Should I Watch..? 'A Quiet Place'
What's the big deal?
A Quiet Place is a post-apocalyptic horror film released in 2018 and was directed and co-written by John Krasinki. The film depicts a family struggling to survive in a world plunged into silence by murderous creatures with sensitive hearing. The film stars Krasinski alongside his wife Emily Blunt as well as Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe. The film received a positive response from critics who lauded the film's direction, use of sound and the performances from the main cast. It became a smash hit at the box office with global takings just shy of $341 million and would also go on to earn numerous award nominations including one for Best Sound Editing at the Academy Awards. It is also being followed by a sequel due for release in 2020. The film is also notable for its extensive use of American Sign Language throughout although subtitles are provided.
What's it about?
In the near future, Earth is seemingly invaded by a deadly extra-terrestrial force that overwhelms society. The survivors, who are few and far between, learn to adjust by reducing the amount of noise they make as the aliens are instantly drawn to any sound their sensitive hearing can pick up and slay whatever it is making the noise. For the Abbott family - Lee, his wife Evelyn and their three children Marcus, Beau and Regan - this means scavenging what they can find in deserted shops, walking everywhere bare-foot on homemade trails of sand and not making any noise. Sadly, this doesn't always work as Beau is snatched up and killed after playing with a noisy toy rocket ship.
A year later and the Abbotts have settled down on a dilapidated farm, successfully growing a vast cornfield and making as many safeguards as possible against the creatures. While Lee and Marcus are able to successfully fish at a nearby river, Evelyn is now pregnant while Regan (who is naturally deaf) fears that her father blames her for Beau's death. But the dangers have fully never gone away and a series of unfortunate accidents bring the family closer than ever to an untimely demise...
Bryan Woods, Scott Beck & John Krasinski*
Release Date (UK)
5th April, 2018
Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Academy Award Nominations
Best Sound Editing
What's to like?
I have stated in the past my general dissatisfaction with horror films which tend to follow well-worn clichés and usually offer very little besides the odd jump scare and the betting on which character will survive for the sequel. Thankfully, A Quiet Place offers something a little different. It's a film that's happy to take risks like an absence of spoken dialogue and a score that only occasionally intrudes on the events on screen. The small cast help keeps the suspense close to the surface and the film's atmosphere is necessarily intense and bleak with opening scenes that reminded me of The Walking Dead or even The Road, if it had a splash more colour in it.
The film's true trump card is the cast who are absolutely bewitching and all deliver performances of stunning plausibilty. It shouldn't be a shock to find real-life couple Krasinski and Blunt playing a married couple but their love and relationship with their children in the film make the action feel more heightened - these are good people and we fear the worst for them. Jupe is every bit as wide-eyed and terrified as you'd hope but Simmonds is a revelation and I sincerely hope to see her more often. Led by Simmonds, the use of sign language among the cast is so amazingly natural that it's remarkable how quickly it becomes second nature to you as a viewer. The film's use of silence and amplified sound effects draws you in from the off - I had a packet of crisps next to me and I completely forgot to open them. I didn't want to in case I somehow attracted one of the beasties to burst through into my living room - this is the first movie I can remember seeing in a while that held my attention for so long. Until I watched A Quiet Place, I didn't realise I could hold my breath for an hour and a half.
- Simmonds has been deaf since the age of twelve months old due to a medication overdose. She made her acting debut on the big screen in 2017's Wonderstruck before Krasinski cast her in this film. Simmonds also made suggestions to Krasinski about her character such as the scene where she rebels against her father instead of cowering in fear as the script dictated.
- The film only has twenty-five lines of dialogue in the entire script as most of the dialogue is made using American Sign Language. However, in the original script by Woods and Beck, there was just one line of spoken dialogue.
- Although the film was a success at the box office, many theatres quickly grew tired of screening the film. It might have something to do with many viewers not buying snacks or drinks at the theatre for the screening so as not to introduce any unnecessary noise for other patrons.
What's not to like?
Gore fiends might be a little upset that there isn't more claret spilt on screen, given the ruthless efficiency that people get butchered by the creatures. But A Quiet Place isn't that kind of horror film - yes, it has plenty of jump scares which are enlivened by the amplified sound effects as well as moments of dread when something slowly crawls into shot behind characters. But the film works because it has an insidious ability to get under your skin and stay there. And while they are thankfully kept off screen as much as possible, I really didn't like the look at the marauding aliens as they seemed to be more reminiscent of some of the creatures from the Resident Evil series. As well as that, I wanted more answers than the film was prepared to offer - we know next to nothing about the beasts who seem to exist purely to facilitate the need for deadly predators with powerful hearing.
Which brings me to another issue - the film is quite happy to follow its own rules regarding the hearing abilities of the beasts but only when it suits the narrative. These creatures can hear apparently sounds from great distances away such as whispers through a field of corn swaying in the breeze but are unable to detect other noises such as voices next to a babbling river or even spoken words in a basement. I also wasn't a fan of the ending which didn't provide the lift I was hoping for after such a huge amount of despair and holding of breath. But in the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this tense and gripping chiller.
Should I watch it?
A Quiet Place is a surprising film, given the lack of experience in the horror genre by director Krasinski (this is only his third film in the director's chair). The film expertly creates a heady blend of fear, paranoia and oppression with little besides a close-knit family unit and a collection of sound effects. It's a great example of a film providing just enough to make it a gripping experience without going over the top with endless bloody murders, the same old masked serial killers and other regurgitated horror tropes.
Great For: horror newbies and veterans, normalising deafness, anyone fed up of zombies causing the apocalypse
Not So Great For: anyone who hates subtitles, slasher addicts, young viewers (it's far too good a chiller for children)
What else should I watch?
There have been no shortage of monster films - indeed, they barely seem to have gone away ever since their heyday in the Fifties. The current fascination seems to have stemmed from 2008's Cloverfield which is a found-footage depiction of a vast monster attack on New York - in the years since, not only have we had two sequels to Cloverfield but also the likes of VHS (coincidentally, an anthology of found-footage films), another revival of Godzilla, yet another version of cinema's biggest ape in Kong: Skull Island, more aliens in Independence Day: Resurgance and even giant sharks in The Meg. There are no shortage of monster movies out there - hell, we've even had 'aliens running through cornfields' already with M. Night Shyamalan's Signs!
Tragically, films featuring deaf characters (or even deaf actors) are considerably rarer. Deaf characters are usually reserved for sugary rom-coms, plot devices or as a metaphor or symbol the director wishes to use in a wider context. Think - when was the last time you saw a deaf character prominently in a film besides A Quiet Place? Other than Tessa Thomson's girlfriend role (who is losing her hearing) in Creed and Richard Pryor in the somewhat crude comedy See No Evil, Hear No Evil, I can't recall seeing a deaf character in such a prominent role. There are plenty of films where a side character has such an impairment but generally speaking, it suffers the same fate as many disabilities in that Hollywood sweeps it under the carpet. Here's hoping this changes some day soon.
© 2019 Benjamin Cox