November 8, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Minos Nikolakakis
Greek with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in Greece (primarily in the fictional village of Alytis), the horror flick “Entwined” has an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class and working-class.
Culture Clash: A doctor moves to a rural area and gets entangled with a mysterious young woman who is a social outcast and who is believed to be cursed.
Culture Audience: “Entwined” will appeal primarily to people who like horror movies that focus more on psychological terror and supernatural scares than on bloody gore.
“Entwined” is a “slow burn” supernatural movie that entices viewers into a mystical yet suffocating world, much like the seductive actions of the mysterious young woman who is at the center of story’s mystery and intrigue. The movie is a great example of how a film doesn’t need to have a large cast to be effective. “Entwined” also has an underlying message about the ongoing debate of science versus superstition, as well as which belief system should be trusted more. There’s also a more obvious theme about the power of nature and how it can turn on people if the environment is not respected.
Directed by Minos Nikolakakis (in his feature-film debut), “Entwined” is set in present-day Greece, but the story takes place mostly in a part of rural Greece that might as well be stuck in a previous century. A 35-year-old doctor named Panos (played by Prometheus Aleifer) is grieving over the death of his father, who passed away from cancer. The opening scene is of Panos and his older half-brother George (played by John De Holland, who wrote the screenplay for “Entwined”) at their father’s funeral.
Panos is feeling a certain level of guilt that his medical expertise couldn’t save his father, whose chemotherapy treatments weren’t enough to get rid of the cancer. George comforts Panos by saying to him, “You’re going to be a fine doctor. Don’t beat yourself up … Science doesn’t have all the answers, as much as you might want it to.”
Perhaps in an effort to get away from it all, Panos (who is a bachelor with no children) moves from a big city to the rural village of Alytis. (“Entwined” was filmed on location in Mountain Parnonas in the Peloponnese peninsula.) It’s never explained why Panos chose Alytis as the place to relocate. But it’s clear from his first day in the village that he’s really not welcome there, since he’s considered an outsider from a big city.
There are two elderly people who seem to be the village’s unofficial leaders, and they seem to know everyone else’s business in the village: Mrs. Makri (played by Anna Kozadinou) and an unnamed police officer (played by Manos Vakousis). When Panos arrives, he doesn’t get a warm welcome. Mrs. Makri gruffly tells him that he is Alytis’ first doctor. And when he tries to talk to villagers, they usually turn away and ignore him.
While driving through a deserted forest area in his first day as an Alytis resident, Panos almost has a terrifying car accident when a young woman in her late teens or early 20s (played by Anastasia Rafaella Konidi) suddenly appears in front of his car. He screeches to a halt before he can hit her. She’s lying on the ground and appears to have fainted.
While he tries to revive this stranger and asks if she’s okay, she suddenly wakes up and runs off into the woods without saying a word. Is this the last time that Panos will see this mystery woman? Of course not. This is a horror movie.
Alytis is so small and behind-the-times that the people don’t seem to have televisions or computers. That’s why Panos is lucky enough to at least get cell-phone service. He and his older brother George check in with each other by phone. Panos has a very small medical office in the village, but he has no patients and it doesn’t look like he will get any patients anytime soon because the villagers would rather trust their centuries-old superstitions instead of modern medicine. However, when Panos talks to George over the phone, he lies to George by saying that his medical practice is a big hit in the community.
Out of boredom and curiosity, Panos decides to look for the mystery woman whom he almost hit with his car. He finds her at a small wooden house tucked away deep into the woods. She lets him into the house without hesitation—perhaps a little too quickly, if Panos really thought about it.
Panos introduces himself as the village’s new doctor, and she tells him that her name is Danae. She has an aura of both innocence and worldliness that Panos finds intriguing. Danae tells Panos, “I don’t trust motorcars or their drivers.” (Then why did she let him into her house so quickly?)
Panos makes a sincere apology for almost hitting her with his car. Danae responds by saying that she prefers horses for transportation. He asks to examine her at his office to make sure that she’s not physically hurt. Danae seems very reluctant to venture outside of the woods. Panos also notices that Danae has strange scars on her body.
There’s some eerie moaning and grunting in the house, which Danae explains is her elderly, overprotective father. She pushes Panos toward the front door and tells him in an urgent and fearful voice to leave before her father wakes up and sees Panos. But just as Panos is making his way back through the woods to his car, the house’s old man (played by Kostas Laskos), who is skeletal with a white, unkempt mane of hair and beard, chases after Panos and breaks a wine bottle near Panos.
Panos is unnerved by this incident. And when he arrives back in residential part of the village, he is frantically approached by a villager named Mrs. Sevasti (played by Aleka Toumazatou), who asks him if she’s seen her missing son. She hold up a picture of a man in his late 20s or early 30s. Panos walks past her in a dismissive manner because he’s got something else on his mind: finding out more about Danae.
The village has a social gathering area where Panos’ doctor office and other business are located. Panos asks about Danae and mentions the scars that he saw on her body, because he’s convinced that she needs medical treatment. Panos overhears the police officer say that Danae is the “cursed girl” in the forest. Mrs. Makri also says, “It’s not our place to help,” while the police officer adds, “God marked the evil ones so we might tell them apart.” Mrs. Makri scolds Panos for thinking that “science has all the answers.”
Within a few minutes of this discussion, Mrs. Savasti appears with a serious, bleeding head wound. Mrs. Makri and the police officer attend to her. Panos tries to help too, by applying some iodine. But the villagers are too suspicious of Panos’ modern medical techniques for him to be allowed to help much more.
The villagers’ warnings about Danae aren’t enough to keep Panos away from her. The suspicion they have toward Danae probably makes him more curious. And so, he goes back to Danae’s house (always unannounced, because it’s not as if Danae has a phone so he can call ahead), and this time he sees something even more disturbing: The old man is having sex with Danae.
Panos confronts the old man, who lunges at him, they get into a physical fight, which ends when Panos pushes the old man, who hits his head on concrete. Panos rushes the old man to his doctor’s office and treats his head wound. When the old man reaches a stable condition, a very distressed Panos goes back to Danae’s house to once again plead with her to get help and report the abuse. He also asks Danae to corroborate that Panos acted in self-defense in the fight.
The rest of the story is about Panos being increasingly drawn into Danae’s world. She has an enchanting effect on him. And she also has some strange quirks, such as insisting that the house’s fireplace remain lit. Panos gets so wrapped up and obsessed with Danae that he cuts himself off from the outside world, much to the dismay of older brother George, who finds it increasingly difficult to get in touch with Panos. George frets to his wife Athena (played by Maria Eglezaki) about this decrease in communication from Panos.
Is Danae some kind of witch? And what about the mysterious disappearance of Mrs. Savasti’s son? Those questions are answered in the movie, which takes a chilling turn in the last third of the film.
Most of “Entwined” consists of scenes of only Panos and Danae together. In these roles, Aelifer and Konidi play well off of each other, as their characters go through various personality arcs and power struggles in their relationship. “Entwined” cinematographer Thodoros Mihopoulos infuses a sense of menace amid the beauty of the forest, since the movie has more than a few hints that the forest might have a life of its own.
“Entwined” is an impressive feature-film debut from director Nikolakakis and a screenwriter/actor De Holland, because the movie takes a concept that has been done before in many movies (a mysterious young woman seduces an older man) and puts a unique spin on it, by setting it a remote, enigmatic forest in Greece and making the forest almost like another character in the film. The dialogue of “Entwined” isn’t as compelling as what happens in the movie. Rather than cramming the movie with predictable killings from beginning to end, “Entwined” is an alluring story about the type of horror that sneaks up on people who make the mistake of being fooled by outward appearances.
Dark Star Pictures released “Entwined” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on August 28, 2020, and on digital and VOD on September 8, 2020.