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Intruders - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2013

Thriller, Comedy

Noh Young-seok

Jeon Seok-ho
Oh Tae-kyeong
Choi Moo-seong
Han Eun-seon
Kim Da-hwin
Park Dong-wook
Im Hyeong-gook
Jo Byeong-cheol

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Story: Sang-jin (Jeon Seok-ho) is on his way into the mountains. While sitting on the bus he meets Hak-soo (Oh Tae-kyeong) who is literally forcing his help on him. Sang-jin wants to isolate himself from his surroundings in a house that is owned by one of his friends in order to finally finish the script he is writing for quite a while already. But first he somehow has to get rid of Hak-soo, who even tells him that he has just been released from prison and lives in the community the writer wants to withdraw to. After Sang-jin has managed to move into the secluded house on a snow-covered mountain after all, he takes pleasure in taking strolls through nature. But he constantly hears strange sounds of shooting in the distance and also runs into a couple of hunters who maybe don't just hunt animals. When a few young people come by and ask him if they could have one of the neighboring houses, which also belong to Sang-jin's friend, he first sends them away, until he realizes that it wouldn't be such a bad idea to have a few normal people near him, considering the strange company he has on the mountain. But his new neighbors are everything but normal and it seems like only a matter of time until something terrible is about to happen...

Review: "Intruders" is an unusual thriller that makes use of its black humor in a subtle manner and by doing so may not reach every viewer. The movie proves that director Noh Young-seok has talent, but it shows that he has still much room for improvement as well. Right until the end there is something amateurish radiating from "Intruders" which isn't the result of a bad director, but in fact is that director's full intention. The location of shooting as well as a few apparently improvised scenes don't leave any doubt about that. Thus, the movie is by far not that outstanding as some critics claim it to be, especially since it falls short of what it actually could have been. Or maybe the mix of black comedy and thriller simply didn't strike the right notes with me.

Intruders - Film Screenshot 11

The first encounter of the protagonist with a country bumpkin already gives a good impression of what to expect. Sang-jin is a bit anxious and is already carrying around a few prejudices which thus inevitably need to be confirmed. Hak-soo's brash amiability is truely a bit odd, though. That's what director Noh is constantly toying with. We get to know different characters who are all odd in the kind of way that they could have some sort of dark secret lurking under the surface. At first, this is simply funny since the misunderstandings are always the result of Sang-jin seeing what he wants to see. And that's hostile country bumpkins you have to watch out for. Yet, this attitude of the protagonist soon creates a particular level of suspense that brings the thriller aspect more and more into the foreground.

Intruders - Film Screenshot 12

The house in the snow-covered mountains is just the right place to become paranoid, too. The snow and the secludedness of this place create an isolation which also gets the touch of a looming apocalypse because of the constant tv news about North Korean nuclear tests and the US/South Korean military exercises. The very dry humor also comes to light noticeably later on, but the audience is always aware of the fact that Sang-jin's cautiousness will save him in the end. We are just waiting for a murder or some other gruesome crime taking place. This suspense is one of the film's strengths. The fact that Sang-jin's tends to constantly misinterpret the behavior of his fellow men is also nice. But the humor can't always hit the mark. Also, from a certain point onward some situations seem too contrived.

One of these situations features Hak-soo and a policeman. The long conversation between them seems to be needlessly going in circles and is apparently improvised for most part. That's annoying as are a few other scenes that are supposed to look as authentic as possible (e.g. the shop owner desperately looking for change) and in the end just look even the more contrived because of it. Lead actor Jeon Seok-ho delivers a decent performance, but we can never truely relate to him since he seems a bit awkward himself. It is the all-apparent tension underlying the movie which makes it difficult to accept any of the characters as an individual to relate to and additionally Sang-jin seems too shallow. The rest of the cast on the other hand is forced to give priority to their pecularities which means that you can't find them likable at all.

Intruders - Film Screenshot 13

At least Oh Tae-kyeong ("The Cut") and Choi Moo-seong ("Seven Days") turn their source material into more than there is. Of course there seems to be a murder in the end, although you can't be even completely sure about that either for a while and then you believe that the focus shifts to finding out who the killer is. But "Intruders" still has a surprise in store for you, which nonetheless might not necessarily work out for everybody. Ultimately, you will find the ending ambivalent. Director Noh ("Daytime Drinking") proves that he can make something special out of a profane premise, the movie's atmosphere is nice, but the somehow average realisation leaves you with the feeling that more could and should have been possible. It's a little bit as if Hong Sang-soo were to shoot a mystery thriller. Therefore, the mix that is "Intruders" can't really convince, but Noh could in fact deliver a masterpiece in the future as he grows as a filmmaker.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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