LFF 2020: The Intruder – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 35 minutes, Director – Natalia Meta

When her voice recordings begin to contain strange background noises Inés (Érica Rivas) begins to experience strange nightmares, further fuelled by the thought that there could be something unknown inside her.

It’s been pointed out before, and shall likely continue to be, that Natalia Meta’s The Intruder seems to be very much inspired by Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio. Of course, it’s one of the first things to come to mind when a sound recording-booth for a film is involved. And there are some similarities between the two. In the case of this feature we follow Inés (Érica Rivas), by day she works as a voiceover artist, dubbing violent gore-fests in a dark, cramped booth with few co-workers. In the evening’s she continues to use her voice as part of a choir. Her voice is integral to her worklife, her passions and her communication with the few other people that crop up in her life. So, of course, it would be very serious if something, or perhaps someone, bad were to happen to it. And thus the scene is set for the remaining 85 minutes or so.

One day during a recording session it’s brought up to Inés that there are strange noises, perhaps voices, in the background of her dubs. Over time these instances only become louder and more prominent in the recordings. It begins to be suggested that perhaps there’s a force living inside of Inés that’s causing these disruptions to her work, this leads her to worry and leaks into her efforts in the choir. Soon, it feels as if all aspects of her life are being affected. She has increasingly vivid nightmares, disturbing her sleep and causing further issues in her day-to-day life. When looking at such elements the film certainly feels like more of a drama or thriller, however during the nightmare sequences the horror elements are certainly there.

Writer-director Natalia Meta’s piece (adapted from C.E. Feiling’s novel El mal menor – The Lesser Evil) works best when looking at such horror based themes. The feeling begins to arise part way through, during the slower, more dramatic, scenes where Inés’ situation simply feels like more of a personal conundrum rather than something that could – and in some respects is – the content of a horror film. Yet, when leaning towards the horror genre the film works best. It feels like it has some more detail and that the story is going somewhere, the pace certainly picks up during such moments and more often than not, when they do eventually arrive, they tend to be fairly effective.

Perhaps it’s the feeling of Berberian Sound Studio that provides this feeling, although The Intruder does stray away from feeling exactly like it when it begins to tread on the border. Such moments are during the more dramatic stages, when twists and turns begin to be introduced during the protagonists mysterious relationship with the equally ambiguous Alberto (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart). There are a number of different ideas made within the film, not all of them convincingly wrapped up in the large, multi-tie bow that’s attempted to be drawn together in the final few minutes, and it’s a lot to get through in 95 minutes. And while the film gets through it well enough there’s the feeling that on the one hand it’s trying to cram in a lot in a short space of time and on the other that sometimes even at such a short length it feels somewhat drawn out at times. It’s a weird feeling, luckily not present all the way throughout.

When leaning in to the horror, particularly during the opening half hour, it works best and has some interesting elements. There’s some engagement to be found in the drama, too, however, the slightly different tone and themes during such moments does create a slightly uneven sense that distracts from the potential of the title intruder. An element which should feel darker and further explored than it actually does. Instead leaving the film feeling rather uneven as it begins to focus on other themes or elements.

There’s potential in The Intruder, mostly coming from the horror related scenes which are the true high points. The drama has some interesting moments, however it seems to divert on occasion causing the finished product to feel slightly uneven.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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