The producers of 'Intruders' should perhaps change its title to the singular noun, because technically, there really is only one intruder in this spook-less bait-and-switch. We are made to believe the ghostly figure haunting the nightmares of two children living in different countries is one and the same. And by "bait-and-switch," I mean the enjoyment of this Spanish-British collaboration starring Clive Owen hinges on the overall effectiveness of one single, shocking twist at the end — the "a-ha" moment. Unfortunately, the degree to which one will care for that sudden eye-opener, and hopefully end up loving the movie all the more, will greatly vary between viewers. As for this particular viewer, we'll just say I'm not any more scared of the dark now than I was before going into it.
I probably would've taken a better shine to the film had it been, you know . . . actually scary, or at least, the tiniest bit creepy. That's not to say the story by Jaime Marques and Nicolás Casariego doesn't have its moments, because it does. Only, the problem is there are two worth remembering, and they're still not that great. The first takes place in England when concerned father Owen finds his daughter (Ella Purnell) playing with her bedside lamp, terrified her recurring nightmare has become a reality. Some minutes later, dear-ole dad stands in front of her closet as a hooded stranger slowly emerges from the darkness. It still gives me chills thinking about, but it only lasts for a few seconds because I suddenly remember the rest of the movie and realize my overall disappointment.
The second scene is set inside a scary-looking storage room of a church in Spain where another concerned parent — this time a single mother (Pilar López de Ayala) — fears her son (Izán Corchero) might be followed or possessed by some demonic spirit. She takes him to an equally worried priest (Daniel Brühl) who will fake an exorcism so as to comfort the pair. My immediate thought — other than, why is he faking it? — is why perform a mock-ritual inside such an eerie room? But I digress. While doing the prayer, the same hooded ghostly figure appears in the corner of the room, covered in a deep shadow like a statue. The priest can't see him, but the mother and child can. So, they run as quickly as possible out of the church, and we get another few seconds of goose bumps.
These two sequences combined reveal the potential for '28 Weeks Later' director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo to deliver a genuinely frightening movie-going experience, right up there with 'The Devil's Backbone,' 'The Orphanage' and 'The Others.' It's a great start, but Fresnadillo doesn't know how to finish it. We're made to plod along for long stretches of time with nothing happening, hoping we'll remain interested by the mystery of the hooded man which both children, who are seemingly strangers throughout the entire movie, coincidentally dub "Hallowface." Thing is, we start losing curiosity as the narrative drags on and discover there is actually very little horror in this children's ghost tale. I suppose part of the disappointment comes from unmet expectations, but that still remains the fault of the filmmakers for setting it up as such.
If you're wondering how the two children are related, the story does a nice job of filling in those gaps. Though it does feel a bit contrived and is somewhat predictable, I will give Fresnadillo props for bridging the two storylines together smoothly. It's a tearfully, heartwarming moment that leaves us all mushy inside and has not questioning some of the minor details which expose serious holes in the logic. Now that I'm thinking more on those details, the holes grow wider, along with my disappointment. Still, things are wrapped up reasonably well for a rather mediocre scary tale about the love of parents and creepy guys in hoods who sneak unnoticed into the bedrooms of children and stare from dark, shadowy corners, while they sleep.
See, I told you. There's potential there for some genuinely freaky stuff, but it all goes to waste in 'Intruders.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Millennium Entertainment brings 'Intruders' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc inside the normal blue keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. Several skippable trailers commence at startup before viewers are greeted by the standard main menu options with music and full-motion clips in the background.
'Intruders' debuts on Blu-ray with a highly-detailed AVC-encoded transfer (2.35:1) that still manages to fall slightly on the unsatisfactory side. Contrast is generally strong and stable, allowing for some genuinely terrific exterior scenes. Primaries also are quite nice and accurate, but the majority of the cinematography is deliberately subdued to give the movie a sense of gloom. Definition and clarity are actually razor-sharp for the majority of the presentation with many excellent daylight scenes.
What brings the video down several notches are the erratic black levels, completely ruining resolution in several poor-lit sequences and engulfing shadow details with thick, grayish globs. There are many times throughout when blacks are deep and true, but nighttime sequences, especially inside the kids' bedrooms, tend to suffer from incomprehensible action. It's actually very distracting and makes for some really ugly scenes which are meant to be scary.
The Spanish spookfest also comes with a much better Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, able to deliver the creeps in finer style than the video. The surrounds are decidedly quiet for a majority of the time, reserved mostly for the scarier scenes. In those instances, there is great directionality and some good panning, but it sadly never generates a convincing soundfield or chilling atmosphere. Much of the attention is drawn towards the front soundstage where even the musical score enjoys a wide, spacious imaging. Dialogue is crystal-clear and defined, delivering precise tonal inflections from the cast, while the mid-range provides accurate, detailed clarity in a variety of noises. The low-end, however, is greatly lacking and mostly anemic, barely able to muster enough bass for the many jump-scares throughout the movie.
Supplements are unfortunately nothing special.
From '28 Weeks Later' director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 'Intruders' starts off great, with plenty of potential to scare the bejesus out of its audience, but it finishes with a run-of-the-mill "twist." Starring Clive Owen as the dutiful father, the story is not entirely bad but it's nothing exceptional either. The Blu-ray debuts with highly-detailed video but poor black levels which ruin much of the quality while the audio presentation puts on a fairly good show. Supplemental material is not only small but forgettable, making the package worthwhile only for fans, others should just give it a rent.