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Intruders

Spanish horror movies have carved out a distinctive niche over the past few years with a surprisingly effective alchemy of fairy-tale-influenced chills and Hitchcockian psycho-sexual suspense. This 2011 entry, a U.K. co-production, continues the tradition—or cashes in on it—with iffy results. Intruders sets up a clever dual narrative that shifts between Juan (Izán Corchero), a young boy in Madrid who's terrorized by the nebulous, Freddy Krueger–esque Hollow Face, and Mia (Ella Purnell), a pointedly pubescent Londoner who seems to have created the monster in an ongoing school story project but receives nightly visits from him, too. The catch is that Mia's father (Clive Owen) also sees Hollow Face, unlike Juan's single mom (Pilar López de Ayala), who fears her boy might be cracking up. Screenwriters Nicolás Casariego and Jaime Marques and director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) do a good job of keeping the fuzzy symbiosis of these plotlines up in the air, even if the back-and-forth grows tedious early on. There's also something daringly meta (or maybe foolhardy) in the notion of a monster movie being made up by its protagonist as it goes along. Intruders stumbles, however, by never establishing a satisfying emotional connection to its characters and events, and its climactic reveal fizzles accordingly. Feeling is the real draw in films like Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage and the work (criminally underseen in the U.S.) of writer-director Guillem Morales; with nothing tangible at stake, Intruders is just an aggregation of influences that's as blank as its bogeyman.

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