Cristina Rodlo in the Netflix film No One Gets Out Alive
The benefit of watching a scary movie almost entirely to identify the Cleveland locations where it was filmed is that you can distract yourself from the demon emerging from the Mesoamerican artifact.
No One Gets Out Alive,
directed by Santiago Menghini and based on the Adam Nevill novel of the same name, was released on Netflix Sept. 29. It tells the story of Ambar (Miss Bala's
Cristina Rodlo), an undocumented Mexican immigrant who rents a room in a Cleveland boardinghouse that might as well have a "HAUNTED HOUSE" banner hanging out front.
It's got all the conventional red flags: Victorian exteriors gone to seed, an owner-occupant with a WWE-proportioned brother politely euphemized as "ill," flickering lights, screams emanating from walls and pipes, etc. It's also got some unconventional ones, like a candlelit basement torture chamber and the aforementioned demon emerging from the Mesoamerican artifact.
The boardinghouse is owned and operated by two brothers, Red and Becker, who are sons of archaeologists or anthropologists or some such, whose history is painted in broad strokes and who, it becomes clear, now own and operate the women-only home — which for the record advertises its rooms in disreputable garment factories to better target undocumented and otherwise vulnerable populations — for purposes not strictly speaking above board.
Ambar's increasingly dire predicament at the boardinghouse is less a metaphor for the undocumented experience than it is a data point on a continuum of dire predicaments for women in her shoes. Haggling for pay at a miserable job. Scrounging to come up with the cash for an overpriced fake ID. Pleading for favors from peripheral connections. Sure, she's got terrible nightmares at the boardinghouse, and something very bad indeed seems to be happening in the basement — it is "private," Red says — but at least the rent is cheap!
At only 85 minutes, No One Gets Out Alive
doesn't offer much in the way of depth. Ambar's history consists of a single flashback, (her mother's deathbed), revisited extensively. And the few scenes outside the boardinghouse seem designed purely to illustrate what a fraught and scary place Cleveland is. The Cleveland skyline makes two early appearances — we love that skyline, don't we Cleveland?
— and Ambar can twice be seen riding an RTA bus. But otherwise the city's presence is mostly implied. She does visit a convenience store in East Cleveland and walks down a derelict East Cleveland street, a mirror of her prospects and mood.
One of the most inadvertently funny moments in the film is when Ambar is supposedly riding the Rapid Transit and a recorded voice says, "Next Stop: West Park." (Why she's heading to West Park is anyone's guess, but nice Googling!) This is the Rapid:
Cristina Rodlo on "the Rapid" in the Netflix film No One Gets Out Alive
The Greater Cleveland Film Commission confirmed that the cast and crew were in town for four days in March of 2020, primarily for exterior shots. They were meant to film for five days, but the production was shut down before its final day in accordance with the state's lockdown. (A scene was meant to shoot at Bob and Sheri's 49er Diner in Slavic Village on the fifth day but was recreated on a soundstage elsewhere.) The boardinghouse itself was in St. Louis and grafted onto Cleveland backgrounds in post-production. The remainder of the film was shot largely on sets in Bucharest, Romania, something of a hotbed for film production in Europe.
Unfortunately, there's just not enough to compensate for the thin and tropey script. The visual effects are unlikely to titillate the thriller aesthetes, and even the Mesoamerican demon, when she finally arrives in her full monstrous splendor, will be a weak and delayed high for the October horror junkies.
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