British novelist Adam Nevill’s London-set novel “No One Gets Out Alive” is reimagined as an immigrant’s horrors of home delivered in a spooky rooming house in Cleveland in this Netflix adaptation.
Visual effects specialist Santiago Menghini makes his feature directing debut a movie of deep gloom, spooky tones and one big monster effect. But it’s a slow-moving, slow-to-frighten affair that struggles to come off as logical, coherent or particularly satisfying.
Mexican actress Cristina Rodlo — she was a major supporting player in “Miss Bala” — stars as Ambar, a new immigrant to wintry Cleveland, taking the first job she can find in a sweatshop even though she’s no seamstress, hoping against hope that an uncle she’s just met (David Barrera) can place her somewhere more promising.
Until then, she’s struggling to pass for “legal” and find a place to stay that isn’t a stickler for ID. That might be this boarding house she finds that might have once housed the Addams Family. Old, multi-storied and creepy, it’s run by the even creepier Red (Marc Menchaca), who tells her that only one other woman is a tenant there, when Ambar can plainly hear the voices of others among the strange, scary sounds late at night.
There are all these rooms — and the basement — that are “off limits,” Red insists. Specimen collections fill some of those spaces. A previous owner must have been the Dr. Welles we see in ancient, silent footage in the film’s opening, a digger/researcher who was looking into things in Mexico that might have been supernatural.
One of those “collections?” Moths.
Ambar’s scramble to get fake “papers” and set herself up for a better life with a better job consumes her hours away from this chilling place where she lays her head, and the first hour of the film. For comfort, she listens to her voice mail, plaintive messages from the mother she nursed through her final days back in Mexico.
So guilt and loss are on her mind, even as she’s wondering about whispers and cries from other “tenants.” Every dream is a nightmare, and every nightmare suggests there are ghosts of those who suffered their mortal fate at that address, perhaps simple kidnapping and torture, perhaps in some sort of ritual.
When she sees the candles, Ambar has her answer.
Menghini and screenwriter Fernanda Coppel take their sweet time, and then some, getting us to anything that could be remotely described as scary. A spooky commuter train ride, images of her dead mother coming to Ambar, all tease towards a finale that has a lot of action, if not a lot of logic.
The covenant filmmakers make with the viewer is that C is logically derived from A and B, that things to come are foreshadowed just enough so that when they arrive, they make sense and we’ve been a bit entertained along the way.
That isn’t the case here.
“No One Gets Out Alive” is more a director’s ominous looking show-reel than a coherent, frightening horror tale.
Rating: R for some strong violence, grisly images, and language
Cast: Cristina Rodlo, Marc Menchaca, David Barrera, Moronke Akinola and Vala Noren
Credits: Directed Santiago Menghini, scripted by Fernanda Coppel, based on a novel by Adam Nevill. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:25