Synopsis – An immigrant in search of the American dream who, after being forced to take a room in a boarding house, finds herself in a nightmare she can’t escape.
My Take – Keeping in line with last year’s excellent His House, this latest Netflix release joins the growing list of horror stories examining the migrant experience by telling the story of an undocumented Mexican woman facing down sinister forces in Cleveland.
Marking the directorial debut of Santiago Menghini, this is the second adaption of an Adam Nevill novel by the streaming giant following The Ritual (2017), a stunning slice of folk and backwoods horror with a dark emotional thread, and is backed by David Bruckner and Andy Serkis as its executive producers.
While this mostly impressive gothic chiller with folk horror overtones is not as emotionally affecting as it should have been and is marred by a slow pace, it still makes for a refreshing and essential experience due to its enjoyable mix of darker genre elements and some very unique ideas. Not groundbreaking in any way but nevertheless a worthy spook-fest addition for the Halloween season.
After opening with spooky preludes which shows an old archeology footage of something being removed from a creepy-looking South American temple and an eerie assault on a frightened young Portuguese woman, the story follows Ambar (Cristina Rodlo), an undocumented Mexican migrant who arrives in Cleveland in the back of a truck, looking for a new start following her ailing mother’s death.
Though she quickly picks up a job in a factory, Ambar isn’t flush with cash nor does she possess any identification and can only afford a rundown studio in a women-only housing unit by Red (Mark Menchaca) and his menacing but little-seen brother Becker (David Figlioli). It’s not much, but there’s no alternative option until Ambar interviews for a better job which her relative Beto (David Barrera) has lined up for her. But right away, she know something is off about her new accommodation.
There are padlocked doors, a strictly out of bounds cellar and another guest who behaves erratically. Between the nightmare of her day-to-day existence, and the evil that stalks the house Ambar is left in a situation where simply leaving isn’t an option but neither is staying.
The narrative is slow-paced and moves steadily to establish its premise. As a first feature director Santiago Menghini makes a strong debut with wild, unexpectedly bloody ride, that’s enhanced by a careful setup. One of the highlights of the film is the downcast outlook it provides on what immigrants have to endure just to secure a crappy job and the specifics of how someone living on the fringes can get beaten down by a multitude of tiny indignities.
Ambar’s story is harrowing enough, without the genre elements, and Rodlo plays it as if she’s starring in a grounded drama about immigration rather than a fantastical horror, giving an added impact to the mayhem that follows. And it’s not until the final act that the film hits the ceiling, with horror both literal and metaphorical, especially with the supernatural element in the climactic scene, which is a far cry from the standard haunted house template the story plays in.
Here, director Menghini delivers a solid finale that is gory, nerve-wracking, and cathartic and introduces one of the more bizarre and unique things I’ve seen in a film. The house too is wonderfully imagined and contributed to the ambiance. If there is any room for criticism, it would be that the narrative kept the origins of the box murky, and at times uses common horror tropes and traditional jump scares to keep the proceedings moving.
Performance wise, Cristina Rodlo is excellent as Ambar. She delivers a strong portrayal of an immigrant trying to have a better life and conveys the burden of Ambar’s hardships, supernatural or otherwise, quite well. Her expressions of frustration and anguish are sympathetic, and her eventual plunge into pure fear is quite gripping. Marc Menchaca is quite believable as the seemingly friendly but slightly creepy landlord, while David Figlioli with his height and strong features seems made for horror films.
In smaller roles, David Barrera, Cosmina Stratan and Victoria Alcock are alright. On the whole, ‘No One Gets Out Alive’ is a mildly enjoyable stylish Netflix immigration horror with a pretty bonkers conclusion.
Directed – Santiago Menghini
Rated – R
Run Time – 85 minutes