Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          


INTRUDERS. BBC2 / BBC-America, 2014. John Simm, Mira Sorvino, James Frain, Millie Bobby Brown, Tory Kittles, Robert Forster, Alex Diakun. Series developed by Glen Morgan and written by Morgan, Kristin Cloke, and Darin Morgan, based on the novel by Michael Marshall Smith. Episodes directed by Daniel Stamm and Eduardo Sanchez.

         “In the beginning there was death.”

   Intruders is an eight episode television series from BBCA based on the works of novelist Michael Marshall Smith who also writes as Michael Marshall (The Straw Man). Smith pens horror as well as crime fiction, and his “Straw Man” series is perhaps the most innovative and best serial killer trilogy penned, far exceeding Thomas Harris post-Silence of the Lambs output in the genre.

   Intruders is horror, but it is also a puzzling mystery, fantasy, and an atmospheric and often disconcerting series mindful of something that might have run in John Campbell Jr.s classic pulp Unknown. This one owes as much to Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think or Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife as Stephen King.

   Jack Whelan (John Simm) is a former cop turned writer married to beautiful Amy (Mira Sorvino), an angel of sorts who saved him from the bottle. When an old friend from high school, Gary Fischer (Tory Kittles) shows up asking for help to solve the disappearance of a man called Bill Anderson whose family was murdered, Jack has little incentive to help, but his life begins to spin out of control shortly after when Amy disappears after curious behavior.

   Meanwhile nine year old Madison O’Donnell (Millie Bobby Brown) is a strange child living on the Washington coast with her mother in a summer home and is behaving strangely herself, especially after Richard Shepherd (James Frain) turns up and shows Madison a sand dollar, giving her his black business card bearing the number 9, then threatening to kill her. Like Amy, Madison runs away, and, like Amy, she shows surprising skill at doing it.

   Jack’s world spirals out of control as he begins to unravel his wife’s lies, leading him back to Gary Fischer and Bill Anderson who are tied to Amy in ways he could not suspect, and draws him into conflict with Richard Shepherd and his mentor Frank Shepherd (Robert Forster) and the people they work for, the mysterious Rose Gilchrist, and something called Qui Reverte, a mysterious group who hands people strange business cards with a 9 on them, and an even stranger manual to surviving death.

   I won’t be giving too much away to reveal the Qui Reverte claim that no one in their group dies They believe they have lived multiple lives over the centuries. Richard Shepherd is a just that, a shepherd, a figure who helps members cross over for their various rebirths — even killing them when they resist — or rather when the other soul in the body they are reborn in does.

   Amy is somehow tied to all this, as is Madison, who is apparently possessed by Marcus Fox (wonderfully creepy Alex Diakun: “What goes around comes around.”), a long lived monster the Qui Reverte condemned but who was saved by Richard whom he bribed to shepherd him back. Under his power Madison is a deadly killer in unsuspected form, and some to the most disturbing scenes in the series involve this nine year old killer (usually shown off camera, but still disturbing) under his influence.

   Jack is a reasonable and rational man who believes his wife has been taken over by a cult following her miscarriage, but it becomes increasingly hard to remain skeptical as he delves deeper into the Qui Reverte, and finds himself sometimes allied with the murderous Richard Shepherd who for some reason twice refuses to kill him.

   I watched this first when it was serialized on BBCA, but recently binge watched all eight episodes in two days where I appreciated even more the novelistic approach of the series and how well it adapts Smith’s novel (not without some changes).

   There is little gore here, it is much more about mystery and atmosphere and the almost Woolrichian fate of Jack Whelan as his world falls apart and everything he believed proves a lie or a half truth at best. At times you may be as confused as he is, but stick to the end and all, or at least most, will be revealed.

   The plot is resolved, but left open for more, as new doors open for Jack even as old ones shut, and his journey into Qui Reverte and its secrets just begins. Intruders will draw you in deeper as the mysteries are solved and deeper ones revealed. You may never look at anyone you know the same again after watching it, though.

   Like the best of this kind of horror fiction, it is the frisson and not the gore or the monster leaping out at you that you will recall. If you wonder where intelligent horror went, after all the big screen splatter fests, gimmicky hand-held cameras, and gore, this is one place to find it.

   In its own quiet way this tough smart little horror outing is ultimately more frightening than all the Jason’s, Freddie’s and vampires creeping about and it is presented as a genuine mystery, though, like Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, the solution may be more frightening than the mystery. This hits all too close to home for anyone who has ever wondered about the stranger they share their life with, or how well you know anyone, even yourself.