It is somewhat refreshing to watch a movie whose entire premise can be summed up with a finger on the lips and a single, quiet ‘Shhhhhhh…’ Too often, big budget franchises rely on excessive exposition.

Djimon Hounsou, the star of the new horror/thriller A Quiet Place: Day One, delivers the aforementioned hushed expository after a short scene-setting prologue. The best advice when it comes to writing is to always keep things simple. Crafting an engaging story can frequently benefit from simplicity. Nonetheless, there are drawbacks to simplicity. If you make it too simple, there’s a chance viewers will think they were conned.

Over the years, I have truly come to enjoy the A Quiet Place series. The first two instalments introduced us to a terrifying new world in which humans were terrorised by blind aliens with razor-sharp hearing and teeth that would shred anyone who made a sound, forcing them to live in a constant state of paranoid silence. The films from 2018 and 2020 followed a young family headed by John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as they struggled to survive in rural America. However, this third iteration chooses a different setting and presents a fresh, if more formulaic, interpretation of the franchise.

This time, the movie takes place in one of the world’s noisiest cities, New York. Lupita Nyong’o portrays Sam, a patient with terminal cancer who is confined to a hospice ward. Stubborn and difficult, she spends her days causing trouble for her nurse, Reuben (Alex Wolff). Aliens invade and chaos breaks out when the locals are taken to see a puppet show in the city. She meets Eric, a law student played by Joseph Quinn, as mayhem engulfs the streets. Day One follows the two of them as they struggle to live amidst Manhattan’s continuous death and destruction. There is, however, another more important character that many people have overlooked.

A few movie elements – Godzilla, zombies, the absence of Hugh Grant, and Jennifer Lawrence, of course – are sure to draw me into the cinema. But cats are one of this critic’s main draws. And this movie features an incredible, if a little unbelievable, cat. Sam’s cat, Frodo, accompanies the duo. Compared to everyone else in the film, this one seems more courageous and intelligent. Even so, it has to be acknowledged that every cat on the planet howls or meows. Frodo barely makes a sound during the whole film. Cats… The original gangsters.

Sam has adopted a carefree Sartrean perspective that life is meant to be lived in the moment as a result of her illness and the years she spent surrounded by death. When you compare this existentialist worldview with Eric’s career-driven life, you get an intriguing dynamic.

The acting is excellent. Nyong’o is great; working with Jordan Peele on Us helped her perfect her ability to convey terror through contorted emotional expressions. I may be biased, but Quinn, a fellow Brit, steals the show here. He is nothing like Eddie, the endearing but foolish metal-head from Stranger Things. A dapper suit and neatly coiffed hair have replaced the band-patched denim jacket and 80s James Hetfield hair. He is kind, sympathetic, and considerate in his role as Eric, as demonstrated when, towards the end of the film, the two have a very moving moment in an empty bar. It’s a heartfelt and brilliantly performed scene that shows meaning can sometimes be expressed without words. Writers take note: adult white men don’t always have to be cruel, bigoted capitalists.

The subtext of the movie is great; Day One is more a tale of how people from differing backgrounds band together and show selflessness in times of need than it is about slaying a horde of bloodthirsty aliens. It’s about finding happiness in the silliest of things. About trying to find meaning and purpose in a lost world. For cultural examples, consider Godzilla: Year Zero. However, whereas Takashi Yamazaki’s movie had a clear storyline, Day One’s context is a little unclear.

Directed by Michael Sarnoski, A Quiet Place Day One, serves as a prequel story. It raises several rhetorical questions that fans of the movies have long wondered about, like how all this began and why an army of aliens has chosen Earth for its dinner… Did our intergalactic relatives become enraged with us because we were going to too many wild Taylor Swift concerts?

Regrettably, despite a few touching moments, the film merely meanders from scene to scene and provides scant, if any, insight into either of those questions. Which is unfortunate given the calibre of the director. Fans of Sarnoski’s 2021 film Pig, in which Nicholas Cage plays a chef who becomes a crazed vigilante, are aware of the director’s creativity.

This is one of those films that you must see in cinemas. Part of the allure of horror is the experience of viewing it with others. Moments of panic and terror create a collective tension and shared sense of euphoria that only those present in the theatre can understand. See it, but while the trailers are playing, I advise you to open all snacks and sweets. If not, you’ll be the one subjected to a collective shhhhhhh. Still, perhaps this is one instance where silence is preferable.

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