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‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ – Is Silence Still Golden?

This apocalyptic prequel is more drama than horror. And that’s not a bad thing.

One of the loudest spots in the world falls deadly silent. The latest entry in the Quiet Place franchise takes audiences back to the beginning, and explores just how much was lost.

2018’s A Quiet Place was a miracle. Helmed by John Krasinski, and written by the duo of Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, the horror film was a creative and utterly unnerving take on an alien invasion. It was also perhaps one of the greatest theatre experiences of my entire life. Few movies have ever so effectively conditioned an audience to behave themselves. From beginning to end, there wasn’t so much as a peep.

While the sequel, Chapter II, immediately followed up the harrowing tale, this year’s outing was to be a prequel. Directed this time by Michael Sarnoski, A Quiet Place: Day One hurls audiences right into the opening catastrophe in which a race of hyper-acute, sound-sensitive aliens wiped out human civilization.

But despite the dire circumstances, this apocalyptic prequel is more drama than horror. And that’s not a bad thing. While the shock and terror of the alien invasion is ever present, much attention is paid to the pain of losing our chaotic, noisy yet beautiful world. And what a nightmare it is, which takes its place.

The Thick of It

Like any good disaster movie, Day One throws the audience right into the chaos. And rarely does it ever let up.

The End

After a quick introduction to protagonist Samira, or “Sam”, the film leads her through a seemingly ordinary day in New York. A cancer patient, Sam’s life appears to be a mundane cycle of group meetings, sentimental talks and walks with her adorable cat Frodo.

Before long, however, her world quite literally explodes around her. The alien invasion strikes, in the form of asteroids which carry the fearsome “Death Angels” to Earth. Suddenly, all the problems Sam faced in her life before feel like a distant memory. But even as the world ends, Sam has some unfinished business to attend to, and even the threat of unstoppable Death Angels won’t keep her from it.

Tragedy in the Horror

Sam, played with utmost earnestness by Lupita Nyong’o, is another in the long and storied history of the “everyman hero”. A otherwise ordinary person who gets by not with amazing feats of badassery, but just surviving. Joined by Eric, portrayed by Joseph Quinn of Stranger Things fame, Sam wanders from one secluded spot in New York to the next.

The two make for a fantastic pairing, if only because it’s refreshing to see a horror film that prized humanity instead of condemning it. Sam and Eric are strangers, but over a few endearing heart to hearts, one gets the impression they could be the best of friends. If only they could have more time.

Time, sadly, is something they’re running out of. Sam’s condition aside, the increasing destruction around them is a sobering reminder that Day One isn’t just another scary movie. It’s a tragedy.

Escape appears impossible in 'A Quiet Place: Day One'. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures and Platinum Dunes.
New York becomes a tomb in ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures and Platinum Dunes.

We as a species tend to take things for granted. We go through the motions, fall into habits. It’s only when great, sudden change takes place that we are able to stand back and assess what’s important to us.

Sam doesn’t have much that’s important to her outside of her cat. But her memories of New York, one in particular, keep her going. Even if, to those of us in the audience, it might seem trivial.

Consistency and Quality

As with any good horror narrative, the “where” is as important as the “who” and “what”. And what becomes of New York is indeed horrific.

Aftermath of Disaster

The immediate devastation of the invasion makes for stunning scenery. The city streets are bombed out, still smoking from the meteors’ impact and the destruction the Death Angels wrought. Firefights between the aliens and the US military leave skyscrapers rent, carved open. And all the while, in between the occasional burst of violence, New York goes from the loudest place on earth to a silent mausoleum.

One set piece in particular, involving a mass evacuation in the open streets, is beautiful and bloodcurdling in its simplicity. It really should be seen to be believed.

Better Left Unsaid

Even as the film reaches its climax, and escape seems possible for Sam and Eric, the danger is ever present. So, as with the 2018 film and its sequel Part II, a great deal of the interplay between our leads is, well, quiet. It requires a lot of both Nyong’o and Quinn, but both performers are more than up to the task.

Director Sarnoski’s writing and directing, and the return of John Krasinski as a story consultant, do all the rest.

The Alien

Now, given the premise of this entire series is putting a twist on an old trope. One of the oldest in pop culture, even. The alien invasion.

Predators

The Death Angels are a devilishly inventive concept. More bestial predators in the vein of Ridley Scott’s fearsome Xenomorph, than the typical invader piloting a flying saucer. Between their seemingly implacable physical might, and their almost impossible ability to track any source of sound, it’s little wonder their very presence clams up both the characters and the audience.

Even their origins are shrouded in just the right around of mystery. What little scraps we have come from simple observation, or notes taken by the survivors, or commentary by the filmmakers. These monsters, hailing from a destroyed world, clung to the fragments of said world until they found their way here.

Cue the meteor shower, and the collapse of civilization as we know it.

Pieces of the Puzzle

Now, in Day One, the monsters’ arrival is shown. And while on one hand putting their attack on full display risks taking away their mystique, on the other hand their bizarre nature and ferocity are expanded upon in intriguing ways.

First, their very nature means they aren’t the typical invaders. They’re not here to colonize, and feed off Earth’s populace, like HG Wells’s Martians. Nor are they looking to blow up iconic monuments and harvest the planet’s resources like the invaders in Independence Day.

The Death Angels are just predators, doing what comes naturally to them. Their invasion of Earth came about entirely by circumstance. We, the human race, just had the bad luck of being on whatever world they crashed on.

Next, details on these predators remain scant but are added to in small ways. Late in the film, Eric finds himself navigating past one of the Angels’ crash sites. What he finds there is yet another small piece in the larger puzzle surrounding these monstrous aliens.

It’s brief, and Eric doesn’t stay long enough to learn much more, but it’s enough to intrigue. In each respective entry of the Quiet Place series, the attention to detail and loving craft put into creating its mascot monsters can’t be understated.

Should the series continue, one can hope future directors keep that balance of complexity and mystery that makes the Death Angels so cool.

With Day One succeeding both critically and financially, Paramount will likely take a look at continuing the Quiet Place series. Whether it be a return to the family featured in Part I and II, or some other part of the world post-invasion, remains to be seen.

If the quality of these first three films remains, I’ll be seated, “day one”.

Written By

I'm a lifelong denizen of the Bay Area, with a love for media in all its forms. Books, film, television, comics, they're a part of who I am and I'm happy to review them all for Trill Mag. A graduate of CSUMB, my lifelong passion in reading and writing led me here.

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