Written by: Dallas Richard Hallam, Patrick Horvath, Karen Gortham, and Michelle Margolis
Directed by: Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath
Starring: Suziey Block, Karen Baird, and Farley Burge
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďI know how tough it's been out here for you--it's a tough city."
Dismissing a slow-burn film because ďnothing happensĒ is something I wonít resort to very often; when I hear that type of criticism lobbed at the likes of Paranormal Activity, it kind of irks me because it ignores the mounting tension and dread looming over the admittedly sparse narrative. I like to think that no one would have the gall to make a film where literally nothing happens, and that sometimes entails meeting something halfway in order to figure out what else it has going on besides a complex narrative. Then thereís something like Entrance, which tests my patience with this sort of thing; forget meeting it halfwayóyou pretty much have to do all of the legwork and go the extra mile in order to regard it as anything but a fine short film thatís saddled with an hour of dead weight.
But Iím willing to engage with it, especially because I find it fascinating in spite of itself. Set in Silver Lake (the hipster district in LA, if Iím not mistaken), the film hovers around Suziey (Suiziey Block), a listless twenty-something whose life is incredibly uneventful. But that doesnít stop the camera from capturing the minutiae of these doldrums, as we watch her endure a mechanical daily routine that involves her preparing for work, working, and then walking her dog. The process is even repeated to emphasize the ennui and drive home the point: this girl has nothing going on and is destined to be another nameless, faceless person to fall prey to the City of Angels (on one level, the film is perhaps a parable of how the city chews up young, hopeful folks before spitting them out).
So why are we watching her, of all people? It turns out that someone else is apparently fascinated by her and is stalking her from afar. Very, very afar. Whoever it is remains content to hang back and leave audiences with the scarcest of developments for the first hour of the film. Among the highlights: a trio of guys attempts to talk to her on the street, and her dog disappears. The latter event is the first sign that something is off; in fact, without any prior knowledge about Entrance, itíd be easy to mistake it as another mumblecore movie looking to illuminate the first world problems of aimless white folks (and this is coming from a former hopelessly aimless white personóI realize that nobody else has time for our shit, no matter how much I love the films of Noah Baumbach).
But itís not just that: eventually, Suzieyís stalker makes himself known at her farewell party (once her dog vanishes, she decides sheís had enough of L.A. and plans to move). Having secretly admired her (and even spied on her while she sleeps during one particularly disturbing scene) from a distance, he introduces himself and promptly announces his intention to slaughter all of her friends. Itís at this point Entrance finally reveals its hand: itís yet another slasher film, albeit one that manages to feel genuinely disturbing despite the uneventful stuff that precedes it. In fact, itís so effective that it induces frustration: clearly, directors Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath know a thing or two about building tension and punctuating it with violence. In a vacuum, the climax of Entrance is one of the most gripping slashers in recent memory, as itís staged with precision, yet captures a certain rawness with its outbursts.
The real question lies in why the duo waits for so long to finally do anything of note. Itís tempting to assume that the form is just ruthlessly following the function here, as the audience becomes complicit voyeurs constantly peeping in on every moment of Suzieyís life (if Iím not a mistaken, the camera never moves its focus from her). After a while, it almost becomes creepy by default; most films give us a reason and invite our gaze through narrative, but this one refuses to do so, and watching Suziey feels invasive as a result.
Furthermore, by zeroing in on such a non-entity (thereís really absolutely nothing special about Suziey), viewers find themselves in the same position as her stalker, whose affection for her is inexplicable. Thereís no reason for him to feel anything for her, making him a textbook case of a stalker that projects his own sense of distorted reality onto a situation. Essentially, heís a poster boy for the Menís Rights Activist movement, an unsavory cult whose members expect women to reciprocate their affection. I suspect many MRAs would read Entrance as a sad story about a lonely guy who canít help but lash out due to an unrequited obsession; in reality, heís a creepy asshole, and his motivations are the most disturbing thing about the film.
Given the proceeding paragraphs, it probably seems like that isnít saying a whole lot, but Entrance has kind of burrowed into my brain. Maybe Iím giving it too much benefit of the doubt, but it just feels like itís up to something in its blatant disregard for narrative and suspense-building. Its final climax is especially too well-done to dismiss, and Block carves out a fascinating presence precisely because sheís not fascinating. Carrying a movie that asks you to do nothing is a ballsy endeavor, and it almost reeks of a vanity project being put on by folks who have little reason to be vain. If nothing else, the filmís existence is compelling in and of itself, as it feels like the ultimate attempt at mumblegoreójust how little can you do and still get away with it? Iím not quite sure Entrance completely gets away with whatever it is itís up to, but Iím pretty sure any film that proves to be this fascinating is tough to ignore. Rent it!
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