt to frighten you later on with a near identical scare sequence. At least it tries to frighten viewers within the atmospheric world Fresnadillo creates, even though the overuse of CGI effects feels a tad unnecessary.
INTRUDERS works as part ghost story and part psychological horror. It is a children’s nightmare come to life, yet it sometimes stumbles on its own simplicity. There are secrets to this ghoulish stranger who haunts these young children, even if these secrets reveal themselves too quickly during the film. Hollow Face himself is presented as a frightening figure that can steal the face of a young child away – although it sounds much worse than it is. He can leave them without a voice to call for help. While it is a wise choice that the story focuses on character as much as it does, you have to wonder with such a terrifying villain, why he doesn’t generate more goose bumps.
Without giving too much of the story away, I appreciated how the film told the two stories of Juan and Mia – for those of you who don’t like subtitles, a little less than half of the film will frustrate you. It was a fascinating idea to give these two innocents their own story, as they are each haunted by this wraith-like visitor. Yet, as the filmmakers slowly reveal a connection between the two - and what (or who) Hollow Face is - it felt much too obvious at times. They treat this story with a sense of mystery, yet there are a few moments that give away entirely too much about what is taking place. This also had an impact on the spook factor which is, in many ways, lessened by the answers given.
INTRUDERS is a unique and old-fashioned horror story that relies on shadows and suspense. Even when the terror feels muted, it still maintains a sense of dread, maybe in part because children are involved. While the mystery is much too predictable, I did appreciate the ending. It is not necessarily spelled out, but it was one of the more satisfying finales in horror recently, even if the build-up wasn’t always fulfilling. The psychological aspect works well and it also helps that Owen, and the two young stars, give such solid performances. It may not be as thought-provoking as it wants to be, but at least it offers a couple of decent scares with a little class and good performances from its cast which also includes Daniel Brühl (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, THE EDUKATORS) as a sympathetic priest and Kerry Fox (SHALLOW GRAVE) as a concerned doctor.