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REVIEW: The Intruder (LFF 2020)

The Intruder follows Inés (Erica Rivas), a young woman who experiences a traumatic event during a trip with her partner, and begins to suffer delusions. It’s a terrifying concept, and confusing real life with the imaginary soon proves detrimental to her everyday life. Written and directed by Natalia Meta, and based on the novel by C.E. Feiling, this story focuses very heavily on Inés and the struggles she faces following a very difficult holiday with her partner Leopoldo (Daniel Hendler). Their romantic getaway ends in tragedy, after Leopoldo is spotted lying face down in the hotel’s swimming pool, having apparently committed suicide.

The film doesn’t explicitly say that Leopoldo jumped to his death from their hotel balcony, but it’s certainly implied after the couple have a row and Inés locks herself in the bathroom to try and escape her partner’s rows. When Inés returns from the trip, she’s forever changed, and we catch up with her three months after the incident. She works as a singer and voice dubber, but is clearly struggling as she’s relegated from her choir position and has to do many re-takes in the recording booth. On top of this, she keeps hearing a strange noise that her sound engineer can’t understand, and she even sees visions of her late boyfriend which terrify her. Inés also receives complaints from her upstairs neighbour who says she can hear noises coming from her apartment at night.

During the course of the film, Inés attempts to make sense of these strange occurrences, but a spanner is thrown in the works when her overbearing mother Marta (Cecilia Roth) arrives. So not only does she have to figure out what’s going on, she also has to try and deal with her mother too. During this confusing time, Inés meets an organ tuner named Alberto (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) and this introduces a rather complex romantic subplot into the mix. Alberto is mysterious, and weirdly sinister, so it’s easy to speculate about whether or not he truly exists.

The Intruder is an interesting entry to the horror genre, but it certainly won’t be for everyone. It’s beautifully shot and Erica Rivas delivers a great performance, as she appears in almost every shot and needs to hold our interest. Whilst Erica is captivating in the leading role, it’s a very slow burn and isn’t the kind of horror that features monsters, jumpscares, or even a villain you can see. It’s much more about the mental ‘intrusion’, and how Inés must figure out how to get rid of it.

The Intruder is a confusing experience, but perhaps it was intended to be. It’s quite arty in its execution and follows our protagonist as she goes about her daily routine, becoming more and more consumed by the strange happenings around her. The sound design in this film is very good, especially scenes which take place inside the recording booth. This claustrophobic environment, teamed with strange noises, effectively reflects how she’s feeling. Inés’ word revolves around music and sound, and these intrusions are certainly unwelcome and unwanted.

Personally, I would have liked the film to have been more ominous when it came to the titular intruder, which apparently exists inside her head. We’re no stranger to visions and hallucinations in horror, and I think this film would’ve benefited from some more gritty visuals and a deeper exploration into Inés’ state of mind. The introduction of this ‘intruder’ is quite strange too, as Inés is told about it by another character but there’s no real depth to the discussion or reasoning behind why she might be experiencing it. It’s implied that it’s a form of PTSD, but the film doesn’t do much to give us a backstory.

Overall, I found the film disappointingly average because there was the potential to do so much more with this storyline. Mental illness can be a very terrifying thing, and if Inés confusion between the real and delusions had been explored in a grittier and more visceral way, I might’ve really enjoyed it.

Rating: ★★★

 

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