Review by Sean Boelman
Natalia Meta’s The Intruder starts out with an absolutely riveting opening twenty minutes that set the stage for a fascinating and exciting thriller. Unfortunately, it only goes down from there, treading into more conventional psychological horror territory and loses much of its initial intrigue as a result.
The film follows a young woman who begins to lose her grip on reality after she experiences a brutal trauma. It’s a simple premise, but the opening shot implies that it is going to be anything but straightforward. And while this is true to a certain extent, Meta eventually finds a comfortable rhythm and at that point, it becomes far more predictable.
One of the more obvious problems with the movie is that its suspense is constantly building with no payoffs along the way. It is missing either jump scares or more of an investment in the atmosphere. Yes, the story is mysterious, but for it to really succeed as a horror film, there needs to be more.
Additionally, the movie ends up feeling very shallow because it doesn’t explore its (very common) themes on a particularly deep level. Ambiguity is one thing, but there’s a difference between subtlety and playing coy about ideas that have been explored better in other films. Meta obviously has some interesting things to say, but wasn’t quite able to figure out how to say them.
As expected, a significant majority of the character development comes in the first act. However, even though Meta does a great job of making us care about the protagonist early on, she doesn’t do enough to reinforce that sympathy throughout the rest of the conflict. Also disappointing is the fact that the supporting characters are paper-thin.
Another frustrating thing about the movie is that it shows a lot of really exciting talent that isn’t put to full use. The chief of these is lead actress Erica Rivas, who is obviously a gifted performer. She is able to nail the paranoia aspect of the storyline in a way that is unsettling without being over-the-top.
Meta shows a great deal of potential as well. This is her sophomore feature, and there are so many hints, in both the script and the execution that suggest she is onto something great. The use of music in the film is particularly impressive, the protagonist’s voice serving as an important factor in the story, as the soundtrack is what makes it so haunting.
The Intruder sets itself up for failure by using up all of its best material early on. It’s a movie that seems to think it’s a lot more profound than it is, when in reality, it’s mostly a pretty run-of-the-mill psychological horror flick.
The Intruder screened at the 2020 AFI FEST which runs virtually October 15-22.