Brian Duffield’s horror/sci-fi hybrid No One Will Save You is bold, bonkers and genuinely scary, grounded by a terrific performance from Kaitlyn Dever.
Some of the most creative filmmaking examples often fall within ‘genre’ film, particularly in the realms of horror and sci-fi. It seems there’s something quite compelling about taking a tried and true format and eschewing it, giving filmmakers the chance to produce some truly imaginative storytelling without formulaic constraints. Brian Duffield’s No One Will Save You is one such horror-fi hybrid that isn’t afraid to go a little bit bonkers. It has moments that will frighten and baffle audiences in equal measure, is anchored by a very committed central performance from the always impressive Kaitlyn Dever, and is willing to leave the expositional heavy lifting to its audience by delivering, at most, three lines of actual dialogue.
No One Will Save You, as a title, feels like a pointed statement to the film’s heroine, Brynn (Dever). She lives alone in a very kitschy but very secluded house, is seemingly nice, normal and relatable, if a little bit anxious and jumpy. But once she ventures in to town, Brynn’s pre-practiced friendly smiles and over-enthusiastic waves are met with icy glares and snide whispers. There’s something a little off kilter about Brynn and her small hometown right from the start, and things only get weirder from there.
Brynn wakes in the middle of the night to a clatter outside her bedroom window. A peek through the curtains shows some knocked over bins and a rattling lid, and so she begrudgingly heads downstairs to sort them out. But as soon as she sets foot on the staircase, it becomes clear that there is someone – or, rather, something – in the house with her. Terrified, Brynn must fight for her life when her intruder is revealed to be of the extra-terrestrial variety, and a chilling game of cat-and-mouse ensues.
While the premise does skew a little silly at times, that first home invasion sequence is genuinely frightening. Duffield is really adept at building tension, leaning heavily into the horror tropes that are classics for a reason – creaky stairs, scuttling footsteps, heavy breathing – to craft something that is as intriguing as it is scary. The film is so atmospheric and eerie, with Duffield confidently ramping up the strangeness without worrying about alienating audiences or overthinking his bold choices.
And one such choice is the decision to have No One Will Save You be, essentially, a dialogue-free film. There is, at a push, maybe three actual scripted lines throughout the whole film, and the rest of the action is soundtracked by an excellent mix of diegetic sound and music, courtesy of Joseph Trapanese. It gives everything an almost other-worldly feel, switching from bombastic score and jarring, discordant sounds when things are exciting, to an eerie, loaded silence that makes the hairs on the back of your neck tingle when things slow down. Dever’s screams, groans, and staccato breathing work in place of actual words for the most part, and it’s a testament to her ability that it doesn’t leave the film – or her performance – wanting at any point.
She is incredibly present and committed here, barely ever leaving the screen and saying a thousand things with her eyes alone at any one moment. It’s a role that asks a lot of its actor, with the majority of Brynn’s past – as well as her guilt, grief and trauma – inferred through body language and reaction, rather than being expressed verbally. Dever is so skilled at subtle emotion, and there’s a restraint to her performance that feels like a deliberate choice, rather than a consequence of having very minimal dialogue, and it’s one that makes Brynn such an enigmatic central figure. Duffield directs her very well, reeling things back to the personal when it gets a little clunky with CGI, and it never feels as though she gets lost within the craziness that is happening around her.
And Duffield also handles that craziness really well, through a mixture of impressive design, Aaron Morton’s camera geography, and the surreal, glitchy ‘dream’ sequences that do the bulk of the expositional heavy lifting. There are moments that teeter on the edge of cliché, perhaps even frustration, but No One Will Save You is a film that feels crafted by a writer/director with a vision, and an unwavering commitment to achieving that vision.
Because as invested in the genre aspect as the film is, it’s equally so with its thematic undertones. Yes it’s scary and suitably science-fictiony, with its aliens all but ripped straight from the pages of pulp novels, skulking about with limbs contorted like extras from The Exorcist, but there’s a whiff of allegory about the whole thing, too. A lot of the film feels like Brynn’s trauma manifested, be that as penance or resilience or terror, and its aliens merely an imaginative interpretation of being forced to confront it. Or perhaps that’s too lofty a reading to make of the film, and it’s simply a horror flick that’s surprisingly thoughtful. But in any case, No One Will Save You is a film that warrants – encourages, even – discussion and interpretation, as all the best genre films do.
Duffield’s is a film that is bold, bonkers and genuinely creepy. It works as well as a fun horror/sci-fi flick as it does an exploration of grief and guilt, with great tension building, sound design, and anchored by a tremendous central performance. No One Will Save You is a film that isn’t afraid to scare, surprise and stump you, and a testament to filmmakers who take a format and run with it, because the results are something to be excited about.
No One Will Save You is now available to watch on Hulu and Disney+.