Director: John Krasinski
Cast: John Krasinki, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward
A Quiet Place takes place in the year 2020, where the earth has been rendered a post-apocalyptic wasteland by alien creatures who rely on sound to hunt their prey. According to some expository newspaper clips we see taped to the wall of our hero’s work space, the creatures are not only blind but also without weakness. And if the film’s disquieting opening scene is any indication, it’s that no one is safe from their fury.
The movie grabs you right from the start, as we follow a surviving family -- husband Lee (John Krasinski, who also directed), wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real-life wife), oldest daughter Regan (deaf-actress Millicent Simmonds), second oldest child Marcus (Noah Jupe), and youngest child Beau (Cade Woodward) -- as they gather supplies from a small town pharmacy in upstate New York. Everyone is barefoot, and they communicate with each other in the safest way possible: by sign language.
Beau finds a toy rocket that he wants to take home, but his father (who quietly takes it out of his hands and carefully removes the batteries from the toy) tells him that it’s too loud. Since the toy is now without its batteries, Regan sees no harm in secretly giving Beau the toy. Unfortunately, since Beau is only four and doesn’t fully understand the severity of what’s going on in the world, he snatches the batteries when no one is looking and puts them back in. Sure enough, the toy starts blaring loud on the walk home, which leads to a shot that hits you like a punch to the gut.
Time passes, and the family is still reeling from the loss of the youngest child. Lee spends his nights trying to make a good hearing aid for Regan (who is completely deaf), while Regan has grown distant from her father because she believes he blames her for what happened. Marcus is too terrified to leave the safety of the farm, while Evelyn is pregnant and just weeks away from her due date.
One of the biggest questions that I have heard many people ask is why the family would risk bringing a child into a world where silence is survival. This is a fair question. It’s no quiet endeavor going into labor, and a newborn baby is bound to cry more than it is to remain silent. Dramatically speaking, I do understand why the couple would want a third child again, but even so, it seems like too much of a risk to go through with it.
Then again, maybe that’s the point. We live in a world now that’s fraught with so much danger, as well as news of war and school shootings, that it wouldn’t be too far to ask why anyone would want to bring a child into the world we live in now. The world is a dangerous place, and if you look at it in the right way, A Quiet Place can be seen as a parable about the resilience of family and how family values endure in such an evil world.
In between the moments of unbearable tension (which I’ll get to in a minute) are scenes of the family struggling to function and survive in the world. Krasinki allows for small moments of warmth and tenderness -- whether if it’s the family saying a quiet prayer over their dinner, the scene where Evelyn dances with Lee in his studio while they listen to music on her iPod, or where Evelyn explains to Marcus why it’s important to go with his father into the woods and learn to gather food for the family -- that really gets you invested in these people. I’ve long been of the opinion that the scares in a horror movie won’t work if you don’t care about the characters, but Krasinski makes you care and does so flawlessly, which is amazing given that there isn’t a spoken line of dialogue for the first forty minutes of the film.
As a thriller, however, the movie is almost exhaustingly intense. Because sound plays a crucial role in the story, this allows Krasinski to play the audience like a piano, which he does expertly. A quiet game of Monopoly (where the pieces are replaced with soft materials) becomes jarring when someone accidentally knocks over a lantern. Evelyn’s pregnancy becomes extremely perilous thanks to a misplaced nail on one of the basement steps. One of the most terrifying moments in the movie happens when Evelyn discovers that the sound proof room that was made for her and her newborn is not as safe as she hoped (I won’t say anymore than that).
These scenes are scary not only because we care about the characters, but because Krasinski, with the help of Charlotte Bruus Christensen's expert cinematography and Christopher Tellefsen’s razor sharp editing, executes these scenes with Hitchcockian-skill. The final forty minutes of the movie are so relentless and frightening that I legitimately felt tired by the time the end credits rolled. That’s not a criticism, but rather a testament to Krasinski’s work. The very last scene of the movie is also note perfect. It doesn’t spell anything out, but it tells us exactly only what we need to know.
A Quiet Place is a very good horror movie, and certainly a breath of fresh air after that cinematic abortion known as Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare. In a way, I’m glad I saw that movie prior to this one. Once the end credits began to roll, my faith in the horror genre had been completely restored.
Final Grade: *** ½ (out of ****)
Rated PG-13 for terror and disturbing violent images.