What does a world look like where making noise and staying quiet is the basic difference between the living and the dead? It is not a question that we typically ask ourselves. It isn’t a concept that seems ever explored as a full-length narrative device. Fede Alvarez’s horror/thriller Don’t Breathe played a lot with the concept of sound as means of survival. The villain of the movie was a blind war veteran who had a bone to pick with a group of teenagers that broke into his home. John Krasinski’s second film A Quiet Place takes the concept of quiet as a means of survival and runs with it.
A Quiet Place takes place in a seemingly post-apocalyptic world where society has collapsed (at least in the small town that this movie takes place in) and a family has to live in absolute silence. The world has been overrun by a group of monsters that can’t see but can hear you, and if they can hear you, they will hunt, and kill you very quickly. Being quiet in your everyday life is the key to survival.
Husband and wife John Krasinski and Emily Blunt star as a husband and wife Lee and Evelyn Abbott. The pair has a group of kids and lives on a small farm in the countryside. They speak to each other using sign language and even have wood boards, that don’t’ creak, marked as safe to step on. The movie hints at an outside world but focuses nearly exclusively on this small family farm. This tight approach makes incredible use of the concept and instead of trying to do too much. This movie is largely centered around one massive set piece for the second half of the film. The first half of the movie establishes the rules of the world, the family dynamic, and the initial stakes.
A Quiet Place could be easily fun, B-movie material. In some respects, it has elements of a B-movie, but it is a movie that is constantly elevating its material with a level of craftsmanship that is extraordinary to watch.
Krasinski (who not only directs and stars also has a co-writing credit) has said in interviews that he isn’t a fan of scary movies but you wouldn’t be able to guess that when watching this movie. A Quiet Place is an excellent horror/thriller one that feels comparable to the works of Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott. Then again sometimes it takes an outsider to be able to come at something with a fresh approach. A Quiet Place feels fresh. It has moments that feel similar to other movies but the delivery feels unique.
Krasinski smartly establishes different elements and locations that will become integral later in the movie. His set pieces build and escalate to make situations go from stressful to an anxiety driven nightmare that is reverting to watch. I haven’t been this stressed watching a movie since Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk last year. There are a few jumps scares, but nearly all of them are done effectively and the movie isn’t reliant on them. A Quiet Place instead is an exercise in mounting tension. A jump scare here and there compliments the tension and it doesn’t throw away the calculated work by Krasinski.
The most impressive aspect of this movie is the absolute masterful sound design work. Since the entire premise of the movie is about sound, this movie needs to have excellent sound work, and this far exceeds the basic requirements. One of the children in the movie is deaf and Krasinski cleverly is able to signal to the audience whose perspective we’re hearing the sound from by shifting the audio depending on the perspective. Its little tricks like that that really make this movie a sound designer’s dream.
Krasinski, although not a horror fan, was attracted to the movie none the less. He has explained that he views this movie as a metaphor for parenthood. It isn’t hard to understand that viewpoint. This movie is deeply rooted in the family dynamic. How does a family survive? How does a family experience tragedy in their own ways? How far does a parent go to keep their children alive? These are all questions that Krasinski is dealing with in this story, but he wisely never deals with it explicitly. The movie has minimal dialogue. There are only really two short scenes where the characters have an extended out loud conversation, whereas the rest of the movie is done in sign language. Even then, the dialogue isn’t overt. The thematic crux and struggle of the characters really begin to shine the movie’s closing minutes which makes it emotional and very satisfying. I was emotionally shaken at points in this movie and I wasn’t expecting that from this. This is underlined by a pulse-pounding and emotional score composer Marco Beltrami. His score is our key to the emotional language and visuals that Kranski’s presents.
A Quiet Place is a near perfect execution of tension and sustained terror. This is a tight, well-acted, and an expertly-crafted monster movie that is surprisingly emotional and anxiety-inducing. This may be a little too simple for some people’s taste’s, but it accomplishes nearly everything it sets out to do. The movie is scary but has a beating heart at the center. If you’re a fan of horror, thrillers, monster movies or just well-crafted filmmaking, A Quiet Place is absolutely worth the trip to the theater and is thus far one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. A few months ago Annihilation came out to be a masterful example of science fiction, and now A Quiet Place has come out to be a near masterful example of horror. A Quiet Place is excellent.