REEL Review – The Intruder (2020)

Director: Natalia Meta | 1h 30mins | Thriller, Horror | Language: Spanish

When Inés’ (Erica Rivas) boyfriend dies on their romantic trip, she begins to struggle with nightmares and visions. When it begins interfering with her work and singing, she seeks help to stop them.

Natalia Meta’s intriguing black comedy is a confusing and sometimes funny journey into the psyche of a woman suffering from trauma, or maybe even guilt. Nominated for a few awards among festival season it seems that the intrigue is strong with The Intruder, but it’s also a film not without it’s problems.

Having said that, the vision in which Inés is suffering from are beautifully composed. The beginning of film sees her and her new partner on a flight to their holiday destination. When Inés falls asleep she has a disturbing dream of an air hostess coming by and threatening to kill her boyfriend. In one shot we see the vision turn into reality, it’s such a beautifully composed scene, something that the film continues to provide throughout as Inés becomes even more unsure of what’s real and what’s not. When they have a fight in the hotel room over his insecurities, Inés locks herself in the bathroom only to come out and to find her boyfriend face down in a swimming pool.

What follows is a film that gets more and more complex but also a little confusing. Inés’ job as a voice actor for foreign films, and her role of Soprano in her choir, is put in jeopardy when her visions and dreams become a part of her body as if something is inside her interfering with her vocal and mental output. It isn’t until a kooky actress appears and explains she has an intruder in her body, that Inés take it upon herself to extinguish the invasive beast laying within. The film benefits from being self-aware, almost laughing at itself when it’s forced to give us expository dialogue about plot points worthy of those 80’s Horror films known for their cheese. Often the reveals in the film are close to eye-wincing, but Meta knows how to wink at the camera by keeping a relatively light tone in her performances.

The film is steered by a powerful and complex performance by Erica Rivas.

Inés struggle is ‘helped’ by the people around her, constantly giving her pills to try or even recommending psychiatrists and doctors. Her mother, her Maestro and even her new friend Alberto, they all try implement themselves into her life and eventually try to live her life for her. Maybe the so called intruder is about the intrusive nature of people, sticking their noses into your life and meddling where unnecessary. The more people get involved the more your free will is taken away, making you more susceptible to the loss of your own identity, something that seems to be happening to Inés all the way through.

This is film that lives and dies with the central performance, and although Alberto is played with a creepy confidence by Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, the film is steered by a powerful and complex performance by Erica Rivas. She sells every inch of the film’s tone, from the horrifying mesh of reality and nightmare to the camp reasoning the film lays it’s foundations on. Even in the bitter end during a strange singing-sequence, she’s having fun while committing fully to the role.

Even though the performances are great though, The Intruder is a film that’s all buzz and no sting, a film that builds in tension gradually to never really amount to anything. The ending sees Inés confronting those that she believes to be the intruder, slowly losing her grip on herself and those around her. It’s such a shame for a film that creates so much visual tension to fizzle so gloriously, really putting a damper on your expectations.

It’s a film that starts with such promise, blending tension with tongue and cheek comedy all fuelled by a visual composition that’s beautifully done. But The Intruder seems to get lost in it’s own journey, leaving an ending that even the strongest performance struggles to redeem.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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