Michael Fausti seems to be everywhere at this year’s Horror-On-Sea. There’s a trailer for his short film Dead Celebrities worked into I Scream On The Beach! He provides one of the voices for the animated short This Mourning. And, most importantly his first feature, Exit made its debut.
I’ve previously reviewed two of his shorts, Dead Celebrities, and The Ingress Tapes. Between that and a couple of things, I’d seen him say about Exit in interviews I knew this wasn’t going to be a standard horror movie. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. After watching it I’m still not 100% certain of what I got, but I think that’s intentional.
Exit begins with a brief prologue that imparts some information that would usually be held back in a film like this. Whether you find this gives the events a different perspective or is a spoiler will be an individual thing. I was initially not happy with the revelation, but the script by Mathew Bayliss made some interesting uses of it. The same can be said of my initial reaction to the look of the building and the names on the apartment buzzers. Thankfully the plot is not as obvious as that would make it appear.
The plot itself focuses on a couple, Steve (Billy James Machin) and Michelle (Leonarda Sahani) who book an apartment in the city. While being shown around by the owner Russell (Tony Denham, The Football Factory) a second couple, Christophe (Christophe Delesques) and Adrienne (Charlotte Gould, Invasion Earth). It seems the room has been double-booked.
Russel’s solution is simple. They can share the apartment tonight and tomorrow he’ll arrange another apartment, all gratis (“That means free” he condescendingly explains). Initial tensions give way to booze and drugs. Which in turn give way to manipulation and sex. But when that turns to violence it becomes a question not just of who will survive. But of who is really pulling the strings.
Michael Fausti has said that the ongoing Brexit process was an influence on the script, and I could certainly see that reflected in some broad ways. One of the more obvious political jabs in Exit is Russel being a Donald Trump wannabe. There’s even a cameo by a copy of The Art Of The Deal. Steve and Michelle are English, Christophe and Adrienne are from the continent. It’s there if you want to read into it, but it’s not particularly overt either.
The films that influenced Exit, however, are more overt, especially Nicolas Roeg’s Performance. The film’s style is certainly more influenced by the seventies than contemporary horror. I’d say it really doesn’t look like a horror film at all, but Dario Argento would love some of the lighting choices. That and a plot that keeps you guessing if the events are purely driven by human nastiness, the supernatural or drug-induced madness creates an atmosphere, unlike anything I’ve seen recently. Even the drug-fueled events of The Wave and Bliss are handled much differently.
Exit made its world premiere at this year’s Horror-On-Sea Festival. Its US premiere will be January 24th at the South Texas Underground Film Festival. You can check for more dates at the Fausti Films website and Facebook page.