A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
Stumble. Trip. Drop. Scream. You will die. A Quiet Place sets up the premise and danger within it’s opening fifteen minutes as we see just how fast the mysterious creatures roaming Earth will respond and kill you if you make anything above a husky whisper, and it's fast.
The Abbott family live their lives with a series of very specific mechanisms in place on their farm. Lee (John Krasinski, also in the director's chair) and his wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) along with their son, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) walk on sand paths, eat food that doesn’t make noise and even play Monopoly with the toys replaced with soft pieces of fabric. They’ve had to move out of their family house as its creaky floorboards make too much noise and now reside in their barn which has been outfitted to be more like a proper house.
The one silver-lining of Regan (presumably) being born deaf is that the family all knows sign-language before the apocalyptic event begins. Millicent Simmonds herself is deaf in real life, making the on-screen efforts and communication between the whole family even more impressive.
Emily Blunt gives a powerhouse performance, especially towards the final act. It’s the polar opposite of a ‘scream queen’ performance in a horror movie. It’s a physical contortion with mentally excruciating pain at times as Blunt works through one particular on the edge of your seat scene. Krasinski too deserves credit for shooting with real close angles and allowing Blunt to really swallow the screen, and the audience as they gasp for breaths.
Evelyn is pregnant in this nightmare scenario and although they are doing their best to try and build a soundproof system for the child, the idea of the birth and the baby coming is constantly brimming with dread on the edge of each scene as Lee tries to prepare as fast as he can for its arrival.
Although a monster movie, and a really tense thriller -- A Quiet Place is really a story about family. Lee’s relationship with his deaf daughter is brimming with tension. Regan questions her father's love for her among frustration that he takes her younger brother more serious. Marcus though isn’t as comfortable with his father trying to teach him some of the more dangerous things he does so he knows how to look after the family. Evelyn, of course, is not far out from the birth of her child in the worst possible place and with dread for her current children, every second as it is, how she’s able to push through with the pregnancy each day is pure bravery. It’s family life, in the worst possible scenario -- and when you may want to yell at someone, you just can’t, so the family's tensions are more likely pushed to their edge easier.
The monster premise isn’t wholly originally. Many creatures throughout the history of horror have been shown to hunt through sound, although not as furiously and fast as the creatures in A Quiet Place. I was reminded of Neil Marshall's, The Descent, as a big fan of that film and the creatures that hunt deep in the caves that are blind and rely on sound to hunt and communicate. The creatures in A Quiet Place never reach a great point on intrigue, instead simple serving as seemingly indestructible (as opening shots of newspaper headlines detail) terrors that allow the premise and crux that makes the film genuinely unique -- the sound, or lack thereof.
Choosing to watch A Quiet Place in the cinema can either be rewarding or highly disappointing, depending on your crowd. The film is the quietest movie I have ever watched. The base premise would obviously set that up, but the film also switches to POV of Reagan a lot and as she is deaf, you get absolutely zero sound. It’s in these moments if you're the fool pushing your hand through your popcorn bucket you’ll feel like an idiot. It’s a brave decision to use these scenes on top of an already very quiet and tense film, but it works. My audience got quieter as the film went along and as the final act approached -- which is actually more action packed -- I couldn’t hear anyone breathe. It was as if they had spent the last hour training their bodies for a deep diving competition.
A Quiet Place uses its time wisely and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The ninety minute run time feels perfect. Especially once the thrill ride kicks into play until the moments the credits roll. The script is tight from Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, with John Krasinski doing work on it once he picked it up the project.
The runtime and intensity of the film can play in its favour, especially if you get too much time to question the world’s logic and the capabilities of the monster. I started having a lot of issues with what I deemed to be simple solutions to problems or inconsistencies with the capabilities of the monster. Often it was seemingly left up to the director, Krasinski, when certain rules applied. With all that said, it never distracted drastically.
Most impressive is the seemingly unknown eye for thrill rides that John Krasinski has had hidden away all these years. If he chose to do this project for its family story, he succeeded most in building tension and horror around that family and gave a performance outside his norm for that I feel surprised even himself.
A Quiet Place is a brave cinematic experience that works wonderfully as long as no one beside you is shovelling popcorn in their mouth the entire film. With strong performances all around and an especially physically strong performance from Blunt amid pure terror, that will go down as one of the year's tensest scenes, it’s not a movie you will forget fast.
Directors: John Krasinski
Writers: Bryan Woods (screenplay & story by), Scott Beck (screenplay & story by), John Krasinski (screenplay by)
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom