‘Intruders’ director Fresnadillo talks horror, ‘Highlander’ redo

April 02, 2012 | 4:19 p.m.
a2 intruders courtesy of millennium entertainment Intruders director Fresnadillo talks horror, Highlander redo

Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, right, directs Ella Purnell, left, and Clive Owen on the set of "Intruders." (Millennium Entertainment)

a5 intruders courtesy of millennium entertainment Intruders director Fresnadillo talks horror, Highlander redo

Carice Van Houten as Sue Farrow, right, and Ella Purnell as Mia Farrow in "Intruders." (Millennium Entertainment)

a12 intruders courtesy of millennium entertainment Intruders director Fresnadillo talks horror, Highlander redo

Director Juan-Carlos Fresnadillo directs Pilar López De Ayala on the set of "Intruders." (Millennium Entertainment)

With his third feature, “Intruders,” now playing in Los Angeles, the filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has created a dark fable for adults, a story about how things that go bump in the night might actually be real. Moving between scenes in London and Spain, the film combines the twin tracks of Fresnadillo’s career, from his Spanish debut “Intacto” to the British “28 Weeks Later.” It begins with a young boy in Spain with a vivid imagination who seems to conjure a boogeyman, a human-looking creature missing a face, into his room at night. The action shifts to London, where a construction worker (Clive Owen) narrowly survives an accident while building a high-rise. At home his daughter begins to see the same nighttime visitor, which they call Hollow Face. Having been attached and then unattached to a variety of projects, including a remake of “The Crow” and an adaptation of the video game “BioShock,” the director hopes his next project will in fact be a remake of “Highlander.” Hero Complex recently caught up with Fresnadillo to talk about his newest film and what might be his follow-up.

HC: I didn’t realize that “Intruders” is only your third feature.

JCF: Three movies and a short film in 18 years — I know it’s not much for such a long time, but it is what it is. I’m kind of a slow-process guy, I really love the details, which means time. And I decided to plant my career in two different gardens: my personal garden, and “Intruders” is one of those movies, and a commercial one. I really believe it’s possible to make popcorn movies with soul, which is something I always try to do and I did in “28 Weeks Later.” As well, I try to make another type of movie, like “Intruders,” with some kind of exploration about feelings that I had, like in this particular case when I was a kid.

HC: So are you trying to have one career in Europe and another with ties to Hollywood?

JCF: The intention is not to split my career. Personal doesn’t mean I want to hide this from the audience, just the opposite; I want to share everything that I make with the audience, and I try to take advantage of the commercial side in order to go wider with my personal stuff. So the intention is not to have two different careers, the intention is to have only one career but with some sort of combination.

HC: In “Intruders” the story is in some sense about storytelling, and at times it seems the child in each section is writing or imagining the story of the other.

JCF: It was always the intention to create these two different stories and have these two kids reacting in a similar way. In two different places families react the same to the same problem, more or less, an intruder in the house. It was funny to show the audience both kids having the same reaction, trying to understand what’s going on by writing, through storytelling. I wanted to express something very, very crucial for me, which means that no matter how far away from the roots you get, how much you change in your life, you can even speak another language, always your dark side, your ghosts, will be troubling you.

HC: You were involved in developing the script even though you don’t have a screenplay credit. What was the writing process like?

JCF: I was completely in the process of the writing, but I decided not to write this movie because with this movie in particular I saw myself closer to the actors. When you write something, you are completely falling in love with what you’re writing and then you resist change. You love everything you did. And I wanted to avoid that, because I wanted to have the freedom of changing everything once I was working with the actors in terms of making the story more believable. That’s why I decided not to put myself in the writing process. I wanted to step back and watch the process not as somebody literally creating it from the inside.

intrudersposter Intruders director Fresnadillo talks horror, Highlander redoHC: Can you tell me something about the creation of the Hollow Face monster? He almost seems like he could become like Freddy Krueger or Clive Barker’s Pinhead and show up in other movies.

JCF: The inspiration for the monster comes from many places, but I would say there are two important things. One is that it’s a monster who comes from the tale of a child and on the other hand we thought a lot about that monster as a representation of the themes of the movie, identity. The poster of the movie, which I really love, gives you a very close feeling of what the movie is about. There is a monster looking for his identity. I really believe when there’s a secret in a family, that secret is fighting to be revealed. It’s like there is something you hide and one day it will take over your house and your life. We decide the best way to visualize that concept was a slasher monster, a kind of Clive Barker creature, but with some kind of existential problem, which is being without a face.

HC: The film has such a mix of tones, it’s like a darkly intense children’s fable.

JCF: A cocktail. And I think that’s what I feel about my career. In this movie are all the details I love in a movie, the family concept — there is always a family with problems in my movies — and the connection between the supernatural and the human side. The supernatural is itself a human problem. I feel the supernatural, fantasy, comes from a very internal, human place.

HC: Is “Highlander” the next thing you’re going to do?

JCF: Probably. I wouldn’t say with total security that it’s going to be, because you never know in this industry. But I’m working on that and I’m so excited because I think there is a theme in that movie that really touches me. Again, the connection between the supernatural and the human side, immortality as a curse.

— Mark Olsen


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