No One Gets Out Alive (2021) ☆☆1/2 (2.5/4): Undocumented and terrified

Netflix film “No One Gets Out Alive”, which was released on this Wednesday, is a little spooky film which has enough fear and darkness but does not have enough substance for that. As trying to juxtapose one precarious life condition with some interesting supernatural elements, the movie initially drew my attention, and I appreciated its competent technical aspects, but I only came to observe its story from the distance as disappointed with its rather clumsy last act.

In the beginning, the movie establishes the desperate circumstance of Ambar (Christina Rodlo), a young undocumented immigrant who recently came to Cleveland, Ohio. As reflected by a brief flashback scene, Ambar had to give up her college education for taking care of her very sick mother some time ago, but then she came to need more money for that, so she left for US for earning enough money for her mother, but, not so surprisingly, things have been pretty hard for her in many aspects. Although there is a distant relative of hers who has settled in Cleavland and seems to be willing to help her as much as he can, he and his family do not welcome her much when she visits their house, and she feels more uncomfortable because she lied to him about a certain thing which may get her a legitimate job.

While working along with many other undocumented people in a local sweatshop, Ambar has been looking for any suitable place where she can stay for a while without getting demanded for her identification card, and a small piece of advertisement draws her attention on one day. There is an old boarding house in some shabby neighborhood of the city, and this place seems fairly good for her because it is only for female tenants in addition to not demanding much money for staying during next several weeks.

However, right from when we see this seemingly nice boarding house, we cannot help but feel some creepy vibe from the house as well as its gruff male owner, who does not look that suspicious on the surface but seems to be hiding something behind his back. As Ambar is beginning to spend her first day in a room allotted to her, she hears something strange from the room right below her room, and that sound comes from a young woman who happens to be the only other tenant in the house at present. Ambar is naturally curious about whatever is happening to this young woman, but then this young woman is disappeared before Ambar gets to know more about her, and then there later come a couple of Romanian girls, who look more cheerful compared to that disappeared young woman.

As days go by, Ambar gradually becomes more aware of the ominous aspects of the house. Whenever night comes, she experiences disturbing things including a bizarre recurring dream about some ancient stone box, and we also frequently see dark mysterious figures lurking around her without being noticed by her. Her suspicion is more increased especially after seeing the brother of the owner, and it becomes more apparent to us that the owner and his brother are hiding something inside the basement of the house.

Meanwhile, the circumstance becomes quite more difficult for Ambar outside the house. At one point, it looks like she will get some kind help for solving her current problem involved with identification card, but she eventually finds herself tumbling into a more desperate situation than before, and, to make matters worse, she cannot retrieve her deposit money from the owner. He simply tells her that he cannot give that money back to her at present, and she cannot get any possible help because of her undocumented status.

As cornering its heroine more and more along the story, the screenplay by Jon Croker, Fernanda Coppel, and Adam Nevill, which is based on the novel of the same name written Nevill, slowly reveals more of what was briefly shown to us during the opening part of the movie. It turns out that the owner and his brother have been doing something quite heinous behind their back, and that is involved with that ancient stone box, which was discovered by their archaeologist father somewhere in Central America many years ago.

During the last act, we surely come to behold the grotesque secret inside this ancient sone box, but that is where the movie begins to stumble. After spreading out everything which it has kept behind its back, the movie comes to lose its narrative momentum and tension as spinning its wheels, and we are only get served with those obligatory moments of blood and horror without much dramatic impact.

Anyway, the main cast members of the film try as much as they can with their rather underwritten roles. While she is mostly demanded to look tired or terrified throughout the film, Cristina Rodlo did a good job of conveying to us her character’s accumulating anxiety and despair, and Marc Menchaca and David Figlioli are effective in their respective supporting roles, though the movie could go deeper into their miserable domestic life for more interest and drama.

On the whole, “No One Gets Out Alive” did not scare or entertain me enough, but it works to some degrees thanks to the competent direction by director Santiago Menghini, who previously made several short films before making a feature film debut here. While I am dissatisfied with its weak narrative, I will not deny that I enjoyed its spooky aspects at least, and I will not stop you from watching it if you simply want to kill your free time at chilly autumn night.

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