The best thing that “Intruders” has going for it is its central image of a person with a featureless face. Hollowface, as he’s called in the movie, is a bedroom-closet boogeyman who torments a young Spanish boy and a young English girl in parallel (or maybe perpendicular) stories, and there’s no denying he makes for a creepy visual. But “Intruders” gets disappointingly literal with what proves to be a goofy psychological story, and the goosebumps produced by Hollowface are all for naught.
This is the third feature by Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, whose first two, “Intacto” and “28 Weeks Later,” showed creativity and promise, and which had better screenplays than this one (credited to Nicolas Casariego and Jaime Marques). The mystery is tantalizing at first, though. In Spain, young Juan (Izan Corchero) has nightmares about a Hollowface-like character that enters his home and attacks his mother (Pilar Lopez de Ayala). In London, an imaginative 12-year-old girl named Mia (Ella Purnell) writes a monster story about a similar fiend and is also troubled by nightmares, which she comes to believe are real. Her father (Clive Owen), an otherwise sane and ordinary man, starts to think she may be right — or, at the very least, that there has been an intruder in the house.
We cut back and forth between Spain and England for a while. Juan’s mother brings in a priest (Daniel Bruhl) to talk to the lad; Mia’s dad installs surveillance cameras in case the perpetrator returns, and worries his wife (Clarice van Houten). Juan and Mia’s visions of Hollowface become stronger and more palpable. Can it be that their imaginations are willing the monster into existence?
Re-reading those last two paragraphs, I think: That sounds like a great set-up for a scary movie! Where do our nightmares come from? What real-life experiences inspire them? What makes them go away? Yes, yes, good stuff. Unfortunately, it’s followed here by twists that explain things too easily, making the fantastical seem ordinary after all. Less explanation might have been better in this case. The haunted house isn’t nearly as scary once you’ve turned all the lights on.
C (1 hr., 40 min.; )
Reprinted from Film.com.