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A Quiet Place: Day One Review: Heavy on Human Drama Not Horror — Will It Work?

Lupita Nyong’o as “Samira” and Joseph Quinn as “Eric” in A Quiet Place: Day One from Paramount Pictures.

With both A Quiet Place films, John Krasinski delivered a new franchise that boasted potential of modern classics.

However, the idea of A Quiet Place: Day One — a prequel without Krasinski at the helm — was a little concerning since his vision has been the key driving force thus far. However, director Michael Sarnoski cleanly slides into his place and makes his own mark on the franchise – for better or worse. 

A Quiet Place: Day One takes viewers back to the initial invasion of the series’ super-hearing aliens. This entry, however, takes place in the bustling streets of New York City to focus on a new set of survivors. This change actually fits this idea of heading back to where it all started. The all-out chaos that ensues at times with streets jam-packed with foot traffic and no one being totally aware of how to survive against these creatures, is genuinely terrifying and tense. Death and explosions happen in an instant and it’s genuinely compelling to watch these characters have to learn and adapt on the fly – rather than be more prepared and calculated like other survivors in the franchise. 

At face value, there are a lot of interesting ways Day One could’ve set a new precedent for the franchise and delivered unique horrors. Unfortunately, this film is a character-drama first and an A Quiet Place film second. That’s not to say that the film is devoid of alien encounters or doesn’t have a throughline of nail-biting tension. But, it’s clear that Sarnoski cares more about giving depth and attention to these characters rather than the monsters themselves – which could annoy some fans. 

The monster encounters are generally pretty short and, in general, don’t have the characters do much aside from run or silently hide. There’s almost no lore divulged with these creatures, so there isn’t anything new fans will learn about them – which is a bummer. Frankly, despite Djimon Hounsou’s Henri being featured in the trailers, he’s barely in the film and makes almost no real impact. In terms of the horror side of this franchise and the monsters themselves, Day One definitely isn’t on the same level. But that isn’t a bad thing – not at all actually. 

By putting an intense focus on the people, Sarnoski does what he does best – create tear-jerking arcs and performances that viewers will latch onto. Day One is actually a great follow-up to what Sarnoski achieved with his 2021 breakout feature-directorial debut Pig as it touches on people’s simple desires in dark times. As audiences get to know the film’s main survivor, Samira (Lupita N’yongo), they not only connect with her tragedy of being a terminally ill cancer patient, but also the simple last wish she has as the world is ending.  Her feelings of hopelessness are incredibly palpable, but it doesn’t stop her from being a likable survivor and N’yongo still makes Samira very personable. She instantly feels like a real person and Sarnoski establishes a grounded nature with the film’s characters that’s deeply impactful. 

Yet, there’s still a silliness similar to Pig that’s found within Day One and maybe it’s a little too present. The sequences surrounding Samira’s cat Frodo are definitely too distractingly comical, and even the whole idea of this journey being framed around wanting a slice of pizza can be viewed as bizarre given the overarching situation. However, the beauty of Samira and other characters in the film is their silliness and simplicity. Because of the early emotional tethers to Samira’s strife, you’re all-in on her desire to find that last slice of pizza before she dies and it’s surprising how that premise actually leads to big heart-melting moments in her arc. 

Seriously, as the deeper meaning behind Samira’s final adventure unfolds, you’re constantly left on the verge of tears because of how it opens her up. You feel genuine shreds of yearning that carry meaningful weight and it heavily influences other characters as well. The role characters like Eric (Joseph Quinn) and Reuben (Alex Wolff) play in her arc is powerful, and the growing dynamic between Eric and Samira will especially move viewers. The unexpected sense of friendship that comes from them meeting is incredible and the laughs, fear, and tender realizations they share are captivating at times. They’re truly a beacon of radiant humanity in a world that’s become filled with death and destruction, and that’s what makes them so endearing and special. Not to mention, it’s wildly impressive to see Sarnoski achieve such high emotion without these characters being able to speak and constantly brings out the best in N’yongo and Quinn.  

Sarnoski might not deliver the kind of horror-driven A Quiet Place experience audiences are used to or want, but Day One is filled to the brim with a heart that can’t be ignored. This film establishes Sarnoski as a must-watch filmmaker as he unearths this gripping humanity within the franchise’s stark horror and crafts a prequel story that takes viewers on a simple yet stunningly emotional journey through the apocalypse.

A Quiet Place: Day One is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.



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