EXIT *** UK 2020 Dir: Michael Fausti. 80 mins
After a run of disturbing, distinctive short films (DEAD CELEBRITIES, Z.A.F, THE PYRAMID), Michael Fausti makes his feature directorial debut with this compelling Brexit-era thriller written by Mathew Bayliss and shot in the 4:3 Academy ratio. Swaggering, sexist / xenophobic landlord Tony Denham (splendidly loathsome) shows a young Essex couple (Billy James Machin, Leonarda Sahani) around one of his many London flats, complete with much-touted, state-of-the-art German microwave. Turns out they have been double booked with another young couple – handsome Frenchman Christophe Delesques and his alluring girlfriend (Charlotte Gould), so Denham proposes they both stay the night with complimentary takeaway. Things become increasingly fraught as the “Continental” couple propose sexual experimentation, boring Brit Machin just wants a quiet life, drinks are spiked and someone shows up dressed as Napoleon.
The subtext isn’t very subtle: flats are named Abaddon and Gehenna, a character rolls a joint on Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” book and the infamous “Gotcha” Sun headline makes a cameo appearance (alongside Fausti). The filmmaker has fun gradually eroding the banal backdrop, offering surrealistic detours and offbeat non sequiturs including a crazy golf anecdote. At heart, it’s a modern, politically charged, blackly comic British take on all those slasher-infused Hollywood thrillers of the 1990’s, complete with climactic eye-stabbings and a bout of stiletto violence cribbed from SINGLE WHITE FEMALE. The dialogue weakens it and the elliptical editing and slo-mo become repetitive after a while, but it’s still another compelling, timely validation of this rising director’s talents.
Review by Steven West