A woman (Hayley Erin) is on the run. Wearing a hoodie to hopefully blend in and covered in blood, she’s near the border to a mysterious location. A fixer named Elsa Gray (Sonya Walger) is struggling with early symptoms of ALS.

Originally retired, Elsa is pulled back in 36 hours after this woman’s escape. Elsa decides to do the job one final time, but realizes that this particular endeavor is much bigger than she originally imagined.

Hayley Erin in New Life (2023), XYZ Films

A horror thriller with an apocalyptic atmosphere, New Life is the feature film debut for writer and director John Rosman. In the film, audiences are introduced to Hayley Erin’s character (she’s given a name later in the film) who is seen constantly moving and running from something. In another town, a female bartender gives her a place to work and earn some money, as well as a place to sleep.

Hayley Erin’s character believes that she is fleeing from a murder conviction, but it’s much more than that. She is carrying something inside of her that is terrifying. The unusual aspect about New Life is that it links Elsa Gray to this woman. ALS is this horrific disease that targets your muscle system and eventually leaves you trapped in your own body.

Elsa shows signs of this as her hand cramps and freezes in a certain position and she’s always tripping over her feet because they won’t move the way she’s expecting them to. ALS is destroying Elsa’s independence and so is whatever is inside Hayley Erin’s character.

There is some full on nastiness in New Life. People turn into these hemorrhaging blobs of melting flesh and bodily fluids; think Emil at the end of RoboCop after his encounter with toxic waste. It’s disgusting, but they also cry in agony and run at full speed at whoever is near them resulting in some incredibly intense sequences.

Hayley Erin in New Life (2023), XYZ Films

There’s this race going on simultaneously with this woman heading towards the border and Elsa’s deteriorating ALS symptoms. As a viewer, you’re purposely left in the dark. The film just starts with Hayley Erin’s character hiding in an empty house.

Even after some of the film’s darkest secrets are revealed, some questions still aren’t answered and it seems intentional. We don’t really know what causes ALS other than what it does to us. That concept of something eating us from the inside without reason is apparent throughout New Life.

Sonya Walger as Elsa in New Life (2023), XYZ Films

The film seems to leave a lot to your imagination. Why this woman is going to the border is never revealed. We know why Elsa wants to stop her, but we don’t know why this mystery woman wants to go there.

We also don’t really know a lot about Elsa either apart from her ALS. She has no family and literally nothing going on other than this job, which is a main reason why she’s brought in. We get flashbacks of Hayley Erin’s character before the events leading up to the start of the film, but Elsa is a straightforward workhorse with ALS and nothing else.

Hayley Erin in New Life (2023), XYZ Films

The all-out horror sequences are when New Life is at its strongest since John Rosman has concocted a brilliant way to entice dread in the audience. However, the film feels kind of basic otherwise; it’s a 100-minute chase with it ending pretty much as you expect.

The film is also getting traction for having this major twist, but the twists and turns the film does offer are nothing that special. There’s nothing wrong with the way New Life is written, but it isn’t necessarily shocking either.

Hayley Erin stars in the horror thriller New Life. Image property of XYZ Films.

New Life is a thrilling manhunt of a film with horror sequences that are seemingly inspired by the highpoints of the Resident Evil and The Last of Us franchises. The inclusion of ALS is mostly successful.

The film ends up leaving you feeling like you know what director John Rosman was going for, but it doesn’t seem to totally click by the end of the film. With its intensity, and the outstandingly devastating performances of Hayley Erin and Sonya Walger, New Life can be an anxiety inducing ride at times; a horror thriller that is just shy of cinematic excellence.

NEXT: Fantasia Film Festival ‘Mad Fate’ Review – Cleansing The Urge To Murder

Fantasia Film Festival 2023 'New Life' Review - Chasing The End Of The World
  • The horror sequences are fantastic.
  • Performances are solid all around.
  • Is a refreshing take on something potentially world threatening.
  • The “twist” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
  • The ALS inclusion comes up short.
  • You crave more of the horror nastiness.
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