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{FrightFest} Next Release

August 27, 2022

Based on an eschatological premise, Next exit is a horror-adjacent romantic drama about hope and personal responsibility.

Mali Elfman’s film, which received its UK premiere at FrightFest, opens with a scientific discovery that could change our understanding of life and death. Life Beyond, a study by a San Francisco-based company led by Dr. Stevensen (Marvel star Karen Gillan), has answered one of humanity’s biggest questions, proving that dead people can be tracked back into life. beyond. This means that ghosts can linger in the orbit of their loved ones, interact with them, and bridge the gap between this world and the next.

Next Exit is a dialogue-filled road trip to death

These radical findings polarize public opinion. While some are wary of the ethical implications of Life Beyond’s ongoing experimental trial, others see it as an exciting scientific breakthrough in the making, with free will taking center stage. As Dr. Stevensen seeks participants willing to leave this world through painless suicides to return in a different form, Rose (Absenceby Katie Parker) and Teddy (Midnight Mass‘ Rahul Kohli) are jumping at their chance to do something with their lives…and their deaths.

The film adopts romantic comedy tropes to propel the journey of these two strangers to their final destination. A few days before their scheduled date to “end their physical fitness”, Teddy and Rose share a rental car in New York to cross the country. What starts out as a reverse vacation comedy turns into a cross-state journey with an existentialist edge. During what is supposed to be their very last days on earth, the protagonists reluctantly get to know each other and confront their demons.

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Elfman’s directorial debut is an intriguing, dialogue-rich journey into death. A dark adventure on the road, the film sees Parker and Kohli dominate every frame with their committed performances as two tormented souls. A closed woman chased by her own very tangible ghosts, Rose’s icy demeanor slowly thaws thanks to Teddy’s lightness and warmth. Introduced as a relaxed prankster across the pond, he uses humor as a coping mechanism as he also struggles with his past.

Mali Elfman’s film uses horror to instill hope

You won’t find the horror in the way you might expect from a ghost story, but you will get something different and equally heartbreaking among the washed-out strokes of Azuli Anderson’s ethereal cinematography. Next Exit stares into a longing, consuming void, evoking depression and suicidal thoughts, but it’s also, ultimately, a stubborn celebration of being alive.

Winner of the Best Cinematography award at the Tribeca Film Festival, Anderson masters the balance between light and dark to portray the conflicts within characters. The photograph has a hazy quality, as if Rose and Teddy are already walking in the suspended reality of the afterlife while still being among the living.

The film includes beautiful glimpses of the truth as intimacy slowly builds between Rose and Teddy. At their best when bickering — whether it’s over who should drive the rental or over more complex matters — Rose and Teddy are two people who find themselves by sheer luck in the most inappropriate of circumstances.

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These beacons of honesty are rare, however, in a script that tends to rely too heavily on stereotypical characterizations and romantic clichés, to the detriment of the film’s pacing. Kohli and Parker elevate the material with an element of grit and charisma in their performances, but some lines are still too cheesy to digest and create an overall story-distracting effect.

Next Exit leaves life and death behind to tell the story of Rose and Teddy

By its structure, the film leaves, necessarily, very little room for secondary characters, but Gillan especially feels underutilized as Dr. Stevensen. On the other hand, Tim Griffin as PTSD-stricken veteran John and Rose McIver as Rose Heather’s sister (bringing the iZombie protagonist aboard a film about the intricacies of the afterlife is a good idea) have their moments to shine.

None of these characters, not even the jolly priest Rose and Teddy encounter on their journey, hold the answers to such fundamental questions. Despite the premise calling for an in-depth investigation of the afterlife, Next Exit doesn’t dig too deep into the mystery of life and death.

Although it gets darker and creepier towards the end, the film never expands on its heavy subject matter, preferring instead to zoom in on the worldly connection of its protagonists. It seems like the assisted suicide plot is just another narrative layer to tell the story of two lonely people who may have found love in a hopeless place. While not knowing more about Life Beyond might frustrate some at first, it doesn’t matter if you care about these two characters.

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Next Exit is a flawed but interesting debut from Elfman, with her directorial skills exceeding her writing. She manages to capture the beauty in the cold air between her actors main ones, giving rise to two charming performances that command to be seen.

Next Exit hits US theaters in November.

Stefania Sarrubba

Stefania Sarrubba is a feminist entertainment writer based in London, UK. Traumatized from a young age by Tim Curry and Dario Argento’s Pennywise movies, she grew up convinced that horror wasn’t her thing. Until she gets into cannibal films with a female protagonist. Yum.

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