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dir Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
scr Nicolas Casariego, Jaime Marques
prd Belen Atienza, Mercedes Gamero, Enrique Lopez Lavigne
with Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Ella Purnell, Izan Corchero, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Daniel Bruhl, Kerry Fox, Hector Alterio, Mark Wingett, Lolita Chakrabarti, Adam Leese, Imogen Gray
release UK 27.Jan.12, US Apr.12
11/UK Universal 1h40
Bump in the night: Owen and Purnell
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Fractured into two narratives that take far too long to come together, this stylish boogeyman thriller never convinces us that anyone is in actual peril. And without understanding the connections between the characters, we can't engage with the story.
In Spain, Luisa (Lopez de Ayala) is trying to help her young son Juan (Corchero) cope with terrifying nightmares of a hooded, faceless man who invades his room at night. Juan calls him Carahueca, or Hollowface, and gets no help from the kindly local priest (Bruhl). Meanwhile in England, John and Susanna (Owen and van Houten) have no idea how to help their 12-year-old daughter Mia (Purnell), who is paralysed by fear that Hollowface is coming to get her too. And her counsellor (Fox) recommends something that seems to make everything worse.
Intriguingly, it's clear sense from the start that Hollowface exists in the imagination, as the children wake up unharmed from each nightmare. But instead of remaining in this psychological territory, the writers strain for more conventional horror, which doesn't work because Hollowface has no teeth, as it were. Then the two-strand structure distracts us as we wonder how they connect and spot discrepancies between them (which are actually hints). So when the Big Reveal finally arrives, it's a let down.
This said, the actors deliver convincing performances even as they're encouraged to overplay the terror. But just when things begin to feel creepy, the action shifts to the other strand, skipping key moments that surely must come back later once the screenwriters decide to explain things. Yes, it all feels like a cheat, with hints of supernatural menace and repeated sounds and images that seem to be conditioning us for some kind of reaction.
Clearly, all of this looked much better on paper. On screen it seems not only unconvincing, but like a lot of fuss over nothing. It's never difficult to watch Owen and van Houten (who endures yet another gratuitous nude scene) on-screen, so the film has certain entertainment value. And director Fresnadillo knows how to blend in extremely cool effects work. But without a story that hangs together, we really don't care.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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