Probing the nightmares of children for horror-movie thrills seems like pretty familiar ground by now, and Intruders doesn’t bring much originality to the genre.

There is some visual style to the latest effort from Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later), but the story is a muddled mess of supernatural hallucinations and parallel storytelling that doesn’t provide many frights.

The film features a capable performance by Clive Owen in the almost obligatory crusading father role. He plays John, a London construction worker whose pre-teen daughter (Ella Purnell) is writing a fictional story for school about a faceless man trying to abduct children at night to steal their faces. She becomes so caught up in the tale that nightmares tell her it’s true.

Meanwhile, in Madrid, a young boy (Izan Corchero) is having the same visions, which causes his single mother (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) to seek help from a young priest (Daniel Bruhl) who specializes in exorcisms.

The stories are not related, but both parents begin having the same abduction hallucinations as their children, leading to paranoia on the part of John, who has a home security system installed and frantically tries to chase the phantom intruder into the alley. He seeks help from a psychiatrist (Kerry Fox), who offers a medical explanation but little hope beyond that.

There’s an intriguing concept behind Intruders, developed by Fresnadillo in conjunction with screenwriters Nicolas Casariego and Jaime Marques. Their parallel stories are linked not by characters but by unexplained phenomena, and they don’t settle for a contrived payoff.

However, the mildly incoherent script simply doesn’t generate enough suspense or provide enough scares to allow viewers to invest in its outcome, even with a plot that hinges on the abduction of children, which is a frequent and often effective target for cinematic terror.

There are the usual cheap thrills, complete with screeching crescendos and things popping out of the shadows, but little beneath the surface.

By the time the movie explains its affliction and attempts to tie its parallel stories together, it feels like a desperate move driven by genre conventions than narrative integrity.


Rated R, 100 minutes.