Right now is an exciting time to be a young filmmaker. Despite most of the film industry money being channeled into a small number of huge Hollywood movies, moviemaking is getting less expensive, and more doors are opening for low budget films.
When it comes to shoe-string budget horror, there are two distinct mindsets. First, there are the films that are being made for love of the genre. Although they are more derivative, there always seems to be a specific attitude about entertainment in these flicks; it’s about horror, and it’s about fun. The second is of a more intellectual nature, where the filmmakers are drawn to the frightening and the macabre for the purpose of talking about how scary the world is. This is where you will find Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath’s film Entrance, a film made with almost no money, but with lots of ideas about fear and how much one can do with just a camera. That, and an insanely violent climax that sneaks up on you like a spider crawling into your mouth while you’re asleep.
Learn more about Entrance from our interview with the two directors, Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath, and star, Suziey Block, below.
BLOODY DISGUSTING: So you two wrote and directed Entrance together, but only one of you had worked in horror before?
Patrick Horvath: Both of us did, actually. I wrote and directed this little zombie movie called Die-Ner. The full title is Die-Ner (Get It?).
Dallas Hallam: It’s a funny movie.
Patrick: It’s not bad. You can stream it on Netflix or Hulu if you want to check it out. It was kind of a fluke how that came together, but it did. As long as we kept moving forward with it, we were going to basically make it. Dallas and I are super old friends. Day of the shoot, he luckily had his job pushed a couple of weeks, and he said, “I’ll show up and be your cheerleader!” which pretty much meant he was our Assistant Director. He showed up day of and toughed it out for the next 8 days. Thank god he did.
BD: It’s a feature? That you shot in only eight days?
Patrick: Nine, technically. The first chunk was eight, then we had to come back for one more pick-up night.
BD: That’s hardcore.
Patrick: That was our first foray into doing anything horror-wise here. Dallas’s love for horror goes way back, and his enthusiasm coupled with a class I took on sci-fi/horror. Between him and that class, that’s what got us into it.
BD: What exactly about horror turns you on then?
Patrick: I think it was how smart it could be, and how visceral the whole thing was. When it’s very successful, there’s something about it. The humanity that comes through is what rings true. Like John Carpenter’s The Thing. There’s something so human about everyone’s reaction to that situation.
Dallas: For me, horror is just about amplification. No movie is realistic. So the fact that it’s a horror movie doesn’t make it unrealistic, every movie is fake. Horror is just an amplification of everyday things that we all deal with anyway. In many ways, I think, real problems can be illustrated better with it.
Patrick: You know what’s really interesting? Because it’s so amplified, horror really abstracts everything in a way that makes it easy to fit in themes and metaphors.
Dallas: They actually become really obvious. Even though Romero has always protested the idea that Dawn of the Dead was a political statement, obviously it’s a political statement!
BD: Everything he’s ever done is a political statement, because it’s his nature as a filmmaker.
Dallas: We go to the mall and we call people zombies, so they are zombies. In many ways, Horror is the haiku of film art. It breaks things down.
Patrick: I like that idea. I don’t want to speak for [Dallas], but I definitely think we come from a standpoint of filmmaking; it is political, no matter what you do with it. We’re both total art film nerds too, we love the New Wave, and we love Andrei Tarkovsky, and Ingmar Bergman. If you watch our stuff, it becomes obvious we’re into more than just horror. It sometimes rubs hardcore horror fans the wrong way.
Dallas: We’ve gotten mixed reviews. Luckily we have a really good review in Fangoria right now. I’ve read Fangoria since I was a little kid, so it’s major for me. Some of the horror blogs have been less than enthusiastic. Maybe it’s because we don’t start at horror.
BD: Once it hits the horror, it’s relentless though. It starts very psychological, more like the things older Italian genre filmmakers were doing, and all of a sudden, it almost becomes a torture porn film. I was expecting it to be very eerie, but when it got very gory, I was shocked.
Dallas: Again, amplification. The very first problem Suziey has in the movie is that her car breaks down. From there, there’s just this series of things. Her dog vanishes, and she decides to move away from Los Angeles, but she doesn’t have any money. By the end, it’s just this amplification of all her other problems.
BD: The other thing I’m drawn to is the way you use your setting, which is Los Angeles, and how she’s trying to escape it. What is your opinion of LA?
Dallas: We actually both love LA. What we were presenting was an experience of LA that is true for a lot of people.
Patrick: Specifically with transplants. Which the majority of anybody I’ve ever met out here are. Myself included.
Dallas: The experience she goes through, she doesn’t get through it successfully. One of three things happen. You either leave, you become a jerk, or you become happy. It’s one of the three. For myself, I’ve become very happy. I’ve folded into the city, I’ve negotiated with it and learned how to love it. Oh, here’s our star!
[At this point, Suziey Block, the star of the film joins us. She is cradling a coffee.]
Suziey: Hi! My hands are freezing!
Dallas: We were just talking about you! A lot of people do go through what Suziey went through in the movie. The movie has a very feminine perspective. It’s focused on what it’s like to be a girl, alone.
BD: You left out a fourth thing that happens, which is that people are destroyed by living here. It’s so hard. That’s kind of what I felt happened to her. Suziey, what’s your relationship with Los Angeles?
Suziey: I have a good relationship now. My first year was the hardest, I hated it. I had never lived anywhere but my home town in Michigan. I remember moving here and thinking that my skin shrunk, and it just didn’t fit anymore. I couldn’t even get dressed, I’d put clothes on and none of them looked right, felt right. I couldn’t find a post office or a grocery store. My first year was really hard. It wasn’t till I moved out of my first place, got a cat, and started to make more friends that it got better.
BD: And how would you feel if your cat suddenly disappeared?
Suziey: My cat actually fell out of my window once and did not die. It was like he turned to look at me, then jumped to his death.
Dallas: But he didn’t die!
Suziey: He was fine, but I was hysterical!
BD: Was the location you guys shot in one of your apartments?
Dallas: It actually belonged to the costar of the movie, Karen. That’s her house. My wife, who was the costume designer on the movie, her and I lived in the basement.
BD: I want to try and talk about this while avoiding spoilers, but how many shots actually make up the continuous ending sequence?
Dallas: [Laughs] It’s kind of a trade secret!
BD: I know it’s supposed to be one long shot, but there has to be hidden cuts in there. I only caught one of them. It’s like fifteen minutes, isn’t it?
Dallas: It’s twenty-two minutes! It’s three shots, there’s only one other cut. We saw the movie yesterday, and it really works. We were all so nervous, they were such long takes. I was shooting, and Pat was right behind me with a monitor, and Chris was on sound. It could have been a camera shadow, it could have been someone stumbling–
Patrick: A reflection in the window!
Dallas: And the times we did had to stop, it was such a bummer.
BD: How many takes did you have to do?
Dallas: Only three. We rehearsed it for a week.
Patrick: Three and a half actually. We had to abort one. We’ve screened this three times now for an audience on a big screen. We had felt bad for our make-up artists, they did so much work. We only showed what we were able to with the camera, and because we couldn’t cut to close-ups, we couldn’t really highlight their work. Because it’s so well done, the parts you do get to see play really well. On the big screen, that huge, it looks gnarly.
BD: It’s so intensely gory, totally out of the blue. I was really distraught when it suddenly got that violent.
Patrick: The thing that I think really affects audiences is that at no point did we tell them it was going to be this kind of movie. We knew it was going to be creepy, and when it goes that far, it gives you this really sickening feeling. It’s really brutal. There’s no dramatic music. So it’s all you can hear…
Dallas: We tried to do scissors into a watermelon, but it didn’t sound right. Eventually, we tried a hammer on a cantaloupe. That’s the sound.
BD: I know that sound! The sound design is superb by the way.
Dallas: We spent a long, long time.
Patrick: Dallas and I just sat down, we worked on it probably longer than editing.
Dallas: Luckily, I was living in that house. Once we were done with edit, we got this really nice stereo microphone, and then we would just go scene by scene and ask, “What are we missing here?” We’d take the microphone into the exact room, into the real space, even for the room tone. We would move the mic just like the camera, so the feel of the room and the room tone would change.
Patrick: Our sound guy, Chris Dowske, was amazing, he did all of our location sound. The only problem was whenever we did these big tracking shots, there were footsteps all over the place. We cut into Chris’s sound, go back into the room, fix in the foley, and go back to Chris’s sound.
BD: And I assume, Suziey, as it’s continuous, you were actually bound for your performance.
Suziey: I asked to have my hands actually bound.
Dallas: At first we gave her a plastic tie with the locking mechanism pulled out, so she could get out.
Suziey: I really was struggling for things, and what if I struggled too much and came free, then we’d have to start all over. So I’d rather have my hands bound for real. When I had the gag in my mouth, and I was so upset, I was so into the scene. The end part was really hard.
Dallas: It’s easy to take it for granted, but all of her make-up.. it was just her tears that did that.
Suziey: And a real snot bubble too!
BD: That’s very brave. It could be taken as a little be exploitative. I mean, a woman, and it’s a low budget film, and to bind her and have her go through all that…
Suziey: I was always asked if I was okay all the time. Their biggest concern was me. I felt like I was treated great, never once was I ignored. I had a great time, I never felt like I was being tortured. And I like being the center of attention! [Laughs]
BD: So now that we’ve thoroughly discussed the climax, how long did it take you to shoot all the build-up?
Dallas: Twelve days. Two six day weeks.
Patrick: It came together really fast. Dallas had come up with the project idea. How fast was it? I feel like we were going to do it really fast.. It was like two weeks of script working.
Dallas: We were ready to go, but we worked on the script for one more week. We were dying to do something, we had a little bit of money and a camera. I feel like within two months of saying “Here’s an idea”, we’d shot it.
BD: How much money did you have?
Dallas: We’re not allowed to say! But, you can very easily say it’s a micro-budget film.
BD: How have the film festival screenings been going?
Suziey: I think we had a good audience yesterday. There was some laughter, but I welcome the laughter. It’s that uncomfortable laughter, because they don’t know what else to do besides chuckle. One guy commented, he said “That movie scared the shit out of me. What scared me even more is that people were laughing.”
Patrick: We’ve had everything from people walking out, to people having panic attacks.
Dallas: A friend of ours, a director who’s here at the festival, started having a panic attack. He walked up to us and said “I have to leave”. I asked him why earlier today, and he told me, the movie never gives you a second to sigh. Every single shot is on Suziey. In a movie, the cut is your chance to breathe. Every time we cut, we just cut to Suziey again. And in every scene, you ask “What is that scary noise?” and you don’t find out what it was.
BD: Were you at the screening I was at, on Thursday, by any chance?
Dallas: No, we didn’t make it.
BD: I hope this doesn’t offend you. When it ended and the credits started rolling, one man in the second row stood up, pointed at the screen, and shouted, “Fuck you!”
[All three jump out of their seats in excitement, cheering and laughing.]
Patrick: Oh my god, I wish we had been there!
Dallas: I would want that on the poster! What bothers me is any sort of ho-hum review. I love that, that’s great. You want to talk about affecting people… we got him. We win.