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.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th October 2011
Box Office USA: $64.7k
Distributed by: Millennium Entertainment
Production compaines: Antena 3 Films, Apaches Entertainment, Universal Pictures International (UPI), Ministerio de Cultura, Canal+ España
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 46
IMDB: 5.4 / 10
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Producer: Belen Atienza, Mercedes Gamero, Enrique Lopez Lavigne
Screenwriter: Nicolas Casariego, Jaime Marques
Starring: Clive Owen as John Farrow, Carice van Houten as Susanna, Ella Purnell as Mia, Ella Hunt as Ella Foster, Imogen Gray as Lilly, Daniel Brühl as Father Antonio, Pilar López de Ayala as Luisa, Izán Corchero as Juan, Héctor Alterio as Old Priest, Adrian Rawlins as Police Inspector, Michael Nardone as Frank, Mark Wingett as Dave, Kerry Fox as Dr. Rachel
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