Santiago Menghini started out making short films that made into local horror festivals. After doing that for the past decade, he’s now branching out into full length features with No One Gets Out Alive, coming soon to Netflix. It’s mostly about a woman might finally get a break. That woman is Ambar (Cristina Rodlo), who got a job offer from her Uncle Beto (David Barrera) somewhere in Cleveland. The thing is, in order to get the job, she needs proper ID that says that her birthplace is Texas. She doesn’t have this ID because as a daughter of a Hispanic woman from Texas but is Mexican-born, her citizenship status is murky. That murkiness factors into the kind of places she can stay. Jon Croker and Fernanda Coppel’s adaptation of Adam Nevill’s novel writes that the only place where she can stay is in a house that is obviously haunted.
Creepiness is a factor viewers see in horror, a genre with with its share of female protagonists. Some of the real life horrors Ambar experiences are specific to her experiences, like a motel manager not extending her room because of her lack of ID. The actor playing the manager is Jeff Mirza, who is South Asian. Intersectionality is ideal in these situations. He might not want to get into trouble by breaking an unjust law. But there’s also a tinge of cruelty in Mirza’s delivery to give those small scenes a sense of ambiguity. Then there’s also things that women generally experience, like getting catcalls in broad daylight which she shouldn’t deserve and get. During the night though, it’s not the catcallers she worries about but a presence following her from the house.
Horror movie have their perfunctory world building scenes, which feel organic in many examples of the genre. Those scenes feel out of place here, which is one of my major nitpicks against the movie. There’s the opening scene that feels like a 16mm carbon copy of the one at The Exorcist. The rest of the world building comes from Ambar’s landlord Red. Marc Menchaca plays the role with enough menace and nuance, and he’s good in Ozark, but his line deliveries don’t grab viewers’ attention the way Robert Shaw does in Jaws. My second major gripe is that the aesthetics here feel derivative, as if adding a dark filter with a hint of green a horror movie makes. Nonetheless, it’s a good enough example of the genre, and there’s enough here that counts as juicy spoilers.