Juan Carlos Fresnadillo treats a molehill of an idea as though it were a mountain of fright in “Intruders,” a bipartite supernatural thriller that loses steam quickly before providing a resolution most viewers will find highly unsatisfactory. The movie provides a few scary moments, but not enough to overcome its long periods of just marking time.
The film progresses in two segments. In the first, Juan (Izan Corchero), a young Spanish boy with a vivid imagination, is terrified by a nocturnal apparition of a ghoulish figure in a hooded parka whose face, when glimpsed, seems oddly featureless. His mother Luisa (Pilar Lopez de Ayala), believing the figure might be a sign of demonic possession, seeks help—in the form of an exorcism—from a young priest (Daniel Bruehl), but his efforts prove useless.
In London, meanwhile, young Mia (Ella Purnell), an equally inventive child, is inspired to write a story about a faceless boogeyman she calls Hollow Face by a scribbled note she finds in the trunk of a tree on her grandmother’s farm. Her version has the creature searching for a boy whose visage he plans to steal. Soon she too is being visited by the ghoul at night, and when her father John (Clive Owen) tries to intervene, he’s accused of sharing his daughter’s hallucination.
“Intruders” shuffles back and forth between these two plot threads, with Hollow Face making repeated visits to the children’s bedrooms and threatening them, though the specter seems to become particularly violent with their adult protectors, Luisa and John. But in fact nothing much happens during these encounters, besides Fresnadillo’s on-and-off success at employing the apparition to generate scares. Unfortunately, the thing shows up so often without anybody being harmed that his visitations grow rather tedious. And while the Spanish and English narratives are eventually brought together, it’s with what amounts to a trick, coupled with a revelation that turns the entire piece into something more psychological than supernatural.
You have to give Fresnadillo some credit for crafting a few spooky moments, and Owen some for bringing his customary intensity to his role. The children are both likable, too, though it’s unfortunate that Bruehl, a fine actor, is wasted in a thankless (and pointless) role. Technically “Intruders” is okay, if hardly spectacular.
And that’s about all that can be said of the movie overall, too.