May 28, 2024

SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses plot points in “No One Will Save You.”

Horror Film School is a new feature in which talent in front of and behind the camera share the ins and outs of creating the biggest onscreen scares.

“No One Will Save You,” out Friday on Hulu, is an incredibly lean genre movie: Aliens come down and invade the house of reclusive loner Brynn Adams (Kaitlyn Dever), and she must defend her property and warn her small town that extraterrestrials are trying to assimilate.

Writer and director Brian Duffield pulls off two difficult things in his creature feature: The characters speak very little dialogue, and the aliens stalking Brynn are seen early and often — and they’re actually scary.

Duffield spoke to Variety about how he was able to make both tricky choices work.

How to make a film with limited dialogue

DON’T make it a gimmick

Although high-profile horror features like 2016’s “Hush” and 2018’s “A Quiet Place” have limited dialogue, Duffield said it was not an intentional writing challenge, but rather the result of the story he was telling.

“I had this character that I knew was a recluse,” he said. “It’s not a monologuing movie, so it stemmed out of that. Also, with her character being alone, she needs to not have power in her house so that she doesn’t have access to information. For me, that’s what was scary.”

DO trust the audience to keep up with the storytelling

In the film, Brynn is a loner due to a gradually revealed incident in her past that makes her feel like an outcast in her community — and even if people knew that aliens were on the loose, neighbors may not be inclined to help her. This is underlined during a tense scene in which Brynn goes to town to try to warn the police about the extraterrestrials, but has an unexpected confrontation with people from her past. Duffield said the complex emotions and backstory made it the scene that was toughest to conceptualize and shoot with limited dialogue.

“There was a lot of discussion about, ‘What is her character thinking?’ and ‘How can we have the audience catch up about why she’s not running into town screaming that the world is ending?’” Duffield said. “She thinks, ‘I have to plead my case,’ and it doesn’t go well. I think the audience catches up pretty quickly to it. I knew there would be even less dialogue than I had planned originally. That would be the scariest and worst thing to have happened in that situation: She’s alone and people don’t want to help her. It’s an unusual situation for an alien invasion movie.”

DON’T overdo it

Duffield isn’t closed to doing another movie in this style but doesn’t think it’s very likely.

“If I wound up doing two of these it would be crazy,” he said. “But I’m open to it. In my first movie [2020’s “Spontaneous”] there was so much talking, and I knew I wanted to streamline it down. But surprisingly it didn’t feel that different to me than a movie with a ton of dialogue. Acting is still acting. You’re always trying as a director to tell the story as visually and as cleanly as you can.”

How to make a film with scary aliens

DON’T be afraid to show them off

The idea to reveal the aliens early, instead of having them only lurk in the shadows, was an intentional choice from the start.

“It’s the anti-Hitchcock, anti-‘Jaws’ kind of thing,” Duffield said. “It’s hopefully making people go, ‘There’s a reason why we’re seeing so much so early.’ By the end of the first act, you quickly understand that there’s a really interesting opportunity to do a story where these aliens have come from light years away. They’re here now, they’ve avoided all human detection, but now they don’t need to be cheeky — just walking into her house is the most boring part of their day.”

DO give them a classic look, if it fits your story

Opposed to the fantastical beings in recent films like 2016’s “Arrival” and 2022’s “Nope,” the aliens in “No One Will Save You” are modeled after the “grey alien” archetype.

“We all grew up with the greys,” Duffield said. “I felt like I was missing this movie monster that I loved and no one was giving it to me. I think most of filmmaking is making the movie that you want to see that no one else is making. I wanted to see this monster back on my screen.”

DON’T be afraid of collaboration

Although Duffield had the initial vision, he trusted the team on his film to make the aliens even more detailed and intimidating.

“A lot of awesome people came in and made everything better,” he said. “Even stuff like their distinct toes, that was something our creature designers came up with. Then the sound guys brought up so many great ideas and ways to build out their culture. We have a big alien at the end, we call him Daddy Long Legs. It has a very rhythmic hand motion that came out of a day of mocap we had with some performers. That’s exciting and cool.”

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