Next Exit - Fright Fest European Premiere Review
Director: Mail Elfman
Starring: Katie Parker, Rahul Kohli, Karen Gillan, Rose McIlver
Written by: Mail Elfman
Produced by: Derek Bishé, Mali Elfman, Narineh Hacopien
Cinematography by: Azuli Anderson
Original Score by: Ariel Marx
The widespread acceptance of ghosts has led to ‘Life Beyond’, a radical scientific study based in San Francisco through which volunteers can commit pain-free suicide. After all, what’s left to fear about the afterlife?
In ‘Next Exit’, first time director Mali Elfman asks the question; If there was scientific proof that the afterlife existed, would life still be worth living? It's an interesting idea, and definitely feels like a premise worth explaining in a deep and meaningful way, yet ‘Next Exit’ barely scratches the surface. It's a movie often at odds with itself; not being able to decide if it's a dark comedy, a serious drama about suicidal people or a supernatural horror.
The performances by the two main stars (Katie Parker and Rahul Kohli) are great at times. They both share excellent chemistry with each other and both feel very natural in their roles. The problem is with the script which often feels stilted and stale in it's dialogue and goes against the type of acting Parker and Kohli are showcasing. Rahul Kohli is definitely the standout of the cast (as he often is) feeling the most human and relatable. He knows when to deliver genuine emotions when the scene calls for it and subtle humour when the movie starts to explore its dark tones.
The film follows your standard road trip movie format. An unlikely couple travel across the country, going from set piece to set piece and by the end they've learned something about themselves and each other. Some moments really work, especially if it's just Parker and Kohli dealing with a situation by themselves. Other moments feel forced, like the writer wanted to say something about certain subjects like religion or the military. These scenes often feel like they could have benefited from a few more drafts, because they feel like they're trying to say something deep but it really comes off as disingenuous.
This all being said (I may be coming off as negative too much), the film is still incredibly watchable. I really wanted to see what happened to these characters. Certain things happen that I really didn't agree with or like, but the characters are so damn likeable that I stuck with the film to the very end. Mali Elfman certainly has potential as a director. The film features some beautiful shots and is very well paced. It doesn't really work as a genre film, but as a dark comedy-meet-cute, it's probably the best I've seen this year.
It's weird to say how much of this movie I didn't enjoy yet was entertained all the way through. Katie Parker and Rahul Kohli really carry the film and do a fantastic job of making you believe they're two hopeless people in this sorrowful situation. It's ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ meets ‘Harold and Maude’, kinda. I look forward to seeing what Mali Elfman does next, hopefully something a touch more lighthearted because I don't think genre films are really her bag.
- Adam Neeson
'Next Exit' received it's European Premiere at FrightFest 2022 on August 26th