July 4, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Intruders (2011)

Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo first came to my attention when he directed the sequel to Danny Boyle's excellent pseudo-zombie film 28 Days Later, the movie was cleverly titled 28 Weeks Later. The sequel was impressive in how it built on the first, felt like it was in the same universe, but also stood on its own as a strong film. When it was announced that his follow up was going to be a psychological thriller, I was certainly interested. It also did not hurt that he was able to attract Clive Owen to play the lead role. It has been four years since he appeared on my radar, was the wait worth it?

I would love to say it was worth the four year wait, but I can't. Intruders has some interesting things going on underneath the surface, and it is certainly shot very nicely, but it has some problems that cannot be ignored. For one, it is sluggishly paced and kind of dull for stretches. Another problem is that even with a few viewings, it is hard to really get what the movie is about. This makes it all the worse, as the movie can be engrossing at times, thanks to the moody atmosphere and solid performances.

Let's back up a little bit. Intruders is told through two story threads that seem to mirror each other. The thread we open with is about a boy and his mother. They live in Spain and the story seems to be set at some indeterminate time in the past. The boy, Juan, likes to write stories. His latest one is about a monster that creeps into bedrooms to steal the faces from young boys. The problem is that it appears his story has taken on a life of its own and before long we find the boy and his mother fighting a faceless monster for possession of the boy.

Time shifts to the present where we meet John Farrow (Clive Owen), his daughter Mia (Ell Purnell), and his wife Susanna (Carice van Houten). One day, Mia follows her cat up a tree where she finds an open hole in one of the branches. She reaches inside and extracts a small wooden box. Inside the box is the handwritten story of Hollow Face, the faceless monster who is after Juan. She passes the story off as her own at school, but it is not a complete tale and she begins to continue the writing.

If you could not guess, Hollow Face appears and goes after her. John does all he can to protect her, even getting int fights with the creature and chasing him down dark alleys. The intrusions continue until a well meaning psychiatrist steps in to show John something that may prove these events are not really happening.

From this point Intruders devolves into something I do not quite understand. The third act seems to forget what the first two were like as it shifts direction and heads for the credits. It really is a shame. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo creates some great looking sequences with moody lighting, interesting angles, and nicely composed frames.

Intruders is a movie that will carry you along so long as you are satisfied by the dread-laden atmosphere. If you do not buy into that early, you will likely be driven into a deep sleep by the lack of genuine drama. It is a good idea that is executed poorly. It seeks to play up the idea that monsters can be manifestations of our own minds and seem quite real, while not being harmful at all; however, it is let down by the sloppy editing together of the mirrored stories and a conclusion that just feels like a big let down.

Audio/Video. The film is presented in a ratio of 2.35:1 and is decent. There are some nice looking details in close up, but overall it seems to lose a lot of detail into the darkness. This is not always an issue, as this is a dark movie and some things are mean to be hidden. Still, I cannot say I was enthralled with how this transfer looks. It does have an appropriately filmic quality, and faces show nice detail, but overall it seems a little flat to me.

The audio is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and it does a nice job. It is a quiet track that goes a long way to supporting the moody visuals. The sparse score is spread across the front with nice support from the rears. When the action picks up, there are nice loud jolts to make sure everyone is awake. Dialogue is clear and centered. It is a very nice track that fits the style of the film.

  • Featurette. This bit runs more than seven minutes and features interviews with the director and cast about the story, blending realism and supernatural, and the influences of culture.
  • Behind the Scenes. This feels like an expanded version of the featurette, with more interview segments, movie clips, discussion of the story and its development, and raw footage from the set.
Bottomline. Now, the movie is not terrible, despite some of the big issues, it is still worth giving some time to. The second viewing plays a little better than the first, mainly you can look for different things rather than wait for the twist. Still, the combination of the two stories remains somewhat clumsy and the third act falls apart, wasting the excellent atmosphere and good performances. I also liked the breaking of the rule where parents cannot witness the monsters their children see.

Mildly Recommended.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Intruders (2011) on Blogcritics.

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