It’s rural America v malevolent alien invaders once again in a film that could be crudely renamed A Quieter Place, an almost wordless thriller that makes John Krasinski’s monster hit seem like an Aaron Sorkin joint in comparison. In No One Will Save You, the lack of dialogue isn’t as embedded within the story – these aliens are not triggered by sound – which often leaves the decision bordering on gimmicky but in its finest stretches, it works best as a challenge, for the writer-director Brian Duffield and especially for its lead Kaitlyn Dever.
The Booksmart star, who also made an indelible impression as a sexual assault survivor in Netflix’s Unbelievable, plays a young woman whose solitary life in a country home is rudely interrupted when she has an uninvited late-night visitor. Assuming, as one would, the invader to be of human origin, she’s wordlessly shocked to discover that it is in fact an alien, big eyes and even bigger head, as if it came not from space but from a 1950s film. She fights back, surprising even herself, and manages to kill it, but soon finds out that this was not an isolated incident and those in her town were not quite as lucky.
It’s in the tight, stripped-back scenes of cat and mouse that things work best, the odd dodgy special effect aside. While the initial throwback aesthetic of the aliens might ring goofy, there’s something unnerving in both how they then move and how some range in size, one that resembles a giant spider proving to be nightmarishly effective. With a big full-orchestra score from Joseph Trapanese and Duffield admirably trying to turn his Hulu budget into Amblin production value, it’s got the feel of a real movie, the highest compliment one can give right now to a film designed for streaming.
But atmosphere can only do so much and Duffield’s drip-drip storytelling starts to frustrate, a film clearly heading for some sort of major reveal but with such an open field being kept, his withholding script brings fatigue. Similar to last year’s Don’t Worry Darling, our curiosity over what’s really afoot – is she dead, was that really an alien, why is no one talking – curdles into annoyance and ultimately disappointment with an amped-up last act racing through an increasingly incoherent explanation. Like so many genre films at the moment, it’s all got something to do with – you guessed it – trauma but Duffield isn’t able to find any real depth or emotion in his mining of it, an awkward tonal jumble leaving us with a bizarre final scene that’s technically saying something but leaving us with nothing. A big swing, one could argue, but a big miss nonetheless.
A fiery Dever gives it more than the film ends up deserving, though, rising to a difficult challenge with both the virtual lack of dialogue and a string of sequences that force her to energetically react to a range of digital effects, in a performance that almost saves the movie. But by the end of the rambling mess of a last act, it’s clear that no one could have saved this.
No One Will Save You is out now on Hulu in the US and on Disney+ in the UK and other territories