‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ Review: Where Apocalyptic Horror Meets Inspiring, Thematically Rich Character Arcs

For cinephiles like me, the vast majority of films watched throughout the year don’t need specific reasons to “convince” me to visit the theater or turn on the TV on one of the streaming channels. That said, there’s always a standout element in the movie to be watched that raises expectations, whether it’s the director, screenwriter, cast, genre, franchise, or another appealing aspect of the 7th art. Almost everything about the production of this prequel heightened my interest and enthusiasm. Written and directed by Michael Sarnoski (Pig), starring Lupita Nyong’o (Us), and, of course, co-produced by the filmmaker-actor who started it all, John Krasinski, A Quiet Place: Day One tells the story of the day the world succumbed to silence.


Without delving into unnecessary personal details, A Quiet Place: Day One couldn’t have been released at a better time of the year. Sarnoski demonstrates all his qualities as a director by creating a truly chaotic, genuinely terrifying apocalyptic atmosphere packed with tension-filled sequences that will satisfy viewers seeking pure horror entertainment. The intelligent use of out-of-focus backgrounds to generate even more suspense and the complete trust in the cast at his disposal – allowing for persistent camera work to let the actors truly perform – are just two of the many technical attributes visible throughout the film.

A Quiet Place: Day One is a story about survival, humanity, and the will to live

However, it’s in his script that Sarnoski manages to transform A Quiet Place: Day One into more than just a cinematic exercise to answer superficial questions about the origin of the world’s end. Thematically, this prequel/spin-off is as rich or more than the other installments. It continues to explore the franchise’s central themes – a story about survival, humanity, and the will to live – but adds inspirational, beautifully developed character arcs around complex issues such as dealing with extreme anxiety, terminal illnesses that take away the aforementioned will to live, and even the vital help of emotional support animals, as well as the importance of seemingly irrelevant everyday details that we take for granted.

As someone who recently went through a complicated health phase – admittedly far from an apocalyptic scenario – I couldn’t help but be moved by some interactions between Sam (Nyong’o) and Eric (Joseph Quinn), with their few dialogues being incredibly meaningful. Never giving up on the battle of life and not forgetting to live in circumstances where life itself seems to be the one thing that shouldn’t exist are messages that stayed with me and had a tremendous narrative and thematic impact throughout A Quiet Place: Day One.

Lupita Nyong'o and Joseph Quinn in A Quiet Place - Day One
Lupita Nyong’o and Joseph Quinn in A Quiet Place: Part One. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Being familiar with anxiety and holding a love for dogs bigger than for many human beings, I was surprised that Sarnoski managed to transport unique moments that I considered extremely personal to an insane fictional story where aliens invade our planet and attack people at the quietest sound. I’ve always had trouble explaining in words how comforting and calming the presence and company of dogs are to my daily serenity. Well, A Quiet Place: Day One became the best audiovisual example I could ever give – just with a cat.

Alexis Grapsas’s (Pig) score adds a sentimental layer to the narrative that the previous movies didn’t have – A Quiet Place: Day One has more freedom to use background music than the post-apocalyptic future – while, in terms of world-building, the prequel doesn’t offer much to the saga. There’s no special origin story about why the aliens invaded Earth – they just did – and the “how” was already known, just never before seen on a scale as large as New York City.

Thus, as the novelty factor is nonexistent, not only do the monsters lose some power as the mysterious, frightening creatures they once were, but there’s also no room for any creative additions to their movement or ways to combat them, leading to repetitions of scenes already seen again and again in the other films – for example, watching the characters learn they can speak when their voices are camouflaged by other sounds like rain or thunder.

That said, A Quiet Place: Day One isn’t that affected by these minor issues caused by simply being part of a saga, as the actors easily make up for any drop in levels of interest or entertainment with superb performances across the board, despite being a short cast. Alex Wolff (Hereditary) eats every minute of screen time to exhibit an altruistic Reuben, the caretaker of the hospice where Sam is fighting her cancer, who exemplifies the pure kindness of human beings. Quinn (Stranger Things) perfectly illustrates the total lack of control stemming from always inconvenient anxiety attacks, but above all, the actor exceptionally portrays Eric, a suit-and-tie law school British student lost in NYC who sees Sam as a pillar for his survival and, most importantly, for his mental health.

Lupita Nyong’o shows why she’s an A-lister in A Quiet Place: Day One

But it’s Nyong’o who, once again, proves that she deserves to belong to the A-listers category in Hollywood. A Quiet Place: Day One is a magnificent showcase for the actress, who has already suffered from the well-known bias against the horror genre during the awards season by being “robbed” of greater recognition for her impressive performance in Us. Hope is the last to die, so I hope she gets more acclaim for her depiction of a brave woman who, even facing the incomparable pain of cancer, serves as an inspiration for others to continue to fight for their lives, just as she was reminded by Eric of the joy of living when everything around them pointed to the opposite.

Djimon Hounsou and Lupita Nyong'o in A Quiet Place - Day One
Djimon Hounsou and Lupita Nyong’o in A Quiet Place: Day One. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Final Thoughts

A Quiet Place: Day One stands out for its thematically rich, complex, universal screenplay, resuming the franchise’s exploration of topics such as the fight for survival, humanity, and the will to live, while enriching the saga with inspirational character arcs around mental, physical, and emotional health. Michael Sarnoski displays his exceptional ability to create an apocalyptic atmosphere filled with suspense and terror at every turn, ensuring high entertainment value throughout the whole runtime. The notable performances by Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn, and Alex Wolff significantly elevate the movie, with Nyong’o, in particular, delivering a powerful, intense performance that underscores the importance of finding hope and joy amid despair. The emphasis on the importance of emotional support animals is the cherry on top that makes this installment a valuable, moving addition to the saga.

Score: A-

A Quiet Place: Day One is now playing in theaters.

Learn more, including how to get tickets,  at the film’s official website. 

You might also like…

Tiger Stripes Movie Review


‘Tiger Stripes’ Movie Review: Fresh Setting and Performances But Stale Plot