The faceless one

Release Date: 27 January 2012
15 | 99 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Cast: Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Daniel Bruhl, Kerry Fox, Ella Purnell

This unusual, beguiling ghost story is almost as hard to see as its titular spook, getting a very limited cinema release. It’s a story of parallel hauntings in England and Spain, and the Spanish scenes are (horror of horrors!) subtitled. Perhaps the distributors feared that the “foreign” bits would deter the stereotyped multiplex crowd.

A little Spanish boy and a 12 year-old English girl, both with vivid imaginations, are similarly menaced by a lurker in their bedroom shadows: a no-faced figure in a hood, dubbed Hollowface. Harry Potter fans will quickly think of the Dementors. Intruders has many such familiar elements (this is basically a “monster in the closet” story). However, it’s not a problem; the film uses its archetypes wisely, and never glibly.

Clive Owen plays the English girl’s dad; nonplussed about his girl growing out of teddy bears, he’s reassured that she still has childish terrors. (The film would make a strong double-bill with last year’s non-supernatural drama Trust, where Owen played a father whose daughter fell victim to a molester.) Intruders’ storybook trappings and parent/child threads link the film to Spanish offerings like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage.

There’s a twist which may throw out some viewers – not least because of the actor involved – but it doesn’t diminish the film’s achievements, which include a “dark and stormy night” prologue which could have been a great short film by itself, and a lyrical final image.

Andrew Osmond

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