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A Quiet Place: Day One

The horror prequel struggles to justify its narrative



A Quiet Place (2018) was a true experience in cinemas, using a simple concept, of lack of sound in a horror environment. Viewers were unwittingly roped-in to participate in maintaining the silence. It was difficult to watch the film and not feel guilty by the crunch of a popcorn or skidding of a plastic straw. The blockbuster success has, of course, spawned a franchise, a prequel now arriving in theaters.

 

A Quiet Place: Day 1 (2024) takes place in New York City during the first days of the invasion of the sound-hunting aliens. We follow terminally sick Samira (Lupita Nyong’o) and her cat Frodo, as they are separated from their hospice group trip, led by nurse Reuben (Alex Wolff). In her journey of survival, she bumps into the terrified British law student Eric (Joseph Quinn).

 

A Quiet Place: Day 1 is directed by Michael Sarnoski, who previously impressed audiences by helming the Nicolas Cage pig-revenge film Pig (2021). Jumping to a blockbuster, as with any successful indie filmmaker, is quite the challenge, yet Sarnoski puts his expanded budget to good use, creating the apocalyptic New York City in convincing detail. However, the more basic elements of story, where one would expect Sarnoski to have a stronger hand in, fall flat.

 

The apocalyptic narrative is centered around Samira wanting to go from Downtown Manhattan to Harlem for a slice of her favorite pizza shop in the middle of the alien invasion. Yes, you read that right. Day One later gives a better context regarding the emotional attachment that Samira has to the pizza shop, but even with the added background, the motivation for said journey is ludicrous and unbelievable. Not even having Samira’s supposed sealed fate of death rescues any logic behind the premise. Why Eric accompanies her in her futile journey, an explanation is never convincingly given.

 

With the weak motivational structure at the center of the narrative, the ensuing side-quests, and sequences appear to be ever more forced and unnecessary. The entire story is as if Sarnoski had been tasked with the rigid proposal of “a Quiet Place film in New York City” by the studio and half-heartedly tries to wrangle a feature-length set of events. The horror elements all rely on cheap jump-scares, although the tense scenes of characters trying to stay silent remain as taut as ever (even if the aliens seem to be more forgiving in their hearing compared to the first two films).

Sarnoski is gifted with a talented cast, the center of which is Nyong’o who delivers a performance far above the material. One feels Samira’s existential frustration, fear, and strength, and she nearly sells the fact that her character’s main motivation is a slice of pizza. Quinn as her most frequent companion is solid as well, showing the vulnerability of Eric in the initial attack, and his evolution to care for Samira. Dotted throughout are also Wolff and Djimon Hounsou in key, but criminally small roles.

 

In the end, A Quiet Place: Day One is a concept struggling to justify its existence with an incredulous plot and cheap scares. The strong cast and tense scenes are up to par, helping deliver echoes of what made the first film such a unique theater experience.

5.5/10

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About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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