Clive Owen, Carice Van Houten Star in Hollow ‘Intruders’

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CHICAGO – Clive Owen is a fantastic actor, one of the best of his generation in films like “Children of Men” and “Trust.” His co-star in “Intruders,” Carice Van Houten, generally makes everything she does more interesting (and memorably appears in the new season of “Game of Thrones”). And yet neither of these talented thespians can do a thing to save “Intruders,” an inert, boring supernatural thriller, a flick that joins the crowded subgenre of childhood boogeyman scare-fests that fail to find the spine-tingling power of what we think may be under the bed.

Even as adults, we’re fascinated by things that go bump in the night. We can all remember those childhood days when a pitch-black closet or a creaky floorboard could suddenly sprout nightmarish visions of the boogeyman or some other legendary monster. The creature in “Intruders” is a faceless apparition, a man-like figure shrouded in rags with ghost like hands and the nickname “Hollowface.” You see, he needs a face. And it might as well be yours. Sounds promising, right? None of that promise is fulfilled.

Photo credit: Millennium Entertainment

Hollowface haunts two children, a young Spanish boy named Juan (Izan Corchero) who lives alone with his mother and an American girl named Mia (Ella Purnell) whose father (Owen) and mother (Houten) get sucked into their daughter’s nightmare. The Spanish urchin is attacked first as he watches Hollowface climb the scaffolding outside his window and crawl into his apartment, first attacking his mother and then him before running off into the rainy night. Across the globe, Mia is exploring a tree when she reaches into a knot and pulls out a box with a half-written story on it – the legend of “Hollowface.” Before you know it, Mia is being haunted as well. Or is she? Is this a demonic creature or a hallucination? And how are the two hauntings related? (Ten bucks says half of you will figure out this “twist” early…I sure did.)

Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (“28 Weeks Later”) has a proven skill with action but “Intruders” is not an action piece – it needed to be an atmospheric thriller to work and that’s precisely what’s missing from the film. There’s no mood here, no dread, none of the creeping, crawling sense of fear that we feel in the middle of the night when you hear a sound in a house that you know should be empty. The action scenes – such as in when Owen has to fight Hollowface to save his daughter – work because Fresnadillo has proven strength with horror action. But we never feel the actual danger at the core of this story, one that should bring back memories of childhood nightmares but only reminds one of better films.

Photo credit: Millennium Entertainment

Clive Owen’s not to blame. He does his best here to make this work, convincingly selling the trauma of a man who feels like he’s increasingly unable to protect his daughter. Van Houten, on the other hand, doesn’t work at all, although it’s not her fault that this thin script doesn’t give her a believable character at all. When her daughter and husband start having nightmarish visions of a man without a face, she’s oddly distant and skeptical. Even if she didn’t believe them, wouldn’t she worry about their sanity? She’s a movie cliché in the worst way. The young actors, especially Purnell, do pretty well.

But it doesn’t matter because “Intruders” commits the cardinal sin of a bad horror movie – it’s not scary. The story is obvious, the characters aren’t genuine, and the villain is only slightly interesting. It’s a slow burn that just fizzles out instead of igniting in the final act.

“Intruders” stars Clive Owen, Carice Van Houten, Daniel Bruhl, Ella Purnell, and Kerry Fox. It was directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. It opens in New York and L.A. on March 30th, 2012 and is rated R. content director Brian Tallerico

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