No Exit (2008)

No ExitReviewed by Scott A. Johnson

Starring Eduardo Ballerini, Merrill Capps, and Blanchard Ryan

Directed by Britt Pitre

Produced by Doorway Entertainment

When a person goes to a film festival, chances are great that what he’s going to see are imaginative movies with little-to-no budget and productions that include actors with no experience, films shot on whomever’s camera was lying around, and a lot of heart. It’s rare that one finds a film that not only combines seasoned actors with originality, but also looks professional and manages to give the viewer that WTF moment that we all crave so much. Films like those are the exception, not the norm, and when one pops up, it’s like finding a polished diamond in a quarry of rough-cut gems. The Horrific Film Fest in San Antonio showcased several great movies, but the Best Feature chainsaw award went to No Exit, and deservedly so.

The film opens up on a couple in a hotel room. The doors won’t open, the phone doesn’t work, and there are no windows. While they panic and try to figure out why they’re there and how they got there, the audience is treated to flashbacks of their crumbling relationship, affairs, other sundry visions that let the audience know that, whoever put them in the room, they deserve to be there. The telephone rings and a voice taunts them, telling each of them to ask the other what they’re doing in the room and how they can get out.

Produced for around $65k, the film is more brooding, more stylish, and more original that most anything the big studios have put out in the last decade. Without relying on gore, nude scenes, or flashy explosions or gunplay, the film manages to convey genuine tension and actually unsettle the audience. More to the point, the script, acting, lighting, angles…hell, everything about it comes together to bring to life a film that accomplishes its goal.

If the actors look familiar, it’s because they’re no strangers to screen time. The gorgeous Blanchard Ryan is probably best known for her performance as shark-food (or “Susan,” as IMDB calls her) in Open Water, and brings all of her experience and grace to this project. Lead Eduardo Ballerini has racked up more than forty film credits, but is probably best known as “Corky Caporale” in The Sopranos. Of the cast, only Merrill Caps (who also co-wrote, produced, and edited) is relatively inexperienced as an actor, but he holds his own against the seasoned pros for a great and believable performance.

Co-writer, producer and director Britt Pitre shows more style in this single movie than many directors do for most of their careers. Whether he is focusing in on the present horror or the past crumbling away, he manages to tell a good story and to bring that story to relevance for the audience. In short, No Exit was well deserving of the Best Feature award, and anyone looking to make a film could take notes from this one. As for the big studios, No Exit did what so many try to do, and fail, with about a fifth of the big budget. An excellent movie from top to bottom.

4 1/2 out of 5

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Scott A. Johnson

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