JUNE 24, 2011
On a technical level with regards to its slasher elements, Entrance is a pretty great flick. There are a couple of earned jolts, some surprisingly good kills, and a slow burn creepiness not unlike The Strangers or Ils, not to mention the creative approach - our "Final Girl" is in every single frame of the film, which doesn't allow for her slutty best friend to go off alone or even cutaways during the scare scenes. By design the slasher film is a fairly limited concept, so anytime I can walk away impressed by how the filmmakers handled their well-worn material on the directorial side of things, I am happy.
However from a storytelling angle the film sort of misses the boat. It's not a very long film (80 and some change with credits, which includes one of the largest soundtrack listings I've seen since Dazed & Confused I think) but it is padded to a fault, particularly in the first act before the stalker/slasher elements kick in. The idea is to show us how lonely life is becoming for our heroine Suziey (Suziey Block), but we get the point long before the filmmakers think we do. Whereas we only need to see her "normal" (read: boring) day twice to get the idea that nothing much happens to her, they show us certain parts of it four or even five times. What kicks the "plot" into gear is when her dog disappears, and from then on they go easier on the repetition, but getting there might be too much for an audience, especially for a film most folks will be watching at home, not in a theater where you can't fast forward (or just walk out if you're an asshole).
Luckily, Block is an engaging presence, and her character is likable enough to follow. She's not particularly interesting, but that's part of the point, so it's not a big deal that you don't get to know too much about her by the time the end comes. It's worth noting, however, that you'll still learn more about her than you will about the girl in Innkeepers (which I think was in the same theater), and thus my theory that I would have enjoyed that movie more had I been less annoyed with its main character was solidified; Entrance is just as slow paced and thin on story, but I was much more engaged here, thanks to Block's sympathetic character. To be fair, she loses her dog, which is pretty much the easiest way to earn someone's sympathy, or at least mine. There's a bit where she comes home and looks down at the floor, seeing no one to greet her, and I almost choked up (my family dog died in January of 2010, so the next time I went back home I actually had my mom take the day off of work so I wouldn't lose my shit when I walked into the house and didn't have my pal there like usual). But it's not a manipulative storytelling decision like in some other films; I was already liking her character before the little guy vanished.
And by vanished I mean "was taken". Again, with Block in every single frame of the film (I honestly do not think I am exaggerating; if she exits the frame it's not for more than a second or two - and I should note the trailer below is all footage that's NOT in the film) they could have botched the possibility for scares (we never even really get a good look at her stalker), but just about every major horror scene works great. The "dognapping" bit in particular was creepy as all hell, because it plays out entirely through sound design, with the guy making those ticking sounds you make when you call for an animal and the dog pattering about and then whimpering, all while we watch poor Suziey sleep. The movie looks like it cost about a hundred bucks (oddly no one asked the budget at the post Q&A, a rarity for a festival screening) due to the rather unimpressive HD look, but the sound design was top notch at times.
I also liked the simple look of the killer; his mask was sort of like the Cherub from Valentine, but with typical hipster garb instead of the black overcoat. And by keeping him sort of out of focus or in shadow, they got a bit of that old school Halloween vibe that you know I'm gonna like, especially in this modern day where the killers are so front and center for most of the movie and thus lose all of their mystique before the second half, let alone a sequel. As for the kills, we don't get to see too many, but that doesn't mean they aren't effective. I don't want to get too spoiler-y since the movie isn't out yet and it's probably a one time only type deal for most people (including me, though I'd listen to a commentary for sure), but the final 22 minutes, when the slasher stuff really hits the fan, is all one "unbroken" shot (edits hidden by camera movement), and there's a great balance between on-screen (surprisingly vicious) kills and "find the dead friends", and it works great I thought, with poor Block running around both gagged and with her hands tied behind her back. The ultimate denouement is a bit of a letdown, though I was too impressed with the technical qualities of how they pulled off the entire climax of their film to get too annoyed by it.
One thing I thought was a bit odd, though I assume it was a budgetary issue - we don't really see a lot of Los Angeles. Part of the theme of the film is how LA can be a lonely place, and how despite that you should love it (it borders on Haggis' Crash at times; luckily the killer stopped short of outright saying he was killing people just to make a connection), but we only see a tiny bit of Silverlake and a few shots of Sunset Blvd and what I think was the Skirball overpass on the 405. I mean, they don't need to go all out and show her going to the Tar Pits and a Dodger game, but I'm not sure how well this aspect of the story will come across to someone who doesn't live here. Unlike other major cities, LA is very spread out, with traffic and a near useless subway system making people without cars (as Suziey is, due to a breakdown she can't afford to fix) sort of helpless - this might not make sense to folks who assume LA is like Manhattan or Chicago and thus not having a car isn't much of an issue.
Like most festival films, there is no distribution in place for it yet, and I can't see the big studios fighting over rights to a strange little indie slasher, but hopefully it will find a home with Magnet or IFC and find its audience on VOD or whatever. I can't say for sure that I would have been as impressed had I not seen 240+ (mostly lousy/generic) slashers in the past few years, because just about all my enjoyment stemmed from the unique approach in how it was shot (the script would have probably bored me to sleep after 10 pages - and YES, I stayed awake for the flick! That's two late movies this week!). Slasher fans who are sick of the same old "5-6 kids in a car" scenarios should seek it out once it becomes available. And I'm sort of tickled by the idea of someone watching it without knowing it was a slasher, assuming it was yet another indie "girl finds herself" comi-drama, only to get their mind blown when a dude takes a pair of scissors to one of her friends' heads.
What say you?