The best horror movies tap into very human fears: swimming in deep water, taking a shower in a seedy hotel, or answering a strange phone call. But the most chilling movies tap into an even deeper fear: that of the unknown.
What happens when you leave everything you know in life behind to build something new?
Netflix’s first addition to its Halloween line-up is No One Gets Out Alive, a horror story that follows young Ambar (Cristina Rodlo), an undocumented immigrant, as she tries to secure a life in a new country while navigating her terrible job and skeevy landlord.
No One Gets Out Alive should work. All the hallmarks of a great horror film are there. A talented young actress pouring her heart into the starring role; writing and producing partners like motion-capture juggernaut Andy Serkis; and a focus on illegal immigration, a hot-button topic in today’s politically polarized world, all should have added up to something special.
And yet, there isn’t enough momentum in director Santiago Menghini’s approach for the story to get started. After two separate prologues, one establishing the backstory of Ambar and another introducing the house she’s about to inhabit, the film can’t seem to get past setting its status quo.
Slow-burn spooks can be torturous in stories like these, but the temperature never gets above lukewarm in No One Gets Out Alive. Ambar is terrified by noises she hears in her room but is equally terrified by the prospect of not securing falsified papers that establish citizenship. Her past looms in haunting hallucinations, but it’s hard to tell if those are just stylized flashbacks to trauma or actual visions.
Probably the biggest surprise is the fact that — yes — some people do in fact get out alive, which at a certain point just feels like false advertising.
What Went Wrong?
Stories of immigration are increasingly popular in horror. 2020’s His House followed a young couple as they emigrated to the United Kingdom from South Sudan and discovered one vestige of their former life had followed them.
That story, by writer-director Remi Weekes, worked because the threat wasn’t a less-than-welcoming country so much as a more personal supernatural menace. Ambar faces the dangers in her new home not due to anything about her point of origin but because she was in the wrong house at the wrong time. Sure, her lack of resources meant she couldn’t escape, but it’s not her fault she was in danger.
Horror has to, in some way, make us confront parts of ourselves. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, the horror is not in haunted houses, but in ourselves.
No One Gets Out Alive ending, explained
Warning! Spoilers ahead for No One Gets Out Alive!
I already spoiled that the title of this film is misleading, but here’s everything you need to know for this film’s confusing ending.
The home Ambar moves into is owned by two brothers, Red (Marc Menchaca) and Becker (David Figlioli), who secretly are replicating ancient Mesoamerican ritual killings to heal one brother’s undisclosed illness. In their basement lies a stone box, containing a monster that heals them through a sacrifice.
In a dream sequence, Ambar fantasizes about being rescued from the clutches of these malevolent men by her cousin Beto (David Barrera). Then, she dreams of smothering her dying mother with a pillow, which is enough of a sacrifice to allow her a bid at freedom. However, she is seriously injured in a fight with Becker and takes out Red, sacrificing him to the monster.
Given this sacrifice, Ambar’s injury is healed, and she finally has the opportunity to seek out the American dream she so desired.
No One Gets Out Alive is now streaming on Netflix.