For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one can leave you miserable. Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror releases, comparing them with classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each release’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore.
The latest streaming hit to get probed: No One Will Save You, which stars Kaitlyn Dever as a small-town outcast faced with fending off an alien invasion all by her lonesome. Written and directed by Brian Duffield (Spontaneous), the Hulu movie is virtually dialogue-free, which might make Dever the first scream queen to do nothing but scream. (OK, she grunts a little, too.) Does the lack of chatter ratchet up the tension or let it all hang out? The truth is right here.
If you’ve seen Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart, or Dopesick or Unbelievable or, going way back, as Justified’s teenage lawbreaker, you know she’s got chops for days, which comes in handy when you need to make goggle eyes for 90 minutes straight. Brynn (Dever) is already reeling from the death of her mother and an initially unexplained rift with a childhood friend that has left her ostracized from her small-town neighbors. So she’s already on her own when a shadowy figure starts scurrying though her house, sending her scurrying under the bed and trying desperately to keep from making a sound. Dever makes the most of the camera lingering on her terrified face, and her fear-struck breathing is a feat all its own. The movie eventually errs in showing too much and explaining too little, but until then, you can feel the screws tightening by the second.
If gore means blood and guts, then No One Will Save You is closer to a zero, but if we’re talking body horror, there’s quite a bit to make your skin literally crawl. When Brynn does turn to her neighbors for help, she finds them possessed by unseen parasites that you can see wriggling just under the surface of their necks in a way that would make a chestburster proud. Naturally, said parasites eventually set their sights on Brynn, and the sequence that plays out takes the movie as close as it gets to true terror.
Aliens aren’t supernatural, but No One Will Save You keeps both the true nature of its invaders and their powers under wraps for long enough to make it feel like there’s more than science fiction going on here. The weight of Brynn’s past transgressions—the specifics of which are revealed in the movie’s closing minutes—adds a touch of ghost story to its home-invasion plot, and makes it feel that, even as Brynn is laying traps and wielding sewing scissors, there’s something intangible and inexplicable to the nature of the threat. Again, the eventual explanation undoes much of the creepiness that’s come before, but some of it sticks around.
No One Will Save You could have been a spectacularly scary short film. Instead it’s a movie that starts off with an incredibly strong premise and sense of itself, and then squanders nearly all of it in a scattershot middle and confounding conclusion. Nearly every horror movie is scariest if you stop it before the ending, but in this case the drop-off is even sharper than you’d expect.