Enter Nowhere (the supernatural thriller/mystery from director Jack Heller) is the story of three people who find themselves lost in the same unknown place, in a wooded area, near a ramshackle cabin in the woods. Every attempt to escape the cabin, trekking in a seemingly straight line away from it, only leads back to it again…and again. Before you start thinking of movies like Evil Dead, Cabin Fever, and even the movie titled, literally, Cabin in the Woods, think again. Enter Nowhere is nothing like those movies, in subject matter or quality. What we get, instead, is a temporal tale, enough to keep most viewers watching, hoping to eventually enter…somewhere.
“I don’t mean to be a bitch. It just comes naturally to me.” ~ Jody
Enter Nowhere opens with Jody (Sara Paxton)–a bratty, dysfunctional, 20-something –robbing a convenient store with her boyfriend. Just before she appears to shoot the uncooperative clerk, the scene cuts to Samantha (Katherine Waterston)–a mousy, vulnerable, almost annoyinlgy innocent woman–stumbling through the woods, toward the cabin mentioned earlier. Inside is a broken ham radio, a stove, a table, a bed, and little else. Soon, enters Tom (Scott Eastwood)–a guy too good to be true, possibly a Ted Bundy in disguise. To complete the trinity, Jody is found unconscious outside the cabin, a day later. Why have all of these particular people found themselves lost in the same place, together? Is it more than a coincidence? Answering these questions would spoil too much of the movie’s limited appeal. However, without knowing the reasons the characters are together, you’re probably answering the last question on your own. Without watching the trailer, you’re probably better off; it gives away too much!
While the plot is clever in many ways, Enter Nowhere‘s time-travel element is flawed. The movie’s rational assumes, incorrectly, that events left unchanged in the past, after time travel to the past, lead to changed events in the future. Why? No explanation is ever offered. For example (and do not read the rest of this paragraph, if you want to avoid a spoiler), Jody’s mother, Samantha, does not die in the second timeline, so Jody, with resulting parental nurturing, does not become a criminal, a murderer, and a convict. However, nothing explains why this better outcome occurs, only because they have all visited the past. For shallow thinking, this is not an issue; however, with deeper analysis, it is troublesome.
“I’ve seen Deliverance enough times to know that you don’t go messin’ with the locals.” ~ Jody
There are other time travel issues in Enter Nowhere that create more questions. (And this is another paragraph not to read to avoid a spoiler.) Also not explained is why Jody’s mother did not die on the day of Jody’s birth in the second timeline, when nothing that would seem to affect that event was altered in the original timeline. Later seeing Samantha alive, in her golden years, with Jody now portrayed as a responsible young woman at her side, is all we get. Samantha’s repeated flashbacks about what appears to be a suicide attempt from the original timeline are also confusing. What events changed in the first timeline, only after her visit back in time, dissuading Samantha from suicide in the second timeline? Unanswered questions like these will leave many viewers confused, if not dissatisfied. Although there may be a way to string all of this together, it isn’t defined in the movie. While some things left a mystery enhance a movie, too many things left this way are a huge negative. When viewers think and think and cannot make sense of it, they feel cheated. I rewatched parts of the movie multiple times and was never able to answer these questions. In the end, I felt I had spent too much time thinking about something that could never be understood, and I wanted my time back.
I must also stress a major personal gripe. Enter Nowhere commits one of the cardinal sins of cinema I cannot forgive–historical inaccuracy. As a historian and collector of militaria, it is arguable that I should even recuse myself from this review. When the Nazi solider, Hans (Shaun Sipos), enters the cabin, he is wearing what appears to be an acceptable WWII Wehrmacht tunic; we briefly see the sleeve eagle that is correct. He has a Luger as a sidearm, which is also correct. (Although the P-38 had replaced the Luger in 1938, the Luger was still a favorite gun for many soldiers and still used.) However, that is where the correctness ends. The soldier, after removing his tunic, is wearing a shirt and pants unlike anything a German soldier of the time would have worn. His belt and accoutrements are totally incorrect and worn improperly. Possibly worst of all is how he is wearing a military award. The soldier has a General Assault Badge pinned to his shirt. NEVER would a WWII German soldier have worn any military award on a shirt–a shirt on its own or one worn under a tunic. The General Assault Badge, as all military awards, would have been worn on the left breast pocket of the tunic. While some who don’t know the details may think this is no big deal, I disagree. There is no shortage of knowledgeable people who could advise a director about historical accuracy. Even if the budget is small, there are endless amounts of period photos and information about such things on the internet. Quite simply, there is no excuse for these errors. Someone in production had to realize they weren’t sure about what they were doing; quite simply, someone didn’t give a damn.
As bad as willful inaccuracy and time-travel faux pas are, do they, per se, ruin a movie? No…nor do they ruin Enter Nowhere. However, those, along with other issues, do the movie no favors. On top of inaccuracy, the acting, overall, is subpar, further hampered by awkward, cheesy dialogue in some scenes, stretching any actor’s ability to deliver it well. Too often lines are spoken unnaturally, as if its being read from the script, without the right emotional tone. Facial expressions sometimes appear forced, with too much visible effort. Such pretentious acting frequently causes viewers to feel like they are watching actors, rather than the characters being portrayed. Do the children of great actors necessarily produce a great movie. Not necessarily!
“How do we know you’re not just some lumberjack psycho who lures young women to his cabin and tells them there’s no way to communicate?” ~ Jody
Does historical inaccuracy, subpar acting, occasional cheesy dialogue, and temporal improbabilities ruin a movie? While the odds are clearly stacked against Enter Nowhere, there is still hope. Sara Paxton is the best of the three lead actors, brought down mostly by the aforementioned cheesy things she must say. She is the shining light of talent that keeps things from hitting rock bottom hard. The story overall is good, with a clever way of linking the three characters in a most unexpected way, transcending time, place, and predictability (if not making things comprehensible). Sound, cinematography, lighting, and all technical points of the movie are as professional and well done as anything I’ve seen…or heard. Yes! Even with the shortcomings, everything together is good enough to get the job done. Honorable mention goes to the cinematographer for focus on a hammer early on that builds suspense and doubt about Tom…and how dangerous he might be. Again, could he be a Ted Bundy copycat, ready to bash in someone’s skull with that hammer, when we least expect it? For the sake of avoiding another spoiler, I’ll plead the Fifth…again!
Along with the end, questions remain. Will Samantha be a goody two shoes for the rest of her life, driving Jody to delinquency in spite of it all? In the alternate future, will Jody still meet the piece-of-crap man with whom she had sex to conceive Tom? Will Tom, who defied the odds as an orphan, become a delinquent with a mother? Will Hans continue to be a Nazi after the war, continuing to wear his military awards improperly? Will repeated temporal anomalies change the future forevermore? Will looping versions of Samantha, Jody, and Tom alter events for eternity? Would Enter Nowhere‘s cabin in the woods have been better off as another cabin cliche from Evil Dead? In a way, I’m joking about all of this; but, in a way, I’m not.
“You’ll be dead in the morning. If suicide’s your plan, go for it. But would you mind leaving behind your vintage ski jacket?” ~ Tom
Enter Nowhere is entertaining enough for a single viewing, but, if you’re like me, you’ll never want to see it again. Furthermore, you will be hard pressed to recommend it to a friend…or anyone or else. Loss of time spent overanalyzing the movie’s confusing time-travel elements will frustrate many…so, don’t make that mistake! While it is professionally produced, mostly well written, and clever, it lacks the finish it needs to shine. Enter Nowhere at your own risk…and don’t say I didn’t warn you! Check your brain at the door, don’t think too much, and you might just enjoy it!