★★ / ★★★★
As Juan (Izán Corchero) slept in his bed, he was suddenly attacked by a faceless monster from one of his stories. With the help of his determined mother, Luisa (Pilar López de Ayala), they were able to escape from the grasp of the cloaked figure. However, their freedom proved to be temporary when Luisa became convinced that there was an evil inside her son. Meanwhile, on a completely different country, Mia (Ella Purnell) was plagued by nightmares of the same faceless figure. John (Clive Owen), Mia’s father, tried to convince her that the monster was all a part of her imagination. That is, until he saw for himself that the man without a face, Hollowface, hid in Mia’s walk-in closet. Based on the screenplay by Nicolás Casariego and Jamie Maeques, “Intruders” had the makings of a wonderful horror-thriller in its first thirty minutes but was ultimately disappointing because its middle section comprised of characters getting into similar situations with similar outcomes to the point where the material felt tired instead of new. While it made sense that the filmmakers initially wished to highlight the similarities and differences between Juan and Mia’s stories, the script seemed unable to break free from passively jumping back and forth between the children’s perspectives that the delivery of the scares became predictable and convoluted. The film, however, was able to offer a few genuinely suspenseful scenes which helped to keep the unfocused project afloat. For example, in the middle of the night, John found his daughter, after she’d had a nightmare, sitting on her bed and playing with a flashlight. She seemed intent on searching for something in the darkness. As he finished consoling her, Mia finally turned the flashlight off. To John’s horror, he heard several creaks coming from his daughter’s closet. It could be that they weren’t alone. I admired that such a scene, and others like it, was allowed to play out instead of relying on quick cuts followed by a next day narrative and cheap false alarms. The horrifying images felt so unbelievable at times that it was like we were inside the children’s nightmares. We were forced to question what was real and what wasn’t. However, there were also moments when the material was too eager to please. The visual effects, as impressive as they looked, in the second half didn’t feel right for the story. It allowed us to see too much. The picture was at its best when we were forced to use our imagination and guess what could be hiding in the poorly lit corner of the room. Moreover, the material also missed an opportunity to play with its visual style. One strand of the story took place in Spain and the other in England. It was such a letdown that the director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, didn’t attempt to play with colors, mood, or atmosphere. It seemed like the only way the audiences could tell whether what was in front of us was taking place in England or Spain was the language that was spoken and, of course, which characters were in front of the camera. It was mostly one note, self-servingly serious. “Intruders,” despite its good ideas, lacked an element of surprise. For a work that championed the power of imagination, its core needed a dose of its own medicine.