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  • Nate Lemann

ALIEN HORROR SUMMER - A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE (2024) MOVIE REVIEW

Updated: Jul 16

To kick off Alien Horror Summer on An Unreliabe Narrator, we take a look at Michael Sarnoski’s new entry in the stellar “A Quiet Place” franchise, gifting audience a better glimpse of the mass destruction and mayhem of the Death Angels, but the movie really shines in the quiet moments of reflection.


by Nate Lemann

Lupita Nyong’o in “A Quiet Place: Day One”
Lupita Nyong’o in “A Quiet Place: Day One”
 

When John Krasinski concluded his second entry of the “A Quiet Place” franchise in 2021, it felt like we had reached the right place to end the fraught journey of the Abbott family. Over the course of the first two films, Krasinski explored themes of parenthood and the desire to protect your children against a harsh and cruel world (quite literally represented in the films by the now iconic and audibly sensitive Death Angels). The first film was a meditation on losing a child and learning how to move forward as a family from such tragedy. The second entry was about learning to trust that your children are ready to step out on their own and face the world. Both films were full of great spectacle (courtesy of the novel but goldmine of an idea of blind but audibly sensitive aliens, a conception born from Bryan Woods and Scott Beck), but the movies never lost sight of the thematic drive of the films and Krasinski elevated his directing style to new levels with both films, building compelling character journeys imbued with true heart.


Following the release of the second film, there was talk of expanding on the compelling world concept, with director Jeff Nichols (of recent “The Bikeriders” fame) attached at one point to craft a heartland centered version of this story (an interesting pairing given Nichols’ underrated, soulful alien story “Midnight Special”). Eventually, though, the baton got passed to Michael Sarnoski, the director of the quiet and vulnerable “Pig”. That film was a truly and magically alive story about passion and disillusionment. It was a very modest indie that relied heavily on intimate and quiet scenes of understanding between various characters. The question became was Sarnoski ready to take that next step into the franchise machine of Hollywood, let alone a version of the story that promised more action, mayhem, and spectacle than the prior entries?


The answer, I’m glad to report, is a resounding yes: Sarnoski has written and directed possibly the best blockbuster of the summer so far. The carnage reaches new levels and yet, he has not sacrificed the intimate for the grand spectacle. We follow Samira (Lupita Nyong’o), a terminally-ill hospice patient dragged along on field trip into Manhattan (a place we’re told as the movie opens has the resting sound level of a constant scream - ominous to say the least). This just so happens to be the same day that the Death Angels make their fateful landing on our planet and usher in a new and horrific apocalypse. The question many have thought when seeing the first films was what these monsters would’ve done when encountering a sound jungle like New York and is answered in horrific detail. The mayhem comes at you fast and violently, but never losing sight of the golden rule of horror that less is more. As the rest of the city looks for a way out of this nightmare, the already dying Samira just wants one final taste of normalcy before the end.


That is where Joseph Quinn’s Eric comes in. He is a British expat in New York and really has nothing to run to. He latches onto Samira’s journey, along with her cat Frodo (one of the main highlights of the film), more out desperation to not die here alone. As we follow their journey, we are treated to many great and tense set pieces avoiding death from these horrific monsters. Sarnoski does an excellent job moving the camera around, highlighting all the potential obstacles that our heroes could set off to alert their demonic sound hunters.


While the spectacle and tension are up to par with Krasinski’s first two films, Sarnoski truly elevates his film in how he handles the quieter moments. In those scenes, Nyong’o and Quinn shine in their poetic beauty, ruminating on what it feels like living with a very clear vision of one’s own mortality. It feels like Sarnoski was able to sneak the meditative elements of “Pig” into a large summer blockbuster and to great success. In those moments, I felt myself vibrating on the same wavelength with the film, like a spiritual awakening that blurred the line between screen and audience. It is virtuosic filmmaking and an announcement that Sarnoski is now a major force in the industry, the perfect conversion of an indie artist into the studio blockbuster machine.


Nyong ’o and Quinn are truly remarkable, the former a hard shell slowly making peace with her impending death; the latter an open wound of a person with a deep well of compassion and sensitivity. Alex Wolff, reteaming with Sarnoski from “Pig”, is another great highlight in the film as Samira’s compassionate and beleaguered nurse. One of the best animal performances in film belongs to the cat Frodo, the quietest animal you’ll ever see and one you will be holding your breath the whole movie to make it out alive.


I think now after three entries, it is safe to say that the “A Quiet Place” franchise has established itself as one of the preeminent horror franchises of the 21st century and a worthy successor to the “Alien” and “Predator” in pantheon of Alien Horror. 


 

ALIEN HORROR SUMMER RANKING: To be revealed later in our countdown but suffice to say, this new entry has made the top ten.


 

FINAL RANKING: 4.5/5 Stars (An exquisite and introspective blockbuster with plenty of scares and horror to go around; see in the best possible setting)     

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Hi! I'm Nate and I love to talk all things movies. I'll be posting new reviews, recent rewatches, and much more on this site. So come on and let's talk movies! 

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