Slow burn is kind of a loaded term in the horror genre. To some, “slow burn” is a lazy euphemism for “too boring”. To others the burn portion of the slow burn is a bit too jarring, meaning that they would prefer something a little more subtle through the entire movie. They would argue that a jolting ending can ruin a subtle, complex story. When a filmmaker decides to really dedicate themselves to this slow burn format, they dedicate themselves to walk a fine line through a fickle horror audience. While Ti West is the only well known, current horror filmmaker to walk this line, the directors of the new IFC Midnight film, Entrance, Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath, might just join him in those same nerdy horror dinner conversations.
Talking about the synopsis of Entrance is tricky. The introduction of the characters spends so much time in the mundane, repetitive portion of life there is really nothing to describe. To talk about the eventual climax would be to ruin what the movie is trying to accomplish. Let us say just say this, the movie spends its time following Suziey, played, appropriately and effectively, by Suziey Block. The term “following” is particularly apt here as the camera’s style of a shaky handheld look makes the entire film feel just a little more voyeuristic than typical. In this style, we see her daily routine again and again, and then again. There are small, strange occurrences in the midst of the routine, a bump here, a knock there, but for a large portion of the movie we are passive observers of Suziey’s every day life, with all of it’s malaise and boredom intact.
Her malaise and boredom is palpable for the audience too; for a portion of the movie we feel exactly the same. We understand when Suziey chooses to leave the city because, as an audience, we kind of want to as well. This is not meant as criticism of the movie, but more of a warning. You have to be patient with Entrance. The filmmakers have a goal in mind, and part of the goal is to lull us all into the same malaise that Suziey has fallen into. This can be challenging to view simply because it gets a little uncomfortable. As an audience we are used to a more traditional progression, each moment advancing the plot. When that doesn’t happen in Entrance, it can be a little disorientating. We see her shower, apply makeup, make coffee, and sleep. We don’t simply see this once, or even twice, but we see this repeatedly. This is her life and the filmmakers want us to watch it.
The reason we are meant to see this repeatedly is revealed in the climax and leads to a pretty fantastic final ten minutes or so. And once that final sequence of Entrance begins to play out, it’s easy to not only be accepting of the monotony beforehand, but to be thankful for it. The juxtaposition of her supposedly monotonous life and the final scene is pretty powerful, successfully using a bookend to the opening scene that is nothing less than chilling. The previous hour of uber-realism makes the eventual horror apply in the context of everyday life, maybe a little too well for some. The final scenes of horror are just as real and relatable as anything that has come before. It is unsettling, it is frightening, and, maybe most disturbing of all, it is believable. The only real complaint with the movie is with a soliloquy that happens in the final sequence that explains everything a little too thoroughly. It’s as if the filmmakers balked at the intensity of their subtle style, worried that the audience wouldn’t understand their intent if they didn’t provide a detailed treatise of it.
I don’t dare think that Entrance will work for everyone. Undoubtedly, its slow pace and repetition will turn some audience members away. Those audience members, though, will truly miss out on a pretty special movie that dares to take its time developing real characters and a layered, meaningful story. Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath decided to walk that line of the slow burn horror film and, a few moments of over explanation aside, succeed to the point that Entrance is not just a good genre film, it is a plain old good movie.