“No One Will Save You” beams onto Hulu on Friday, and if you aren’t already in a spooky autumnal mood, this should do the trick.
While much of the power of the film is derived from knowing as preciously little about it as possible, we can say that the movie is the story of Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever), a young woman living alone in the woods, who gets some unwelcome (and otherworldly) visitors. From there it’s a nonstop roller-coaster ride, with writer/director Brian Duffield toggling between the existential dread of Brynn’s past and her very urgent need to survive this terror.
TheWrap spoke to Duffield about where “No One Will Save You” came from, what it was like working with Dever (“Dopesick,” “Booksmart”) and whether he’s ready to jump onto a preestablished franchise. (After people see “No One Will Save You,” look for his name to be a part of every big movie shortlist for the foreseeable future.) Minor spoiler warning, of course.
What made you want to create the ultimate alien abduction movie?
I made my first movie a few years back called “Spontaneous “and it’s about kids that think they might explode at any point in their lives. And while I was making that, I really took that theme to heart and I was like, “I got to kitchen sink this shit.” I’ve taken that little thing with me and I was like, “The odds are I won’t do two alien movies.” I mean, I might, but who knows?
And it would be a real bummer if I was like, “Yeah, but I didn’t have a UFO or I didn’t have this.” It was partially, selfishly, let me play with all of the toys. But then narratively, it was like, “Let’s make Brynn’s problems as plentiful as possible and just kind of throw every single kind of thing at her.” Because I think the way we start off, we introduce our alien problem five minutes in. And it’s not a spoiler to say that’s not the only problem in the movie. We wanted that grab bag of we’re going to throw everything at her, and that’s going to be part of the fun. It’s going to be things you recognize but probably not all at once.
When did you decide to essentially make it a silent film?
It was very late. I don’t outline when I write, so I’m figuring it out as I go. And then at some point it’s like you’re 50 pages in. I don’t usually go back and read. I just kind of see where the winds take me. And then I did this time and I was just like, “It’s very stupid that I did not notice this,” but I didn’t. But then it made me feel good because it came out of a purely character place instead of a silly screenwriter place. It really came out of this character is alone and she’s going through the craziest thing imaginable, and no one will help her. And I knew I didn’t want the radio update telling her stuff. I didn’t want Orson Wells on the radio giving her updates about what was going on in Sacramento.
It just kind of came naturally and then it just became a fun way to be in her brain. And again, I think for me it was just, and it was something I talked to with Kaitlyn a bunch where it was just like, “If you talk, you talk, that’s cool. It’s not important to me.” These other things are the reasons why we’re making the movie. And Kaitlyn, I think, was so much more excited about the physical stuff than that aspect of it. At the end of it too, we were all just like, “This is not any different than making a movie with a lot of talking.” I think it sounds interesting, but yeah, it was such a non-starter, and it is fun for the audience to discover it, but it’s never been our selling point either. We’re just kind of like, it’s cool, but tune in to see Kaitlyn Dever act her ass off. Everything else is gravy.
Can you talk about working with Kaitlyn and crafting a performance where characterization is defined mostly by action?
I was blown away but it was exactly what I expected. You look at her body of work and it’s just crazy good performances, one after the other. I got what I expected. I was like this girl is unbelievable, no pun intended to her show, which is one of my favorite performances ever. It is just ridiculous what she can do and how quick she can do it. You call action and she does it, and you’re like, “I guess we’re good.” It’s such a superpower that she has.
I’m so glad you brought that up about the action and revealing character through that. She was so excited about that because she hadn’t gotten to do a movie like this before because she’d been too busy crushing other genres. And so getting to do that I think was so exciting for her. She was throwing herself around our sets, and I was always terrified she was going to hurt herself because she was just running so fast and throwing herself up stairs and getting on wires and getting launched. I think she had the time of her life doing it and was just such a great leader on set, especially for a movie like this where if your crew doesn’t like your actor, especially if it’s one actor, it’s a slog. And our crew loved Kaitlyn, and she loved the crew, and it just made it such a breeze.
Making the movie was really hard because of COVID and weather and all these different things. But it is so great when you have someone on your set like Kaitlyn that just makes it so much easier. Her dog’s on set. It’s great.
Does working on a movie of this scale/complexity make you want to jump into a big franchise?
I love big movies. It would depend if I could do my thing. It’s a bigger budget than my last movie, but it’s not like a gargantuan budget. I don’t have the toy company being like, “You can’t do that with our characters on this.” And I produced “Cocaine Beer,” which is a slightly bigger budget, but the fun of that too was there’s a lot of room for Elizabeth [Banks] to play on that movie too, and not really have to worry about the pressures of how’s this going to sell t-shirts at Target?
I’d love to do something like that someday. It just would have to be the right thing. I’m not attached to any of them right now or anything like that. I wrote a franchise movie years ago that came out, and I had a really fun time on that, but at the same time, they don’t come along to me that often. I think people, for better or worse, like these yarns I’m spinning. And so I’m just like, “Well, I’ll keep doing that until they force me to do something giant.” Not that they would force me, but I don’t know. I’m not trying to be coy.
If the right thing came along that I loved, I would jump at the opportunity because I’d be so scared. And I think that’s how I make most of my decisions. But at the current time, I think I’m just doing Duffield joints.
“No One Will Save You” premieres Friday on Hulu.