'No One Gets Out Alive' stacks its most horrific turns for a finale swerve that might as well be the whole movie — except it isn't, and the preceding narrative is noticeably less engaging.
- - Cristina Rodlo does her job
- - I like what we see at the end
- - The unknown looms like a threat
- - It's rather plodding
- - Haunts are underwhelming
- - Feels hinged on a payoff that overtakes importance
Netflix’s expansion of their unofficial Adam Nevill cinematic universe takes a slight step backward with Santiago Menghini’s No One Gets Out Alive. While David Bruckner’s adaptation of Nevill’s The Ritual showed the writer's work could illuminate the screen with cultist frights and magnificent creatures, No One Gets Out Alive is a more condensed, less fulfilling horror experience.
Jon Croker and Fernanda Coppel's screenplay favors urban Cleveland dilapidation and the sacrifices made by immigrants in search of the American dream. It’s a companion to films like Culture Shock and Most Beautiful Island, except the unification of demonic supernatural dread and commonplace outsider oppression lets neither thrive. Imagine Clive Barker and Mike Flanagan in the broadest strokes, but with barely half the visionary wherewithal.
Mexican Ambar (Cristina Rodlo) crosses the Southern United States border and makes her way toward Ohio, where her relative Beto (David Barrera) has successfully built his affluent life. Ambar isn’t flush with cash nor possesses identification and can only afford a rundown studio in Red’s (Marc Menchaca) women-only housing unit. It’s not much, but there's no alternative option until Ambar interviews for a better job. Hopefully she figures out her plan soon because terrified cries from the basement and hallucinations of past tenants who vanished as per Red’s insistence start to suggest Ambar is unsafe in her current accommodations.
The horrors of No One Gets Out Alive stem from a flimsy piece of documentation that Ambar does not possess — without ID, she cannot embrace America’s infinite dreams. I mention Culture Shock and Most Beautiful Island because, like No One Gets Out Alive, backstories revolve around women who flee what they believe as unlivable circumstances for American promises of open doors for huddled masses. Instead, the “Ambars” of each story are chewed raw and spat out by domestic systems oiled to exploit, churn through and abuse under the guise of stars-and-stripes prosperity. The horrors of an uncaring government come to light as Ambar — like so many — takes matters into their own hands, and Menghini unfilters that experience as Ambar breaks to Red’s will or avoids police interjection out of fears of deportation.
Inside Red’s makeshift apartment complex that stands four or five stories tall, the glowy beads of shadow-contrast eyes represent souls who the manor has devoured. No One Gets Out Alive is named appropriately and doesn’t conceal any narrative intentions — Ambar awakes to ghost footprints, undead quarrels and human screams through outdated iron ventilation systems between floors. Red’s co-caretaker and brother Becker (David Figlioli) is introduced as a midnight lurker who slams his head against immovable objects and most certainly provides a threat to Ambar or other undocumented, foreign women who seem peculiarly targeted. The foundation is laid for altruism to be revealed as another architectural death trap. Still, the scares themselves are a wee bit timid as Ambar appears more caught in the middle of paranormal squabbles.
Rodlo embraces more performative depth in Ambar’s traumatic memories as a daughter who stayed by her mother’s side until illness claimed another victim. Ambar is whisked in dreamlands to the elder matriarch’s hospital bed, where silky hair caresses and pleas to “stay longer” distract Ambar from the house’s lurking horrors. What’s inside a ritualistically decorative box? Why is there an off-limits locked basement door? What does Becker’s chanting in tongues mean?
We’re locked within Red’s house for the lion’s share of the film’s duration, as Ambar interacts with minimal supporting characters — two more renters, a protective Beto — making it feel more like a short elongated to feature-length. There aren't enough overtaking chills or time spent enveloped in the film’s wilder, imaginative horrors that crawl forth from the ancient holder that Becker seems to worship — what’s present works but begs for either more or less.
Maybe that’s where I’m left underwhelmed by No One Gets Out Alive, which seems narratively mapped and cared for as a precursor to grander universe plans. Any snarling special effects are saved for later reveals; what Ambar confirms in those last frames as she faces the world beyond sparks an enthusiasm that’s not apparent until closing time.
Rodlo carries scene after scene that charts a trajectory without much suspense or surprises, whether that’s badgering her underpaying seamstress boss or poking around Red’s private study and basement door framed with claw scratches. It’s a haunted movie that’s just not overwhelmingly haunting or impactful.
No One Gets Out Alive is still a proficiently moody upturn of the American dream, from a perspective that’s privy to all the patriotic panic and supremacy-induced agony. If its intentions are to hint at a connection between No One Gets Out Alive and The Ritual, I’d understand landmark choices, but the relenting ambiguity does weaken an overall procession of muted spooks. Spoilers are a nuisance here because something even Guillermo del Toro would appreciate bears no mention in this review. All I can confidently say is go in expecting the grand finale as a selling point, and hope the ensuing navigation of immigration woes provides enough social terror worth your attention and appropriate distress.
No One Gets Out Alive is now available to stream on Netflix.
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