It’s tough to be a sci-fi screenwriter in Hollywood — there’s a 90% chance that Rod Serling did your idea, better, 60 years ago. Many script-writers nowadays seem to have tackled this problem by simply writing science-fiction movies that are about nothing at all. No One Will Save You is of them.

The film, written and directed by Brian Duffield, zeroes in on one young woman, Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever), who lives alone, when suddenly, aliens invade. That’s it, that’s the whole premise. One woman, alone, and then… aliens! And because she’s alone in that house and her scene partners are usually pale big-eyed monsters, there’s no dialogue whatsoever. The film is at once technically proficient and decently edited, but due to that gimmick, No One Will Save You feels like a heartless exercise, less cinema than bad black-box theater.

Everyone Hates Brynn

The film starts fairly innocuously, with a cute sequence of Brynn getting ready for her day. The sequence is presented with few telltale period details, likely with the intent that you’re left wondering what period this is set in — ultimately, of course, this suspense goes nowhere, and you realize it’s the present day. Before aliens invade, we learn a little about Brynn: she’s alone, she sews dresses, she’s making a Beetlejuice-esque scale model of the town in her living room, and the entire town hates her. That detail is a mystery the film treasures unraveling, even if the reason the town hates Brynn is underwhelming.

No One Will Save You’s only innovation is to make its aliens be little assholes who have zero chill. Dever’s out here beating them to death with mop handles and refrigerator doors, and they keep charging at her and screeching at the tops of their lungs. She’s just trying to run her Etsy clothing business or whatever it is she does with her free time, god damnit, and she’s prepared to kill as many extraterrestrials as it takes for them to leave her alone.

Dever grabs this role by the shoulders, though, and channels ferocity, drive, and desperation through her performance like a linebacker. The film won’t work if her performance doesn’t, and she really sells every moment of tension and fear. Dever, unsurprisingly, is an executive producer on the film. But as committed as she is to this role, there’s unfortunately nothing to the character except anxiety and a dark secret. She doesn’t speak, and people don’t speak about or to her, so in turn, we don’t learn much about her. The gimmick giveth, and the gimmick taketh away.

While maybe Dever has improved as an actress since her excellent, star-making performance in Booksmart, I can’t tell. Brynn’s wants and needs are limited severely by the constraints of the story, and there’s no room for personality, let alone humor. Is Dever even good in this film? It’s impossible to tell. Dever’s whole performance is spent diving under beds, running through town, and alternately screaming and silently staring in fright. You could be the best actor in the world, have the juiciest character in the history of cinema, and still not be able to make this work. Picture Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence or Isabelle Adjani in Possession. Then take out all the other characters, all their lines, and make them run around, yell, and look at aliens for 90 minutes and see how long it takes for them to stop being interesting.

Little Grey Aliens

This is the comeback story nobody was expecting. Grey Roswell aliens, original-recipe space invaders, are back with a vengeance in No One Will Save You. Originating in various sci-fi stories of the 19th and 20th century, the image of the little grey alien was floating around popular culture for decades before going mainstream. The dominant image of aliens remained “little green men,” represented in Flash Gordon stories and Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and memorialized by characters like the Great Gazoo and Yoda. Then, in 1965, when Betty and Barney Hill claimed to have been abducted by little grey aliens and their story blew up in notoriety, the little grey alien was officially on top, supplanting previous popular images of what aliens looked like.

source: Hulu

Since then, the little grey alien has had a tough run. Early sci-fi films like 1955’s This Island Earth experimented with the design, with more mainstream titles like Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982, and Communion in 1989 making the design iconic. Further series and films like The X-Files and Independence Day cemented the little grey alien look, but more creative, diverse alien designs in 2000s Hollywood and beyond slowly invalidated our grey friends, and by the 2010s, they were completely obsolete.

No One Will Save You rolls out the red carpet for the little grey aliens to make their big comeback. The creature designs in this film start with that classic Roswell alien and expand from there, featuring a grey chimplike dude who swings on its long arms through hallways and a tall, mantis-like grey whose long appendages double as landing beacons for the mothership.

The creature designer, Daniel Carrasco, is the most powerful creative voice behind No One Will Save You. Carrasco has been designing creatures and drawing concept art for films for a decade now, and horror fans will remember his standout work on the monsters in James Wan‘s Malignant, the Hellboy remake with David Harbour, A Quiet Place: Part II, and Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. He’s somehow become the most in-demand creature designer around, with his 2023 projects including designs for original films like 65, The Pope’s Exorcist and The Boogeyman and fresh installments in beloved franchises like Evil Dead Rise, Renfield, and The Nun II. He’s the hero of No One Will Save You, as his inventive alien designs inspire genuine fright and awe of which the filmmaking itself falls short.

The Politics Of Alien Invasions

Like most alien invasion movies, No One Will Save You is highly political. But where your standard extraterrestrial takeover attempt is thwarted by good ol’ American militarism (Independence Day) or anti-McCarthyism (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), No One Will Save You, true to its title, is aggressively nihilistic. The aliens invade with zero tact and seemingly zero strategy. Once again, I’ll remind you that there’s no dialogue, so there’s hardly any chance to communicate ideology.

I have a theory that the aliens in No One Will Save You are dumb brutes who have stumbled into galactic conquest simply because they had the technology at their squishy little E.T. fingertips. The grey dudes have clearly not done any research before coming to Earth. They don’t send probes to study, don’t send specialists to identify ways of working with humanity, and only plot their landing points the night before they invade. These aliens probably aren’t the A team. The film gives the impression that this is more than mundane for these guys: another week, another world to conquer. Except on this world, Larry, Curly, and Moe get their flat grey asses handed to them by a plucky twentysomething with a boxcutter, a lighter, and nerves of steel.

source: Hulu

Thinking too much about the aliens here forces one to retreat into speculation, not on the grounds of allegory but on the thin scaffolding of lore. There’s so little substance to No One Will Save You, especially regarding the mythos of its alien invaders, that one will inevitably draw parallels to real-world military campaigns. Brynn’s perspective, through which we see all of the events in the film, is not much different than a local who finds themselves at the flashpoint of a new geopolitical conflict.

The aliens’ militaristic, conquest-at-all-costs approach to assimilating humanity mirrors similar imperialist campaigns like the U.S. in Vietnam, then the Middle East; India in Kashmir; Russia in Ukraine; and the British Empire in basically the rest of the world. A scene late in the film where an alien enters Brynn’s room and briefly studies her childhood photographs plays eerily like that trope in every U.S. war movie. You know the scene — when the soldier, doing a routine sweep of the house of a potential insurgent, suddenly stumbles across a crib or baby pictures and it dawns on them that, hey, maybe these people whose land we’re destroying are people too. But maybe I’m reading too much into a film that seemingly leads up to Kaitlyn Dever pulling a sea anemone out of her windpipe.

Spoilers: Dissecting That Twist

Of all the inconsequence on display in No One Will Save You, of all the mindless style and ostentatious filmmaking, the only thing that stuck with me is the twist ending. And it is one of the most dog-brain, idiotic, offensive endings to a movie I’ve seen in recent years, and one that only gets more infuriating the more time I spend thinking about it.

In the climax, Brynn loses. The aliens plant a mind-controlling slug inside her, but she wrestles it out. So they tractor-beam her up to the alien ship, and her memories are probed by a bunch of grey dudes. It’s revealed that the reason the whole town hates her is that when she was a kid, she accidentally murdered her playmate by cracking her over the head with a rock. She’s been a pariah ever since. Seeing this trauma in Brynn’s mind, the aliens decide that she’s been through too much and send her back to earth. They don’t give Brynn a mind-control slug because… they respect her? Because they see her as a fellow alien, since she’s also an outsider? It’s never explained why they let her live, though it’s implied that because she’s survived not only the invasion itself but also at least 15 years of being a social outcast, wallowing in self-pity because of a horrible thing she did when she was a kid, because she’s been absorbed in that trauma bubble ever since, she’s allowed to live.

Trauma. Guilt. Grief. No One Will Save You is not the first horror film to shamelessly trade in the hot, sexy new buzzwords of the moment, and it won’t be the last. It’s also not the first horror movie to insinuate that you’ll be spared from annihilation if you have trauma. If you’ve experienced grief. If you’re autistic. The Predator, the shitty 2018 one, ends with the aliens trying to kidnap an autistic child because they see him as the next great evolution of humanity. Split ends with James McAvoy’s wall-crawling lunatic character with “multiple personality disorder” sparing Anya Taylor-Joy because she’s got trauma. Significant Other, a Paramount+ release from last year, similarly ends with an alien sparing the life of its female lead because she’s been through such immense trauma that the aliens don’t even know how to deal with it.

There is zero meaning to the treatment of trauma, guilt, and grief in No One Will Save You. It comes across as a shrewd creative decision intended to appeal to as many people as possible, because Elevated Horror is easy to do if your movie is vague enough that it can be about anything. The movie shamelessly deploys very real, serious experiences like grief just to fit in with the other hip movies that are doing it, just to try to insert itself into the conversations that other movies are having.

Trying to figure out what, if anything, the film actually has to say about trauma, grief, and guilt is tying my brain into a pretzel. It’s thematically incomprehensible on a level where at some point you just have to concede defeat and acknowledge the possibility that the movie simply isn’t about anything, like doing a book report about the Subway menu. After Brynn is returned to Earth, the rest of the town has been given the mind-control slugs. She doesn’t seem to mind, though, and is just happy that they finally accept her as she hosts a party, dances with a boy, laughs and has a grand time. I guess the message is that the only way to change the way people perceive you is to literally hijack their minds with alien slugs. Or that if you kill someone when you’re a kid, aliens will want nothing to do with you. Or that your deep psychological problems can only be solved by an invading militaristic force.

Conclusion: No One Will Save You

So yeah, Serling did all this better 60 years ago with The Twilight Zone. And if he had a crack at No One Will Save You, he would have at least had the decency to make it about something, rather than 80 minutes of a wordless home invasion thriller and then eight minutes of substance where the film says, “Surprise! This was a movie about grief all along!” Sci-fi is only as good as the ideas it gives you to chew on, and No One Will Save You amounts to, like, three M&Ms’ worth of ideas.

No One Will Save You is now streaming on Hulu.

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