Mon. May 27th, 2024

Originality in a Franchise-Dominated Landscape

Crafted by Brian Duffield, No One Will Save You represents an original concept firmly rooted in the genre, devoid of any existing intellectual property. This fact should capture our interest, especially in a landscape dominated by franchises, sequels, and cinematic universes in today’s theaters. Duffield’s second directorial effort, following Spontaneous in 2020, demonstrates his desire to break away from the usual Hollywood formula and its predictability. The film handles the alien invasion premise skillfully and introduces a daring conceptual agenda supported by artistic bravery and exceptional performances.

With a budget of just $22 million, Duffield takes significant risks with what appears to be a straightforward premise, which is likely why the film found its home on Hulu rather than the big screen. No One Will Save You is the kind of movie that stands out due to its narrative. Those who only focus on the external events, the sequence of occurrences, will miss the unique qualities that set this film apart. In reality, the events in the movie are relatively uncomplicated. It tells the story of Brynn, a young girl living alone on the outskirts of a small town near the woods. One night, she is visited by extraterrestrial visitors. After surviving the night’s pursuit, Brynn attempts to report the incident to the police the following morning. However, she encounters issues with one of the officers, and it becomes apparent that some of the town’s residents are already under alien influence. Consequently, seeking assistance is no longer a viable option. That night, Brynn readies herself at home, preparing to confront the impending alien attack.

Brynn’s Morning Ritual

Right from the start, Kaitlyn Dever’s expressions have seized our attention. Observing her body language and visual signals lets us grasp the character’s personality. Each morning, she meticulously prepares in front of the mirror, wearing a dress and applying makeup with a cheerful demeanor, practicing her smile and greeting, and is eager to leave a positive impression. In her old-fashioned home filled with vintage attire and objects, Brynn has either established or perhaps preserved a haven from the past, utterly devoid of smartphones and other modern conveniences. The only indication of contemporary living is the LED TV. As a pastime, she constructs a miniature model of a small town. Without the need for Duffield’s script to elucidate, we can perceive Brynn’s attempts to escape reality and immerse herself in her fantasies. A visit to the cemetery, unsent handwritten letters, and skeptical looks from the townsfolk provide subtle hints at an answer. These initial scenes convey so much visual information that we may believe we have already received the narrative exposition, although we haven’t.

Now, the aliens make their entrance. Duffield skillfully invokes the essence of Steven Spielberg’s alien films in the first few minutes following their arrival one night. Duffield’s direction reaches new heights as Brynn strives to remain concealed and unnoticed while telekinetic beings and ominous lights from the flying saucers outside search for her. Yet, it’s not just the gray aliens that move, resembling a blend of RoboCop and J-horror apparitions. The humanoid creatures are accompanied by their animal companions, ape-like dogs with sharp claws and towering, menacing insect-like entities. These creatures also function as protectors and aircraft marshals. Their apparent connection to parasites residing in their throats and their desire to transfer them into Brynn is even more unsettling. The CGI used to depict them may not reach blockbuster standards, but it is convincing enough, particularly for viewing in a home setting.

Unique Concept: Minimal Dialogue

The director’s storytelling is what truly enriches and enhances the film. The defining unique concept is the absence of dialogue, except for one essential sentence marking the resolution of the main character’s development. The film is filled with numerous personal moments of Brynn in her private spaces, including her encounters with her cats battling the aliens, all portrayed with minimal verbal communication. Every piece of information is conveyed through visual storytelling. We become acquainted with Brynn’s character by observing her behavior and even learning her name through writing. The film consistently finds inventive ways to convey messages without explicitly stating them. Consequently, watching this film becomes a refreshing change of pace, particularly in today’s cinema landscape, which tends to be explosive and verbose, littered with expositions here and there.

No One Will Save You masterfully presents the character, from her backstory and personal conflicts to the later physical and emotional challenges, all through carefully constructed scenes. All technical aspects, such as camera work and sound design, receive specialized treatment to support this visual storytelling. Despite the scarcity of dialogue, the film is far from silent. Various sounds are still present, from the buzzing of the UFO’s light to the eerie sounds of the aliens’ footsteps, akin to tiny feet. The film effectively utilizes sound to create maximum horror effects. Every suppressed scream and ominous groan contributes to the tension that breathes life into the film. It is perfectly synchronized with the camera work. The early scenes, when Brynn first realizes the presence of aliens on the lower floor of her house, are genuinely tense moments. The way the film “introduces” the aliens is precise and well-balanced.

Sometimes, Brynn only catches a blurred glimpse of an alien figure behind glass, or she merely glimpses their feet. The strong perspective and the well-structured scene development keep us holding our breath. As the duration unfolds, the film gradually reveals the alien figures. Their design is also extraordinary. Although their basic appearance resembles the clichéd image of “gray aliens with large eyes and small bodies,” the film holds numerous surprises. Even the way they move consistently sends shivers down our spine. The most terrifying is the giant, spider-like alien, and Brynn’s chase sequences with this creature are both exhilarating and incredibly frightening.

The Character-Centric Nature of the Film

While the technical achievement of the aliens is noteworthy, the film’s core relies on Dever’s portrayal as the central character. Essentially, this is a one-character film. The narrative is intimately connected to Brynn’s perspective, and Dever grasps her role adeptly. In contrast, the film’s depth and uniqueness stem from the character’s emotional and inner aspects; ultimately, horror isn’t just about surviving terrifying creatures or defeating them. It also delves into the “meaning” of survival for the protagonist. Overcoming that fear means conquering what’s within her life. This character reflection is a rarity in our horror, but it takes center stage in this film. It is the primary focus, hidden behind the backdrop of the alien invasion. As mentioned earlier, all the storytelling techniques employed in this film contribute to the overarching theme stemming from Brynn’s inner journey.

When we first encounter Brynn, she exudes tranquility in her small “world” at home. She dances, engages with her meticulously collected city diorama, and gleefully writes letters to her friend, Maude. The ambivalence becomes palpable when she prepares to venture into town. Brynn practices her smile in front of the mirror, seemingly psyching herself up for social interactions. When she does interact, there’s a palpable coolness in the townsfolk’s relationships with Brynn. She even avoids a police officer and his wife, like she deliberately avoids answering the phone. The absence of dialogue in the film mirrors Brynn’s guilt about something. Later in the story, we learn about Brynn’s past and her friend, Maude. It is what the film truly means when it declares that no one can save us. Only we can save ourselves from guilt by not evading our actions, acknowledging them, and apologizing. The opportunity to apologize inadvertently arrives for Brynn through the alien invasion, and she is responsible for seizing it. Her character’s development is portrayed through her choices in the story.

Contrasting with A Quiet Place Franchise

No One Will Save You is not strictly a silent film. Dever conveys Brynn’s character through her breath, transforming her performance into an exercise in expressive communication. She almost articulates words before halting them in her throat, occasionally raising her voice when the action unfolds. Nevertheless, no dialogue is as explicit as that, except for a single sentence spoken at the emotional climax. This approach contrasts significantly with A Quiet Place, which now sounds quite talkative. The film’s silence also immerses us in the visual momentum of the narrative, skillfully packed into its 93-minute runtime, complete with numerous twists and turns.

The third act might disengage some viewers due to the protagonist’s relentless introspection. Nonetheless, Duffield’s script infuses substantial drama into the process, leading to a somewhat unpredictable and wild conclusion. In a film era dominated by well-established box office hits, No One Will Save You concludes with an unconventional and refreshing genre choice. It may only capture the interest of some, but it led to a greater appreciation of the overall package. After all, it may initially seem awkward or nonsensical, but upon reflection, Duffield cleverly crafts the main character’s resolution and how it fits into a puzzle-like structure.

Offering sophisticated B-movie attempts to transcend mere packaged science fiction entertainment catering to commercial demands, No One Will Save You presents an ambitious take on familiar themes. As a screenwriter, Duffield operates within a well-established genre. He successfully balances narrative efficiency, alien thrills, and visual risks to create a film that does not feel like it rolled off an assembly line. The precise camera work by cinematographer Aaron Morton and the compelling score by Joseph Trapanese enhance tension and breathe life into Duffield’s captivating story. However, Dever delivers in every moment, from her character’s cat-and-mouse encounters to the emotional turmoil from her past. She even fully commits to the most bizarre and fantastic final scene.

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