When it comes to creature features, you have to have a gimmick. Maybe the gimmick is “you can’t see the monsters” like in Bird Box. Maybe it’s “the monsters can’t hear you,” like in A Quiet Place. Maybe it’s “the main character can’t hear,” like in Hush. No matter what it is, something that gets between the protagonist and the creature after them can set a movie apart from all the others.
No One Will Save You, Hulu’s new sci-fi home invasion horror movie, takes this advice and runs with it, adopting three different gimmicks that work against it. Instead of a challenge of filmmaking, it instead becomes a maximalist adventure that is just as confusing as it is experimental.
The movie follows Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever, doing everything she can to elevate the material), a young woman living alone in a farmhouse in a small town. She’s coping with life by herself, but when she walks into town, everyone seems to hate her. This anxiety is only doubled when something comes after her in the night. Slowly, it’s revealed these are not just home invaders, they’re aliens, and Brynn has to defend herself, her home, and the human race as a whole, all while reckoning with a personal tragedy.
This entire complex plot is communicated with basically no dialogue, making Brynn’s solitary life feel just as lonely to the viewer. However, it makes the harsh reality of what happened in her past feel like a murky mystery, and even when it's revealed, it feels like it's too obvious to merit such a dramatic plot twist. With dialogue, or even just a flashback, this could have been avoided. This surface-level gimmick has its moments, like letting Joseph Trapanese’s score shine, but becomes a liability more than an asset pretty quickly.
Probably the best gimmick of the three that this movie adopts is the creature itself. The aliens hunting after Brynn are both classically designed with their gray skin and big eyes, but also new and terrifying with overly long limbs that evoke creepypasta more than old tales of alien invasion. It’s indicative of old episodes of The Twilight Zone but still updated for the 21st century.
But however old-fashioned the threats may be, they’re undermined with the pernicious theme that seems to infect every genre movie nowadays: grief and trauma. Brynn’s past centers around a horrific event we actually get to see eventually, but equating it with a 1950s-style fight against aliens cheapens the weight of the hard-to-watch moments.
These three themes seem to be working against each other more than together: we can’t get the full weight of the trauma because of the lack of dialogue, we can’t fully justify the lack of dialogue because of the aliens, and the aliens distract from the trauma. It gets to the point where even the zippy 90-minute runtime starts to feel way too long.
Maybe this is simply a horror-movie-fan’s horror movie, a way to watch three different types of movies at the same time. But despite stellar acting from Dever (a performance that would’ve been even better if she was given things to say), all-timer production and sound design on a shoestring budget, and interesting shot choices, writer-director Brian Duffield may be operating above the casual fans’ wavelength.
Maybe this is just the start of a new “Maximalist Horror” trend, but for a Hulu release designed to be thrown on over the weekend, it may just be too much to keep someone on the couch, especially with such a heavy subject matter.