Netflix’s 2021 horror film, No One Gets Out Alive, reveals a demonic monster (probably Aztec warrior goddess, Itzpapalotl) inspired from the Mesoamerican civilization. The indigenous cultures that developed in parts of Mexico and Central America had their share of secrets lost in the history of time.
In modern times, many archaeologists dig out these buried artefacts to study the perished civilizations. During one such archaeological excavation, Professor Arthur Welles found a buried stone box in Mexico, 1963. The evil spirit locked inside the box becomes the spine of Santiago Menghini’s drama, No One Gets Out Alive.
‘No One Gets Out Alive’ Plot Summary
Ambar Cruz (Cristina Rodlo), a young Mexican woman in her twenties, illegally migrates to Cleveland after her mother’s death. Ambar comes to America searching for the American dream. Still, without a proper ID, she ends up working at the clothing factory. Ambar stays at a cheap Towns house Motel for two weeks but quickly moves into a women’s boarding house, Schofield Heights.
At the old, withered boarding house, Ambar meets the proprietor, Thomas “Red” Welles. Red hands over the keys to room no. 204 and informs Ambar that she is the second tenant of the building. The other woman, Freja, lives in 104, which is precisely under Ambar’s room. Red enquires about Ambar’s job and hometown and gets suspicious. He finally demands one month’s upfront for the room. Hesitantly, Ambar agrees.
At work, Ambar seeks help from a co-worker, Kinsi, to get a forged ID that mentions her birthplace is Texas. Kinsi informs that her guy wants 3,000 dollars to create a fake ID, and Ambar falls short of cash. Ambar requests Red to return her room deposit, but Red refuses.
Kinsi suggests getting an ID of Ohio that may cost only 1000 dollars. Ambar reveals that while she was in Mexico, she contacted her mother’s cousin, Beto, and asked for a job. But Beto refused to help her because she wasn’t an American citizen. Ambar lied to Beto that she was born in Texas to get a job interview, and Beto believed it because Ambar’s mother used to live in Texas.
Now, Ambar wants a Texas ID by Friday, or she will lose her job interview and will have to rot in the Clothing Factory. However, when Ambar experiences nightmarish dreams in Schofield Heights, money becomes the least of her worries.
How did Ambar get stuck at the boarding house?
Inside a bar, Kinsi offered to loan money to Ambar to get her ID before Friday. Ambar accepted the offer and handed all her savings to Kinsi.
The following day, Kinsi disappeared. She probably ran away with Ambar’s money. Ambar requested Kinsi’s address from the factory owner, but he refused to share confidential details. When Ambar insisted, the owner fired her from the job.
Ambar reached the boarding house where Red promised to return her advance deposit soon. However, at night, Ambar envisioned strange spirits talking and moving into the house. A loud woman named Maria threatened and trapped another spirit who cried for help. In fear, Ambar contacted Beto to transfer her some money. But when Beto refused to wire the funds, Ambar ran out of the house to save her life.
Ambar listened to her mother’s call recordings throughout the film and frequently visited her in her memories. Probably, Ambar didn’t move on with the loss, and those buried memories became her only comfort in the foreign country. However, when everything failed, she contacted Red again for the money.
Red came to see Ambar in a diner and promised to return her money. But he didn’t have that much cash on him and hence requested Ambar to come to Schofield Heights with him to get her deposit back. In urgent need of money, Ambar accepted, but as soon as she entered the boarding house, Red and his crazy-manic brother, Becker, locked Ambar in her room.
What was happening at the boarding house?
Red and Becker inherited the Schofield Heights from their parents, Arthur and Mary Welles. No One Gets Out Alive opening sequence established that Arthur was an American archaeologist who found a stone box during his excavations in Mexico in 1963. According to Red, his father brought the stone box to Schofield Heights and got possessed by the evil monster (inspired from Itzpapalotl) locked inside it.
In many ancient cultures, some spirits thrived on human sacrifices. The ancient civilizations performed ritual sacrifices in fear or greed to gain the spirit’s power (blessings). Ambar found some books, records, and photographs in Arthur’s study room that suggested that the stone box and the spirit inside it belonged to early Mesoamerican civilization (Aztec religion).
Red explained to Ambar that he and Becker stayed away due to Beck’s mental illness and moved home when they couldn’t afford the medical bills. When the brothers returned to Schofield Heights, they found out that Arthur brought women to the house and sacrificed them to the deity. His wife, Mary, helped him in his savageness, but later, Arthur sacrificed her too.
Red confessed that he got rid of her father to stop the bloodshed and wanted to leave the place, but Becker believed he could fix the house. Later, Becker got possessed too and started spending time with the cursed box in the basement. Red thought of interrupting the chain, but Becker’s mental condition improved. Becker requested Red to perform a few ritual sacrifices, and then they would stop. To help his brother, Red lured in immigrant women who couldn’t be traced or reported missing. The prologue sequence established one such Portuguese immigrant. Following the pattern, Red trapped Ambar, Freja, Maria, Petra, and many others.
How did Ambar defeat the Evil Spirit?
While Red and Becker prepared Ambar, Maria, and Petra for the ritual sacrifice, Ambar’s uncle, Beto, arrived at the door looking for her. Beto tried to save Ambar, but Becker brutally murdered him. After sacrificing Maria, Becker chained Ambar inside the basement and opened the stone box.
The evil monster crawled out from the box, and Ambar subconsciously visioned her mother in the hospital. The particular memory was Ambar’s last moment with her mama, and thus, she frequently visited it. The evil spirits prey on our mental and emotional weakness and trap us inside it. But Ambar fought back. When her mother grabbed Ambar’s neck in her dreams, Ambar retaliated and suffocated her mother with a cloth.
Ambar killed her mother in her dreams, i.e., symbolically moved on from the tragedy. The evil spirit failed to lure Ambar or kill her in real life and thus crawled back to its cage in fear. When Ambar opened the stone box, she found a skeleton and a butterfly flying around it. Probably, because Ambar didn’t fall into the trap of the spirit, the demon perished or weathered into bones.
‘No One Gets Out Alive’ Ending Explained
Ambar escaped the basement and took out the ancient sword hanging in Arthur’s study room. She used the sword to fight Red and Becker while they were preparing Petra for the sacrifice. In a rage, Becker cracked Ambar’s ankle and killed Petra, trying to run away. Finally, Ambar confronted Becker and slid a piece of the sword into his neck.
During the ending of No One Gets Out Alive, Ambar chained Red in the basement and opened the stone box. She witnessed the evil spirit plucking Red’s head while he remembered Becker in his dream. As mentioned earlier, the evil spirit preyed on memories, and probably, in his subconsciousness, Red saw Becker killing him.
After the sacrifice, Ambar walked out of the basement and locked it. She decided to leave the damned house, but as she walked away, her ankle got magically healed. Probably, it was a blessing by the evil spirit in exchange for the ritual sacrifice performed by Ambar. The butterfly that hinted at the presence of evil spirits flew around her. A fulfilling smile on Ambar’s face suggested that she would probably continue the legacy of sacrifice and lure in men and women to gain the spirit’s favor. After all, nothing else was left for her in the foreign country, and it was the evil spirit that embraced her.
Itzpapalotl – The Aztec Warrior Goddess
No One Gets Out Alive made no direct connection between the monster in the stone box and the Aztec Warrior Goddess, Itzpapalotl. But the term, Itzpapalotl literally means “clawed butterfly” or “Obsidian Butterfly”, the metaphor often suggested throughout the film. Some Aztec artefacts present in Professor Arthur Welles’ study room also hinted at the monster’s origin.
However, filmmaker Santiago Menghini chooses to focus on the influence of deities on human greed and madness rather than indulging in myths. I respect his approach because Cinema is a medium of “human emotion and interaction” and not a collage of “conspiracies.”
No One Gets Out Alive is a 2021 horror drama film directed by Santiago Menghini. It is streaming on Netflix.