It’s rare to have a perfect combination of creativity and talent totally execute on a vision. With film, this is especially true. Perhaps the director doesn’t interpret the screenplay correctly, the screenwriter wrote a bad script, or the actors are phoning it in. Whatever the reason, movies are a collaborative effort and somewhere down the line, something doesn’t entirely hold up.
This is not the case for A Quiet Place, directed by John Krasinski and written by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and Krasinski. Well-crafted, focused, and sharp as a knife, this film grabs hold of you from the first scene and doesn’t let go. It builds and cultivates tension like no other and much of that is thanks to the silence. While it’s not a perfect film (few are), it does so many things right, it’s hard to fault it for the things it got wrong. It’s a rare treat to get sucked into a movie from beginning to end and leave the theater very excited and wanting to see it again. This is easily one of the best horror movies of 2018 so far and likely will be a solid springboard for future sequels and a newfound directorial career for John Krasinski.
Living in a rural area where brutally vicious creatures hunt by sound, in A Quiet Place a small family must stay silent to survive. After a traumatizing event takes place, Lee Abbott (Krasinski) and his family must cope, live with the guilt, and find a way to move on while deadly creatures stalk them at every turn.
The beauty of this film is its attention to detail. From creating a sand pathway that muffles the sound of their footsteps, to devising elaborate and clever survival tactics, the writers thoroughly analyzed what you might have to do to survive a horrifying situation like this. Much of the attention to detail is in the sound design, too. And that’s a good thing. If you’re making a movie about being quiet, the sound design better be intricate and well-thought out.
For instance, in a scene between a deaf sister and her little brother, when they cut to the sister, the sound goes totally mute but when they cut back to the brother, you can hear just a little bit of white noise. These little details really help distinguish even the slightest of sounds, forcing the audiences to pay attention.
Also, the sound design by and large creates the overwhelming tension in the movie. Live in a place where things are silent for too long and paranoia will set in eventually. The silence is so thick you’ll almost want there to be a cataclysmic noise to make it stop. At the same time, you’ll be afraid of sound because of the nigh-indestructible killer monsters lurking at every corner.
The acting also helps sell the horror. Emily Blunt is always a sure bet when needing a solid performance. Usually, she’s the hard-ass that’ll kick you in the face if you get out of line. In this case, while she’s still tough as nails, her character has a softer, motherly side and this element of her character helps provide empathy for both her and her children.
Of course, despite having several roles since then, including a starring role in Michael Bay’s 13 Hours, everyone still remembers John Krasinski as Jim from the U.S. version of The Office. While having a thick and scruffy beard certainly helps, Krasinski doesn’t need it to showcase his acting chops. His range is on full display here, and hopefully, it’ll shake people’s perceptions of him into the future. His direction, however, may even overshadow his acting abilities. He clearly is a talented filmmaker who can deftly tell a horror story. He knows how to make you like characters without giving much exposition and his gradual and intense pacing made for quite the thrill ride. Here’s hoping he hops back into the director’s chair again for another feature.
Let’s get to the heart of things: this movie is tense and terrifying the whole way through. Again, the beauty lies in the detail of the sound and how cleverly the storytellers use it to scare you. I also appreciate that they rarely use jump scares. They exist, but Krasinski shows restraint, a virtue few horror directors have had over the last few decades. The monsters are also gross and hideously ugly to look at. You rarely see them until the end, but when you do, they’re not going to win any beauty contests. As a side note, they reminded me a little bit of the Xenomorphs from Alien.
For all its many virtues, it’s not exactly a perfect film. Many of its themes and settings harken back to a similar thriller – Signs. From running through eerie cornfields to creepy monsters lurking in the shadows to an ending that I won’t spoil, it may be tough for some to shake the similarities. While they do share these things, A Quiet Place is absolutely the scarier of the two. Signs dives deeper into character dilemmas, but A Quiet Place just plain scares you at every turn.
Its greatest flaw is, unfortunately, at the end. So, naturally, we’re wading into spoiler territory if I explained anything further. Let’s just say it’s a slight plot hole that potentially makes the rest of castle of cards crumble. For those of you who have seen the film, I’ll put a special spoiler section at the end to quickly discuss the issue. For everyone else, go see the movie first.
A Quiet Place is a terrifying, visceral, and an intense thrill-ride with a whole lot of heart. It does a great job telling a story without exposition, making you care about the characters, and throwing every scary thing at you. The lack of horror cliches, gore, and other graphic content prove horror films don’t necessarily need them to terrify people. And, subsequently, more people who are squeamish by that might be more inclined to see it. So far, it’s easily the best horror movie of the year, is definitely worth seeing in the theater, and is likely a new horror classic.
For those wanting to know my thoughts on the end, here you go. Again, if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this part. Around the end of the first act, Krasinski’s character gives his daughter a new hearing aid, hoping it’ll work better than the previous ones. This plot device ends up paying off later as a high-pitched sound weapon, capable of hurting, incapacitating, and potentially killing the monsters. At the end of the movie, the little girl figures that out and puts it up to a speaker to amplify the sound and kill the monster. It’s a great pay-off and a cool way to end out a movie trying to find a way to stop these indestructible monsters.
Yet, I couldn’t help but ask: No one on the planet figured that out before these creatures laid waste to everything? Not one scientist could solve this pretty obvious problem? If the creatures have a high sense of hearing, why not use that against them? With that in mind, the end doesn’t land as well, is a little ridiculous, and makes it seem like the writers really wanted to have the required happy ending where the heroes eventually win. But, in horror stories, a happy ending isn’t entirely a must. If anything, a mixed ending while not as optimistic, might have served the story better overall.
Photos courtesy of: Paramount Pictures.
A Quiet Place offers frights, suspense, and tension with fantastic storytelling, solid characters, solid acting, and a deft directorial hand by John Krasinski. If you haven't seen it already, you definitely need to go see it in the theater.