A Quiet Place, 2018.
Directed by John Krasinski.
Starring Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe.
A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
A Quiet Place presents one of the worst possible scenarios to conceive and bring into the world a baby (also known as beings that are pretty much the antithesis of silence), so the couple here does it anyway. The mourning parents (played by John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) who still have two children left after a tragedy decide to have another, despite the fact John Krasinski’s (making his sophomore directorial effort contributing to a script written and a story conceptualized by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck) admittedly suspenseful creature feature stresses the deadly consequence of alerting the monsters with noise whether it be intentional or accidental. Simply put, these things may be blind, but sonically they have an unparalleled range of hearing and use that to their advantage, capable of pinging the location of the sound and sprinting over there as quick as bees on honey to violently eliminate the source.
The prologue displays how dangerous they are, although it would have added more dread to the rest of the proceedings if Krasinski had held off on actually showing them in all their disgusting, humongous eared, scissor-armed, retracting head (it has the functionality of opening up like a flower) glory right from the beginning (fear of the unknown is infinitely scarier). Essentially, forget trying to send out an SOS, you’re SOL if they (it’s worth mentioning that the creatures have literally no backstory and the same goes for the apocalyptic, rural countryside area the audience is dropped into) hear you.
To Krasinski’s credit, he doubles down on this concept, forcing the family of four (soon to be five again roughly a year after losing a child as a result of some parenting ineptitude) to communicate through whispers and sign language that is subtitled for the viewers. This is both a bold move from a direction/mainstream marketability standpoint, and another example of a risky and daring release from Paramount Pictures (they’re taking chances putting out ambitious works like mother!, Annihilation, and now A Quiet Place and deserve some applause for freshening up the pool of wide releases). This allows the filmmaker/actor to utilize silence as a sound, but also the opportunity to play around with sound design and mixing; there is a frequency to every sound here whether it be footsteps, a character clumsily stepping down onto a nail sticking out through the stair steps, a lantern knocked over starting a fire (this one is more of a jump scare than anything and will certainly catch audiences off guard more than 90% of jump scares left to be found in 2018), and more that heightens the palpable tension from these situations. Normally when one hears noise in a theater auditorium they want to pellet the obnoxious patron responsible with popcorn, but A Quiet Place successfully transforms all sound into a horror element.
Krasinski also knows how to stage a nightmarish sequence; for a horror flick A Quiet Place plays out more similar to an action vehicle as most of the time the threads holding these life-threatening events together (the last 45 minutes is one extended segment that throws every family member through a gauntlet of encounters with the creatures, and yes, no Hollywood star is immune from biting the dust here) are shaky and contrived, but the talent both behind and in front of the camera is just too damn good, plot conveniences be damned. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are not the sole sources of this praise either, as child actors Millicent Simmonds (disarmingly charming in last year’s Wonderstruck) and Noah Jupe (probably the best aspect of the disaster that was Suburbicon) are fantastic, able to convey necessary emotions with obviously numerous restrictions. In particular, Simmonds is given a more personal arc related to the strained relationship with her father that amounts to some affecting moments that would not resonate as well as they do without her being able to match John Krasinski’s performance every step of the way.
The problems just all come back to the frustratingly dumb choice to willingly bring a baby into this world. BABIES CRY! They make noise! The movie is called A Quiet Place! Sound results in immediate death! Maybe this would be less of a problem if in between losing a child, the narrative dictated to us why it was important for these two lovebirds to conceive. Clearly, it is a reaction to the grieving, but character work needs to be done for anyone to empathize with their boneheaded decision. As of right now, it doesn’t service the actual story; pregnancy is low-hanging genre fruit to inject more suspense, making aspects of the film feel cheap regardless of the stellar direction and acting.
There’s no denying that A Quiet Place is solidly crafted and will possibly be 2018’s most unique horror offering, but those that can overlook or accept head-scratching decisions from the family will get more out of the terrorizing experience. However, for some, it will reasonably be a complete dealbreaker. Then again, maybe the message is that no matter how crummy the world gets we have to reproduce and give our children the necessary tools to build themselves a life worth living… which is still a stretch to buy into given how efficient these monsters are at killing from catching any noise.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com