United Kingdom. Directed by Steve Stone, 2012. Starring Dervla Kirwan, Charlotte Riley, Branko Tomovic. 87 minutes.
In 1983, an unknown agency keeps a man known only as “Mischka” in isolation in a facility in Sadovich, Siberia. They keep him under restraints, as often as they can. He can do things.
In 1988, an investigation uncovers thirty-three sets of human remains buried in the forest near Sadovich. The authorities issue no explanation and close the case.
In 2010, a crew from the British reality program Darkest Secrets, led by presenter Kate Hansen (Charlotte Riley), visits Sadovich. With the help of psychic Ruth Peacock (Dervla Kirwan) and author Yuri Levkov (Branko Tomovic), they hope to uncover the truth behind those thirty-three corpses.
Twenty-seven years ago, something happened in Sadovich. Something so terrible that the spirits of those that died there are unable to rest. Something that continues to pose grave danger decades later.
A trap that Kate Hansen, Ruth Peacock and their associates have just walked into.
Hip hip huzzah, it’s another found footage movie. I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it.
Well, okay, since there’s plenty of “objective” (for lack of a better term) camera footage, you can argue Entity isn’t really a found footage movie. You’d be correct, but you’d be focusing on a single aspect of the production at the expense of the bigger picture. Entity looks and feels like a found footage movie, it uses the tropes and the iconography. Even when the footage doesn’t come from the characters’ cameras, it still looks like director Steve Stone shot it on consumer, not professional-grade, DV.
Like many other recent attempts to cash in on the found footage craze, a sense of calculation and obligation defines Entity. It meticulously does everything the subgenre requires it to do. When the team learns that Yuri has a secret connection to the mystery, it wouldn’t surprise the audience even if Tomovic didn’t play the character as if he were carrying a sign reading ASK ME ABOUT MY HIDDEN AGENDA. It’s not a surprise because that’s the only sort of role a character like Yuri can play in a story like this.
Similarly, when Kate has to choose between checking up on her cameras or searching for an associate who disappeared literally seconds ago, of course she chooses the cameras. The most important lesson she gleaned from Heather Donahue and Jason Creed is that the footage is more important than anyone’s life, or indeed everyone’s lives.
What Entity doesn’t have is heart, soul or a reason to care. Tomovic’s performance is the only weak one per se, but most of the others don’t exactly come out smelling like roses. Riley isn’t able to invest Kate with anything beyond what little the script gives her: she’s a driven, ambitious TV presenter, indistinguishable from a thousand other similar characters in a thousand other stories. She’s like a toy slot car on a race track, following a path for no other reason than that’s what the script tells her to do.
The same goes for Rupert Hill and Oliver Jackson, as tech assistants Matt and David; the characters are so generic that their job titles may as well be “cannon fodder” for all the difference it makes. Only Kirwan (as a Doctor Who fan, I must inform you that she played Miss Hartigan, the Cyber King, in “The Next Doctor”) emerges unscathed, and even then I can’t help but think that Ruth should have been so much more impressive than this.
And what really hurts is the fact that, for once, for all the film’s other failings, it’s solid from a visual perspective. The forests of Yorkshire, England, easily double for the forests of remote Russia. The facility interiors are beautifully atmospheric, and the effects and editing team deserve most of the credit for the two or three scenes in which Mischka is an effective villain-slash-monster.
Ultimately, Entity is a mediocre effort that doesn’t even have the common decency to suck. If it did, it would at least be memorable. Instead, it’s largely forgettable, a horror film as generic as its title.