The Horrors of the American Dream Come Alive in No One Gets Out Alive (2021)
Updated: Dec 26, 2021
Title: No One Gets Out Alive
First Non-Festival Release: September 29, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Santiago Menghini
Writer: Jon Croker, Fernanda Coppel, Adam Nevill
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Starring: Cristina Rodlo, Marc Menchaca, David Figlioli
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Undocumented immigrant Ambar (Cristina Rodlo) is on a quest to realize her American dream which leads her to Cleveland, Ohio. There she lives in a cheap motel and works at a terrible factory job to make ends meet. She moves into a mysterious and rundown boarding house after receiving a warning from her motel manager regarding her papers. Strange noises and visions keep Ambar up at night and haunt her during the day. Suspicious of the landlord, Red (Marc Mechaca), and his brother Becker (David Figlioli), Ambar discovers that getting back her deposit is the least of her worries.
No One Gets Out Alive is a hodgepodge of interesting ideas that fail to come together in service of a coherent story.
I appreciate that the film goes for a unique tale, but it doesn’t seem to translate to film well. Originally adapted from a novel, it might work better as a series given how many moving parts it has. The film ends up juggling multiple sources of antagonism without properly fleshing them all out. On one hand it’s nice to see a film lean into ambiguity, on the other, it’s dizzying for the viewer and the film lacks a feeling of fullness because of that. Additionally, by the time we reach the end its commentary on immigration and exploitation feels lukewarm at best.
No One Gets Out Alive leans in heavily on the exploitation of immigrants and the troubles they face trying to make it. Ambar is vulnerable and naive, yet there’s a drive within her that pushes her to fight against the odds. She trusts all the wrong people and it’s clear she is still learning how to stick up for herself. Ambar finds herself facing forces that push her into vulnerability far beyond the supernatural and human presences inside her apartment complex.
Between the constant threat of surveillance, a lack of money and connections, a strict and unsympathetic boss, and friends who do her wrong, Ambar has little respite from her circumstances. The location feeds into this too. It’s not hard to make Cleveland look depressing, but the filmmakers do a great job of emphasizing that. The idea really hits home the stark reality of what the American dream can be for people, and what the barriers in the form of others can be.
This all makes for a compelling story, but its resulting product is still rather middling. There’s only so many scenes of Ambar waking up from a dream or looking behind her and doing a double take that a film can create before it gets repetitive, cumbersome, and stale. It also takes away time that could have further developed other characters like Red and Becker to go deeper into the film’s themes.
Even though it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its promising premise, No One Gets Out Alive still delivers quality in terms of technical aspects. The effects work is marvelous and creates some of the best moments of the film. From the climatic final reveals to the little butterflies that stalk Ambar throughout the feature, it’s top notch. The cast does a fine job, even if no one particularly stands out, selling their surreal circumstances. In the end, No One Gets Out Alive is a dark and foreboding horror with twisty morals whose fatal flaw is biting off more than it can handle.
By the time the credits roll, No One Gets Out Alive leaves an impression as an ambitious yet befuddling mixture of horror subgenres. There are moments of ingenuity that spark every ten minutes or so but don’t come together at all in the end. The mystery behind the terror is one that certainly could use a deeper dive, especially for those unfamiliar with the source material yet it still makes for some horrific visceral moments of fear. An average film just on the cusp of something cool, No One Gets Out Alive isn’t one I would be rushing to put on your Netflix streaming queue anytime soon.
Overall Score? 5/10