IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath Talk 'Entrance'

Monday, 21 May 2012 15:33 Written by  Dana Gardner
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath Talk 'Entrance'

Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath are the writing / directing duo behind Entrance, an indie, slow-burn horror film / psychological thriller. It’s a slasher film in which you might not even realize it’s a slasher film until you’re a good deal of the way through it. Entrance is about Suzy, played by Suziey Block (The Island), a lonely young woman in Los Angeles who begins to develop a growing case of anxiety and uneasiness living in the city. The movie is about the limits of our perception, how things lurking in our periphery of our lives can lead to horrific conclusions; and it’s about how Suzy fell out of love with the city of LA but the city wouldn’t let her go. It is also one of the most unique and unnerving films I’ve seen in a quite a while. Entrance is now playing in theaters, as well as IFC Midnight Cable VOD and Digital Outlets (SundanceNOW, iTunes, Amazon Streaming, XBOX Zune, Playstation Unlimited).

I recently had the chance to speak with Directors Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath about Entrance. The directors spoke about where the idea for the film came from, what films and filmmakers influenced them, creating tension and anxiety for the audience, their metaphor for Los Angeles, sound work, and their upcoming project.

Here’s what the incredibly talented filmmakers had to say:

IAR: Entrance was such an original movie, to call it a character study that’s also a slasher film or to call it a horror movie or a psychological thriller doesn’t do it enough justice. You guys aren’t mashing up these genres in any way instead its more like you guys transcended genre in this film. Was that your intent from the start or did you guys start out making a horror movie and then it turned into something far more complex and much deeper?

Patrick Horvath: I think we started it off by wanting to take a character piece drama that was shot something in the style of the Dardenne brothers who do these very stripped down, very raw character dramas, and we wanted to see what happens if we can do something like that and then take it to a horror film territory by the end of it. What would that be like? How could we do that? What would we need to do realistically with the budget? That was kind of the springboard, to have this sort of very stripped down thing walk into the territory of a slasher Giallo film.

Dallas Richard Hallam: From the very beginning all the way throw the process our mantra was to let life in and keep everything as real as possible. Every decision is based in reality. When you’re making a horror film you’re living inside of a nightmare to begin with. So we were wondering how could this exist in real life. Every decision for the slasher elements we would think through. How would the bad characters get things done and try to keep everything as real as possible. In doing that it doesn’t feel as much as a mash-up of genres because instead it feels like a slice of life that has these horrific scenes going on inside of it.

There’s this incredible tension and suspense throughout the entire movie where you’re not sure if and when something awful is going to happen. It seems funny to say this but it’s like that tension that you get from the Paranormal Activity movies but you guys were able to do it without ghosts. Can you tell me a little about what you guys did to achieve that sense of tension and anxiety?

Hallam: We didn’t have ghosts but in a way there is something you could think up as the ghosts and that is Suzy’s own perspective on things. If you imagine your perception is something separate from you: the way you look at the world, and the way you process the world and the way you look at the things around you, the way that you process a bump in the night, what you think of that bump and how you deal with it, that’s your perspective. In a way that was our ghost. So we made all of our scary stuff and our suspense by toying with Suzy’s perception of things. If you’re walking down the street and some guy is like ‘hey! hey!’ you’d probably stop and be like ‘what, what is it?’ But in our movie when Suzy is walking down the street as far as we know that could be some guy she knows but she treats it like she is being aggressed upon. So in that sense we are always building a world, and this is kind of a Polanski thing, but we’re building a world where the characters perception of the world is always threatening.

You two have been collaborating together for a while now. Can you tell me how you guys met and how you met Suziey and how she became a producer on the film besides playing the lead role?

Horvath: Dallas and I met at the University of Iowa in the film program a decade ago, and we became good friends. There are projects we’ve always been working on together whether that’s being in a band or film production projects, or even just writing scripts on our own and giving them to each other for feedback. Dallas made the serious move first and moved out to Los Angeles right around 2002, and then I didn’t make it out here until 2006. He had already made all sorts of friends out here that made coming here a really smart choice for myself. Then it was lots of other friends who had projects going on that Dallas was always working on, and I got to join in and work on them as well. I did this little horror film called Die-ner back in 2008 and Dallas was gracious enough to come on board and be the Assistant Director on that.

Hallam: That was our first time working together on a feature. In film school we worked on a lot of short films together.

Horvath: Dallas then had his project called Land of Dust and Water and that’s where he met Suziey.

Dallas: This was a dream project. It still is in a way because I never made it. It was the first feature length script I wrote and re-wrote on and off for years and I had invested money into it and gotten a crew together and what often happens with these kind of projects when there’s a lot of things in the air, they all start to fall down one by one. You don’t even know when the project fell apart, you just look around one day and realize that it isn’t happening. Pat and I had done so much preparation that we had all these creative juices flowing and I had this very little idea for a very little movie and the idea at the time was for the style of the film. It was something that we could make for $6,000 dollars, which is what we filmed Entrance for initially, and pull it off and make it very real. I pitched it to Pat and he was ready to go. Within a month of that pitch we had shot the film. But Suziey, though I had met through the casting process of the movie that fell apart, I loved her immediately but she wasn’t right for that film. She was actually third or fourth choice for that film and with that said she was my favorite person I had met during that casting process. She just wasn’t right for that film. When I told her that she vehemently disagreed and I’ll never forget the gusto she had to tell me how wrong I was and that she was perfect for it. So when this next thing came up I had her in mind all along and I pitched her to Pat and he liked her and we went with her and thank god we did because without Suziey and her performance it wouldn’t be a great film; it would just be another little movie. Suziey makes it real and makes it better than what it is.

Suziey Block, who plays Suzy, was so good in this. That subtle disconnect and anxiousness she displayed throughout the movie and then the horrific terror she displayed in the end. What was it like directing her? Was it difficult for her to get in that mind frame during the end scene?

Horvath: No, not at all. We shot chronologically to build up to it. She’s also from Michigan, and like almost everyone in Los Angeles including ourselves, she is from somewhere else. She was able to definitely identify with a lot of things that her character was going through. It really wasn’t hard. She knew what we were going for. If you check out her credits she’s no stranger to horror films. She loves horror films, and when we get to that moment in the end she was a super trooper. She was ready to go for it. She wanted to do it as real as possible.

Hallam: It was physically really straining on her. Pat and I would kind of go off into the corner and ask each other if we thought she was okay and if we could go on. We would always try to not go again. If we had it then we wanted to be done with it because we didn’t want to put her through more than what she had already been put through.

Suzy gets sucked into this downward spiral of the city of Los Angeles. It really chews her up, and as the villain says, it’s a tough city. You guys are kind of slowly circling this metaphor throughout the movie. Can you talk a little about your symbol of the city of Los Angeles?

Hallam: Everybody who moves here gets swallowed by the whale and then people get out and some people actually make it here. By ‘making it here’ it doesn’t mean becoming a big star, it means being happy. So a lot of people move here thinking their dreams are going to come true and then they quickly face reality. The reality is that it’s a very lonely city at first until you find your bearings, and it can take years to find your bearings. Once you do it’s a wonderful city but you have to learn it first. We had a lot of people watch our movie that have said they know that girl or they’ve been that girl or they were that girl and they gave up and left. A lot of people can relate to her, we can relate to her, everybody working on the set could relate to her and I guess that’s what it comes down to.

It’s such a unique movie and you guys don’t borrow anything from specific works but it feels like there might be hints of influences like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, John Carpenter’s Halloween, and Dario Argento’s Suspiria, and Giallo films. What films and filmmakers influenced you two in the making of this film?

Horvath: Dallas and I are huge film buffs and we love all sorts of genres of film and that being said we have a lot of things that are hanging out in the subconscious of media that we’ve consumed. Sometimes without realizing it a lot of things pop up and influence us. I’ve noticed with talking with a lot of people after the making of the film that Polanski’s Repulsion gets brought up a lot. To be perfectly honest that was never in mind. Now we use Repulsion as a touchstone and that’s because so much of our film is about perception and Repulsion is all about perception. Stylistically though you look at films by the Dardenne brothers. You look at The Son or The Promise or Lorna’s Silence and those certainly were influences stylistically. That’s really the point where we started from: what if we had very limiting rules from the outset to help us reign in this movie under the budget we had. So there were rules like handheld cameras, there’s no coverage so we don’t cut within the scene, everything has to be a long take. All these different elements share a lot with the Dardenne brothers and stylistically that’s what we were gravitating towards. But once you get into the horror element there’s a whole mishmash of all these different films that were kind of bubbling up. At that point I don’t think Dallas or I were necessarily trying to have this moment or that moment, it was more what realistically would be terrifying as hell. In the rolodex of our brain whether we knew it or not but we were filing past Dario Argento’s Giallo and other slasher films from the seventies and eighties. Even the works by Michael Haneke kept popping up. It’s tough to point a finger at exactly what it was.

Hallam: Pat’s answer really makes me think that at the end of the day we love horror films but we really love all kinds of films and we’ve watched them religiously and really soaked them up. We were influenced by so many different things.

Sound plays such an important role in this movie: the whispering of voices or the noises of the city in the background. There’s also no score. The only music in the movie comes from a record player or someone’s headphones or in a bar. It comes naturally from within the movie. Can you talk a little about the role of sound in this film and was the restraint of using an actual score to heighten the effect of the sound?

First of all I’m really glad you brought this up; you’re one of the few people that have brought up the sound work. Dallas and I take a lot of pride in the sound work of it because we both did it ourselves. We definitely had some help boosting up the mix once we finished it. We love sound work and how it plays into a film. We spent almost as much time on the sound work as we did editing the whole film.

Hallam: Pat and I met in film school and the film school that we went to at the University of Iowa was a very artsy film school. They didn’t put a lot of focus on production; the focus was more on theory. There’s a guy who was teaching there named Leighton Pierce who taught us all kinds of stuff but his forte is sound and he is ‘the guy’. If you had to go and study with someone about sound work this is ‘the guy’. We both took his sound design course, which was phenomenal. From that point up to this day I’ve been obsessed with sound. The reason that there’s no score isn’t because we love sound so much, it’s because we wanted the movie to be like life. Our next project is going to have a massive score but in general there is no score in life and we wanted it to be Suzy and her life and because there was no score we knew that the quality of the actual soundscape had to be good enough to replace the score.

You just mentioned that your next project is going to have a massive score. What’s next; what are you guys currently working on?

Hallam: We are working on the script right now but we’re really hoping to make this film. It’s called Midwinter and it’s about a dysfunctional family getting together for Christmas dinner. It starts there but there are a lot of things going on underneath. There are a lot of pots bubbling and when they boil over it turns into a horror movie in a much bigger way than Entrance. This is a horror movie with a capital ‘H’.

Lastly, what was Land of Dust and Water going to be about?

Hallam: It was going to be about the goriest most physical horror movie I could make that was also just a really sincere love story. So it was going to be about two people who could never get together but that said they’re both artists and they live inside art and the movie was going to be a meditation on the impaired nature of all art and how their physical bodies became flesh metaphors for everything the movie’s talking about. It was going to be a very gory, disgusting horror movie that was about art and love.

Entrance opens in theaters Friday May 18th as well as IFC Midnight Cable VOD and Digital Outlets (SundanceNOW, iTunes, Amazon Streaming, XBOX Zune, Playstation Unlimited)!

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