SXSW 2012: ‘Intruders’ is a bit too muddled and a bit too slight

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Intruders

Directed by  Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Intruders is a cyclical examination of monsters and nightmares and where they come from and why they persist. To this extent, its a successful endeavour. But as a satisfying, complete narrative it is a bit too muddled and a bit too slight. Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo provides enough beautiful imagery and haunting mystery to carry much of the film–though some credit goes to the three great leads–but ultimately the film fades to black and then continues fading.

The main monster in question is Hollowface, a creature of significant stature and insignificant face. He is hooded and can fly and is
either invented by or awoken by a young boy–and writing hobbyist–named Juan. Years later, a young girl named Mia (Ella Purnell) discovers yellowed old parchment describing the awakening of Hollowface, begins trying to finish the tale, and–voila–awakens Hollowface.

The early going of this film is incredibly intriguing. The effects team behind Hollowface does a fantastic job, and the film elicits a nostalgic kind of fear–of checking closets and dark alleyways. All actors present are natural and charming. Clive Owen does a great job as best dad ever, and young Ella Purnell is a revelatory talent as precocious writer and Hollowface victim Mia.

The film does a good job with small twists and turns, and the mystery of Hollowface is never the problem–as the final reveal is quite good. And for much of the film, literal and fantastic worlds weave throughout each other in really unique, powerful ways. But the film struggles when it is forced by its narrative to confront that co-mingling. Intruders is an interesting, often chilling, tale about chilling tales, but it is not the critical thesis on monsters and monstrosity that it might have been.

–Emmet Duff

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