DVD Review: Suspenseful "Enter Nowhere" not bad

Enter Nowhere (2012)
90 min., rated R.
If "The Cabin in the Woods" didn't already exist and effectively prosper as more than just a hackneyed kids-in-the-woods horror flick, "Enter Nowhere" would be called "The Cabin in the Woods." Its ambitions aren't as high, but there's no point to compare. Based on the somewhat misleading trailer and being picked up by horror-themed Lionsgate Films, this indie mystery seems to have nothing new to offer (with glimpses of a knife and a hammer) like it's a spooky version of James Mangold's "Identity" in the woods. However, once it actually unfolds, "Enter Nowhere" is more of an existential "Twilight Zone."

In the film's opening, Jody (Sara Paxton), a spiky rebel, and her boyfriend Kevin (Christopher Denham) rob a convenience store. Thereafter, after her car has run out of gas and her husband has gone off to get help, Samantha (Katherine Waterston) is shaken, walking through the woods and stumbling upon a tiny ramshackle cabin with some food and a busted ham radio. She comes into contact with the good-looking Tom (Scott Eastwood), who's stranded from a car accident and has been squatting in the cabin for a few days. The next day, Jody shows up passed out in front of the cabin, and when she comes to, all three realize they're in a predicament: the woods are endless and take them in circles. What do these people have in common, and what could possibly be going on?

First-time director Jack Heller, working from a screenplay by Shawn Christensen and Jason Dolan, keeps us off-balance. Gradually, Jody and Sam are the first to realize something is amiss, but we're just as confused as them, and that's where the suspense comes in. The stakes heighten when one thinks they are in Wisconsin and another thinks they're just two hours from New Hampshire. Divulging more clues would spoil the fun. Throughout, fun movie references are dropped, almost as hints, to 1972's film "Deliverance," Michael Myers, and the video game Pac Man. Once the filmmakers start explaining their central mystery, we know things could go one of two ways. Without it feeling stretched thin, the story reaches a conclusion that's logical but obvious. 

The performances from the young actors are spotty, until everything begins to make sense and we understand who these characters are. Broadening her horizons and coming a long way since 2006's "Aquamarine," Paxton (just seen in "The Innkeepers") is the closest to a known thespian and the film's standout. But Eastwood (Clint's son) and Waterston (Sam's daughter) are capable enough. Technical credits are also strong, with Tom Harting's cinematography adding atmosphere and Darren Morze's creepy score accompanied by Stellastarr*'s upbeat "My Coco." The only real flaw comes in the finale, where some of the effects show off the film's budgetary constraints.

Amidst all the direct-to-video junk out there, "Enter Nowhere" will probably get lost in the shuffle, but it deserves more of a chance. It might be flawed, but overall, this is a nifty, not-bad little item.

Grade: B -