Studio: IFC Films
Director: Dallas Hallam, Patrick Horvath
Writer: Karen Gorham, Dallas Hallam, Patrick Horvath, Michelle Margolis
Producer: Karen Gorham, Dallas Hallam, Patrick Horvath, Michelle Margolis, Suziey Block
Stars: Suziey Block, Karen Baird, Karen Gorham, Joshua Grote, Florence Hartigan, Bennett Jones, Liesel Kopp, Jonathan Michael Margolis, Morgan Phalen
The ordinary life of a young woman struggling to adjust to Los Angeles becomes haunted by a mysterious stalker.
It’s easy to sympathize with the non-opinions to downright dislike many express for “Entrance.” Common criticisms call the quiet thriller “boring,” label it as meaningless “mumblegore,” or lament that “nothing happens” for the first hour. None of those observations are necessarily inaccurate, though they reductively dismiss the mood directors Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath manufacture by teasing all of those terms.
The movie matches a person’s perception of it, giving back only as much as one mentally puts into its mundane moments. If your patience doesn’t equal its patience, it can be a sleepy slog through taxing exposition as pouty protagonist Suziey washes dishes, fills her dog’s bowl, puts on makeup, falls asleep to a DVD, fixes cappuccinos as a coffee shop barista, and repeats her routine two more times on top of that.
You could watch the film at 1.5x, even 2x speed and stay in step with the setup without missing a single story beat. However, you wouldn’t end up immersed in the atmosphere that comes from such deliberately labored pacing.
Even detractors laud the film’s finale, with some saying to skip straight to the slashing while running right past an uneventfully long lead-in. The reality is, the single take terror of those last twenty minutes packs its punch precisely because the buildup of vague danger boils almost imperceptibly beneath rope-a-dope monotony.
Los Angeles has long had its own version of the 99% and Suziey is in the dead center of it. Suziey suffers from typical hipster troubles of struggling to fit within a city where her woes of walking to work because her Craigslist car won’t start or waiting for opportunity to ring her phone are redundant. Other than milquetoast malaise, there isn’t much to Suziey’s personality. Being a blank slate blesses the audience with an ability to project themselves into her shoes though it curses the character with an emptiness failing to inspire much empathy.
We may not get to know much about Suziey, we may not really need to, but we do spend the entirety of the runtime in her direct company. A guerrilla camera remains within an intrusive five feet of Suziey at all times, offering a voyeuristic vibe that is uncomfortably invasive in its intimacy. This is but one creative component with which the filmmakers craft unease.
“Entrance” brings to mind Mike Flanagan’s “Absentia” (review here) in that it is a small-scale “slice of life” slow burner wringing oppressive dread out of an ordinary existence. There is a simple scene early in the movie where Suziey walks down a suburban street in broad daylight. Three men her age, manicured as if doing a day drinking pub-crawl, stroll by with acknowledging smiles. Suziey walks past, the three men turn around, and one of them pleasantly yet persistently shouts “hey!” three times as he follows behind her. Suziey ignores him until the camera cuts to the next scene.
This is an ideal example of how one party can see a sequence with “what’s the big deal?” indifference while another relates to the single female fear of unwanted advances from unknown persons. There is horror here, whether or not everyone is capable of sensing the same situation.
That subdued style of indirect suspense remains “Entrance’s” trademark throughout. Bright headlights on a reversing car stalking Suziey at night as well as noises heard when a silhouette watches her sleep provide tangible evidence of something sinister infiltrating Suziey’s life. But it’s these other events that don’t happen and the possibilities of what could occur that keep hackles raised intuitively, even when the viewer can’t pinpoint why.
With that knot tied in the stomach’s pit, subtly suggestive psychological frights give ground to explosive moments when the smolder finally catches fire for the climax. “Entrance” ends in a harrowing home invasion scenario whose shocks draw a straight line back to the eerie web woven from an apparent apathy the film doesn’t actually have.
“Entrance” likely had a portion of its narrative improvised as it can’t possibly take four credited writers to come up with a straight-arrow script that is largely silent and predominately features average people going about ordinary activities. A deceptive passivity comes into play through this approach that does demand an audience’s active engagement. By meeting the movie at a midpoint, “Entrance” ably takes vested imaginations all the way to an unflinchingly brutal ending that rewards those willing to see what the smoke was screening and why.
Review Score: 75