New Life REVIEW – A Genre-Bending Treat

New Life succeeds as a horror film.

New Life
New Life

When we first see our protagonist Jessica Murdock (Hayley Erin), she has blood on her and she’s on the run. With the shiner on her face and an engagement ring on her finger, we’re not sure what exactly the picture is. Did she accidentally kill her fiancé, and is on the lam because of that, or is there more to it? This mystery is what drives the narrative of the film, as we move between Jessica’s determined desire to cross the Canadian border, and the past she’s trying to outrun. Jessica doesn’t reveal much to the people she encounters while she’s on the move, and lets them arrive at their own conclusions about her story.

In pursuit of her is fixer Elsa Gray (Sonya Walger), who has struggles of her own. She’s just been diagnosed with ALS, and is trying to come to terms with the fact that she won’t be in control of her own body anymore. She knows and we know that this will probably be her last mission, which accords the entire endeavour a certain urgency. Walger is just fantastic, showing us Elsa’s quiet despair as her body starts to fail her. We want her to succeed, but should she? What consequences will Jessica face because of it?

The movie pivots into the horror genre about midway to the film, and it’s a surprising shift yet director/writer John Rosman’s given us enough information earlier on so it doesn’t feel like a whiplashing type of twist. The sound design is effective, and it makes the horror set pieces fairly unsettling – so much so that I kind of regretted watching this late at night while I’m alone at home.

What I’ve always found so striking about the horror genre is how detrimental human empathy and kindness is to survival. A small act of kindness is sometimes given without thought, because people aren’t always cautious and calculative when it comes to helping others. As the adage goes, no good deed goes unpunished, and this unfolds in the most horrifying way. Jessica’s kindness to a stray dog is what brings chaos into her life, and the same goes for everyone Jessica connects with on her journey. It’s heartbreaking to see her small smiles and feel her burgeoning hope when we are privy to all the disaster she leaves in her wake.

Both Elsa and Jessica’s arcs in the narrative parallel each other: Elsa’s cannot escape the reality of her diagnosis, while Jessica cannot outrun the truth that awaits her despite wanting so much more.

At just under 90 minutes, Rosman’s New Life is an economical thriller that competently does what it needs to, keeping us engaged for the duration of its runtime. What makes it particularly effective is all of us realising midway how close to home this horror is, and how we’ve all experienced it before. It brings to mind lyrics from Taylor Swift’s song Exile: “I think I’ve seen this film before, and I didn’t like the ending.” We foresee what the tragedy will be before it overwhelms, and the final moments will linger with you long after this film is over.

Review screener provided.

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New Life
While the horror moments in the film are far more effective than the dramatic moments, New Life keeps viewers hooked and engaged throughout.