Los Angeles. For every dream granted in the City of Angels, how many are snuffed out even before they've begun? As Suzy (Suziey Block) goes about her mundane day-to-day existence, it's difficult not to become disenfranchised by her current lot. Though she shares a cozy house with a great view on the east side of Silver Lake with roommate Karen (Karen Gorham), her job as a barista is going nowhere and her broken-down car has left her increasingly vulnerable as she begins to travel to her destinations by foot. If things don't seem to be going Suzy's way, they only get worse when her dog Darryl mysteriously disappears. Owning up to her own realization that she's terribly unhappy and needs a change, Suzy decides that getting away from the city might be her best bet. Leaving, however, is going to be tougher than she thinks.
The banal, ritualistic aspects of our lives creepily beget paranoia and outright terror in "Entrance," a rapturous display of just how very unforgettably effective a film can be that's been shot in twelve days on a budget of $6,000. Writer-directors Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath, along with co-writers Karen Gorham and Michelle Margolis, are major new talents hopefully on the cusp of grand success. What they've crafted here has been described as mumblecore with higher stakes, and that description sounds about right. Staying focused on Suzy for every shot, the picture serves as a poignant, low-key character study of a young woman searching for meaning in a place that appears increasingly hopeless beyond the palm trees and sunshine. Subtly but surely, however, arises a threat. Who or what it might be is unknown, but Suzy is aware of her surroundings enough to sense something isn't right. She hears strange sounds of walking while she's in the shower. A car follows her methodically down the street one day, even turning around when she redirects herself, before zooming off. A customer at the coffee shop where she works, Jonathan (Jonathan Margolis), seems uncomfortably infatuated with her and co-worker Flo (Florence Hartigan). Deceptive in its natural beauty, it's almost as if L.A. itself has begun to threateningly close in on her.
For prospective audience members intrigued by the sound of "Entrance," a few words of advice: avoid all trailers out there, all interviews with the filmmakers, and any potential conversations or message boards that may include spoilers. The intoxicating blend of subtly off-kilter normalcy and dread-induced insecurity is where directors Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath sell their film as so much more than a whiny slice-of-life about a girl wallowing in self-pity. For one, Suzy is simultaneously identifiable and magnetic, played by relative newcomer Suziey Block with zero affectations and a fearless empathy. The viewer wants to follow her and cannot turn away even when little seems to be happening. Peer closer, though, and everything is happening, the ominous power of suggestion painting a canvas that scene by scene, beat by beat, is fervidly composing tension and atmosphere while undoubtedly leading to a finite conclusion.
The final fifteen minutes of "Entrance" dare not be given away, but let's just say that one's patience during the first hour is paid off in full during a third act that is as unnerving and sobering as any genre film of the last year or two. In an opening scene, Suzy and Karen sit on their balcony overlooking the city and discuss how funny life and mortality are, the way we can often never predict what's coming next. Such existential musings come back to haunt them by the end, played out in extended long cuts that are technically bravura triumphs, the reality of shattered hopes paired with a nightmare scenario sprung from the outer recesses of Suzy's mind. Complex lensing, chilling sound effects (including a song that plays on a record player in one key sequence), and Suziey Block's expertly raw performance all coalesce into the kind of cinematic nirvana that has this viewer exhilarated even while thinking twice about turning all the lights out tonight. The key to "Entrance" is that it's never anything less than completely plausible, and possible. As Suzy gazes out at the twinkling lights of La La Land at the end, she's a forever changed person, helpless in the face of cruel luck and broken promises. Proving that small of means does not equate to slight of impact, "Entrance" is a shrewdly distressing knockout.