A Quiet Place (2018).
Director: John Krasinski (Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, The Hollars).
Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe.
I have a core belief that when it comes to horror and thriller films, less is always more. The most effective and memorable movies arrive when there’s a relatively lower budget (see: Get Out, Hush, Unfriended), or films that rely on a central contrivance (see: The Invitation, It Follows, Don’t Breathe).
For lack of a better word, A Quiet Place‘s “gimmick”, is self-evident. As the tagline states “If they hear you, they hunt you”, and the hour-and-a-half running time doesn’t waste a second showing you how true that is. From the opening to its end, there’s a perpetual tension that slowly but surely increases as time goes on, additionally fuelled by the fact that a pregnant woman is soon due to give birth. It’s a wonder that this premise hasn’t already been done to death.
Director, writer (along with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) and The Office alumni John Krasinski stars alongside his real life partner, Emily Blunt, as Lee and Emily Abbot, respectively. Both are fantastic actors in their own right, but together they have an onscreen chemistry that cannot be manufactured, and Krasinski gets the best performance possible from the entire cast. Together, with Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe as Regan and Marcus Abbot, their children, this family of four have to live in silence as creatures hunt down anything that makes a sound.
For the record, the film isn’t completely silent. Before you turn your head away, you won’t be sat in a silent cinema with only the loud rustling of popcorn or chocolate to distract you. Long-time horror composer Marco Beltrami, provides a backing soundtrack that allows you feel comfortable settling into your seat but provides an edge to the events occurring on-screen at the same time.
And what’s going on most of the time? Not much of interest, in all honesty. But that’s what makes the film enthralling. There’s not much left of the world. It’s up to the viewer to piece together what’s going on through what they see, a much more effective way of world building and storytelling. Towns are deserted, shops are barren, cars are empty. Figure out what’s going on and you’ll start to realize the danger these characters are in. Communication is done via sign-language for the majority of the time (Simmonds is actually deaf, and taught her fellow actors sign-language for the film, props for the authenticity) and they walk barefoot along sand as to not make any noise. While there are horrifying creatures to watch out for, Krasinski has successfully transformed sound into this film’s monster, and it’s incredibly effective.
While some might not accept a couple of flaws in the film’s premise (why would the parents want to have a baby, notorious for being loud, in their current predicament?), there’s more than enough here to offer scares and thrills for anyone. Never has a floor creaking or an open nail been so terrifying. And then finally, when the inevitable happens, and Emily Blunt’s character goes into labour, Krasinski’s direction provides one of the most distressing scenes I’ve seen in modern thrillers. It’s superbly potent, and the entire film proves his prowess behind a camera, in this genre at least. I’m hesitant to say much more, because I think this film is most effective when the viewer knows as little as possible.
A wonderfully simple and original idea in a sea of sequels and superheroes, this will no doubt be in top ten lists for 2018’s best films. If you loved the tension and thrills of last year’s Get Out, you’ll enjoy A Quiet Place. See it before others start telling you to see it.
Feature image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.