I’ve already named Brian Duffield’s latest offering as one of my must-watch films for October, but I wanted to talk about it in a more detailed fashion, because it’s that good. Centered around Brynn working through her past trauma while dealing with extraterrestrial home invaders, it’s one of the most fascinating cinematic achievements I’ve seen in recent memory. Even the trailer is impressive! Leaning heavily on its fantastic sound design, this tightly-wound horror is a wonderfully expansive look at the self, trauma, family and forgiveness.
With just 5 words of dialogue throughout its 93-minute runtime, this movie relies a lot on small details to help viewers situate themselves in the narrative. Instead of explaining that Brynn’s mother has recently died, leaving her completely alone, we see Brynn sitting at her gravesite, and have to read the headstone. Peoples’ expressions as Brynn walks past signal that she’s been shunned in her small town, and her constantly working on an apology letter to Maude lets us know something terrible has happened between the two. This was a big gamble, because it could’ve easily made the film cumbersome, or caused us to get lost; but Duffield and co. actually do a wonderful job of letting us know everything we need to. I never felt frustrated or confused, just wildly impressed at such efficient filmmaking. Because the movie largely lacks spoken words, things like visuals and sound design became even more important, and are (thankfully) executed so well.
Light and focus pulling do a ton of weightlifting for this movie. Aaron Morton’s cinematography washes the film in cool blues that burst into warm tones when tensions are at their highest. Along with this playful use of color, there’s a ton of contrast to each image, and that heavy shadow injects a ton of emotion and tension into the frame. There are a lot of moments when the aliens aren’t shown clearly. Instead, they’re a blurry image just on the edge of the frame while the focus stays on Brynn’s terrified expression, pulling viewers even closer to the edge of their seats. If I had one complaint, I’d say the alien design was pretty basic, but I still think there were some fun variations on the classic look, so I can’t fault them too much, especially considering the camerawork here. Be it a tight push zoom or an almost godlike overhead shot, the camera is constantly in a position that not only increases tension, but plays with POV in a really dynamic way, especially when taken alongside the sound design. Brynn’s panicked breath, footsteps running behind her in the house, the hum of the UFO’s tractor beam, all these elements feel so tactile and immediate because of how sound operates in this film. It’s so immersive you won’t even notice that barely any words have been spoken. Maybe that also has to do with the acting.
Being the lead in a film with few other actors, Kaitlyn Dever was given what could have been a suicide mission, yet she carries this film so well. Showing a range of emotions that spans each side of the spectrum, the subtle nuances of her facial expressions and the embodied manner in which she sprints away from danger show a commitment that’s hard to put into words. In so many ways, she is this movie; and as we see Brynn slowly come to the realization that no one will save her from the ghosts of the past, coming to understand that she must save herself, all without dialogue, it’s hard to say this isn’t one of the better acting performances given this year.
If you couldn’t tell by now, I loved this movie. It not only delivers a tense, adrenaline-filled ride, but also gives a uniquely emotional and smartly written exploration of trauma and forgiveness. If for some reason you haven’t streamed this on Hulu yet, you should! You should also consider subscribing to the blog’s Patreon by clicking here! For just $3 per month, you can keep this blog ad-free and independent, and stay up to date on every post. There are also some cool benefits for those who choose to support the blog including: suggesting which movies I review, getting personalized movie recommendations, access to free giveaways and more! Starting this week I'll begin dropping reviews for movies I saw at this year's New York Film Festival, so there's never been a better time to join and support!