Director Natalie Meta takes an abstract approach to her second feature film The Intruder (El Prófugo). Based on a book of the same name by C.E. Feiling, Meta walks a fine line between the psychological and the spiritual but because the film doesn’t elaborate on either view, the movie lingers in a limbo while the audience tries to get to the bottom of what’s happening without losing interest.
Ines (Érica Rivas) and her annoying boyfriend Leopoldo (Daniel Hendler) are on their way to a resort for a vacation. She’s scared of flying, so her boyfriend gives her a pill to calm herself down. Ines has some strange and violent dreams on the flight but wakes up to reality which soon slaps her in the face. While in the hotel room, Leopoldo and Ines have an argument where he constantly pressures her into revealing what she said and who she saw in her dream. To get away from his incessant nagging, she locks herself in the bathroom. When she has a moment to herself she begins to tell him about her dream, but then he suddenly goes silent. She opens the door and the room is shrouded in darkness and she suddenly finds him 10 floors down, having drowned in the resort pool.
Before this incident, Ines was a little all over the place. She’s a Spanish language dubbing actress, who’s working on a J-horror film where a snake keeps trying to ride up a woman’s leg. She’s also a lead singer in the Buenos Aires local choir where she can’t seem to hold the note for her solo. As time wears on, she hears strange voices and seeing apparitions and she isn’t sure if something is mentally amiss or if something more sinister is at hand. She finally finds the answer from an older colleague who tells her she has an ‘intruder.’ What is an intruder? It’s never explained but the film paints it as a possessive spirit from her dreams that aims to take over the body and mind of someone in a vulnerable state, and when you invite them in, they overtake you.
This concept of a malevolent spirit being labeled an intruder is intriguing and ripe for exploration but writer/director Meta and co-writer Leonel D’Agostino aren’t interested in going below the surface. A significant amount of time is spent on being unsettling and atmospheric–which the film does rather seamlessly–but it doesn’t do anything else. There is no story, just a series of events happening to Ines and she never gets to respond to any of them until the end, but by then I’ve divested from the film.
Too much time is spent searching for meaning as the film meanders through its own plot as if it doesn’t know why it exists. Each scene introduces something new to Ines’ life, just to be forgotten about in the next scene. There is no focus, or drive to push the narrative forward. Meta has a goal and is trying hard to create something abstract, similar to the Japanese horror film that Ines is dubbing, but it only establishes a foundation, it doesn’t build anything upon it. Meta is a talented director and I am excited for what she does next, but The Intruder just doesn’t fire on all cylinders.
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