With an early, bold title card splattered across the full frame, No One Will Save You immediately opens with an unsettling air. The inauspicious beginnings of quiet country woman Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever) feel immediately off tilt, her daily routine guiding us through an ornate, meticulously decorated home where she sews and sells handcrafted dresses. The steps are familiar: running errands, relaxing, cooking, dancing alone in the kitchen, but it’s all askew. An uncanny valley reality, where the day to day is all just wrong enough to put you on high alert, unable to put your finger on exactly what’s plaguing the interactions in Brynn’s life. With an air of uneasy grief and neurotic tension slowly building it’s a shock to the system when a ringing thud shatters the silence and wakes her in the middle of the night. The kind of perfectly indeterminate thud that dazes you in some unknown paranoia pressure point. Maybe you dreamt it, or maybe the home invasion of your most harrowing nightmares is finally merging with reality.
On the surface, home (alien) invasion is an extremely compelling horror premise. To twist Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) into a gnarled knot with the malicious atmosphere of Poltergeist (1982) makes for the kind of charmingly terrifying throwback you didn’t know you so desperately needed. Even better, director Brian Duffield pulls it all off with eloquent ease, a pulse pounding thrill ride twisting and turning through the labyrinthine corridors of her home as she tries to survive the insurgency of gangly, gray, bug-eyed aliens. Unrelentingly intense as it powers through a propulsive escape, Dever plays a tumbling descent into terror, an ever shifting landscape of despair to furious instinct, notably expressionistic within the film’s blistering silence.
What at first feels like a prolonged introductory sequence as a clever storytelling device soon morphs into the film’s means of operation – No One You Save You only has two lines of dialogue over the course of its lean 93 minute runtime. The film is almost entirely an exercise in its stylistic storytelling endeavor, to capture an evolving emotional landscape, a horrifying invasion, and a mercurially shifting landscape of paranoia without anyone speaking. The uncomfortable silence blanketed by the terrifying noises of the prowling extraterrestrials and a haunting score from Joseph Trapanese make for a visceral unease, in constant anticipation of something to shatter this stale air, but it propels it all with purpose. There’s no time for anything else.
Brynn’s emotional center of deeply felt grief and pained guilt permeate the film, and the slow evolution of her past infuses it all with simmering tension. It all coalesces amidst the chaos, slowly putting together the puzzles pieces of both the invasion and her past. It’s nothing particularly revelatory or emotionally resonant, its thematic core of grief is fairly perfunctory amid an onslaught of horror tackling the same ideas, but the unfolding of it all makes for an engaging experience nonetheless. If not occasionally blatant, Duffield’s visual ideas here rarely feel intrusive or extraneous but are always a joy to pick apart, and the marked absence of dialogue never feels overwrought or forced. It’s unfortunate that many of its higher level thrills and dread are deflated by an overreliance on CGI, absent the same practical joys of its influence.
While maintaining its claustrophobic location and only venturing into the quiet neighboring town for a few short moments, No One Will Save You manages to constantly escalate the madness and terror, eventually morphing into a white knuckle nightmare landscape as more classic horror inspiration takes over and the film emerges with more layers of nauseating abduction paranoia. The third act revelations don’t quite manage to stick the landing on the laser focused simplicity of its opening, but everything here is still a worthwhile 90 minute thrill that nails a very specific niche blend of genre and influence. The biggest problem is that this delightfully Spielbergian effort deserves so much better than its unceremonious shuffle onto streaming.