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A Quiet Place: Day One

Our summer of sequels and prequels continues… After the semi-disappointment of KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and the triumph of FURIOSA, how would the QUIET PLACE prequel that nobody asked for fare? The answer (according to me, anyway), is pretty well, actually. A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE is a cracking film that I enjoyed far more than I expected to.

A woman named Sam finds herself trapped in New York City during the early stages of an invasion by alien creatures with ultra-sensitive hearing.

I really liked the first QUIET PLACE movie. If you recall, it was an unexpected box-office hit with a great cast and a (relatively) original premise. A QUIET PLACE PART II, though, I didn’t like at all. It felt like a contrived mess, a film that didn’t need to be made. It pandered to cliche and didn’t add anything much to the original movie. If you’ve read my recent film reviews, you’ll know I have a real hang-up about franchise films that don’t have anything new to add to the franchise. I’m growing to detest the watered down rehashes of profitable IPs that seem to fill the multiplexes year after year. I was expecting DAY ONE to be more of the same, and I’m happy to report that I was very wrong.

To be honest, though, the fact this is a QUIET PLACE film is a bit of a red herring. If it existed as the only film in the franchise, it would work just as well (though, of course, it would probably only have a fraction of the budget and audience). My wife – who hasn’t seen any of the other films and who doesn’t enjoy horror and/or science-fiction as a rule – absolutely loved it. I can understand why it was made as a prequel. On the face of it, it’s the old ALIEN > ALIENS logic. ALIEN was a relatively small scale story, enclosed and self-contained to the point that its claustrophobia was key to its success. The sequel, on the other hand, was an expansive, balls to the wall action movie, diametrically opposed in many ways to RIDLEY SCOTT‘s original. Both films succeeded because they told engaging stories about a unique monster being dropped into very different situations. With this franchise, the original movie also had a small cast and a relatively self-contained location. Shifting the action to New York at the beginning of the alien invasion for the follow-up gave the filmmakers opportunity to take a similar route to the one JAMES CAMERON took with ALIENS, and to an extent, they did. But I don’t think DAY ONE’s success is anything to do with that.

The film hinges on the characters, and the excellent performances of LUPITA NYONG’O and JOSEPH QUINN who play two survivors of the initial alien onslaught, trying to survive in a world where they can no longer make any noise. A benefit of this being part of a franchise is that we actually know far more about what’s happening that the people on screen, and this avoids the need for any exposition dumps early on. The shit hits the fan, we know what’s coming, and part of the fun (for us, anyway) is watching these poor buggers who know nothing trying to react to events. There are plenty of great effects, just the right amount of monster action, and a generous smattering of action scenes, but at its heart this is the story of Sam and Eric and how they survive. I’ve seen reviews and commentaries that deride this approach, but I think it works brilliantly. The story feels remarkably fresh for an alien invasion movie, because we’re not focused on the world for once, we’re focused on a couple of people (and a pretty incredible cat). The emphasis is not on trying to achieve victory over the aliens.

A Quiet Place: Day One

As usual, I’m being careful with my wording here so as not to spoil the movie for you. Bottom line, A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE took me by surprise. It’s a thoughtful and emotive story about individual people’s struggles for survival that just happens to exist within an established horror movie franchise. I liked it a lot. I’m interested to hear what you thought.