MARCH 6, 2012
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (PRESS SCREENING)
It’s not the popular opinion, but I found Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s 28 Weeks Later to be superior to Danny Boyle’s original, and thus I have been anxiously awaiting a followup film from this potential genre heavyweight. Sadly, Intruders was not worth a five year wait – it’s an enjoyable enough supernatural tale, but it lacks urgency, and unfortunately centers on a twist that’s fairly easy to figure out from the first act, resulting in a movie where you might be spending too much of it waiting for the filmmaker to get around to revealing what you (and the main character) already know so they can move on to more exciting/interesting developments.
The concept is pretty nifty, however. We follow two storylines, and in each a monster called Hollowface is terrorizing a child in that “monster in the closet” way. Oddly, both children have parents who seem to believe them; the male child’s mother (the father is MIA) and the female child’s father (Clive Owen) don’t spend too much time on the “it was just a bad dream” or whatever explanations, which gives both stories an unusual dynamic. Usually this sort of trust is delayed until the final act, but Owen sees Hollowface himself in the first 40 minutes or so, giving it a unique flavor (not to mention a refreshing one; we don’t see nearly enough movie parents who believe a damn thing their children are saying).
Hollowface is also an interesting movie creature; he’s a human, but can float a bit like the reaper in The Frighteners or maybe one of the Dementors from Harry Potter. He also lacks a face, a visual that’s always unsettling. Fresnadillo cleverly uses shadow for the scare scenes, slowly revealing Hollowface or letting Owen walk into a totally blacked out alley. He also stages some fun scenes, particularly the opener in which Hollowface attempts to take the little boy from his apartment building, which is covered by flimsy scaffolding. For a movie that I wasn’t even sure was actually horror (I knew nothing about it before today), it delivers some good scare scenes and a memorable villain.
But too much of the movie is designed to try to keep us in the dark about a particular element of the story, and I didn’t find it particularly difficult to figure out (relax, I won’t spoil it). It’s not a bad idea, it’s just not executed as well as it should be – and it also takes far too long to “reveal”. The movie is almost over by the time Fresnadillo spells it out, and I couldn’t help but think if it were revealed maybe a half hour sooner that it would provide for a meatier 3rd act. It’s nothing like it, but it’d be like if Dream House waited until the final 10-15 minutes to point out that Daniel Craig was the guy who supposedly killed his family. That movie still sucked, but at the halfway point it allowed for more urgency to the story, instead of the sort of wheel-spinning this movie has to rely on in order to keep it a secret longer.
The climax is also a bit of a wash, as they make the mistake of putting the girl in danger in her dreams. This is doubly silly; we know she won’t be hurt, and it keeps everyone else out of danger. I couldn’t help but think of Insidious, how the dad had to go into this otherworldly realm to save the kid, which might have meant bad news for him – something similar should have been employed here, as there’s a chance Clive Owen could get hurt/killed. Instead he’s just out there, safely in the real world, telling a story (the movie is a blend of Insidious, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, and New Nightmare’s “Hansel & Gretel” type stuff).
Basically, it’s just a bit too slight for my tastes. Even if I disregard the director and assume some journeyman TV director was at the helm, there aren’t enough complications in the plot, and by switching back and forth between the parallel stories, neither of them have enough time to develop the characters fully (especially the little boy and mother, as the Owen/daughter scenes seem to get more screen time). And again, it takes too long for them to intersect, which handicaps the movie’s ability to really get moving. But if you’re unable to figure out their connection and get worked up over the sight of children in danger, it should certainly provide some workmanlike thrills. It may be forgettable, but it’s not a chore, either. Let’s just hope Fresnadillo doesn’t take another 5 years in between films; I want this to be the equivalent of Carpenter knocking out Somebody’s Watching Me in between Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween.
What say you?