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Director Damien Power Talks No Exit And His Various Influences - Exclusive Interview

What do you get when you combine a claustrophobic environment, a major blizzard, and a college student trying to get to the hospital to see her mother in the middle of it all? You wind up with the Hulu exclusive, "No Exit." The film follows said college student Darby (Havana Rose Liu), who winds up at a visitor center with four others who are trying to wait out the storm. However, she soon discovers that one of them holds a terrifying secret in their vehicle, turning an unpleasant stay into a horrific game of cat-and-mouse.

One twist after the next keeps viewers on their toes the entire time. There are many people to thank for such a thrilling endeavor, including the phenomenal cast, which also includes Dennis Haysbert ("24"), Dale Dickey ("Winter's Bone"), Danny Ramirez ("The Falcon and the Winter Soldier"), and David Rysdahl ("Bull"). However, such a project wouldn't be possible without director Damien Power ("Killing Ground") at the helm.

Power spoke in an exclusive interview with Looper to discuss the film and the types of films that will draw comparisons. He also delves into some of his personal favorite movies of all time.

The movies that helped inspire No Exit

What drew you to tackle this particular project?

I was sent the script by my agent. I read the script, and then straight away, I read Taylor Adams' novel, and I pretty much finished it in one sitting. I immediately thought I must make this film.

I felt that I very much knew what I wanted to do with it. It was the kind of film that I would want to watch. It has this great character-driven plot, this edge-of-your-seat suspense. It has these really high stakes, but also, and unusually for the genre, it has these amazing reveals, and turns, and twists, that I didn't see coming. I remember reading the novel and at one point, being gobsmacked about something that happens and thought, "Wow. I just did not see that coming."

It also has this great hostile setting, a blizzard at the side of the mountain, a great ticking clock with the girl, a sick kid in the van. I felt that all those elements would add up to a really fun movie and a really fun movie to direct.

Were there any films you used as inspiration for "No Exit?"

Yeah. I guess if you're making a suspense thriller, then you're inevitably thinking about Hitchcock. Well, I am, anyway. "Psycho" is one of my favorite films, and I always felt that Darby's flight from the rehab center to the visitors' center felt a little bit like Marion Crane driving to the Bates Motel, right down to being stopped by the policeman. That was in my mind. The way Hitchcock thinks about point of view was something that I was thinking about.

I wanted to play it very much for real, to make it feel experiential. I looked at some genre films that I feel were played very straight, things like "Prisoners." "Green Room" was another film that I looked at that makes amazing use of a single location.

There are a whole bunch of films that were set in the snow that I also looked at a lot for the snow. Things like "Fargo," "A Simple Plan," even "The Grey," and "The Thing." They're not necessarily exactly the same kind of genre, but there's something about these films when they're thrillers or crime stories, set in the snow, where everything is thrown into this kind of stark relief by the whiteness of the snow and the cold and the pressure of the environment. It really kind of brings out the drama and the focus — characters and the consequences of their actions. I looked at those films as well.

Challenges of filming violent scenes

Were there any scenes that were especially challenging to shoot?

I think that any time you're shooting violence is challenging. I find it personally challenging. I think that we had a great cast and an amazing crew who were very sensitive to that, so even with some of the darker stuff, we managed to smile through it. Mila Harris, who plays Jay, the kidnapped girl, was amazing. She was ferocious and incredibly talented and very much at ease with some of the stuff that we were doing. She might have to appear terrified in one moment. In the next moment, she'd be poking her tongue out at the camera operator, and that really helps.

I find that stuff to be the most challenging to film. There's the logistic challenges of things, like some of the bigger action set pieces.

After reading the book, were there any scenes from that you wish could have made it into the movie, but didn't for whatever reason?

No, I think that everything that is in the book [is] in the film. We got all the stuff that we wanted. When I first read the screenplay, there was some scenes in the novel that I thought we should have that opened up the world of the story a little more from that early draft. It's all in there.

Looking toward the future

Who are some actors you'd like to work with in the future?

I want to work with every single one of these actors again. I can completely understand why directors work with the same people and that same ensemble, because you develop such an amazing shared trust and this working language. If I'm thinking about other things at the moment, I'm thinking about, "Well, how can I get Dennis in that? Or would Havana be right for that part?" I want to work with these guys again and maybe squeeze in some other actors, keep it fresh.

You mentioned "Psycho" earlier. What are some of your other favorite movies of all time?

I mentioned "A Simple Plan." I think that's an amazing film. I also like Michael Mann's "Heat." I like the heist genre, and there are so many amazing heist films, "Asphalt Jungle," "Rififi." Many, many different kinds of films. I saw "Minari" last year, which I loved — such a great character study, but I haven't been to the cinema in the last two years.

Can you talk about what you have on deck next?

Yeah. I'm writing a psychological thriller set during the Second World War. I am talking to Havana about something for us to do together.

"No Exit" premieres for streaming exclusively on Hulu on February 25.