Review: Entity (2012)
Review by Nia Edwards-Behi
Superficially, you might think ‘oh god, not another found footage film’ when reading about Entity in synopsis. From the outset let me say – it’s not found footage. First time feature director Steve Stone cannily explains the hand-held elements of the film as a ‘motivated camera’, and he’s spot on. While other horror films might use the conceit of a paranormal investigation as a basis for making an 80 minute ordeal of shaky cam and little else, Entity is a refreshingly narrative and character driven piece which is effectively frightening.
In 1998, over 30 unidentified bodies were found in shallow graves in a remote Russian forest, and with no explanation the case was soon closed. Now, a small English TV crew is investigating the discovery, led by a local man interested in the case, and aided by a powerful psychic. The crew soon discovers that this is no ordinary investigation and that escape might be impossible.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well, don’t let that be off-putting.
It’s almost inevitable that Entity will be lumped in with the found footage subgenre that we’re all become so very, very sick of. The film combines third person shooting with sequences filmed by the TV crew on site. This motivated camera is, in fact, key to the film’s effective sense of dread, foreboding and fear, often denying us the release of seeing what it is that’s so terrifying the protagonists. There’s one spectacular moment of violence which is all the more powerful for offering us no clear view of what is taking place. Director Stone has taken a fairly high concept and done something refreshingly untypical with it.
There’s a wonderful and purposeful attention paid to the film’s sound design too, which, without a doubt, helps contribute to this sense of ambiguous terror. We very often hear things without seeing them, which again allows a viewer’s imagination to run wilder than perhaps what a filmmaker might be able to put on screen. The film’s pervasively unnerving soundscape makes the fantastic location come to life, too. Or perhaps, come to life is not the right way of putting it – the massive, abandoned industrial-looking building is all pipes and chains and dirt and wetness. It’s industrially desolate, an empty shell in the middle of a stark, empty forest.
The characters are also refreshingly not stereotypes. Kate (Charlotte Riley), producer and presenter of the TV show is attractive and maybe a little ruthless, but she is not inhuman. Matt (Rupert Hill), a cameraman, is cynical, but not a complete dick about it. Do these two have a thing for each other? Have they had a relationship in the past? We – brilliantly – don’t know, as very little unnecessary exposition is offered. Instead, the actors get to actually act with each other, and offer a chemistry about which we, as an audience, may or may not be interested in speculating. Dervla Kirwan plays the psychic Ruth, who is decidedly workman-like and unmystical about her ability. No time is wasted on arguments over whether she can really do what she does – these are television professionals, and they’re doing their jobs. This cast is uniformly excellent, but I must draw particular attention to Michael David Worden as Mishka, one of the beings that inhabits this desolate place. Making his feature debut, Worden is spectacular in a dialogue-free and physically challenging role. It’s a small role, really, but it’s one that’s absolutely essential to get right.
It’s truly refreshing to watch a horror film that is actually frightening and also puts some effort into proceedings rather than churning out the same old drivel we’ve all seen elsewhere. Consider then, that Entity was independently made on a low budget by a first time director and it’s really something special. Entity is a technically brilliant feat of independent filmmaking, and Steve Stone is without doubt a director to keep our eyes on.
Entity will be released in the UK early next year and hits AFM 2012 next week.