Sometimes the best film experiences are those that sneak up on you. The new monster movie NO ONE WILL SAVE YOU dropped on Hulu this past Friday and I knew little about it except that it starred Kaitlyn Dever, one of the best actresses of her generation. Written and directed by Brian Duffield, I tuned in to watch and the film knocked my socks off. It’s not only a frightening and sly sci-fi/horror film, but one that is incredibly moving as well. So moving, in fact, that I’m still thinking about it days later.
The story concerns a young woman named Brynn (Dever) who is forced into a life-and-death struggle when a host of vicious UFOs attack her and the small town where she lives. It’s a miniature WAR OF THE WORLDS in its way, but it also is a story preoccupied with a battle for Brynn’s soul. Brynn, you see, is a troubled sort, and the morality tale aspects of her narrative play like a modern-day episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
At first, we’re led to believe that Brynn is merely living a quiet existence in a big home on the outskirts of the small ‘burg she is a member of, but little things clue us into the fact that she’s more than a little disturbed. For starters, her mother has recently passed, and it doesn’t appear that Brynn has any sort of support system. Then, there are those letters of apology she keeps writing to a childhood friend named Maude. What’s driving Brynn’s guilt? Her home seems dated too, with a rotary phone and old-fashioned furnishings, and her hobby is creating elaborate models of the buildings in her hometown.
Brynn frets over trips into town too when she needs to mail some of her seamstress work to freelance clients. The townsfolk stare daggers. Why? As we start to wonder what’s wrong with her, Brynn experiences a home invasion at night. She discovers that the creepy intruder sneaking around her home in the dark isn’t a male stalker but a grey-skinned alien from outer space. And, to make matters worse, the evil E.T. seems bent on destroying her as it launches into an extended physical attack on her.
Fortunately, Brynn is no pushover. She’s got pluck and fights back, vanquishing the alien by stabbing it in the head with a steeple from one of her models. But her worries aren’t over as she soon realizes that a whole cadre of UFOs has come-a-callin’ to take over and turn the human population into their slaves. To reveal any more beyond this point would ruin the thrills and chills in the second and third acts, but suffice it to say, Brynn’s battles are both terrifying and terrific, some of the best set-pieces in any movie or show this year. And the way Brynn turns out to be resourceful with household items to defend herself would make Kevin McCallister from HOME ALONE green with envy.
Duffield pays great homage to a number of films like that Christmas classic, as well as horror films like THE THING, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and GREMLINS. He honors Rod Serling especially, vamping his famous 1961 episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE entitled “The Invaders.” You’ll remember that one showcased Agnes Morehead as a mute woman defending her modest shack against alien intruders whose spaceship landed in her backyard. That episode contained no dialogue, and save for one line, neither does NO ONE WILL SAVE YOU. Dever’s performance is all action and the physicality she brings to the role is award-worthy. In fact, everything around her in this film should be lauded as well, from the moody cinematography to the crisp editing to the sharp visual effects.
Interestingly, Hulu chose to release this film online when it could’ve easily made a killing in a theatrical run. They did the same thing last year with PREY, their PREDATOR prequel. (Interestingly, both PREY and NO ONE WILL SAVE YOU concern young women overcoming insurmountable odds battling alien creatures. Hmmm….) One could argue that the theater’s loss is streaming’s gain, and hopefully, the word of mouth on this effort will exponentially grow Hulu’s subscription base to help fund other terrific films in the future. No matter, this one is the year’s best horror movie, not to mention one of 2023’s very best, period.