E.B. Hughes, Gregory Voigt
To start this write-up off on a weird note, Billy is right. Cellphones, and the constant texting, playing, checking, texting - are more than likely, the death of so many relationships. I just found it amusing that my thoughts mirror his. It also provided an instant connection to this film for me, and probably many others. Is "Exit 0" about cell phone over use or cheating spouses? Not at all - but the entire cell phone underpinning does indeed help weave a believable story - adding some real, relatable depth to the two main characters. Let me move on.
Billy and Lisa are on a weekend getaway. A break from the hustle and bustle of the big city, to a small inn Billy frequented as a child with his parents. A chance to reconnect for the two, both as individuals and as a couple. As their destination grows closer and closer, it's apparent that Billy may suffer some form of mental illness - and an incident at a rest station serves as a great introduction to that fact. It's also an eerie way to kick off the movie.
The destination? The Doctor's Inn. It's the type of place you see in postcards. Beautiful, old, and strangely haunting. It's off season and the inn is pretty empty. Of people that is. It's within these walls that strange things begin to happen. Ghostly happenings that only Billy seems to notice. It's when he finds an old VHS cassette tape, containing a horrific double murder, that "Exit 0" really begins to get surreal. What follows is a how-to on building tension within a small space. Is something ghastly trying to make Billy and Lisa permanent residents at the inn? Or is he suffering some form of mental break-down? The inn has seen it's fair share of trouble over the span of one hundred and fifty - plus years. Of that there is no question.
"Exit 0" definitely sets itself up as a ghost story. All the pieces are in place for a truly horrific and scary experience. With that said, it's also a great example of the mind playing tricks - especially when the leading character clearly has some issues of the mind. Ghosts or mental illness? In truth it doesn't really matter for the audience. Both scenarios can be equally terrifying for whoever is watching. I believe that's the point E.B. Hughes was trying to make here. How many ghost stories come into existence - simply because the witness may have some form of mental disease? It's a good question...
... and yet interestingly enough - "Exit 0" could actually be both. This film creates a world where the inn really could or could not be haunted. Even if Billy himself is having a breakdown, and hallucinating the entire thing(s), it doesn't mean the Doctor's Inn isn't haunted. Depending on what you decide to believe yourself, an actual haunting could be the real catalyst behind Billy's breakdown. Or, a haunted house backstory, that actually isn't true, could just be fueling the fire of a damaged mind. I found this notion both entertaining and thoughtful. Either way the viewer decides to take it in, it adds another layer to this film. A double meaning. Are supernatural elements pushing Billy over the edge? Or is Billy's own paranoia adding fire to what are only stories? Hmmm.
As for the production itself? Pretty solid. Some great claustrophobic cinematography really upped the tension levels here. It all kind of reminded me of "Se7en" directed by David Fincher - in that everything felt up close and crammed most of the time. The perfect way to create a sense of unease. Topping this all off was an excellent edit, with a focus of pacing and atmosphere - and a perfectly suited backing score. Even if you hate the story itself, you won't deny the nail biting goodness Hughes presents with his excellent cast and crew.
Speaking of the cast... they were excellent. What more can be said? "Exit 0" gets it story and believable nature - almost entirely from their performances. Clearly, a good script and some good dialog are needed - but it's the cast that brings the stack of paper to life. I'm not going to write another thousand words to praise the individual performers - especially when in essence, everyone hit their marks perfectly. To be clear? If the audience hates every other aspect of this film, and I'm sure they won't, but if they did... they couldn't complain about any of the acting. It was great. Enough said.
If I had one wish? It would be that Billy himself received the big reveal the audience had. The dots connected for me/the viewers, but for him and Lisa, nothing is explained. They just leave with no sense of closure or healing... or even what or why! It would have been great for him to find out what we did. For Lisa to find out why her boyfriend is a little off. It would have been great to see what happened next. The film itself? I thought it was great and did, in fact, find myself with clenched fists a few times. It never ceases to amaze me how much atmosphere can be created, with very little blood, violence or even jump scares. You just need to be creative when doing it. "Exit 0" was a great film in my opinion. One that for me, managed to just scratch out a four star rating. Hit play for the strange name of the film - stick around for the atmosphere.