A group of documentary filmmakers travel into the heart of rural Siberia and come across all manners of unpleasantness in this low-budget, stripped down horror thriller written and directed by Steve Stone. It utilizes a low budget (approximately £100,000) to go over what is admittedly familiar material in the horror genre, but is executed in a stark and efficient manner that grabbed it the Best Horror Film at the London Independent Film Festival earlier this year.
A British documentary crew led by Kate Hansen (Charlotte Riley) for ‘Darkest Secrets’ travels to a remote Siberian woodland to report on a grisly find decades earlier; dozens of unidentified bodies shot dead and buried in shallow graves. Joining the established film crew are renowned psychic Ruth Peacock (Dervla Kirwan) and local guide Yuri (Branko Tomovic), who escorts them to the location and narrates the backstory to their cameras. Hopes are that Ruth can give a unique insight into the the identity of the victims and why they were killed. However they soon stumble across a vast, dilapidated research facility that harbours far more sinister secrets…
At first glance Entity would appear to heading down the well worn path of the found footage horror film that broke through into the mainstream with The Last Broadcast and The Blair Witch Project, and has been diluted down over the years with titles such as the Paranormal Activity quartet. The opening scenes play out via skipping and distorted CCTV footage and the cameras point of view is brought up and referenced several times throughout the film. Thankfully Stone resists succumbing to a ‘flavour of the month’ approach and settles for a more traditional narrative style and supernatural feel. The tone here favours atmosphere and chills over graphic carnage and the film touches on themes of regret, loss and memory that thankfully suggest the filmmakers agenda was above just splattering claret across the walls. The abandoned military facility is a horror subplot that has been done to death with recent incarnations such as The Bunker and Outpost. It’s credit to Stone and his collaborators that they manage with limited resources to craft such omnipresent dread from such a familiar setting. A large part of that is down to the impressive location scouted for the film; an abandoned, almost monolithic industrial estate that seems to smother the characters and the very screen with its presence. The cinematography serves well in in transforming it into an embodiment of menace and transfers from graceful tracking shots to a frantic, hand held pursuit in night vision as the narrative develops. Proceedings are made more memorable by a strong cast doing good work with what do seem initially liked cliched roles. Particularly worthy of note is Kirwan who embodies her role with an ethereal calm in the face of fear, that always seems not too far from some form of breakdown as the story unfolds. Branko Tomovic also does solid work in a role that is admittedly not very difficult to guess its trajectory but he invests it with a surprising mix of menace and care.
I had the fortune of seeing Entity at a director’s Q&A at the London Independent Film Festival. Just from Stone’s passion and enthusiastic response to questions it was easy to see the time and energy he had put into the project and how much it meant to him on a personal level . Entity is not without its rough edges but it gets the job done with effective determination.