★★★ out of ★★★★★
Exit is an experimental U.K. film with surreal, sometimes trippy elements that combines social and political commentary with an ill-fated night of partying and sexual experimentation between two couples.
Directed by Michael Fausti
U.K. film Exit, the feature-length debut from director Michael Fausti, has a vibe somewhere between the works of David Lynch and a Brexit take on Roman Polanski’s Bitter Moon (1992). Using a bag of tricks that includes jarring editing accompanied by fittingly shrill blasts of music and giallo lighting techniques, Fausti uses an experimental approach that helps belie the film’s micro-budget limitations.
Michelle (Leonarda Sahani) and her husband Steve (Billy James Machin) travel from Essex to London, renting a flat to celebrate their third anniversary. Rental agent Russell Bone (Tony Denham), who gives off a sordid air, shows them around but soon French couple Adrienne (Charlotte Gould) and Christophe (Christophe Delesques) show up, and it seems the place has been double booked. Bone suggests that both couples stay the night at no charge and he will sort things out the next day. Unknown to the four renters but revealed to viewers is that the mysterious Man on the Phone (Fausti) has arranged this in advance with Bone.
Steve, suspicious and wary of the French couple, represents Brexit-minded citizens while Michelle is open to learning more about them and their unusual ways. Adrienne and Christophe represent a continental, upscale, “other” lifestyle that bristles Steve, especially when Christophe suggests a night of wife-swapping to him. What follows is an evening of drinking, drugs, and sexual experimentation — with deadly results.
All members of the ensemble cast give solid performances, with Sahani standing out as the audience surrogate protagonist who unwittingly finds herself immersed in a frightening world she could have little expected a mere few hours earlier. Machin, Gould, and Delesques nail their class-confrontation roles nicely, and Denham and Fausti are both wickedly sleazy and creepy in their performances.
Mathew Bayliss’ screenplay and Fausti’s direction (the pair have collaborated on three short films together before this feature) do not shy away from social and political commentary with Exit, but neither do they lose the focus that this is an erotic horror thriller. The showdowns between characters once secrets are revealed and violence kicks in are well staged and tense, and the special makeup effects are well realized. The flash-forward, fast-paced sequence at the beginning sets up a certain feeling of discomfit but does give away certain important reveals that occur later in the film.
Fausti delivers a unique spin on social commentary horror with Exit, and his distinctive visual and aural style provides a flair that makes the film an intriguing watch. He tackles a few different elements with the film and cements himself as a talent to watch. The film’s title certainly refers to Brexit, but there is much of Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous line from his play No Exit on display, also: “Hell is other people.”
Exit screened as part of Twisted Dreams Film Festival’s virtual version, which ran from October 1–4.