A Quiet Place
Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes
Director: John Krasinki
Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinki, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, and Cade Woodward
If you’re a dedicated (or casual) horror fan like myself, odds are you’ve likely fallen victim to the “buzz phrase” marketing trend that’s become so prevalent in contemporary art-house horror, some recent examples being A24’s The Witch (2015) and It Comes at Night (2017). While these films are great by their own rights, there’s no doubt that efforts to market them to the general public resulted in a substantial rift between expectations and the reality in the audiences. As frustrating as films coming off of festival-circuit buzz can be, A Quiet Place is that rare, transparent case that delivers in spades what was promised by its bold early previews.
A Quiet Place, directed by The Office alumni John Krasinki, is about the Abbott family’s struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world that has invaded by a species of extremely deadly alien predators that are attracted to sound. Over a period of roughly a year and a half, Lee (Krasinki) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) do their best to protect their three children Beau (Cade Woodward), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Regan (Millicent Simmonds), the last of whom is deaf, while still trying to provide them some semblance of a childhood. Things go from bad to worse when Evelyn, who becomes pregnant fairly early in the film, goes into labor while Lee and their eldest son are away on a supplies run, leading to an unfortunate chain of events that forces the family to have to deal with the creatures head on.
Clocking in at a lean 90 minutes, A Quiet Place wastes no time in establishing the hyper-effective tension and suspense, which is, ironically, amplified by the absence of noise in the film’s overall sound design. The Abbott family, in making sure they don’t attract the creatures, hardly make ever make any noise louder than an extremely faint whisper. Aside from a few circumstantial instances, they communicate with one another via sign language. The film pays a lot of attention to the details of how this family copes with their extreme circumstance, which is compelling in and of itself even when the creatures aren’t attacking them directly. The creatures are incredibly intimidating, and when we finally get a good look at them (which is about half-way to two-thirds through) none of the gravitas is lost like it often is other movies of the genre when the monster’s form is eventually (if at all) revealed. Of course, none of this would have been possible without Krasinki’s meticulous direction behind the camera. Krasinki does an excellent job of conveying exposition through contextual action rather than relying solely on a character having to literally spell everything out to the audience, which is so refreshing, especially in this genre. In terms of the acting, everyone brings their A-game, especially Emily Blunt, who gets put through the wringer in the second half of the film.
A Quiet Place is truly a masterwork of the genre; however despite all the things it does right, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. While films like The Witch or It Comes at Night, have little to no mass appeal (and understandably so), they were marketed as if they were because critics recognized them as being films with meaningful thematic depth, that also happened to occupy the horror genre. And depending on what the viewer looks for in movies in order for them to be “great”, thematic depth may or not even be a factor in coming to that verdict. But for me, for this kind of horror movie, that thematic depth is what boosts a very good film like A Quiet Place to the next level, like an It Comes at Night. All that aside though, A Quiet Place is easily one of the best mainstream horror flicks in years and is absolutely deserving of all its acclaim.