A very unique and smartly-crafted monster movie. Something not often found these days.
The world has been terrorized by nameless creatures that can kill instantly, are virtually invulnerable, and have an incredible capacity for hearing. After the world is ravaged, a family of five struggle to survive in the wilderness, living almost entirely soundless lives.
Sometimes the best stories are the simplest ones, and sometimes the simpler the telling of the story the better it is. A Quiet Place may not have had the best marketing (the trailer made it look quite trope-y) but it does a great job at portraying a horror film with a degree of restraint and without jumping the shark.
Debut director John Krasinski is more familiar in front of the camera than behind it, but he has crafted a remarkably tense horror movie that is both a technical achievement as much as a performance-driven movie. Here, Krasinski and his on-screen wife played by Emily Blunt, attempt to lead their three kids through the woods and post-apocalyptic wasteland while remaining as quiet as possible. But the film breaks us into the simple premise very easily and without any real exposition. After all, no one can speak aloud without the monsters rushing in for the kill.
The opening scene is almost completely silent, both in terms of dialogue, sound and music, yet we are introduced to our five characters extremely well considering the obvious limitations (perhaps it helps that Krasinski and Blunt are married). Standout is Millicent Simmonds as their daughter Regan, who is deaf. When the action is taking place from her perspective, even the most remote ambient sounds around the characters is removed to show her condition. Moreover, this intensifies the shrill, jarring nature of sound in this silent world.
That’s right, this is not a film to bring popcorn or nachos into.
What little exposition the film has is through newspaper clippings that the family have preserved over the years. The origins of the creatures is never explained, what happened to the world at large is mostly left up to interpretation. We have to learn everything by watching what precautions the family have to make, and what appears to be survival tactics that they have learned. The film is a narrow focus on a global disaster, and it is all the better for it!
Like the original Alien, A Quiet Place has a great sense of omnipresence with its threat. That even the slightest noise can quickly summon a creature that will kill you instantly, makes for a movie that is perpetually on edge… There may be two moments of levity in the entire film, but luckily for us the film is only ninety minutes long. So what is often raw intensity, lasts a manageable length of time!
There isn’t a great deal to say about the performers, since it is almost entirely wordless with much of the dialogue being executed in sign language with subtitles. But the actors and actresses do a great job at delivering terrified performances through expression alone, beside entirely computer-generated creatures. Considering all of that, it is quite remarkable how invested you become with their safety.
Of course, Emily Blunt has the best and most memorable moments to wow and shock audiences. One particular sequence in the middle of the movie is very unpleasant and capitalizes on the film’s design with peak efficiency.
It is always the smaller injuries that are the worst to watch…
It is difficult to discuss further without spoiling what happens. It is a simple premise executed without extraneous detailing or scenes; it all works marvelously well, without anything standing out.
There is the scene from the trailer, the familiar horror trope that would belong in a James Wan creation, but this is used early on as a means to teach the audience the “rules”. The first act should have had more subtle causes of loud sounds for danger to be summoned… there was a moment early on where our characters appeared accident-prone with what they did to cause noise. There’s also a moment later, when water is a hazard, which mystified me as to how no one noticed the danger until the situation got worse… But these are very small issues.
A very good horror, with some clever ideas and the brains to not bury itself under bells and whistles. A subtle and morose experience with a constant state of dread.
Just… hope that you get a quiet audience if you see it in the cinema…
Additional Marshmallows: This is more like what a Cloverfield movie should be than Cloverfield Paradox!