By Jack Dignan
Right from the opening sequence, A Quiet Place grips you with its sheer terror and unbridled shock value. This is a horror film unlike any other. It’s a terrifying, tantalizing experience that maintains its dread from the opening shot until the applause-worthy finale. You’ve seen horror movies before, but I guarantee you; you’ve never seen anything like A Quiet Place. It’s a film that demands to be seen. But you’re not going to want to walk home alone in the dark afterwards.
Set in a near-off future, where the world has turned somewhat apocalyptic and a great deal of the population has died off, we focus in on a family of five. We follow husband and wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski), as well as their three kids Marcus (Noah Jupe), Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Beau (Cade Woodward), who are living out in a secluded farm, following routine and staying close to safety. For out in the woods, surrounding them at all times, lives a mysterious alien threat that will attack anything that makes a sound. To survive, they’ll have to stay silent.
This is the type of horror I live for. It’s smart, daring and wholeheartedly original, and best of all, the filmmakers are able to convey this narrative with practically zero lines of dialogue. A Quiet Place is the ultimate display of ‘show not tell.’ The screenplay by John Krasinski, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods is unrelenting in its viciousness, but sentimental in its approach to family. You care about everyone on screen, wanting them to survive, but the situation they’ve been forced into is a dark, violent one where hopes and prayers won’t get them very far.
As you’ll no doubt be aware, staying quiet 24/7 is practically impossible in the modern society, but these creatures feed off of sound. Even the smallest of bangs will see them sprinting in your general direction, hunting you out and feasting on your flesh, creating this constant sense of unease and anxiety. You’re always on edge. Even when things seem to be going okay, you know that the slightest misstep could see this perfect sanctuary come crashing down, and that it does. You can’t really have a horror movie without things going wrong, and ohhhhh boy do they.
John Krasinski directs the absolute shit out of this movie. I haven’t seen his previous directorial efforts, so going into A Quiet Place I was unsure of what to expect from him as both a director and a horror-movie lead, but he nails both of them. Krasinski is a force to be reckoned with, both in front of and behind the camera. This also marks the first time he’s acted alongside his real-life wife Emily Blunt, who, even in bad films, has just been on the top of her game in recent years. They’re both incredible, but shockingly enough, it’s the kids who steal the show.
An argument could be made that we see this story more from their perspective than anybody else, and it works. Noah Jupe continues to be excellent in everything he does, already at age 13 working with more high-caliber actors and directors than I’ll probably ever get to meet in my lifetime. Millicent Simmonds is another standout, providing a rich emotional layer to the film that really hits home in the third act. I didn’t expect to get teary eyed in a horror movie, and yet it happened. It’s a moving ode to family and parenthood that, at the same time, will frighten the shit out of you.
This really is just a masterfully crafted horror film. Sound is always a key element of suspense, and A Quiet Place takes that to a whole other level. This film is carried by its sound design, and wow, what an incredible achievement it is. The visuals of the monsters loses its effect after a while, suffering from the horror movie cliché of showing too much of it and losing the scare factor, but the sound design redeems a lot of it. And my god, there’s about a twenty minute sequence in the middle that I’m probably never going to recover from. It’s insane.
There’s a lot to love in A Quiet Place, a lot more than there is to dislike. It’s not perfect, and there’s a few moments here and there that got a laugh out of me for all the wrong reasons, but it’s a film so gripping and white knuckling that I implore you to check it out this weekend. You think you’ve seen it all when it comes to horror? Well, A Quiet Place just arrived to prove you wrong. This is, without a doubt, one of the year’s best.
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