No One Gets Out Alive is based on the 2014 horror novel by British author Adam Nevill. Available to stream on Netflix from today, it tells the story of Ambar, an illegal immigrant who arrives in the US in search of the American Dream but finds herself in a whole heap of supernatural horror instead.
Some grainy old black and white video footage shows Professor Arthur Welles in Mexico, 1963, where he and his team are at some kind of abandoned temple, deep in the forest and overgrown with vines and trees. Human skulls littered around it seem to indicate that this is something best left alone and untouched, but then we see the team carefully lifting out some kind of stone box from a very deep hole inside. Cut to the present day and a young woman is alone in a large creepy house at night. She’s talking on the phone to her mother, complaining about having bad dreams and telling her how she just wants to come home. Lights start flickering, the TV and phone both cut out and as the woman heads out to the corridor, she spots that stone box from 1963 sitting in the room at the other end. Oh and there’s now also a shadowy figure with glowing eyes standing right behind her!
And then we meet Ambar (Cristina Rodlo). Ambar is arriving in Cleveland in the back of a truck, along with a bunch of other illegal immigrants, following years spent looking after her terminally ill mother back in Mexico. Ambar manages to find sewing work in a local garment factory where she spots an ad for cheap rooms (it states ‘women only’… surely a major warning sign?). The room is in the large run-down boarding house that we saw earlier and is owned by Red (Marc Menchaca), who is in the process of renovating it. Only one other female is renting a room at the moment, although she seems to prefer keeping herself to herself.
On top of all the usual life struggles an immigrant may experience, such as a lack of money, problems with a difficult boss, trouble getting hold of forged American papers, Ambar also starts to notice some strange occurrences within her new home. She’s regularly woken at night by the sound of the other tenant sobbing and she also suffers from disturbing nightmares involving that mysterious stone box from earlier. Strange noises emanate from the locked basement, and it soon becomes clear that Ambar has some much bigger, more life-threatening problems to deal with.
I’ve seen a few sub-par supernatural horror movies recently, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from No One Gets Out Alive. However, at its core is a very strong story surrounding the struggles of an immigrant girl just trying to make a better life for herself. The horror she finds herself in, and the supernatural scares leading up to it, is just a nice bonus. Apparently, this was a conscious decision by the filmmakers, with the movie focusing on just the first half of the book it is based on, elaborating upon and further exploring Ambar’s desperation and loneliness. Cristina Rodlo is fantastic in her portrayal of Ambar, not to mention Marc Menchaca as landlord Red, who I’d recently seen as the twisted villain in Alone, so I was fully expecting him to be a bad guy in this!
The use of sound is also highly effective, thanks to Mark Korven, composer and creator of the apprehension engine, a musical instrument purpose-built to create eerie sounds for horror films. One scene in particular, where an altercation plays out between the ghosts of two former residents, relies heavily on what you can hear rather than see and is one of the most terrifying scenes of the film.
No One Gets Out Alive is the directorial debut of Santiago Menghini, who is experienced in shorts and visual effects. I was a little worried as we got well into the movie that it was going to struggle to answer all the questions posed early on and tie up everything that had been thrown at us, and Ambar, so far. I felt that it struggled at times to do that and there are some elements that didn’t work so well. However, I found the final act to be impressive, intense, and terrifying. Overall, this was a really pleasant surprise and it has definitely made me want to seek out the book.
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.