Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another special AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. One of the best horror films I’ve had the pleasure of checking out this year was a little film called ENTRANCE. It’s available through IFC Midnight on VOD and opening in limited theaters starting this Friday. I had a chance to talk with directors Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath a while back about this fantastic film. Below is that interview and below that is my review of the film…
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Well guys, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk today. I had a chance to see ENTRANCE a couple of days ago and it blew me away. I just wanted to congratulate you guys on such a fantastic film.
DALLAS HALLAM (DH): Thank you so much.
BUG: You’re welcome. I cover horror on Ain’t It Cool News and usually it’s pretty clear cut whether it’s a horror film or not, but with your film you really don’t know it’s a horror film until pretty late in the game. Are you guys comfortable with it being called a horror film?
PATRICK HORVATH (PH): Oh absolutely and with pride.
BUG: Great. Well tell me a little bit about how you guys came up with the story.
DH: So Patrick and I have worked together in some capacity of another for a long time. We went to film school together and after Patrick moved out here he directed a little movie and I was first AD on it and during that time I was trying to develop a film I was going to make called LAND OF DUST AND WATER and Patrick was going to be the first AD on that and I put a lot of time and effort and money into that project, but it ended up falling apart. It had been cast and everything, but it fell apart and I really wanted to make something. I had my own creative juices boiling, because I had been looking forward to making this movie before it fell apart and I had one little idea that was kind of a seed for ENTRANCE. It wasn’t even a story, it was just almost like an idea that hit me with how we could do this thing for six thousand dollars, since that’s the money I had.
Patrick liked the idea and we immediately started working on the script and I think that the script came about, because we wanted to make a slasher movie, but we had this style idea first and the style ideas came from our love of more European art films than slasher movies. Our favorite movies are the kind of movies that are talked about in both FILM COMMENT and FANGORIA and TIME like ANTI-CHRIST just comes off the top of my head. So we started working on this thing and all we knew was the style we were going to shoot it in and we knew it was going to star a damsel in distress so to speak. Then after that we started getting all of our collaborators involved. From there we did everything possible to make everything feel as real as possible and through that process of working with Suziey Block, the star, and Karen [Gorham], who was also one of the stars of the film. My wife, Michelle, would do costumes and so we were just working very closely with them and talking about their experiences, so the story kind of came about on its own.
BUG: Well it’s one of those films that I hate to ruin for people, but in order for us to talk about it I think that it is kind of important. Maybe we will put a spoiler warning on at the top of this interview, but I wanted to talk about how it seemed like you didn’t know if the stuff that was going on in the film was the main character’s paranoia or if it was really happening. Was that intentional?
DH: We could answer that without spoiling it too, because I think it’s still intentional. By the end of the movie there’s nothing that says “All of these things have lead to this!” For example, this is kind of a spoiler, but her dog goes missing and we never say if it is her stalker that did that or if it disappeared and for all of that stuff I think it’s meant to stay loose.
PH: Also, I would say a lot of the threats that pop up throughout the whole film are, if you read them from an outside perspective, it could be very non-threatening or you can read it from her frame of mind and it’s very threatening. Something like somebody trying to so “Hey” to her on the street; that might not necessarily be threatening if you view it from a certain perspective.
DH: Well we love Polanski films and we really wanted to play with perception in the first hour of the movie where you’re watching a girl who is reacting to things, but we are still only seeing the movie from her perspective, so she feels threats closing in all around and that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is exactly accurate.
BUG: Yeah, I actually thought about Polanski all through the film. It definitely has a feeling of both ROSEMARY’S BABY and especially REPULSION. It seems like both of those films were definitely part of this. What other films do you think inspired ENTRANCE? I kind of had a sense of a little bit of a LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR vibe. Do you guys remember that film?
DH: Pat, have you seen the movie?
PH: No, I have not seen LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR.
DH: I haven’t seen it. I know of it by reputation, but I’ve never seen it. You know the films that inspired us from the art film side, although we were inspired by all kinds of movies, but the films that certainly inspired this one from the art film side would be the films of the Dardenne brothers and movies like SWORN TO SILENCE and THE PROMISE. And then from the horror side we are huge fans of Giallo’s films, like the good Argento-Giallos. We wanted to take some stuff from the Giallo films and take the psychological stuff from Polanski and mix it all together and come up with our own thing. That’s really how we got going.
PH: There are even things thematically from like the Dardenne films, because a lot of them are essentially a main character has a type of mental crisis and then you watch them deal with it.
BUG: We’ve seen a lot of home invasion movies this year. Do you think this falls in that category?
PH: We really kind of regard it as more of a psychological character study nightmare and it does have home invasion in it. We made it in 2009 and in the last year home invasion has become the new hot topic, so I feel as a filmmaker it’s just bound to happen that whatever you are working on ends up not feeling as fresh as when you made it, but you also can’t help it you know?
BUG: The way you filmed it, in a handheld style pretty much through all of the film, what was the decision to do that?
DH: It’s kind of a combination of it being on purpose and also by necessity. What we did with the film is that we approached every aspect of making it by saying to ourselves what is the idea of getting this thing done and we ended up with a serious set of rules that we had to follow throughout that we found really helpful, because they gave us this anchor to always fall back on.
PH: No zooming.
DH: Yeah, “No zooming.” “The camera always on…” “Every scene is one shot with no coverage.” “Always stay on Suziey.”
BUG: Very cool.
PH: The rules just helped. They gave us a grounding, so then we could move forward with such a limited budget and actually get this thing made and have it feel good. That was a big concern we had. We wanted to make sure that the film felt consistent from beginning to end.
BUG: What have reactions been like for you after people have seen this movie? It seems like it would be a very frightening movie, especially for women who live in the city. I live in Chicago and I see girls walking down the street alone all of the time and it frightens me to see them do that. Have you guys had any reactions from female viewers to this film?
PH: (Laughs) Sorry Dallas, I’ve been talking this whole time. Did you want to hop in?
DH: Well yeah, the strongest responses have been from women 18 to just under 40 I would say and a lot of them have either known somebody or held a lot in common with Suziey in terms of that feeling of isolation and vulnerability in a big city. I think it’s a mild sort of paranoia, being a woman in the city, and that’s really played into the horror aspect. I mean that’s what we were trying to use as the main highlight of the horror. It’s a very female oriented film.
PH: We didn’t know we were doing that.
DH: We didn’t realize we were making that, yeah. It was after the first screening and we had so many positive responses from women that we realized that we had made a very female film, which is very cool. I’m very proud of that.
PH: So am I. I’m proud that I made something that some people look at and we talked a lot on set about perception, again to come back to Polanski with perspective and you know female perspective is different from the male perspective. Just in terms of living in any city, a woman alone has a completely different view of what life is like and a man doesn’t really understand what it is to be a woman.
PH: A man can just walk down the street.
BUG: Definitely, with no worries. Well how did you guys end up hooking up with IFC Midnight?
PH: From early on one of the stars of the film, her roommate was a producer who was very close to a film representative named George Rush in San Fransisco. He watched that film and really wanted to represent us, then the rest is kind of history from there. George was the one who helped us getting in touch with the studio and everything.
BUG: Very cool. So what’s next for you guys? What do you have next on your plate?
DH: I really want to do a Christmas time horror movie. It’s a dysfunctional family getting together for Christmas dinner then goes way off into much deeper ends of horror. In some ways it pushes the envelope and the other way it’s a much more traditional film than ENTRANCE is.
BUG: So do you guys consider yourself horror directors or are there other genres you guys kind of want to dive into?
PH: We would love to dive in to all sorts of other ones.
DH: Yeah, we are interested in all kinds. I think right now I think of myself as a horror director. But more so as a cinema fan, we just love working on our craft.
BUG: Well guys, you have made a fantastic film. It definitely was one of my favorite films that I’ve seen so far this year. It really is one of those slow burners and it really does burn you in the end.
DH: Thanks so much.
PH: Seriously Mark, have a great day.
BUG: Thank you. Bye, guys.
And here’s my review of ENTRANCE, available now on IFC Midnight Video On Demand!
ENTRANCE (2012)Directed by Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath
Written by Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath
Starring Suziey Block, Karen Gorham, Joshua Grote, Florence Hartigan, Bennett Jones, Liesel Kopp, Jonathan Michael Margolis
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though it requires a lot of patience, ENTRANCE was one of the most horrifying cinematic experiences I’ve had so far this year. The film follows a young woman named Suzy (played by the adorable Suziey Block) who is ultimately alone in the city. She has a friend who she lives with and only interacts with in passing as they get their morning cup of coffee before heading into work. Her family lives far away. She has a dog who she affectionately loves. But other than random interactions with men in bars, she is alone. ENTRANCE plays with the ultimate fear of being alone and twists it to the most terrifying of lengths.
The directing/writing team of Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath convey this message so effectively by following our lead character as she lives her humdrum life working in a coffee shop, listening to music, feeding her dog, going out with girlfriends, and reading books. It may sound like a boring experience, but the almost voyeuristic manner by which the camera follows her conveys an overall sense of unease (that we as the viewer are eavesdropping in on intimate private moments) that I was engrossed with the film waiting for the other shoe to drop. These initial reactions soon fade as the viewer becomes a fellow traveler with Suzy as she is followed home from work by a shady car and then hassled in the street by passing frat boys. We also witness through Suzy’s eyes an uncomfortable failed pick-up attempt in the café where she works between a customer and a fellow employee. In doing so, we are taken in and immediately side with Suzy who is both taken aback by the uncomfortable events surmounting around her, yet uncontrollably drawn to these interactions because she is so much alone. When Suzy’s dog goes missing, her world starts to fall apart and though only hints of something disturbing might be waiting in the periphery, nothing will prepare you for the horrific events that occur the night of Suzy’s going away party after she’s decided she’s had enough with the big city life and wants to move home.
If you are a woman living in a big city, this is a film that will terrify you. As I stated in the above interview, I’ve felt absolute fear when I see women walking alone at night in the city I live in, knowing the dangers that may befall her. ENTRANCE encapsulates this completely terrifying experience by not only putting its heroine in this situation, but validating those fears in the end. Women; watch this with someone you trust. You’ve been warned.
There will be those who will completely disagree with me on this film saying that it bored them to tears. It is a slow builder and apart from a few creepy scenes, I could see folks tuning out at the forty-five minute mark after quietly following this women with very little by way of event or excitement. Those who love splatter and big shockeroos of the SAW and FINAL DESTINATION variety will most definitely not find this film as impactful, but ENTRANCE isn’t about all of that. Those with a little bit of patience and appreciate their terrors slow-slithering will fall in love with this film. ENTRANCE is about creeping paranoia that something is wrong and the utter shock that those paranoid feelings are correct. Most like Polanski’s REPULSION, ENTRANCE allows us to get up close and personal with a lost soul and then punishes us for getting that close in the end.
Be assured, the ending is violent and shocking. I can only compare ENTRANCE to a slowly inflating balloon. As the helium rushes in, you feel the tension growing and know something bad is going to happen. You expect the eventual explosion, but instead of helium, when it does burst, the balloon is full of blood—splattering in your face and shocking the shit out of you. The final moments of this film burrowed into my soul, mainly because the directors so effectively put me in the room with our heroine. Through an unflinching camera, a likable protagonist, an overall sense of dread and paranoia and an ending that hits like an anvil, ENTRANCE is one of the best horror films I’ve seen all year.
See ya Friday for our regular AICN HORROR column, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released in March 2012.
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