About 10 minutes into Netflix’s new horror film, No One Gets Out Alive, Ambar introduces herself to Freja, another tenant living in the boarding house that she’s has just moved into. Trying to break the ice, Ambar mentions that their landlord, Red, told her “it’s just the two of us.”
“Red is full of sh*t,” Freja says curtly before running upstairs. The camera then pans to a ghostly apparition with lurid eyes, lurking on the top floor of the house.
Director Santiago Menghini’s movie is a very, very loose interpretation of Adam Nevill’s 2014 novel of the same name. The movie centers on Ambar (Cristina Roldo), an undocumented Mexican immigrant who moves to Cleveland, Ohio in pursuit of the American Dream. Previously, Ambar cared for her sick mother; her passing is what prompts Ambar’s move to the United States. In Cleveland, apart from some distant relatives who live in the area, including her cousin Beto, and a friend she makes at her factory job, she’s more or less on her own in the boarding house. Or so she thinks. Warning: spoilers follow.
During her first days in the house, Ambar hears screams and sees footprints; she presumes they’re from other tenants. About halfway through the film, the malevolent presence begins to affect Ambar’s mind: Whenever she falls asleep, she’s visited by a vision of her mother, along with a stone box that houses a creature attempting to escape. It isn’t clear whether this is all in Ambar’s head, or really happening.
In time, it’s revealed that the mysterious force that takes hold of Ambar, her mind, and the rest of the tenants is being controlled by Red’s brother, Becker. Years prior, Becker killed his parents and other women in the house — by sacrificing them to an unknown entity, which appears through a stone box swarming with live moths. It’s never explained why Becker does this, what the entity is, how it grabs hold of the victims’ subconscious, or even why Becker and Red decided to continue sacrificing young women.
Ambar, who tries to escape the house, is eventually lured back in by Red with the promise of refunding her deposit. But instead of getting her money back, she’s force-fed wine by Red, covered in dust and blood, dragged to the basement (where the stone box is), and tied down on an altar as a sacrifice (?) for a spider-moth-like creature with a face like a white Venetian mask. Beto appears just before the monster emerges, and the two run for the door. Just then, Ambar is transported into another memory: She’s back in Mexico with her mother, who is in the hospital. She begs Ambar not to leave — so she smothers her mother with a pillow. Again, it’s unclear if this actually happened.
Regardless, Ambar breaks free, slits Becker’s throat, sees that Beto was actually killed not long before he “appeared” in the basement, and sacrifices Red to the monster.
Arguably the most bewildering moment happens right before the credits roll. Ambar hobbles with a broken ankle to the boarding house’s front door. She sees Red standing to her left in another room — whether he’s a ghost or somehow resurrected is, again, unclear. She snaps her ankle back into place and controls a moth’s movements with her mind. It’s left for the viewer to decide if Ambar is now in control — or if she’s been in control the whole time.