A story that relies on a one-person show can easily make or break a movie. It doesn’t matter what type of genre because, at the end of the day, an actor’s charisma and versatility are the driving force that keeps us hooked to his or her journey throughout the movie.
One such movie is ‘No One Will Save You,’ a new sci-fi horror thriller that places Kaitlyn Dever front and center. It boasts a high-concept premise: a home-invasion subgenre where the intruder(s) isn’t an armed and dangerous person(s) but an extraterrestrial being. And interestingly, writer-director Brian Duffield chose to retain the classic appearances of grey aliens. You know, those slim, big-headed creatures with grey skins and large, black eyes.
These aliens somehow landed on Earth, specifically in the sleepy town of Mill River. Instead of a typical alien invasion commonly seen in the sci-fi genre, we see the aliens invade Brynn’s (Kaitlyn Dever) home. She lives there all alone, and the night when she is awakened by the sound of someone – which later turns out to be something — breaking into her house, the movie certainly lives up to its title. She did manage to escape at some point, only to be forced back to where she came from.
We also learn that Brynn is an outcast. Earlier in the movie, when she tries to greet one of the locals while heading to the town, she only gets a cold, hard stare. No one wants to speak to her, and she doesn’t seem to have any friends or family members. She would spend her time in the comfort of her home dancing to the old song (Ruby Murray’s ‘Knock on the Door’), collecting miniature houses, and writing occasional letters to someone named ‘Maude.’
Duffield, whose last directorial effort was a 2020 high-school horror comedy titled ‘Spontaneous,’ checks all the boxes here: the obligatory run-and-hide moments (and yes, that includes the character hiding under the bed) and the whole usual suspects. The movie, of course, has scenes where Brynn is forced to improvise her survival instinct by using household items and, at one point, a sharp piece of her handicraft to fend off the hostile aliens.
The action scenes are rather rudimentary, complete with a few hackneyed jump scares and chases. But the special effects – from the alien design to the dark, ominous clouds looming in the sky — are effective enough for a straight-to-streaming movie. Credits also go to Joseph Trapanese’s nail-biting score alongside Aaron Morton’s atmospheric cinematography and the heavy emphasis on its sound design.
The latter is especially true as Duffield chose to film his movie predominantly free of dialogues. Even the words we hear throughout the movie are background noises. Best known for her TV roles in ‘Justified’ and ‘Dopesick,’ Dever’s lead role is mostly non-verbal here, relying instead on her varied facial expressions and body language to convey her emotions. It’s not easy to pull off, but Dever does an excellent job with her sympathetic performance that manages to keep me invested throughout the movie.
Duffield deserves equal praise for his crafty screenplay beyond the usual home/alien-invasion elements, borrowing past and recent movies such as ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind,’ ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers,’ ‘Signs,’ and, of course, ‘A Quiet Place.’ He doesn’t lay out all his cards on the table, as seen from Brynn’s perspective, preferring to reveal them one at a time or whatever he deems necessary without spoon-feeding the viewers.
For instance, why do the Mill River townsfolks dislike Brynn so much? Why the local cops do not even bother to serve her when she enters the station to make a police report? And what’s up with the lady spitting on Brynn’s face full of hatred and disgust? All this sure screams a much-needed backstory to learn more about Brynn. But Duffield wants us to focus on her emotional ordeal rather than giving us the obvious. However, we get bits and pieces of Brynn’s past, and such a storytelling approach might frustrate some viewers.
And yet, this is what made ‘No One Will Save You’ a cut above the typical genre tropes. As the movie progresses, Duffield subtly incorporates symbolic themes of grief, isolation, and compassion. He even keeps us in the dark about the aliens’ motivations, leading to the unexpected finale that you either like it or hate it. I find it absorbing enough to make me ponder Duffield’s overall storytelling.
‘No One Will Save You’ is currently streaming on Hulu and Disney+.