A Quiet Place : Day One terrifies with its first spin-off

It’s the prequel that fans of the series were anxiously waiting for, after teasing us with the first arrival of the audibly challenged aliens in A Quiet Place Part II, the first spin-off on the popular horror series, now directed by Michael Sarnoski (Pig), it plays as an alien invasion film, albeit with a twist, that focuses in on its human characters that must survive the attack with the most adorable cat who was most definitely has used most of its nine lives by the end of this film. It fits with the franchise, this is ensured with John Krasinski acting as a producer to make sure the look and overall feel of this film. Fortunately, this is the case, with Day One acting as a prequel to keep the franchise going while we wait for part three, and also as a great entry point for any un-informed friends or family members who are new to the franchise. This story features fantastic performances from new cast members Lupita Nyongo and the two cat actors who play the adorable Frodo.

As advertised, the story starts on day one of the invasion, we follow Sam (Lupita Nyong’o), who is a cancer patient visiting New York City to see a show with her therapy group. As she searches for her favourite pizza in Harlem, the invasion starts and makes this task increasingly more difficult. Along for the journey is Sam’s therapy cat, Frodo, who keeps her anxiety under control. While the two meander their way through the ever-ruining city, they are followed by law student Eric (Joseph Quinn), who is visiting from the U.K. As the aliens take over the city and the city noise quickly quietens down, these three characters head against the flow to get Sam her last slice of pizza.

The friendship between Sam and Eric as they progress through the city and going through each encounter with the creatures. The change of scenery from a small, quiet American town to the big city really did offer something new in this story. The quietness of the small town quickly subsides as large crowds try to get to safety as quietly as possible, but on crowded streets, people always make noise, and chaos follows. This is the part of the film that director Sarnoski really understood, and so much of the knuckle-inducing tension comes from these moments. Why is a woman screaming for her son in the middle of the street, knowing what will happen? Why doesn’t anyone look for broken glass on the ground and my biggest complaint, the cat Frodo has a lead. Why for the love of all this is holy, does no-one put the damn cat on the leash? There are several instances in which characters have to put themselves in peril to save the cat who ran off to chase a mouse or just because it’s a cat. There was an easy solution here and no-one took it.

Speaking of the cat, the first two movies made the audience cheer for the kids to succeed and not succumb to the aliens shredding them apart. Their moments of danger were among the tensest in the film, and it is the same here, too; instead of children, we now have the cat Frodo, who, granted, yes, is a therapy cat, so he doesn’t react to many chaotic situations like most therapy cats are trained to do. Frodo definitely started the film with nine lives because it seemingly was able to not drown (twice!) and survive falls, crashes and smashes, all with its white fur looking as perfect as can be. I am genuinely happy that Sarnoski left our feline friend to survive (all hell would have broken out in my cinema if that was the outcome!) It’s a shame that this didn’t reflect on the human cast. Sam is dying anyway and wants pizza; trying to be hopeful that she would somehow survive felt fruitless. Eric was neurotic and took a while to warm up to; really, it wasn’t until the end of the film that you started to have any compassion for that character and his survival.

It really is Nyong’o’s performance as Sam that completely holds your interest. Her pilgrimage for pizza and dedication to Frodo is the beating heart of this movie. A lesser actor could have made this part forgettable, causing the rest of the film to unravel. Quinn isn’t necessarily bad as Eric, there is just not real meat for him to chew on apart from forcing Sam to reveal her backstory and reveal details about her family and life before the cancer treatment. In relation to connections to other films, Djimon Hounsou runs into Sam at the start of the film, but there is no wink or nods to any other characters or storylines which keeps this film nicely contained. The final act reveals Sanroski’s focus on acceptance and the grief and loneliness that comes with it. Nyong’o delivers this in spades, While the monsters are ripping the city apart, the eventual acceptance of her fate is slowly introduced and, we the audience get to come along that journey that is so beautifully told.

The film is in keeping visually with the rest of the franchise, with a lot more close-ups of the audio holes inside the alien’s mouths and over their bodies. Seeing many of them scaling buildings down a large city street looks incredible. There are scenes where hordes of them are creating a stampede while characters are cowering on the side, creating some of the most tense and terrifying moments of the film. The farms and silos are traded for subways and office buildings made of glass. Having the noise and sound gradually decline as the people leave or are taken out and the electricity and water gradually slip away, provides some insight into how quickly the characters have to learn about the invaders.

A Quiet Place : Day One succeeds as a spin-off, while retreading some ground we have seen, albeit briefly before, the change of location to New York City and a fresh new cast showing a different version of what happened is a fascinating watch. The strange choice of director through Sarnoski, mixes well with the casting choice of Nyong’o as the enigmatic lead. The scares and tension still pack a punch and will leave you on the edge of your seat for most of the film. This is a spin-off that could have easily been a phone-in job. Fortunately, it elevates itself as a worthy entry in the franchise with a subway scene you won’t soon forget.

A Quiet Place : Day One is in cinemas now.

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It's the prequel that fans of the series were anxiously waiting for, after teasing us with the first arrival of the audibly challenged aliens in A Quiet Place Part II, the first spin-off on the popular horror series, now directed by Michael Sarnoski (Pig),...A Quiet Place : Day One terrifies with its first spin-off