From the very outset “A Quiet Place” develops a central conceit which it fully embraces throughout its tight, lean 95-minute runtime. But while it’s undoubtedly a genre flick, this John Krasinski directed horror thriller has more of an emotional punch than you would expect.
In addition to directing, Krasinski also co-writes and stars alongside his real-life wife Emily Blunt. They play Lee and Evelyn Abbott who live on a remote farm in a not-to-distant future. The human race has been ravaged by creatures with no sight who hunt via their heightened and lethal sense of hearing. The Abbott’s along with their daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe) are still coping with grief after a family tragedy while trying to survive in a world where the slightest sound could mean immediate death.
The great trick of this film is causing us (the audience) to lock in to every sound we hear. We become much more attentive and attune to what we hear rather than what we see. Krasinski does a great job of leading us in that direction both with the sound design and some clever visual cues. It’s also seen in numerous details – trails of sand to silence their steps, crocheted Monopoly pieces, etc. The most everyday things take on a new perspective in this world.
It goes without saying this adds a natural tension to “A Quiet Place”. Even in quieter scenes (no pun intended) the dread of an accidental bump or the smallest sound constantly looms in the background. Krasinski leans heavily into it without going overboard. When sound is employed it can be pretty profound and Marco Beltrami’s score ratchets up the intensity by both adding to the stillness and accentuating the terror. Yet at it’s core you can see the film constantly tipping its hat to the silent film era.
The movie also works because of the small but superb cast who flesh out their characters despite having little dialogue. Kasinski conveys so much through his tired and concerned eyes. Blunt knocks it out of the park as an emotional anchor for her family. But there is also Millicent Simmonds, great in last year’s “Wonderstruck” and just as good here. The young actress (who is deaf in real life) is a fundamental piece of the story and Simmonds is asked to juggle a range of emotions. She does so magnificently.
And this gets to where “A Quiet Place” scores the most points – the characters themselves and its story of family. Many have looked for more political meaning, but I find it most piercing when observing the family dynamic. I couldn’t help but sympathize with Krasinski’s Lee, a man who would do anything to protect his family, especially his children, yet on some levels struggles to connect with them. Blunt speaks to this particularly in one line where she says “Who are we if we can’t protect them? We have to protect them.” These characters and their relationships matter. The film does a keen job of making us care about what happens to each of them.
You could call “A Quiet Place” an old-fashioned horror picture. It’s smart, light on gore, but heavy on tension. It knows its premise and fully embraces it. Never does it feel the need to give us tedious and uninteresting exposition nor does it overstay its welcome. There are a few instances where you could question the movie’s logic, but for the most part Krasinski cleverly covers all of his bases. In the end he delivers an exhilarating and surprisingly heartfelt experience that is a huge win for the horror genre as a whole.
VERDICT – 4.5 STARS