SXSW Dialogue: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo Talks 'Intruders' and Finding Horror in Childhood Memories, Plus Updates on 'Bioshock' and His 'Highlander' Reboot

SXSW Dialogue: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo Talks 'Intruders' and Finding Horror in Childhood Memories, Plus Updates on 'Bioshock' and His 'Highlander' Reboot

Mar 20, 2012

A supernatural horror mystery about a faceless entity pursuing and attacking children in their own bedrooms? Yep, Intruders felt right at home in the SXSW Midnighters bracket. A tense, intriguing movie that tells two parallel stories (one set in England, the other in Spain) about separate families being menaced by a vicious monster known as Hollowface, the film is the latest from director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto, 28 Weeks Later).

We sat down with Fresnadillo to discuss the origin of the film, the importance of filling a genre movie with believable actors and his potential filmmaking future, including an adaptation of the popular video game Bioshock and a remake of Highlander. Are you enjoying SXSW?

Fresnadillo: Yeah, but it's super rushed. I arrived last night and I'm leaving tonight. I'm flying back to Los Angeles to continue the promotion there. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the movie. I had a really good time with it-

Fresnadillo: Do you mind if I open those?

(He motions to the curtains covering every window in the room.) Oh, yeah. Whatever makes you comfortable.

Fresnadillo: I don't like the darkness. Which, I know, sounds like a joke…

(He moves across the room, opening curtains as he goes.) After making Intruders, I don't blame you!

Fresnadillo: As you know, much of the finale of Intruders is about the light! But you know something? This town is fantastic. It's very nice. It has the perfect size. It's a city, but it's not a huge city. It's great. I love that. I'm living right now in three cities: Madrid, Los Angeles and Buenos Aires. My life is in this crazy triangle since every city is separated by twelve hours of flying. My life is in a plane.

(With the curtains open, he takes his seat.) So, how did you get attached to Intruders? Where did it come from?

Fresnadillo: It comes from a conversation with my producers about how sometimes, in your family, there are secrets. There are mysteries that you don't know, without noticing anything as a kid. How that thing, that secret, is affecting your life and your family. It's about how the family tries to preserve the kids from the cruel, horrible reality and how they create monsters because of that. There is nothing more dangerous than hiding a big secret. Talking about that, we started developing this movie. It was funny…every time I make a movie, I try to explore something in myself, in my origins. I felt fear when I was a kid. My family house had a disturbing atmosphere at the time and I didn't know why.

While making Intruders, I discovered a connection with that. I discovered that unsettling feeling I had when I was a kid. It was connected. Something that my mother didn't tell me. It was…well, it's not important, but it was something that she didn't tell me. To protect me. There's something sinister around that you don't understand, living with you. Your brain is stimulated and you create things bigger than reality itself. Intruders comes from a personal place, in order to explore and analyze things that were a failure in the past. And is Hollowface himself a inspired from something in your past? Something you were afraid of as a kid?

Fresnadillo: The idea behind Hollowface is a monster looking for his identity. I think identity is probably the big theme in the movie. I see this movie as more of a mystery than a horror movie. When we were discussing the intruder and the appearance of the intruder and how we had to make that monster, we had the idea of a monster without a face who wants to steal your identity to be alive. It was an early stage idea , but it represents the biggest human fear: losing your identity. That's worse than losing your life. You would lose yourself in the emptiness.

(He motions to the poster for the film)

Fresnadillo: I think our poster shows our biggest fear, you know? Sometimes, a genre concept like this can come off as inherently silly, but by casting an actor of Clive Owen's caliber immediately grounds the film and makes it relatable. How did you get him on board?

Fresnadillo: From the very beginning, Clive was the option. He's a very solid actor and on the physical side, he represents the strong father figure, someone you can trust. To put that kind of personality in this movie worked well because little by little, you're witnessing this man becoming a boy, a boy completely afraid of a monster. To that process in the face of Clive Owen is very interesting. For me, the best comparison is The Omen, which is about the son of the devil. But since it's Gregory Peck being concerned about the son of the devil, you hang on his every word!

Fresnadillo: Yes, exactly!

(The following question and answer goes into SPOILER territory, so skim on by if you haven't seen the film!) The movie has two parallel shorelines. Was this always the case or was this a decision you came to in the process of development?

?FresnadilloWhen we are living in the present time, we think we are completely free from our past. But that's not true. Our past is living here with us, affecting our behavior on many levels. That's why the movie opens with two stories, only for us to discover at the end that they're the same story. You can't separate the past and the present in the life of one person. That kind of game that we usually play by ourselves, thinking that the past is behind us, is the game that we play in the movie. Ultimately, the movie is about solving the problems we had as kids so we can be better parents. Otherwise, you're passing on your fears. You're passing on the monster to the next generation. It's a curse. The fear becomes a legacy. Our monster is like a ghost in the Spanish story, he's very ethereal. In the English story, there's a progression. He becomes more physical. He has more power. I believe that when you don't deal with something and just trap it in a closet, it just grows. It'll just be super big. Monsters and traumas are not stopped…they can grow up. What's next for you? Are you still attached to Bioshock?

Fresnadillo: Bioshock is on hold, unfortunately. But now, I'm developing another project, which Highlander. So we'll just see if the project can come to life. What can you tell me about your version of Highlander? Will it be a remake or a some kind of continuation?

Fresnadillo: It'll be some kind of reboot. It'll be the same characters and the same universe, but starting from scratch. I want to combine realism with an epic story. I want to track the hero in such a way that you truly feel his immortality.


Intruders opens in limited release on March 30.

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