‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ Review: An Emotionally Resonant, Worthwhile Prequel

A Quiet Place: Day One is mostly a triumph, helmed by exceptional lead performances from Nyong’o and Quinn, brilliant technical aspects including beautiful cinematography and clever sound design.

A Quiet Place: Day One

In 2018, A Quiet Place released in cinemas, helmed by director, writer and lead actor John Krasinski. It follows a family forced to live in silence, whilst hiding from alien creatures who hunt by sound. Releasing to great reviews and high praise for its uniqueness within the heavily saturated creature feature sub-genre, a franchise was spawned, with Krasinski going on to direct the sequel that was released in 2020. Now, we have our first spin-off – A Quiet Place: Day One, directed by Michael Sarnoski (Pig). As the title suggests, we follow the lead character Sam (Lupita Nyong’o) as she fights for survival in New York City during the early stages of the invasion. The cast also includes Joseph Quinn of Stranger Things fame, with Djimon Hounsou reprising his role as Henri. A Quiet Place: Day One not only lives up to expectations but exceeds them, delivering a tense, emotional thrill ride that serves as a fantastic prequel to the franchise.

The horror genre has been under the microscope recently due to the number of remakes, reboots and sequels it spawns. However, when it comes to A Quiet Place, audiences have been more forgiving. Since the birth of the franchise, viewers have been asking for a film dedicated to the start of the invasion, and how this affected densely populated areas. Day One does just this, throwing us into the hustle and bustle of New York City when the creatures make their landing. The confusion and disarray from the public adds nicely to the fear factor, as nobody knows how to react, where to go and most importantly, what is happening. The population of New York has descended into utter chaos, which makes for an intriguing yet harrowing viewing. Buildings are demolished by the large creatures, cars are flipped, and explosions are occurring left, right and center. This is undeniably part of the experience that viewers wanted, but it does miss out on one key thing: extra lore. Whilst it’s exciting to see how things started, we don’t learn any new information about the creatures or where they’ve come from. It scratches the itch of seeing them land, but it leaves existing questions unanswered, which may hinder enjoyment for some.

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Leading lady Lupita Nyong’o is utterly fantastic, as expected. Her character Sam is suffering from cancer, and also grieving her Father’s death alongside the life she once had before she got sick, and now, from before the creatures landed. Even in her quieter moments when Sam is forced into silence by these deadly creatures that hunt by sound, Nyong’o is great at expressing emotion, making it easy to be captivated by her. Her face speaks a thousand words, even when her character can’t. Sam is an interesting character with a lot of depth, and luckily, the script takes the time to develop her and let us bond with her. Not only does this create a likable lead that we can root for, but increases the stakes. Starring opposite is Joseph Quinn, who takes a while to enter the scene but is brilliant when he does. Playing a British character called Eric who is in New York to study, Quinn is great at showcasing the loneliness and isolation that his character is experiencing. Latching onto Sam due to being terrified and alone, the pair form a bond that becomes the film’s highlight. Quinn and Nyong’o have great chemistry, and watching their friendship form in the bleakness of this new world adds some levity that tugs the heartstrings. Great supporting performances are given by Alex Wolff (Hereditary) and of course, Nico and Schnitzel the cats in their shared role as support cat Frodo. Frodo has a big role to play here.

A Quiet Place: Day One

What makes A Quiet Place: Day One so captivating is that it commits to being a character-driven dystopian story first, and a creature feature second. There are plenty of brutal moments involving our creepy creatures, but the human characters are at the forefront. It takes time to explore friendship, grief, love, death, terminal illness and more, all against the backdrop of impending doom, a place where death is just around the corner if they put a foot wrong. There is plenty of heart and emotion to help drive this new story forward. It has a really solid story of its own, making it feel like not only a worthwhile prequel but a great one. A Quiet Place: Day One stands strong on its own, whilst complimenting the continuing story well. It nicely balances its quiet character moments with huge action set pieces, featuring plenty of incredibly tense sequences where our characters are trying to make it out alive. 

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The horror aspects are done well, with an intense atmosphere from start to finish, excellent CGI and creature design and expert use of cinematography to show us what lingers in the background. The alien-like creatures receive plenty of screen time, including close-ups that show how terrifying and grim they are, to faraway shots that highlight their fear-inducing size and spider-esque qualities. Watching our characters creep around in silence will never get old, as this entry to the franchise manages to be just as intense as the others. Day One effortlessly keeps you on the edge of your seat, leaving the audience watching carefully where the characters are treading and praying that they don’t drop anything or scream. Taking us from dingy subway stations to huge glass office buildings, the locations that cities have on offer are used flawlessly, creating space for some excellent set design and plenty of claustrophobic moments. This franchise’s unique selling point is the lack of dialogue and overall quietness, due to the gnarly creatures hunting by sound. The new installment understands this, utilizing a fantastic sound design that enables you to hear a pin drop in a packed-out cinema. Not only does this allow for plenty of frightening jump scares, but it continues to be impressive how well the story and characters are developed given the minimal dialogue. The score brings the technical elements together nicely, complimenting the tone well.

A Quiet Place: Day One is mostly a triumph, helmed by exceptional lead performances from Nyong’o and Quinn, brilliant technical aspects including beautiful cinematography and clever sound design and most importantly, a perfect balance of character drama and creature feature. It explores important themes with care and attention whilst ensuring horror fans are consistently engaged by anxiety-inducing scares. It may not pad out the lore or answer questions that some viewers have, but it does well to stand on its own two feet whilst expanding this unique, intriguing world.

A Quiet Place: Day One
‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ Review: An Emotionally Resonant, Worthwhile Prequel
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Becca Johnson

Becca is a Rotten Tomato-approved freelance critic from Essex, UK, with a penchant for horror and coming-of-age. She can mainly be found at Film Focus Online, where she is Senior Writer. She specialises in new release reviews, rankings and Top 10's.

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