Mercer Island author Taylor Adams’ movie debut

February 21, 2022 | by Adam Willems

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Havana Rose Liu as Darby in 20th Century Studios’ NO EXIT, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Kirsty Griffin. ©2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

On a perilous eastward journey over mountain passes, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a blizzard. She’s forced to ride out the storm at a remote rest stop along with four strangers — but one of them, it turns out, has abducted a young girl and locked her in an animal crate. Darby is compelled to free the child, identify the kidnapper, and find a way to escape. 

This tale, thankfully, isn’t a nightmare anecdote from this winter’s memorable mountain-pass shutdown. Instead, it’s the terrific, terrifying work of Mercer Island writer Taylor Adams. Published in 2017, “No Exit,” launched Adams’ career as a novelist. He’s since released three more books in just five years, and now the former account manager at KING5 has another professional development to boast of: “No Exit” is a film coming out February 25th on Hulu.

The Mercer Island writer’s work will hit screens worldwide thanks to an international creative team that turned Adams’ novel into a suspenseful screenplay. “No Exit’s” Australian director, Damien Power, wasn’t familiar with Adams before reading the screenplay, but immediately recognized its potential beyond the page, according to a press release.

“I knew what to do with it,” he said in the release. “’No Exit’ has an incredibly tight plot. It’s character-driven. It’s contained. It’s suspenseful and intense. It has this amazing hostile setting. I thought it was the perfect thriller.”

Adams “can’t wait” for the film’s release, which stars Havana Rose Liu as the protagonist Darby. Liu was previously cast in “The Chair” on Netflix alongside Sandra Oh. The familiar peaks of the West Coast, on the other hand, will be played by the mountains of New Zealand. After quarantining, the team underwent two weeks of rehearsals and then shot all the scenes in sequence. 

Shooting the film in a single location – a U.S.-style visitor center recreated at Penrose Studio in Auckland – both the story and its actors needed to drive suspense through more subtle plot developments. According to Power, Adams’ storytelling craft let an intentionally sedentary narrative end explosively.

“It starts with a mystery: who put the kid in the van,” he said. “The tension of Darby trying to figure that out like a detective, followed by a cat-and-mouse game as the motives of various players are revealed. It has a siege, it has a chase, it has crazy mayhem at the end. So, within the one setting, we were able to unleash this incredible variety of action.”

Beyond its home on Hulu in the U.S., “No Exit” will also be distributed internationally by Disney+ and in Latin America by Star+. Such a massive audience will likely propel Adams’ reputation far beyond Mercer Island and the Pacific Northwest in the publishing world; in the meantime, his fifth novel is in the final revision stages before its own release. He’s also taking his own shot at screenwriting, hoping to add interdisciplinary flair to Mercer Island’s list of notable residents.