Around this same time last year, 20th Century Studios released the excellent “Predator” prequel “Prey” (2022), providing a near-perfect example of a rugged hero battling an alien invader for a badass Hulu Original Film.
This Friday, the same studio-to-streamer team drops a less effective example of the sci-fi horror genre in the new movie “No One Will Save You,” which starts off really strong with mysterious crop circles like M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” (2002) before succumbing to helpless tropes, repetitive action and a confounding finale.
Set in the rural American South in the present day, the film follows a reclusive young woman named Brynn, who lives in solitude in her quaint childhood home, wearing cottage-style clothing, dining and dancing by herself and building miniature towns with tiny buildings that she orders in the mail. As an anxious homebody exiled from her small-town community, she alone must fight for survival when a creepy alien invades her home.
Before we go any further, it must be said that Kaitlyn Dever is a great actor. After her breakthrough role on TV’s “Last Man Standing” (2011-2021), she delivered indie gems such as “Short Term 12” (2013), coming-of-age tales such as “Booksmart” (2019) and an Emmy-nominated turn in “Dopesick” (2022). Her talent isn’t the problem in “No One Will Save You,” it’s more likely that she was coached by the director to breathe unrealistically heavy.
Such gasping would give her away, unlike Emily Blunt’s silent turn in “A Quiet Place” (2018) or Jules Willcox’s quiet escape in “Alone” (2020). It’s a killer concept to have limited dialogue, but a tough hero would hold her breath, not pant and moan like a helpless ’80s slasher queen trapped in the male gaze of writer/director Brian Duffield, who penned Shailene Woodley’s “Divergent: Insurgent” (2015) and Kristen Stewart’s “Underwater” (2020).
On the flip side, Duffield is pretty talented as a visual director, particularly his use of light during the invasion. Radios suddenly turn on like Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), TV static crackles like Tobe Hooper’s “Poltergeist” (1982) and saucers appear in the sky like Jordan Peele’s “Nope” (2022). The alien design itself is creepy, from wide eyes to praying-mantis arms, though we see the aliens way too early and often.
As these CGI creatures chase her around the house, the script becomes frustratingly repetitive as Brynn makes dumb decisions that will have you shouting at the screen: not locking her bedroom door, not telling the police what’s happening and leaving her car door open. An 8-year-old was smarter in “Home Alone” (1990), but since this isn’t a comedy, the traps feel too convenient like pots of water on a stove that just happen to boil at the right time.
Beneath it all is a subplot of regret, showing Brynn writing notes to her best friend Maude, who is no longer in the picture, saying she’ll never forgive herself for what she did. In a nice bit of slow disclosure, Maude’s parents even spit on her in public. When we finally get the reveal, we’re shocked at Brynn’s past actions; it was no accident, misunderstanding or manslaughter, it was quite sadistic, making Brynn hard to root for as we enter Act Three.
Clearly, her character arc is her own quest to forgive herself. Perhaps the alien invasion is an allegory for that. Still, the final 30 minutes are needlessly complicated, much harder to follow than Don Siegel’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956), with confusing dopplegangers like Alex Garland’s “Annihilation” (2018). The final dance scene will leave you scratching your head, saying, “That did not go where I was expecting,” and not in a good way.
If you’re looking for small-town “science friction” to stream at home this Friday night, might I suggest Andrew Patterson’s indie gem “The Vast of Night” (2019) on Prime Video. Or, if you somehow missed it, check out the aforementioned “Predator” prequel “Prey” on Hulu to see a badass hero you can actually feel proud to root for.