No One Gets Out Alive (2021) is a horror film directed by Santiago Menghini, adapted to screenplay by Jon Croker and Fernanda Coppel from a novel by Adam Nevill, which was published in 2014.
The premise of the film is that an illegal Mexican immigrant is struggling for survival in Cleveland, Ohio after taking care of her ailing mother for some time. Fighting against an impoverished lifestyle, she begins renting a room in a ragtag boarding house, operated by a very handsome and overall pretty cool man named Red, where she begins to see and experience an abundance of horrors from her past, as well as signs of something sinister drawing near.
The reception to No One Gets Out Alive has been a mixed bag, and ultimately I would say the same of my viewing experience, more or less.
To begin, cinematography and production are overall quite adequate and standard for any 2021 Netflix film. There aren’t any cinematic shots that stand out as exceptional or notable, nor are there any that I found distracting or lacking either. The score is entirely uninteresting, but inoffensive. The environments are detailed well enough, really just a standard foundation from the beginning.
The script and sound design are where things begin to fragment into mediocre territory. The opening scene, including its scare, is pretty decently executed. Maintaining competent direction, particularly in how the scene focuses on the individual while simultaneously delivering unsettling imagery.
Then, for a period, I found myself relatively confused by the plot. Our protagonist is introduced and we quickly gather that she is an illegal immigrant, trying to seek shelter while she gradually develops a new life for herself, but the delivery of other plot components is a bit too scattered. Things are pieced together eventually, but I’ll concede I was having difficulty following for the first twenty or thirty minutes, give or take.
The scares written into the film, and there are many, are honestly more or less the same exact thing happening over and over. Jump scares that just fall flat with no substance or depth, reveals of a gaunt old crone suddenly standing behind the protagonist in complete silence, a surprisingly excessive amount of “waking from a nightmare” scenes, etc.
These attempts begin to falter pretty quickly, losing any real flavor or effect and honestly just feeling amateur at times. Even if the effects range from adequate to pretty good, the accompanying sound cues with basically every scare in the film waters things down considerably. There are a few exceptions, but some of them don’t even constitute an entire scene. One scare includes a stream of wet footprints rushing toward the camera, but the latter half of the scene is composed of flat sound cues and uninteresting cinematography.
The performances are pretty much the same as the effects, some are decent enough and others are actually pretty well done. In particular, I found the character of Red to be quite likable and interesting in comparison to all the others. His position in the film is intriguing, not to mention I just like looking at him. I’m a strictly heterosexual man, but.
There was a part of the story that I had great difficulty with, and unfortunately, it was toward the end. So, as a courtesy: The following piece of this review will contain spoilers for the film’s conclusion. Ergo, if you retain any interest in viewing it for yourself, I would advise you do so now before proceeding.
So in the climax of No One Gets Out Alive, the protagonist is offered as a sacrifice to the Aztec goddess Ītzpāpālōtl, who intends to decapitate the immigrant in exchange for her prowess. However, as the protagonist lies on the slab, she dreams of visiting her deteriorating mother in a hospital in Mexico. The mother begs her to stay, becoming increasingly adamant and aggressive until the protagonist finally throws her to the bed and violently smothers her with a pillow. As the dream concludes, the goddess retreats into her stone box, allowing the protagonist to live and seek revenge against those who offered her.
Why the fuck did the goddess let her live? Why would killing her mother in a dream spare her Ītzpāpālōtl’s wrath? Was the fantasy of matricide just too delicious on its own? Did she just want to live way more than the literal dozens of previous victims over the years?
I ended up researching the synopsis on Wikipedia after viewing the film, just for the sake of clarification, and found that apparently the dream was supposed to indicate that the protagonist killing her mother was true. That she committed that murder and fled to the US for sanctuary I guess. And because she dreamed that particular moment in her life on the slab, the goddess accepted that as a sacrifice. But what fucking sense does that make?
First of all, there is nothing about that particular sequence in the film to indicate it was more or less authentic than any other dream that was previously presented in the story. I’d been under the impression it was entirely a fantasy, I found no details implicating it was an event that had actually occurred. Secondly, her committing matricide had nothing to do with Ītzpāpālōtl. It was literally a selfish act of murder, it didn’t even take place in the same country.
Why would that be a sufficient sacrifice but every other woman had to be decapitated directly? If that’s the case, why isn’t Ītzpāpālōtl just absolutely bloated on all the murder going on in the rest of the world? I’m not above submitting that I might be missing something, but if I’m not, it comes off as a demonstration of poor writing at a pretty critical point of the film.
Beyond that, No One Gets Out Alive is fiiiiiiiiine. As far as little Netflix horror films go, it’s perfectly acceptable and generally inoffensive. There are facets delivered that are very competent, but they’re too evenly matched with other facets falling short and slipping into the same tropes we’ve seen time and time again.
It will not be remaining in my library.
And that’s My Piece.