A Quiet Place: Day One (2024)

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Directed by Michael Sarnoski

You’ve probably heard, but A Quiet Place: Day One is out now and raking in the big bucks. Writer/director Michael Sarnoski (best known for Pig) takes the already repetitive franchise into a new direction, offering a prequel that follows events from when the monsters first fell out of the sky to them taking over New York City. But they aren’t the first thing on Samira’s (Nyong’o) mind. As a cancer patient, she’s on a group trip with other patients from her hospice to see a show and then get some pizza when things kick off. But as people start to evacuate, she takes her cat Frodo on the hunt for a mythical final slice from her favourite place in Harlem: now that’s brand loyalty. What follows is a city-spanning journey that takes her back to her childhood to see if she can find meaning in death.

By upping the scale, A Quiet Place: Day One delivers precisely what I’ve wanted from this franchise: all too often, end-of-the-world properties focus on the aftermath and are set in the middle of nowhere. With a proven track record, the bigger budget allows Sarnoski to do things the other films would confine to dialogue and imagination. The action scenes are by far the most elaborate of the series to date, and the many establishing shots perfectly communicate the end of everything. I appreciate that this wasn’t actually shot in Manhattan – for the most part, it was UK sound stages – but it conveys the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s busiest, noisiest cities well. It is the perfect location for a movie where keeping shtum is of the utmost importance and allows for a host of characters to come in for brief scenes before vanishing into the crowd – including a brief cameo by Djimon Hounsou, reprising the role of Henri from the second, who is confronted with a tricky moral choice.

Interestingly, there are notably fewer outright scares than before, and those we get are predictable: everything goes silent, and then, just as the characters think they’re safe, we hear a great big noise. For sheer tension, there’s nothing here to match the birth scene from the first nor the vault-locking sequence from the second. Yet, with Day One, the team seems less concerned with building suspense and more with providing breakneck chases. I also liked that the focus stays on survival – at no point are we ever asked to buy Samira as an action hero capable of taking these things down. Rather, we’re supposed to see her as someone who wants to live long enough to go out on her own terms. Still, despite the set-piece heavy approach, Day One is a smaller film in some ways than its predecessors.

Though its central focus is, once again, family ties, most of the screen time is made up of Samira and her Frodo. As a cat owner myself, I found their scenes to be wonderful depictions of the human-feline bond and introduce a new level of vulnerability to the franchise. Putting kids in peril in the previous films is one thing, but somehow, a cat is something else – maybe it’s that we believe a sadistic director could kill him off for sympathy. Granted, the movie could have done more from the kitty’s perspective. Though Frodo is constantly running off, he sometimes watches like an additional human, and it’d be good to see him hiss at one of the monsters or alert them with a random meow or scratch. Still, I was more invested in his fate than I have been anyone else in the trilogy.

Around the halfway point, we also meet anxious wreck Eric, played by Joseph Quinn – a man whose face expresses more than words could. Still, the obvious star of the show is Nyong’o, who spends much of the movie caught between cynical stubbornness and mental breakdown. Since the monsters, and indeed our leads, can’t speak then it’s important we have actors who can deliver fantastic physical performances and she among the best there is. Her moments of screaming into the void amidst thunderclaps is one of my favourites of the year so far. Two of her and Quinn’s scenes towards the end should tug the heartstrings of even the most stoic of viewers. Combined, they do a lot of the heavy lifting in the absence of complex narrative beats, building to a rewarding and moving third act that strips back some of the spectacle to ask what’s really important. It may not be the most story-rich Quiet Place film, or the most unnerving. But it’s the most emotionally satisfying by some distance and, whisper it, probably my favourite.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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About david.s.smith 459 Articles
Scottish horror fan who is simultaneously elitist and hates genre snobbery. Follow me on @horrorinatweet

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