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Brian Duffield’s newest feature, “No One Will Save You,” is a sci-fi horror film with a lot of potential. Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever) is isolated from her community. She spends her days alone at home, tinkering with trinkets, cooking, and dancing. Yet this seemingly idyllic life is shaken when her home is invaded by an unearthly creature that, as she tries to escape, will force her to confront her past and the reasons for her solo existence.
The greatest strength of “No One Will Save You” is the creativity in its foundational decision-making. The entire film contains one line of discernable dialogue, and is built on an incredible use of sound instead. The first act concerns the invasion itself, building excellent tension with diegetic sound. As Brynn quietly sneaks through her home trying to evade the alien, quotidian sounds like dial tones, and a sneaky creak in the floorboards tighten your chest.
Brynn's intelligence makes this sequence all the more arresting. She plays every move with intention, strategy, and smarts. She fights back. She’s a protagonist to root for rather than roll your eyes at. Meanwhile, Duffield excellently uses the house's architecture to strike fear and build tension. From creative use of nooks and crannies to creepy, distorted shadows through hammered glass, the charming whimsy of the house we’ve come to know in the daytime devolves into pit-of-the-stomach dread.
However, while these elements are effective, the longer the scene continues, the farther it falls from its opening glory. Duffield's film misses great opportunities for scares and begins utilizing the alien in kitschy ways that turn fear into indifference. The opening moments of the first act are the film’s best overall, as “No One Will Save You” continues to have a frustrating lack of narrative context.
Brynn is mourning her mother, and her community shuns her for reasons left long unknown to the viewer. The invasion thrusts her past her property line and consequently subjects her to a primal desire to escape the coldness of her environment. And while we are shown that it’s traumatic for her, we are completely in the dark when it comes to even a semblance of a reason why. The script is not dexterous enough to hold empathy and investment in her plight because it doesn’t focus on her. Instead, it takes us through a tiring cycle of cat-and-mouse capture, release, and recapture sequences with no clarity.
Duffield's film lacks a grounded center and bewilderment at the proposed fear. The themes of social alienation, unresolved trauma, and the question of redemption are mere whispers in a chaotic maelstrom of fatiguing sequences. “No One Will Save You” is a slow burn you plead with to pick up the pace. Dever is the film's backbone, giving an entirely physical performance. Without words to supplement the feeling, she carries it all in her body and the minute shifts in her expressions. Unfortunately, while we can read and feel everything she’s giving, she is secondary to egregious, repetitive alien sequences undermining the film’s desperate emotions.
The creative intentions are notable, and Dever more than succeeds at pulling her weight, but the film’s execution underserves both. When any long-missed background is given, it’s too late and lazy to have made the waiting warranted. The creativity of the inciting incident is lost from the rest of the runtime, and while “No One Will Save You” yearns to be an existential sci-fi escapade, it lacks the necessary context and craftsmanship to clinch the heart.
On Hulu now.