Next Exit is a much more complex movie than it seems at first glance. Directed by Mali Elfman, Next Exit is a tale of two strangers, Rose (Katie Parker) and Teddy (Rahul Kohli), who, after a new scientific discovery, want to be part of a clinical trial to find out what happens after death. With a mix of comedy, tragedy, horror and drama, this is a movie that uses the many elements to paint a complex and engaging exploration of the characters whose trauma drives their many choices.
Next Exit uses life after death as a jumping off point for something much deeper and more personal. It also explores the nature of a future with an afterlife all but proven. In the opening moments, the audience gets a taste of ghosts and spirits, with a little boy, Reo (Gavin Powers), playing cards with his now dead father. Dedicated in a cold and realistic way, it is easy to understand why the Life Beyond group helmed by Dr. Stevenson (Karen Gillan) is putting so much time and effort into the study.
While this is on the front of many peoples minds, Rose and Teddy are looking to be a part of the study for their own reasons. While entirely different, it is this painful connection that connects these two strangers as they are forced into a road trip across the USA to be a part of the study. As the world reacts in chaos to the new reality brought on by the existence of ghosts, the two main characters dive deep into their own lives, and what they hope to come next.
Mali Elfman built an incredibly believable world and mixed the many elements at play to build a compelling and entertaining story. With complex issues with suicide, conflict, and even disbelief, the fabric of civilization seems completely shaken with the news. But thanks to the way Next Exit is constructed, it never feels overpowering the more intimate the plot becomes. While Dr. Stevenson is seen consistently throughout the movie explaining what this new revelation means for humankind, it is always set to be background noise, giving a glimpse of the backstory that is just out of reach.
Though the film has a great script, and good concept, it is the acting from Katie Parker and Rahul Kohli that steals the show at the end of the day. Rahul Kohli delivers a deep, and complex performance that shows pain and a solid sense of humour as they go about the many struggles and activities along their journey.
Katie Parker has built a name in horror with her appearing in many Mike Flanagan projects. In Next Exit it is her mix of comedy and trauma that delivers one of her best performances to date. Giving a strong portrayal of the toxicity of her life, this is a performance that will resonate with anyone who has faced similar stations in their own lives.
“With fantastic performances, great concepts, and characters that demand attention, Next Exit is a film well worth the time to experience and explore.”
There is a real improv-nature to the way events unfold throughout the film. The actors act natural, giving a human connection to the world, even as the supernatural starts to break through the humour and down to earth tone. The world outside the Life Beyond facility feels almost dreamlike at times, with the trip feeling aimless as they struggle to come to terms with their trauma, and what could be next.
There are many questions about the meaning of life and what is behind the spirits and ghosts people are seeing. Even the mystery of Teddy and Rose’s past is explored with care and sensitivity. Next Exit gives the needed time to see the demons they both face, while never sugar coating the pain under the surface.
The horror elements and complex subjects at play in Next Exit make it a hard film to nail down, but one that is filled with moments that are unforgettable. With fantastic performances, great concepts, and characters that demand attention, Next Exit is a film well worth the time to experience and explore. It is hard to imagine a more personal or rewarding supernatural road trip movie than Next Exit.