The Distracted Critic – ENTER NOWHERE (2011)
ENTER NOWHERE (2011)
Review by Paul McMahon – The Distracted Critic
ENTER NOWHERE is a film with aspirations. It wants to go places, get noticed, be remembered. It wants to be a contender.
A rough-looking couple enters a convenience store called Catena’s and walks directly to the furthermost corner without so much as a glance toward the attendant. They start making out and you get the definite feeling that this is a kiss for luck. Next thing you know, they’re both holding guns on the attendant and demanding all the money in the register. Once they have it, the man runs for the car, but his girl stays behind and demands the attendant open the safe.
“I’ll open it, but I don’t think you’ll like what’s inside.” He then challenges her about making the life decisions that have led her to be holding a gun on him. “You don’t even care that you’re going nowhere,” he says. She shoots him.
Title Card: ENTER NOWHERE
Now there’s another woman, lost and afraid, wandering through the woods. Her movements are clipped and tight. She comes to a cabin in the woods. Inside, she finds a backpack with a baggie full of granola and eats a fistful. Someone starts moving around outside the cabin. We see dark shoes approaching, see the head of an axe dragging in the dirt. The man with the axe, Tom, turns out to be a nice guy. Both he and the woman, Samantha, have been stranded here because of car trouble. Tom says he’s been here for a few days, but hasn’t been able to find a way out. While there’s no phone, they do have an antique two-way radio. Of course, it’s broken. Night falls, Samantha says she’s pregnant, and Tom lets her have the bed, volunteering to sleep on the floor.
The next morning, Tom sets out for her car, thinking he can siphon the gasoline from his crashed truck and use it to get Sam’s car running. While he’s gone, Sam hears someone else wandering around outside the cabin and opens the door to find the blonde girl from the opening segment, the one who shot the attendant, passed out on the porch. Samantha moves her inside the cabin where she wakes and is none to happy to be there. She tells Samantha her name is Jody, but that’s as friendly as she gets. When Tom returns and takes her lighter to start a fire to warm the cabin, she gets downright belligerent.
Later on, Jody makes an offhand comment to Samantha, asking why she’s way out in Wisconsin, and Samantha insists they’re in New Hampshire. Tom thinks them both crazy, because he knows for a fact that they’re in South Dakota. Each of them is absolutely sure where they are. A plane they can’t see passes overhead.
The next morning they set off together determined to walk until they reach civilization. After walking most of the day, Jody trips and falls hard to the ground. Sam discovers that she tripped on a trap door in the woods. They hope that whatever is behind this door will hold the answer to why they’ve been brought together, but they find only a bomb shelter filled with German antiques and old wine. They take what food they can carry and resume their walk, only to come upon the cabin again. “That’s impossible,” Jody says.
All the elements are here to make a film people will notice and talk about for a long time. It’s got a premise we’ve seen before (most notably CUBE, 1997 and IDENTITY, 2003), strangers coming to an unfamiliar location with no inkling of why they’re there. The resolution is one that writers Shawn Christensen and Jason Dolan took some time to think up. First time director Jack Heller (the upcoming DARK WAS THE NIGHT, 2013) cites Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock as role models, and truth be told you can imagine either director wanting to be at the helm of this story. This is one of those rare tales that is compelling because the audience learns what’s happening at the same pace that the characters do. Heller does a very good job with a limited budget. His credits previous to this include work as a producer on seven movies. It’s plain to see that he’s spent a lot of time on set, watching directors work.
Sara Paxton (THE INNKEEPERS, 2011) plays Jody, and she makes this character pop off the screen. This is a woman who’s had nothing easy her entire life and has learned to act out in anger, causing pain to everyone she meets before they have the chance to hurt her. Katherine Waterson (MICHAEL CLAYTON, 2007 and ROBOT & FRANK, 2012) plays Samantha, and at first I thought her rigidity was an acting fault, but later on we learn that it’s entirely reasonable behavior for her character. Scott Eastwood (GRAN TORINO, 2008 and TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, 2013), son of legendary actor/ director Clint Eastwood, plays Tom. His character is a “nice guy,” almost to a fault. There were times that he seemed disconnected from what was happening, though, at times so profoundly that it pulled me from the spell of the story.
For all its desire to be an important film, there are a few logic lapses that throw a bump in the narrative flow, as well as one blatant “goof” that had me rewinding the scene to be sure I saw it correctly. I did.
I saw a lot of promise here, for the director, for the writers, for the actors. While the film itself is pretty good, I wouldn’t urge you to go out of your way to hunt it down. At the same time, I wouldn’t recommend you avoid it at all costs, either.
I give ENTER NOWHERE two stars, with three timeouts.
© Copyright 2013 by Paul McMahon