A young couple set off on a weekend getaway but their innocent vacation turns into a nightmare when the man discovers a VHS videotape that shows a murder happening in the very same room they are staying in. We review Exit 0.
Director E.B. Hughes’ eerie Exit 0 challenges us to decide who is the reliable character and whose idea of events can we trust? In the opening scenes set in a car during a long journey, the characters seem warm, friendly and reliable enough. The dialogue between the two leads is sweet and natural and has a formality that we can all relate to. We are introduced to Billy and Lisa, a couple who are having some relationship problems; one of the main issues seems to be Lisa spending more time texting people on her phone than with Billy and he feels left out, slightly jealous and more than a little suspicious. Is he right to be suspicious or is he just over analysing his partner’s behaviour? We are never really told but it all adds to the sense of paranoia that begins to engulf Billy on this romantic weekend away and it’s up to the viewer to decide if this is all really going on and who it is they should believe.
Gabe Fazio as Billy and Augie Duke as Lisa give lovely, natural performances that hit all the right notes. From the offset, we feel that they have known each other for a long time and that this relationship is real. Their troubles are those that couples everywhere go through and the way they react to each other comes across as realistic and believable.
The Shining was likely an influence on Exit 0 and cinematographer William J Murray makes more than a few nods towards Kubrick’s horror masterpiece throughout. From the opening bird’s eye view shots of the car traveling along a winding road and through a forest to the hotel the couple is staying in, named The Doctors Inn. The major difference is that, where Kubrick made The Overlook Hotel unsettling by the sheer vastness of the building, its corridors and the solitude of its location, EB Hughes makes The Doctors Inn unsettling by its quaintness and the close proximity of the characters within its walls.
During their stay, Billy and Lisa bump into a number of strange characters who all seem to be a little bit odd. Not from any over the top and signposted characterisations, because the performances in the film are all very good, but from meeting these characters during the story who all just seem to be a little bit ‘off’ and detached from reality. Speaking of the cast, it is a very good eclectic mix, the actors are all seasoned professionals and extra credit needs to go to Federico Castelluccio as Detective Mueller (political pun intended I assume) the one character in the whole piece who seems trustworthy at all times. As well as cult film favourite Peter Greene who has a small but showy supporting role as an author suffering from writer’s block in another nod to our friend Jack Torrance.
When the main part of the plot kicks in and Billy finds the mysterious VHS tape, the claustrophobic feel of the small location is ramped right up and begins to get to you and, much like Billy himself, you begin to unravel and lose track of what is real and what could be fantasy and that is credit to E.B. Hughes’ writing. Unfortunately, after a promising opening hour, there is just no real pay off or conclusion to proceedings. We think we know the outcome but there is nothing to verify our thoughts and this is a real shame.
It is clear to see that a lot of work has gone into the building up of the tension that is genuinely palpable at first. Especially with the uncomfortable incidents that help speed along Billy’s descent into extreme paranoia. Sadly as the end credits role nothing is answered and because we have invested so much into Billy and Lisa I felt a little bit cheated.
Still, overall Exit 0 is an enjoyable experience with a few important things to say about mental health, however not before it makes the audience paranoid themselves and a little bit on edge. With genuinely good performances by the cast and some smart writing and direction by Hughes, Exit 0 is a solid and enjoyable film.