AFI Fest: The Intruder (El Prófugo) Review

In The Intruder (El Prófugo), writer-director Natalia Meta tells the story of Inés, an overworked voice actor and singer whose vocal cords begin to fail. In her mind, intruders from her nightmares begin to seize control of her body. For actress Érica Rivas, she is pretty much given the spotlight, bringing a breeziness to this horror-comedy about whatever Inés is going through.

Sadly, there isn’t much to latch onto other than the notion that sometimes actors create a personality for a role and can easily slip into a crafted personality practically out of nowhere. Thankfully, there are some humorous bits in this film to distract from this formula.

Trailer courtesy of FIlm Factor Entertainment S.L.

When we first meet Inés (Rivas), she is in a recording studio dubbing over a horror film that involves bondage and a terrified woman. Naturally, the film takes the opportunity to show that Inés is actually frightened by the things she’s seeing on the screen in front of her. This is then interrupted by Nelson (Agustin Rittano) calling for a cut, showcasing one of the many ways the film will subvert the audience’s expectations.

At this point, the film takes its own sort of break and follows Inés on a vacation with her boyfriend Leopoldo (Daniel Hendler), who is just the biggest of jerks. On the flight, she dreams of his death but awakens to find he’s relatively unscathed (but not without a scratch).

Smartly, Meta uses this opportunity to play the audience’s expectations against themselves and have this vacation take up longer than would be expected in a film about psychological terror. Eventually, Inés gets tired of him and hides away in the hotel bathroom. When she reemerges, she finds out that her beloved Leopoldo has died under mysterious circumstances. Since there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise, his death is ruled a suicide but…c’mon, we heard something in the hotel room going on on the side of the door.

Nonetheless, Inés returns to her normal life but finds that she is unable to sleep, taking medications suggested by various people in her life. This leads to her ultimately not being able to work as a result of some interference whenever she goes to record. The sound engineer Nelson chalks it up to some sort of electric charge, so the two go to investigate.

The solution comes by way of Adela, another voice actress working in another part of the studio comes to the conclusion that Inés has unknowingly allowed herself to be possessed by an “intruder” from her nightmares. 

In light of this conclusion, the film decides to proceed with low-brow humor, horror tropes, and the overall mystery at hand. Suddenly, her mother (Cecilia Roth) arrives and shortly begins telling her what to do, judging Inés’ life along the way. When Inés meets Alberto (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) shortly after a chorus rehearsal, the two lovingly work on fixing their instruments (an old organ in Alberto’s case, her vocals in Inés’ case).

It is here that the film finally picks up in its pacing. After Inés tries to fix everything, the film decides to fizzle out with a final twist that is so bizarre that I still can’t believe it went the route it did.

When it comes down to it, The Intruder is a film that either lives and dies on how long you’re able to keep interested in the overall mystery going on within. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Intruder does not have a current release date but is playing at film festivals.