Saturday, August 18, 2012

In short: Enter Nowhere (2011)

One by one, three people strand in a cabin in the deep dark woods. First there's Tom (Scott Eastwood), a young man with no discernible character traits. Then comes Samantha (Katherine Waterston), newly pregnant and rather timid and proper. Finally, Jody (Sara Paxton) arrives. Jody's rather cynical and rude, and, as we know thanks to the film's beginning, has shot a man in a botched gas station robbery with her boyfriend.

The trio is trapped in the middle of nowhere with freezing temperatures at night that would make an escape very difficult, and really no good idea how to get back to civilization. But something's not right about their situation anyhow - whenever they try to leave, even taking the straightest line through the woods leads them back to the cabin, as if something just didn't want them to leave there. Once they get to know each other the three realize other peculiarities about themselves and their situation I won't spoil here. Just let it be said that they have something in common and will possibly have to do a life-changing deed.

Jack Heller's SF-in-the-Twilight-Zone-sense-of-the-term movie Enter Nowhere comes as a pleasant surprise to me, seeing as this specific format seldom seems to work well for full-length movies. It's also a film I find difficult to talk about without spoiling some of its - well-placed and well-paced - plot twists; which would be alright if what I had to say were of especially deep insight or important to warn other potential viewers about.

It's not even as if these plot twists were all that surprising. In fact, I called much of what was going on in the movie about thirty minutes in. However, I called it because the film is playing fair with the information it gives its audience and its characters, and not because it's badly constructed. Heller also manages to let the characters take much more time to get to the core of what's happening to them than the audience needs without letting the characters feel slow or dumb. Unlike us, the characters don't know they are in a movie of the fantastic persuasion, and one doesn't generally expect the weird to hit one quite as heavily in daily life.

My only real problem with Enter Nowhere is with its ending, which I found a bit too pat for my tastes, with a warm and fuzzy solution to the characters' problems that just seems a little too nice, as if it weren't enough for the film to fix the characters' very fucked up lives, but just had to turn them perfect instead of good. I'm sure it's meant to leave the audience with the warm feeling of things having been put right, but I would have preferred an ending that leaves the characters on a less Frank Capra level of happiness.

Fortunately, the way to that ending is paved with a solid script, tight direction of the subtly effective type, and solid acting performances, so there's no possibility of it ruining Enter Nowhere.

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