In a time when most filmmakers are rehashing over and over again the same old horror conventions, Enter Nowhere feels fresh and innovative. Indeed, this is neither a remake nor a sequel of some old dear classic fear flick. Furthermore, this film dares to play with our expectations and contextual information of the horror genre. Unfortunately, Enter Nowhere ultimately fails to deliver a completely satisfying viewing experience.
As the film begins, we are bombarded with the quintessential images and conventions of the contemporary slasher/survival genre: a decrepit cabin, haunting noises coming from deep inside the woods, a large axe dragged across the floor by a mysterious figure, cars that break down in the middle of nowhere, an isolated place far away from civilization, and three strangers from different walks of life trying and failing to communicate with each other. Even the poster of the flick features a shadowy man holding an ax in front of a desolated cabin in the woods.
In a self-reflexive manner, Jody (Sara Paxton) recognizes and acknowledges the contextually of the slasher/survival genre in reference to their situation, and she informs the rest that “I have seen Deliverance enough times to know that you don’t go messing with the locals”. Much as Scream did back in the early ’90s, Enter Nowhere is explicitly self-conscious of its imagery, texts, and intended audience.
Clearly, the filmmakers understand the conventions of the genre and know what the audience expects out of this film. As Jody, Samantha (Katherine Waterston), and Tom (Scott Eastwood) attempt to understand the nature of their predicament, one cannot do anything but guess when they will be attacked and slashed to pieces. Indeed, they all seem to have arrived at the cabin in the woods driven by wretched fate or by some mysterious evil force.
All of a sudden, Enter Nowhere circumvents the cinematic dogma of the slasher film and twists the narrative into a different direction. As Jody and the rest attempt to find a way out of the woods, they find a Nazi underground bunker and its deranged occupant who believes to be fighting for his life during the last days of World War II.
A few other clues lead the character to realize that they are from different periods of time in history. As it happens, Tom is a gen-X kid, Jody is a ’70s teenager, and Samantha comes from the ’60s. By all means and purposes, Enter Nowhere forgets about the horrors of Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes and moves into the uplifting, mesmerizing domain of The Twilight Zone and Quantum Leap.
Arguably, the high point of Enter Nowhere is the portrayal of the failure of communication between people from different time periods. Avoiding the obvious, the film makes emphasis on the political and social context of its characters. For example, Jody embodies the yuppie attitude of greed, selfishness, entitlement, and self-deserving. Jody is revealed to be a murderous thief and she does not like the idea of sharing the few crumbs of food available to her, Tom, and Samantha.
As the story evolves, the mystery as to why these apparently unconnected characters have been brought together across time and space is revealed. At this point Enter Nowhere makes its stronger point: good parenting is crucial to have a functioning society. Indeed, it is revealed that Jody, Tom, and Samantha are troubled young people because they lacked a strong family nexus as they were growing up. They all come from broken families, ineffective foster parents and/or disheartening orphanages. In a sense, the film suggests that if Jody, Tom, and Samantha had had a “Norman Rockwell” upbringing, then their lives would have been more successful and fulfilling.
If you think about it, the conservative social ideology portrayed in Enter Nowhere is rarely seen in contemporary horror flicks. Indeed, most slasher films tend to confront a group of naive and rebellious teenagers against a vicious adult. Certainly, such is the structure of the films in the Friday the 13th series. Symbolically, in these movies the transgressions of the younger generation are sadistically punished by their elders. In other words, the traditional family values are seen as oppressive, deceitful, and dangerous.
In any event, in spite of its valuable assets, Enter Nowhere fails to deliver a satisfying viewing experience. For example, somehow it feels that the film overstays its welcome. While featuring an interesting plot and twist of events, Enter Nowhere would have benefited from a tighter editing.
For those interested in unorthodox flicks, the DVD of Enter Nowhere has recently been released by Lionsgate. Offered in a nearly bare bones presentation, the only bonus features found are a brief documentary on the making of the film and the compulsory trailers of other movies distributed by Lionsgate. This is a shame, as personally I would have wished a greater insight from the filmmakers on the making of a horror film that obviously goes against the current dogma.
By film’s end, Enter Nowhere proves not to be the customary slasher/horror film promised by the poster and the DVD cover.