Film, Reviews
Jul 1, 2024

Review: ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’

Lupita Nyong’o shines in the latest installment of John Krasinki’s blockbuster franchise. Writer-director Michael Sarnoski stepped into this franchise after his head-turning debut, Pig, left everyone with something to say about the shocking film. Now, with this third chapter of the hit sci-fi franchise, he has solidified himself as a hit making director.

The third installment in A Quiet Place also stars Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff and Djimon Hounsou as Lupita Nyong’o’s character struggles to survive the absolute pandemonium that the prequel drops audiences into within the story. This latest horrific installment throws out the small town horror movie. Want to up the ante? Nevermind nowhere Idaho, lets strap in for the most heart pounding tale of survival in the city that never sleeps. NYC serves as an additional character to this jam packed horror where silence is golden. If you want to breathe new life into a horror movie built around silence as survival, we can’t think of a scarier place to try and be quiet than NYC (maybe an Italian dinner table but we can revisit).

Opening screen text set our hearts racing as A Quiet Place: Day One, chose to open over an aerial shot of Manhattan. Was it silent? No. The sound was deafening, the bass booming as the screen’s aerial shots were accompanied by the cacophonous sounds of car horns, sirens and shouting. All to inform us that the Big Apple has an average noise level of 90 decibels, the equivalent of a human scream. Now, we’re shivering as the anticipation of the aliens whose major feeding habits depend on all that noise. The film hasn’t even given us a jump scare yet and we’re already sweating with our heart racing from the sheer anticipation of it all.

A Quiet Place: Day One is superb horror storytelling. It isn’t one long scream, its the perfect balance of tension meeting fear. This is only possible because of Lupita Nyong’o’s incredible ability to draw us into her character as well as the director’s understanding of when to pull the strings and make the audience jump and when to hold us on the edge of our seats. A feat we must say isn’t possible for just anyone behind the camera. Bravo director, bravo.

We were impressed as we settled into the first act how the establishing scenes, which give us insight into Samira (Nyong’o) and her rescue cat (Frodo) are brisk and immediately involving us in the day to day of our heroine. The forced outing with a promise of Pizza for Samira sets us up with her reluctance to engage with the world, as the clues of who she’s with show us she has terminal cancer and is surprised at herself for still being here, on this Earth. The opening dispenses with needless exposition, and we love it. Being dropped right into a story makes you feel alive as a viewer as if you’ve joined the ruckus at the right time. It also makes you get comfortable. But that is a danger, afterall this is a horror movie and that comfy blankie? Gone. Don’t hold on tight there is no use, you’ll never keep it as the acts continue to roll out.

Speaking of that lost blankie, shortly after the news hit that an unidentified danger was forcing everyone one home, (no pizza) is the striking follow up of a meteor shower hitting Earth. NYC explodes almost instantly, and as Samira staggers from the hospice bus in a blinding cloud of white dust, the images inevitably evoke haunting associations with the rain of ash that blanketed Lower Manhattan on 9/11. As New Yorkers we felt a visceral fear and anxiety that was surely the aim of the director. Despite knowing it’s a movie, despite knowing it’s not real, we could’ve cried for Samira and the real danger we felt from the cinematic choices in these frames.

Samira seeks out refuge, and tragedy soon follows, and this enters us into act two. A the plot expands and characters join Samira, we realize she isn’t running from the aliens per se, but to her former life. The one she had to give up for the cancer, she’s running to her past joy. In a truly diabolical and/or geenius move by the director we truly weaponizes NYC. All the places we automatically associate with care and comfort like a hospital become potential death traps as noise brings the aliens crashing through glass walls and skylights. A cathedral serves as a place of reprieve, despite a massive hole formed by a creature smashing through its tiled floor and another one ripped out of its frescoed dome. Singing choir? A death trap. Life support machine beeping? A death trap. It’s endless the ways humanity seeks comfort and how it has been turned against us. The film makes you feel small and helpless, alienated from the very things meant to save you.

Director Michael Sarnoski adheres to the rules of the first two movies by staying focused on the group of core characters while spreading the fear factor and suspense across a larger scope. The environment is the other character and he isn’t afraid to use it. He also avoids the trap of overexplaining anything, making the terror here arguably even more primal than the previous films. We’re coming into this knowing what the aliens are, but somehow the discovery of their strengths and weaknesses feels brand new because we’re learning it first hand alongside our core characters. If nothing else proves exposition is dead, Quiet Place: Day One should.

This is one of the best horror films made in recent years. If you haven’t snagged a ticket yet to the movie, get on it. This is sure to be one of the best films of the entire year, regardless of genre.