A Quiet Place: Day One prioritizes human connection over monster madness to great effect

Plus, it has a really cool cat.
Alex Wolff as “Reuben” and Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” in A Quiet Place: Day One from Paramount Pictures.
Alex Wolff as “Reuben” and Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” in A Quiet Place: Day One from Paramount Pictures. /

The idea of A Quiet Place prequel never felt all that necessary in the grand scheme of a franchise that has consistently prioritized intimate, character-focused storytelling over grandiose creature mayhem, and yet director Michael Sarnoski's film, A Quiet Place: Day One, winds up being one of, if not the best, in the trilogy.

I think the greatest and most memorable horror movies become that way because they focus on a simple premise and don't overcomplicate the story. Executing a straightforward idea well is far more effective than creating something convoluted, though that's not to say the latter cannot be achieved well either. But A Quiet Place: Day One works because of its restraint and Sarnoski's penchant for lovingly crafted emotional beats.

While all three A Quiet Place films have had relatively small casts, the prequel takes it even further with just two primary characters (and a very talented cat). The entire movie relies on the performances of stars Lupita Nyong'o and Joseph Quinn. Thankfully, the pair are more than capable of carrying the film and have chemistry in spades.

Nyong'o's Sam is in hospice care when we first meet her, while Quinn plays an aspiring lawyer from Kent. Their backgrounds aren't expanded upon more than what's necessary for them to form a connection, but their performances feel so lived-in that the interiority of their lives is palpable without needing verbal confirmation—a necessity in a film that hinges on silence.

And while the characters are at the forefront, that's not to say A Quiet Place: Day One skimps on the scares. A standout sequence involving a Death Angel stalking Eric and Sam through a flooded subway tunnel is one of the most harrowing of the trilogy, and another frightening moment gives us a gloriously unsettling close-up of one of these monsters, a peek beneath the face plates.

While the film builds to a somber, if expected, ending, it's not bleak but surprisingly hopeful and tender. I cried at the end, partly because A Quiet Place: Day One connects two total strangers amid a city in ruins. It speaks to the isolation so many of his feel nowadays, and the climax packs an emotional wallop.

My only criticism of the film is its handling of the "prequel" aspect. Despite taking place on the first day of the invasion, the majority of characters adapt surprisingly fast to their new world of silence. It felt like many of them immediately knew what to do and how to act like they were already familiar with the invading Death Angels. There wasn't much build-up, and once the creatures arrive, the movie structures itself in a similar survival journey to the first two without utilizing the novelty of the situation.

A Quiet Place: Day One differentiates itself from its predecessors in its overall goals. While yes, Eric and Sam are trying to survive the mayhem, for Sam, it's more about surviving so she can die on her terms. When the end of the world is here, what do you do with what could be your final days or even moments?

And Eric is just flat-out scared. There's no macho pretension. He's terrified and vulnerable, and he doesn't want to be alone. It's heartbreakingly realistic. Plus, I think he just falls a little in love upon seeing Sam for the first time and it's Lupta Nyong'o, who can blame him?

A Quiet Place: Day One is now playing in theaters. To stay up to date on thrillers, sci-fi, and horror, bookmark 1428 Elm and follow our Facebook page and Twitter account!

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