Film Review: New Life

Considering New Life

Note, this is going to be shorter than my usual reviews, because it will be impossible to go into too much detail without disclosing the ‘secret’ at the core of this film. And that would spoil it for you, so instead this is just an appetite-wetter with NO SPOILERS!

A woman wearing a blood-covered hazmat helmet with a scared look on her face, looking at something behind her. Text on the image reads 'New Life'.

I quite like a horror film that isn’t obviously a horror film.

John Rosman’s New Life is one such. As we start following Jess (Hayley Erin), it is clear that she is on the run, headed north towards the Canadian border. It feels like a thriller, perhaps with a sprinkling of Sci-Fi and Mystery (we are certainly kept wondering what it is that Jess is running from). On her trail is Elsa (Sonya Walger), a relentless agent of an unknown organisation.

It’s all good tense stuff, but there’s nothing overt to suggest you’re watching a horror.

A woman looks at a map while sitting beside an old, broken down car in the woods. Still from New Life.

I say nothing overt, but there is something covert, and it’s a precious element of horror that is often overlooked: Dread.

Suffused through New Life, right from the beginning, is an oppressive feeling of dread. We just know that something godawful is lurking beneath the surface of this narrative, and Rosman lets it build like a suffocating miasma, until almost halfway through the film.

When the release comes, it is in a scene that brilliantly capitalises on all that tension, using the energy to produce a shattering change of direction in the story.

It also very firmly establishes the film as a horror, with a reveal that is both emotionally jarring and viscerally shocking.

A woman wearing a yellow hazmat suit, blue gloves, and no helmet points a gun at someone off camera. Still from New Life.

From there on, the tension is ratcheted ever further up, all the way to the final confrontation between the two women. This is pretty much a two-hander, with Walger and Erin carrying the film almost entirely between them, in memorable performances as pursuer and pursued. The script is careful to balance, contrast, and parallel aspects of each woman’s life with the other.

This is a well-paced, distinct movie that feels quite ‘out of its age’, perhaps more like one of the classy Sci-Fi thrillers of the 1970s. It resists flashy sequences and punchy dialogue for an entirely more powerful and subtle slow-build. And refreshingly, the writing trusts the audience enough to leave certain aspects unresolved, while still delivering a satisfying conclusion.

A woman with blood dripping down her face looks concerned as she looks off to her left at something off camera. Still from New Life.

And like any good horror, there is an abrupt ‘plot jolt’ just before the final credits!

New Life is a feature debut for writer/director John Rosman, and based on it, I shall be looking out for his work again.

New Life is available now on digital.

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