Hulu’s No One Will Save You (2023) runs the risk of devolving into mere formal exercise, shackling itself to self-imposed limits. But not only does it make the most of its key constraint, that constraint serves the theme, bringing subtle depth to a pulse-pounding film of science fiction horror.
Kaitlyn Dever positively shines as Brynn, a young woman living alone in a rural farmhouse. Brynn is clearly lonely, but also trying to make the best of things, busying herself with creativity and hobbies. But as she goes about her day, her efforts at cheer are undermined by the disdain of her community, exposing darkness in her past. As if her personal demons weren’t enough, one night an actual, terrifying creature invades her home—presaging an unpredictable alien invasion that triggers a non-stop fight for her sanity, and her life.
The trappings of No One Will Save You are modest enough. The film turns the classic “little green men” alien abduction motif on its ear, transforming its inscrutable humanoids into rampaging monsters. This might have made for a fun, superficial shocker, and for a time that’s how it appears, pitting a tormented damsel against the frightening unpredictability of inexplicable aliens. So far, so familiar, although the calculated, gutsy formal conceit—the film has no dialogue—does lend an artful craft to the escalating suspense. Writer/director Brian Duffield deploys stellar visual storytelling which not only makes the action clear, but gives Brynn’s backstory nuance and depth. Dever, meanwhile, absolutely kills it in a challenging role relying entirely on expression, movement, and reaction. In an industry increasingly rendered lifeless by clunky green-screen interactions, Dever does an incredible job rendering her CGI conflicts credible. This, despite the special effects not always being all that scary! But the aliens are eerily unreal, just enough so, and Dever does the rest.
Just when you think the film is merely a slickly executed tale of skiffy horror, the third act delivers new levels of surreality, adding more neat layers to interpret. There’s the surface action, which delivers the exciting alien-invasion frightmare, and there’s Brynn’s personal story, one of traumatized guilt, subtly teased out by careful shot construction and Dever’s brilliant emoting. But underlying both of these, as elicited by the increasingly random and inexplicable switchbacks of the third act, is a foundation of sociopolitical commentary. For No One Will Save You, ultimately, is about being young in a world full of relentess, chaotic threat. How in the world is anyone supposed to face the daunting challenges of making a life in the face of such uncertain, deadly chaos? Duffield’s film asks this forceful question without providing an answer, and the bafflingly random nature of the threats facing Brynn—metaphorically mirroring today’s atmosphere of constant, unpredictable crises—makes the film’s existential impact all the more unnerving. With Dever masterfully anchoring the proceedings, the result, packaged as a jump-scare thrill ride, is a unforgettable time capsule of 2023 future shock.