PG-13. A PG-13 horror movie will either be amazing or terrible; nothing in-between. This is a movie that is all bottled and weaponized suspense. It deals with child death, violence, and possession. It's more upsetting for its gnarley creature effects and some of the visuals, but nothing that it too offensive in any way. This might be on par with Jurassic Park in terms of fright, but just more of it.
DIRECTOR: Brian Duffield
I drop Henson's name a lot during spooky season. He really gets into it. Again, I'm a guy who almost wrote off spooky season altogether because I didn't want to wade through a lot of the garbage horror movies that are out there. But Henson doesn't mind garbage horror movies in the hopes that he stumbles upon something great. Really, Henson was a sweet resource in this case because I didn't have to wade through anything. He just told me that this movie was great. Okay, he said the first thirty minutes were great and that the rest was very good. I'm going to disagree. I think, start-to-finish, this movie knocks it out fo the park.
Yes, even the gutsy end.
I don't think that I normally lose my mind for alien abduction or alien invasion movies. I remember, growing up, that people would lose their minds over Fire in the Sky. My real take on Fire in the Sky was that it had some upsetting visuals and a pretty weak storyline. Even going beyond that, I often think of the alien invasion movie as an action sci-fi blend, like Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds. That's not a problem. I love sci-fi and I love sci-fi action. I remember liking War of the Worlds. And if I had to put No One Will Save You next to War of the Worlds in terms of beats, yeah, that would really work as a double feature. But No One Will Save You embraces the scary nature of alien stuff. It took all of the distilled energy from an episode of the '90s Unsolved Mysteries and made a straight up hunted horror movie with it. It's Ready or Not with aliens and I'm on board.
But No One Will Save You (despite having real Last Night in Soho vibes), is simple in scope, yet still absolutely surpised me multiple times. I mean, that means I have to talk about the ending. It's weird, because the movie is so much more than its ending. If anything, the ending is just a welcome bonus to a movie that absolutely nails suspense. But I want to talk about the ending becuase, in a million years, I never saw it coming and it absolutely works. With a story like this, in my mind, Brynn only had a few options. The first option was the most realistic option in my head. I thought that this would end tragically. With a title like No One Will Save You, there's a little bit of an implication that Brynn's story will be sad. After all, everything in her story implies that things will go badly. Also, this is a reactionary story. Everything that Brynn does is in response to being attacked. She's not quite Ripley. Sure, there's the moment when she realizes that the spaceship is going to attack her imminently. But even that plan is kind of weak compared to what Final Girls traditionally do. So the notion that the movie isn't going to be Brynn vs. the World is incredibly likely. The other option is precisely that. There's a version of the story where Brynn takes down the alien horde and that almost seems against the DNA of this movie.
But then the real end is that Brynn basically sells her soul. Brynn's got this huge emotional background to her. She's carrying her baggage around. Her internal conflict is continually externalized by the fact that everyone treats her like garbage. But Brynn is given that ol' Nexus story from Star Trek: Generations. Instead of possession being this horrible Hell where your personality is wiped clean, there's something seductive about possession in this one. It seems like people exist in a state of bliss if inhabited by one of these alien spore creatures. I mean, it makes me wonder why more people aren't fighting these aliens because it doesn't take Brynn very long to realize that this world is false and she chooses to return to the hellscape that is her reality. But that's what makes the ending oh-so-much better. In her possession, she realizes the falseness of Maude being alive. Sure, Maude being alive and well, and also her friend, would be tempting. But it is also a constant reminder of the unreality of the entire experience. So Brynn choosing a world stripped of free will is so shockingly evil.
Brynn is aware that there is no happy ending for her. Imagine, potentially, that Brynn took down all of the aliens Independence Day style. There's this cure all that destroys all of the aliens on the planet. Sure, disappointing, but a lot of movies would go down that route. But even in that scenario, she has to live in a town that constantly reminds her that she messed up when she was a little girl. Yeah, the morally right answer is to fight the aliens until you win or you die. Instead, Brynn chooses the morally corrupt answer that gives her solace. She has a world where she knows that everyone isn't real, but they instead are new people. I also love that the aliens are aware and possess a level of empathy to this girl who clearly feels horrible for what she did. Honestly, when she was abducted, I didn't know how this movie was going to end. I saw the character written into a corner because her luck had been spent up to this point in the movie and I couldn't imagine that she got any more lives to spare. But there is this bliss. She just desperately wants to be part of a society.
And points towards this. I knew the movie was quiet. I didn't realize that there was almost no dialogue in the movie. My wife would hate it. She's a big fan of movies with dialogue. She gets mad when she can't look at her phone. But that ending where the silence takes a new form is troubling. I can see people reading that ending as a joke. Instead, Brynn has shaped the world into a perverted version of utopia. I love that juxtaposition between the Pleasantville styled world of where she lived and what the reality of that moment is. It's way darker than either ending I conceived of. Honestly, I really thought that Brynn would choose some kind of honorable death and the movie was going to end with the systematic destruction of Earth. But feeling like, "Yeah, we kind of deserved it" is a way more haunting ending than sheer death or the continuation of the fight. (Seriously, how did I realize that there was no dialogue in the movie shy of Brynn yelling for Maude? My student immediately picked up on it.
And this is where the basic form of film fan comes out. Parts of this movie are sick. Like, they are absolutely beautifully choreographed that I just guffawed while watching it. Brynn dispatches some of these creatures in the most amazing ways ever. There are three major alien kills in the movie and all three work. The first kill is what got me to really sign on for the movie. I want to talk about the significance of that first kill in a bit. But the other two, the car kill and the crucifixion kill are both bananas to me. I know that there might be one more. I just remember what I remember, okay? When it comes to talking about the rad moments, the kills are great because the creature effects and designs are awesome. I really dig the long limbed aliens. I know that has to be impractical for the creatures to exist the entire time like that. But if you are going for "spooky alien", mission accomplished, okay? So good. And then barbecuing the alien with his limbs all pinned down inside the car was a work of genius. Now, the crucifixion of the alien inside the house is genuniely great, but the tag on that moment where Brynn smacks his head makes that scene work.
But I got on board with the model belltower to the head. Now, that scene surprised me. I thought that this was a movie about the consequences of accidentally killing an alien and no one believing them. Instead, the movie ties in far more clearly with the reveal of Brynn's crime. The entire time, I thought of more bleak stuff. After all, the entire town hates her. I thought we were going to have another We Need to Talk about Kevin moment. But instead, there's this fight that quickly got out of hand. Brynn is 1000% at fault, but there's that whole thing where Brynn is 12 and people forget how stupid 12-year-olds can be. I do love how the genocidal aliens are all sympathetic, which scans. But in that moment, it's a rock to the head as an impulsive reaction. The reason why I really love the belltower to the head is that it mirrors the exact thing that got her into trouble to begin with. These are two moments without thought. Instead, they are both reactions to being attacked. With the Maude thing, there's the implication that there was a moment to think about it. But Brynn is nothing, if not consistent.
Guys, I gushed about this movie. It might be my 2023 horror movie and it's a gosh-darned PG-13 movie. I'm showing the movie to my film class for Halloween because they need time to work on projects, but some of them are done. But they're digging it. Sure, it's a little hard to see if you have a glare on the TV. But the movie works so darned well as just an adrenaline nightmare that I applaud it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.