Intruders is a horror film that breaks the mold on a personal and creative level. Forgoing gore in lieu of good storytelling, the hybrid horror/thriller deals with childhood drama with a supernatural setting.
We recently sat down to talk about the film with director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later). Read on for our interview as he discusses his journey on directing the first movie that he hasn’t written and how it changed him as a director.
WGTC: What attracted you to this project?
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo: This story comes from a very personal thing, my childhood and some feelings that I had as a kid and my family. And some secrets that my parents didn’t tell me. When you start the process of developing something, you don’t what really attracts you. After several treatments of the story, I went “Oh my god. I was talking about something very personal.” Working with the writers and establishing the structure, I saw many elements needed to overcome my fears from my experiences when I was a kid.
WGTC: How was it directing a story that you hadn’t written?
JCF: It’s funny, because I think it was more personal than the other ones. My involvement in the writing process was completely full. I was working with the writers. Later, I had the freedom to discuss and change the things I wanted to change with the actors. This is the movie that I worked so hard with the actors on.
When you write, you fall in love with everything you write. You don’t have the courage to change anything. You resist the changes when you write, because you think everything is perfect (laughs). When I rehearsed with the actors, it was amazing. I could change whatever I wanted to and I was open to all the stuff they were telling me. If you think about the movie and the resolution, there’s a kind of human journey on a supernatural canvas. If you want to move past the genre or elevate things, you have to open to other stuff. The way to do it was not to be so close to the material. Be open, step back and look at the big picture. Finally, I did it. In my other movies, I wasn’t in that mode. I was obsessed with executing what I was thinking in the writing process.
WGTC: What was the most difficult part in making Intruders?
JCF: To combine the Spanish story and the english story. I suffered in the writing process and in the editing. I remember the first cut was a mess, because you know, we were back and forth the whole time. We were changing times, changing languages and changing characters. It was super challenging and then we found some kind of shape and rhythm and structure. The links allow the audience member to follow the story. We invested a lot of time, but it was the most difficult thing, by far. To be honest, I really freaked out when I saw the first cut.
WGTC: Kids play a big part in the film. Were they easier to direct?
JCF: Working with kids is always difficult, because you have to push them a bit. At the end, they are so generous. They jump in the pool without hesitating. They can scream and freak out in one second and the next, they’re laughing like nothing happened. It was so intense that I sometimes felt ashamed of what we were asking of them, but it was a worthwhile thing to do, because in the cutting room, the material was like ‘wow’.
WGTC: How was it working with Clive Owen?
JCF: It was fantastic. He jumped, in all senses, into this movie. He immersed himself into the role. The most interesting thing that he gave to me was his experience as a father and many things from his life. I connected with him a lot, because we shared the same feeling of sometimes when you’re a kid, some secrets affect you a lot. It was a pleasure working with him, especially because he was in the movie in all ways an actor could be.
WGTC: Intruders breaks the mold of thriller and comes together almost like a detective novel. Were you conscious to avoid cliches?
JCF: I see this movie as a hybrid, a combination of many things in order to reach a conclusion. I think that’s possible if you open your canvas and you include many colors. That’s why I bring many colors to the movie. You have to face your monsters with love, care and without any fear.
WGTC: Do you find it liberating to not have a huge budget to work with?
JCF: I decided to plant my career into two gardens. One garden has huge, high-budget movies because I find it very exciting and you can get a lot of experience doing that. Then, there’s the other garden, which is my personal stuff which has stories that come from my heart. Obviously, I want to plant that garden with total freedom. You know that to do that, the garden has to be small without as many toys as you think. I’m so happy to live in that way. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have that kind of freedom. It’s impossible.
WGTC: What’s next for you? What can you tell us about Highlander?
JCF: Highlander may become my next movie. We’re still in a primary stage though and I can’t confirm that.
WGTC: If you could give Juan Carlos advice before the production began, what advice would you give?
JCF: Don’t do it (laughs). I would say be a bit more extreme in some places. The subtlety is good, but it’s good to shake
things up a little bit more. It’s one of the things I learned most about the movie. More than enjoying the result of the work, which is something that’s not possible. The goal in making movies is the process in making movies. For the first time, I really enjoyed the process of making the movie. The advice I would give to the other Juan Carlos would be to enjoy it more. Enjoy the process of making the movie.