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They say that a good horror film is all in the buildup, and
ENTRANCE puts that idea to the ultimate test, in that the vast majority of it
is buildup. This is not meant as a criticism, just an advisory; those approaching
it as a horror film should know it requires patience, but also rewards it.
ENTRANCE, which world-premieres tonight at the Los Angeles
Film Festival, was directed by Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath, and it’s about as far
removed from the goofy gore of Horvath’s previous DIE-NER (GET IT?), on which
Hallam was the 1st AD, as it’s possible to be. Mostly, it’s an evocative,
naturalistic character study of Suziey (Suziey Block), a barista in the
Silverlake area of Los Angeles. (Block apparently really is a barista in
Silverlake, using her real first name onscreen like the rest of ENTRANCE’s
cast.) She’s attractive, not unfriendly, not lacking for male attention—from a
customer who says he likes her sweater to a dude who briefly follows her on the
street—and shares a house with her friend Karen (Karen Gorham). But her only
close relationship seems to be with her dog Darryl, whom she dutifully feeds in
the morning and walks at night on either side of dutifully going to work.
Hallam and Horvath efficiently establish the routine that
Suziey’s life has become—one involving a lot of solo walking, as she can’t
afford a car—and the alienation she has come to feel in the midst of the LA
sprawl. Not much “happens” for long stretches of ENTRANCE, which instead holds
your attention in large part due to Block’s expressive and relatable
performance, which conveys with tangible emotional clarity the sense of a young
woman disenchanted with the state of her existence. LA has lost any luster it
might have had, and on top of that, there’s the slowly developing sense that
something not quite right is hovering on the sidelines.
Just what that something is only gets hinted at during
ENTRANCE’s first hour—a suspicious noise here, something glimpsed in the
background there. Occasionally, we see or hear things that Suziey doesn’t, in
particular one brief event about a half-hour in that makes the nature of the
threat fairly clear even as we actually see almost nothing. It’s to the
directors’ credit that they build up a sufficiently ominous mood, without any
defined source of danger, that a simple stroll outside with Suziey, Hallam’s
steady handheld camera following along with her, can be fraught with tension.
The two directors also share writing credit with Gorham and co-star Michelle
Margolis and the quartet produced it with Block, the billing reinforcing the
idea of a workshopped, at least partially improvised production already
suggested by the unforced, always convincing interactions between Suziey and
the supporting characters.
The verisimilitude of the visual approach continues once
ENTRANCE takes its sudden, decisive turn into horror territory, employing
lengthy single takes as powerful as those in the currently playing KIDNAPPED.
At the same time, the movie loses some of its sense of reality here, the
observational style and rhythm giving way to a scenario with an
only-in-the-movies ring to its genre tropes. It’s not that what goes on isn’t
plausible as presented, but that the explicitness of the dialogue and action
works on a different level that jars a bit with the quietude of what has come
before. That’s part of the filmmakers’ point, obviously, and it’s chilling to
watch the people we’ve intimately come to know become plunged into a nightmare,
though at certain moments, you might find yourself even more impressed with
Block’s physical fortitude than engaged with the plight of her character.
This long sequence builds to a conclusion that provides more
thematic consistency than dramatic closure, yet it goes to black with a
palpable chill hanging in the air. Even as it’s very much a movie of its time
and the current independent filmmaking scene, employing a documentary aesthetic
(albeit eschewing the found-footage gimmick), it establishes its own specific
personality—one tied in to that of its heroine, who keeps you watching
throughout in a state of nervous anticipation, contemplating what might
eventually happen to her.
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