Make a sound. You die.
It’s an interesting premise, but what makes “A Quiet Place” especially unsettling is that the film (directed by John Krasinski) carries that mantra directly into the audience. If you see this in theaters, you’ll do well to forgo the popcorn, candy, or any other common noise-makers. The silence is almost palpable and almost immediately the audience is drawn into a world where communication is done through American Sign Language. The film opens 89 days after skeletal, humanoid aliens have already landed. A small family is foraging for materials (namely medicine) when the audience is pushed into the horror of the film’s reality – even the slightest noise can cause these monsters to appear and ravage the poor soul who dared make a sound. There’s a lot that works in the film. The cinematography allows one to envision a forgotten world. One in which even the survivors must muster the strength and fortitude to continue going. Survival, for example, means the family constantly has to monitor their noise level, which means pouring lines of sand for them to walk in and having a color-coded system in which to warn each other of danger.
The acting, usually a horror miss, is deserving of applause in this film. Evelyn and Lee (played by real life couple, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) not only have obvious chemistry, but there is no questioning the love the characters have for their children. It’s a love that is honest, which means there are times when the parents make mistakes, grave ones, and thus, the audience is left pondering their own decisions. In equal vein, the son, Marcus (played by Noah Jupe) does a remarkable job playing a child who fears what’s out there and wants to shirk any future responsibilities he might have in a bid for safety. This acts as a good counter to stand-out character, Regan, (played by Millicent Simmonds) who wants desperately to secure a role in keeping the family safe and protected as daughter and sister. Since Regan is deaf, she must not only take a backseat role to this, but her deafness becomes its own crutch. Krasinski, as a director handles this especially well and I found myself wanting desperately to see her have some kind of victory, even if it meant drawing in more monsters. It is also worth noting that Simmonds is deaf in real life which is a wonderful bit of representation.
Perhaps one of the biggest failings of the movie, for me personally, is the creatures themselves. The skinless humanoid trope has been seen time and time again. We saw them in Signs, Pan’s Labyrinth, Stranger Things, and I Am Legend just to name a few. In addition, the design also causes the creatures to open their strange heads to take in more sound frequencies. It’s both bizarre visually and in a technical facet. I wish designs would have drawn more from bats (other than the creatures’ large ears) or other echolocation-using creatures. Moreover, while I could appreciate the B-movie feel of the piece (newspapers, for example, alert both the audience and characters to the rise of these monsters), there are times when some of the technical details, or the lack therefore, caused me to over-analysis and question some what was happening on film.
In addition, there were also moments where the tension was halted to let more exposition seep in. For example, there is scene between father and son where they openly talk about the daughter’s feelings and how the creature’s hearing works (louder sounds drawn out smaller sounds). This felt like too much hand-holding for the audience and was placed to have a platform for a latter plot point. Although, unnecessary I could forgive this flatness because of the way that the rest of the piece unfolds.
Overall, A Quiet Place is a piece of masterful storytelling by Krasinski. The focus here is on the family and their will to survive. It is through that lens that the director can use our own senses against us and give us a piece that is not only memorable, but one that requires further analysis and thought.
Run Time: 95 minutes
Production: Paramount Pictures
Director: John Krasinski
Screenplay: Bryan Woods & Scott Beck