Keith’s Movie Korner: ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ takes a bite out of the Big Apple

By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter

Much like “Scream VI” moved from the suburbs to New York City, “A Quiet Place: Day One” follows suit, allowing those sightless monsters to wreak havoc on the city that never sleeps. This is the third film of the successful horror franchise that began in 2018, but it is a prequel with a different set of characters. While the new locale brings fresh scares and intense suspense, missed opportunities and lack of star power diminish this new horror entry.

Life is anything but sweet for Samira (Lupita Nyong’o), who is battling terminal cancer under hospice care. With pain management her primary concern, her nurse Reuben (Alex Wolff) persuades Sam to come on a field trip to the city to watch a marionette show with the promise of pizza afterwards. The distraction is a much-needed reprieve but becomes something neither of them bargained for as hundreds of alien creatures descend on the city.

Miraculously, with the help of a good Samaritan named Henri (Djimon Hounsou), Sam and her service cat, Frodo, survive the initial wave of carnage that sweeps the city by the blind monsters called Death Angels. With certain death looming, Sam breaks from the other survivors and embarks on a quest to get the pizza she was promised. Along the way, she crosses paths with a fearful straggler, Eric (Joseph Quinn), who joins her in this dangerous quest. Uncertain of which death will claim her first, the cancer or the Death Angels, Sam knows one certainty, the next sound they make could be their last.

For writer/director Michael Sarnoski, “A Quiet Place: Day One” is his sophomore film, having previously directed “Pig” to moderate success in 2021. With John Krasinski taking more of a back seat for this prequel as a co-writer/producer, it allows for a fresh take from the new director. Showcasing the action in New York City with hundreds of these aliens seemingly crashing from space shifts the paradigm a bit to be more of an apocalyptic alien invasion type of movie. Unleashing these vicious beasts in a populated city opens the door for more violence and bloodshed, and Sarnoski uses that to enhance the level of fear.

He then focuses the plot on a more human story with the main protagonist dealing with terminal cancer. This is an interesting approach that grounds the film in the human condition with the protagonist having nothing to lose, but it also eliminates a major element of suspense, because the audience knows the character’s death is unavoidable from the beginning regardless of what happens. Not to mention, it also represents a big, missed opportunity to craft a more sci-fi specific storyline that answers key questions as to where these Death Angels come from, how they came to crash on Earth, etc. This could have had the same type of impact “Prometheus” had on the “Alien” franchise. Unfortunately, the film creates more questions than it answers.

Another disappointing aspect of the film is the score, which didn’t accentuate the most suspenseful, horrific moments like the first two films did. Marco Beltrami produced the music for those previous installments but was mistakenly not retained for this one. However, despite an overuse of CGI, Sarnoski exhibits some creativity with the cinematography to help tell the story. For instance, he uses smoke and clouds of dust from rubble to mask the creatures’ locations, heightening viewers’ anticipation and tension not knowing exactly where the danger is lurking.

Emily Blunt and John Krasinski both made this franchise into what it is, supplying riveting and emotional performances that carry the first two films, so it is a tough act to follow. Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) headlines the cast, and her undeniable talent perfectly exhibits the physical and mental struggles of her character’s dire situation. While the performance is solid and heartfelt, it is missing that emotional connectivity to the audience that was very present in Emily Blunt’s portrayal. The difference being Blunt’s character was fighting not just for her own survival but that of her family’s, while Lupita’s character was fighting to survive long enough to get her hands on a slice of pizza.

British actor Joseph Quinn, best known for his likable role in Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” provides similar likability in this role as a law student scared out of his mind and desperate to survive. The problem is there is absolutely no character development for him, no back story, nothing to tell the audience how he even shows up where he shows up. Djimon Hounsou is the only returning actor reprising his role from “A Quiet Place Part II,” and his lack of screen time was another missed opportunity to explore his character’s journey.

Lacking character development, overusing CGI in places, and missing a huge opportunity to finally explain the nature and origin of these alien creatures, “A Quiet Place: Day One” still offers the spine-tingling scares and tension audiences have come to enjoy from its predecessors. Keeping the story basic is disappointing and a mistake, but certainly worth killing some time if you’re in the mood for horror and a fan of the franchise. If anything, the movie will have you craving a good slice of pizza while cuddling with a cute cat.

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July 2024