As a writer, you have to have some insane measure of confidence to title a horror novel No One Gets Out Alive and still purport to have something up your sleeve as a storyteller. Adam Nevill’s 2014 novel seemingly did exactly that, receiving high praises from the British Press and taking home the August Derleth Award in 2015, an annual award given by the British Fantasy Society for best novel, for which Nevill had also won in 2012 for The Ritual, 2013 for Last Days, and 2020 for The Reddening. Following in the footsteps of their adaptation of Nevill’s The Ritual, Andy Serkis’s The Imaginarium and Netflix have teamed up, along with Bruckner as executive producer, to adapt Nevill’s No One Gets Out Alive to the small screen.
Ambar (Cristina Rodlo) is an undocumented Mexican-American woman struggling to make ends meet following the prolonged death of her sick mother. Taking odd jobs around Cleveland to finance a fake ID and a small room in a boarding house run by the cold Red (Marc Menchaca), Ambar begins to experience vivid hallucinations about her mother as well as the spirits of the previous female tenants of the boarding house. Ambar, without family, friends, or money, must find a way out of her newfound nightmare when things with Red and his brother, Becker (David Figlioli) go violently south, revealing things beyond Ambar’s worst fears.
The Ritual, with a similar skeleton of its source material and production circumstances, simply blew me away when it premiered in 2018 on Netflix, but while lightning struck then, I can’t fully say the same thing for No One Gets Out Alive. There are really admirable elements to this film, but these elements don’t really add up to anything entirely cohesive, with only a small amount feeling truly original.
And that’s not necessarily an issue for me on the baseline, as there are tons of fabulous horror films that take their inspirations directly, and sometimes blatantly, from other material, and still find success in crafting something very much their own in the process. No One Gets Out Alive, at least in its horror-focused sequences, doesn’t achieve that distance from its clear influences in the horror of James Wan, Mike Flanagan, and even, ironically, David Bruckner. It can feel like a hodgepodge of mid-to-late 2010s’ horror sprinkled with a touch of the signature A24 bleakness that makes its rounds on Arthouse Film Twitter.
But, also quite ironically, at least for me, the non-horror scenes of this film work better as a whole, and that’s simply because the writing is solid, and Rodlo is simply magnetic as Ambar, a compelling and really sympathetic protagonist. No One Gets Out Alive suffers in the complete opposite manner, as most horror films do, with its horror elements falling to the wayside as the character development takes more of a front seat in this endeavor. That’s refreshing for a while, but when the horror has to start taking over, there is a real lack of momentum which leads the story to a really jarring finale that, while not without merit, does feel a bit undeserved given how inorganic it feels to the tone that the previous 70 minutes set. It finds a bit of life in its final moments, but only after settling further away from the strange turn it takes.
I also found it quite interesting just how similar this film is to last year’s summer indie horror Amulet, directed by Romola Garai. At first, I began to fear that this film was simply taking too heavily from an obvious influence and simply didn’t distance itself enough to feel like anything other than a mimic, but then I realized…the source material for this film dropped in 2014, and Amulet was another six years after. While I still do think Amulet is the better film of the two (the batshit finale feels earned; the darkness of the protagonist’s past; the general nastiness of it all), I have to sit back and wonder if the film I purport to like so fiercely, and more so than this one, took its influence from this. It feels like that situation that happened with Netflix’s The Silence, a film decried for being a cheap knockoff of A Quiet Place, even though the source novel for The Silence released years before A Quiet Place was ever written.
Despite my wording, I didn’t actively dislike No One Gets Out Alive, I just simply wished so much more for it, given its source novel and production team behind it. There’s a really interesting, pertinent story being told here, one that is smart and generally pretty compelling for the film’s brisk 87-minute runtime. The issue simply lies in how lacking the film is in genuine scares and original horror filmmaking. Director Santiago Menghini imbues style into the film, but it feels more of the styles of others than something that feels new and unique, which is a shame seeing that the narrative is supporting the weight for something like that.
Available for streaming on Netflix September 29th, 2021.
Final Score: 3 out of 5.