Daily reviews of some of the best and worst movies to screen at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Stars: Clive Owen, Carice Van Houten, and Imogen Gray
Intruders is a movie destined to divide audiences. Certainly it divided the hell out of me. I admire what Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was attempting (and I most definitely enjoyed his previous projects Intacto and 28 Weeks Later). It’s an unconventional version of the standard ghost story. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work and ends up unconventionally disappointing rather than disappointing in a conventional way. I suppose that’s better than nothing.
The film tells twin narratives about two children being pursued by the same dark hooded spirit. One is a young boy in Spain decades ago whose mother takes him to a priest to deal with the hauntings. The other is a British girl (lucky enough to have Clive Owen as her father when the shit hits the fan) in contemporary times whose parents take her to see psychiatrists. It’s definitely interesting to see Fersnadillo contrast science and religion’s approach to supernatural phenomena as the director ratchets up the suspense for the first hour or so. Then, rather unfortunately, he tries to flip a movie on its head that didn’t really need flipping.
Then there’s a big twist that changes what type of movie Intruders is entirely. It transforms the haunted horror into a more psychological horror movie along the lines of Jacob’s Ladder, but not nearly as effective. It’s nice that Fresnadillo is trying to achieve something more than shouting boo at his audience in the dark.
The problem is that I’m not convinced the shift to psychological drama works and even worse, the movie just isn’t very scary. It’s well made with beautiful visuals and impressive acting, plus the intent for intelligence is uncommon in such genre fare. But in the end I think it’ll be too silly for serious minded audiences and not lurid enough for the horror crowd. Perhaps a second viewing knowing what Fresnadillo intended will reveal subtleties that I missed, but after the first look I can’t help but feel that it’s a toothless horror tale pretending to be art.
Directors: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Stars: Loic Berthezene, Serge Cabon, Chloe Coulloud
Four years ago directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury launched the gory French horror movie Inside at TIFF. That was a tightly scripted cat and mouse horror with minimal characters set in a single location. Their follow-up Livid is a different beast entirely.
Realism is thrown out the window for an almost surrealist exorcise in phantasmagoria. It starts off simply enough with a few disadvantaged young folks breaking into an old woman’s house to try and find the “treasure” allegedly hidden therein. What they uncover is a deeply bizarre and terrible world involving ghosts, vampires, and other things that go bump in the night.
Livid is reminiscent of classic oddball European horror, specifically the movies that Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci unleashed in the '70s and '80s (plus a variety of other influences - these directors are horror geeks at heart). It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s beside the point. This is a horror movie routed in f*cked-up imagery and essentially plays as more of a sensory experience than a work of storytelling.
It’s a wild funhouse ride that’s thrillingly unpredictable with unexpected shocks 'n' gore popping up at every turn. It ain’t for the squeamish or anyone reared on Twilight and the endless stream of remakes. This is for horror fans and that blood-thirsty crowd should find themselves thrilled to be lost in Bustillo/Maury’s bizarre little world. I doubt Livid will ever become a revered genre classic, but it’s sure to please anyone looking for an odd, unpredictable, and lovingly gory slice of horror.