Directed by John Krasinski / 2018
Already by Day 89, things have really fallen apart. The meteorites have crashed down, bringing with them a species of predators that hunt for their food solely through sound. These creatures look like mini-Cloverfields and their heads open up like one of those Ikea lamps. These things are blind, but have preternatural hearing and they have armor, claws, jaws and teeth to spare. The human race has survived across the eons by being endlessly adaptable. When A Quiet Place begins, we see how one family of humans in particular, the Abbotts, have adapted to the new, terrifying normal- by shutting up.
The eldest child, a daughter named Regan, is deaf (as is Millicent Simmonds, the actress that plays her). This gives the family, parents Evelyn and Lee (played by real-life spouses Emily Blunt and writer/director John Krasinski respectively), and the younger brothers, Marcus and Beau (played by Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward, also respectively) a bit of a leg up, as they have already learned to communicate through American Sign Language. They live in constant silence, even walking around constantly barefoot likes hobbits, because the slightest sound from any of them brings swift death.
The movie doesn’t waste any time (and I mean none!) telling the audience how things came to be. It starts off 3 months after the creatures first struck, jumps forward to a little over a year later, and only fills in the gaps as much as it needs to through glimpses of newspaper headlines Lee has plastered on the walls of his cellar. He’s trying to reach out to other survivors through morse code over shortwave radio, but has had no luck. At night, only the distant sight of signal fires from other encampments demonstrate that the Abbotts are not alone in the world.
All of the performers bring their ‘A’ game to this movie, and that’s vital when you have a premise as fantastical as this. If we don’t believe in the people on the screen, all the effects work in the world won’t sell the danger. Luckily, everyone is up to the challenge. That might not be a surprise in the case of seasoned pros like Blunt or Krasinski, but the kids step up too. Noah Jupe, in particular, does a great job as Marcus. As director, Krasinski gets some great performances from his child actors, and that’s not always an easy thing.
The other tricky thing about this movie comes from the basic premise itself. A Quiet Place can’t rely on the crutch of wordy dialogue to keep the audience in the loop. There are a couple of scenes where the characters are able to talk out loud, because they’re in a noisy location that will mask their voices, but for the most part its story is told in (subtitled) sign and familiar gesture. These storytelling techniques are nothing new of course- movies had to deal with this issue for the first 4 decades of their existence. A director like Steven Spielberg can use this technique masterfully (and there’s a sequence late in A Quiet Place that owes a lot of inspiration to the T-Rex attack from Jurassic Park), but overall it seems like a dying craft. I don’t think Krasinski is quite up to Spielberg’s levels yet (and honestly, who is?), but it’s great to see him try. I have to say that it’s nice to see a horror film for once that doesn’t have the characters constantly calling out each other’s name like a roll-call at cheerleading camp.
A Quiet Place is a tense and effective thriller.
John Krasinski is probably best known to audiences for his role as Jim Halpert on the American version of The Office. This isn’t the first feature he’s directed, but it is his first non-comedy. While the movie might have a few too many fake-out jump scares (always accompanied by a loud BANG on the soundtrack no less), A Quiet Place is a tense and effective thriller. All of the logistical questions I had at the start of the movie (what, no one sneezes or coughs over the course of a year??) melt away as the film quickly builds up to its central set-piece: a night where the family is separated through circumstance, the creatures are on the hunt, and Evelyn is going into labor.
The film’s 90 minute running time doesn’t leave it any time for fat, but it makes sure it uses what time it has to develop the family relationships. Regan blames herself for a tragic incident at the start of the movie, and fears that her parents blame her too. Marcus expresses these concerns to his father who tells the boy that of course he still loves Regan. “Then tell her,” Marcus says. Being able to communicate your love and affection is still the most important thing, even in a world where no one can talk.