Put your phones on silent bitches. A Quiet Place, a masterfully disquieting creature feature from The Office alum John Krasinski, simply will not stand for interruption. Taking pages from the books of Hitchcock, Argento, and Spielberg, Krasinski skillfully weaves together a sharply intelligent, emotionally involving and blisteringly suspenseful chamber-piece that layers a uniquely “silent” horror film in with a very personal treatise on the challenges of parenthood.
The SXSW hit horror-thriller makes quick work of setting the sotto voce stage. Civilization lies in tatters. Hunted by blind monsters with hyper-acute hearing, families soldier on in silence. Their existence a hushed game of hide and seek. We’re ejected into the world in media res, where the Abbot family scavenge, farm and fish to keep alive in the wreckage of humankind.
In addition to directing, Krasinski helped pen A Quiet Place. He also stars, alongside real-life wife Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow), and the two bring palpable dramatic weight to the unfolding horror, their offscreen bond allowing for raw, unfiltered chemistry. Struggling to preserve their family unit, Krasinski soars as the protective patriarch, offering one of his most mature performances to date; one that’s riddled with grief and anxiety, guilt and gumption. It should come as no shock that Blunt too masters the material, her character a warm, sharp ray of maternal, resilient guile.
Their children Regan and Marcus, played by Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) and Noah Jupe (Suburbicon) respectively, have learned to interact with this new world, adapting to its challenges by using sign language, staging noisy booby-traps and establishing other means of visual communication like a red light-white light warning system to communicate when monsters are in the area.
Nerve-wracking from the first scene, A Quiet Place demands its audience to STFU, with perfectly unnerving sound design – the groan of an old farmhouse, the chilly slap of feet on the hard ground, the electric crack of something on the roof – that’ll have you nervous to crunch on popcorn, lest an armored monster bum-rush you with the speed of a cracked-up cheetah and the combined strength of the NFL’s linebackers. A few films in recent years have played predominantly on the element of sound in horror films – Don’t Breathe and Hush both being textbook examples of sound design becoming a living, breathing character – but A Quiet Place takes it to the next level. The stakes of any sonic outburst are set from the very first scene. It’s a moment of heavy emotional fallout, that resonates throughout the film like Buddhist singing bowls, casting a shadow over the remainder of A Quiet Place‘s meditation on the challenges of parenting in troubling times.
Thinking big, Krasinski goes small. A Quiet Place thrives in the minute, simple details of this soundless world – characters padding along barefoot on sanded pathways, an iPod used by virtue of its outdated tech, doors left intentionally ajar to reduce squeak, a thunderous waterfall where one can speak at full volume – and the film is carefully constructed to not let any part go to waste. Each and every prop, setting, and shot has purpose, with barely an ounce of fat on the 95-minute expedition into armchair-wrestling terror.
Krasinski and co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck play with reciprocity and duality often, with uncommon intelligence lining the tension-loaded minutes of A Quiet Place, which it should be mentioned clips along at a finely measured neck-break speed. From a bent nail posing as Chekov’s Gun to damning and life-saving “rockets”, Krasinski proves himself a maestro of suspense behind the camera, holding hostage audiences breathless and on knife’s edge from damn near the very first frame, finding room for fine-tuned familial drama and smuggling in a touching coming-of-age subplot along the way. As A Quiet Place ratchets up, the film barrels to an ass-kicking conclusion. Elegantly paced, A Quiet Place displays both a knack for patient scene-setting and character building and a shocking ability to put everything into hard acceleration and not let up an inch until the final frame. This may be Krasinski’s third directorial effort but I’d count myself among those who didn’t think him capable of something so profoundly and perfectly simple. So simply perfect.
The creature design and CGI work too are admirable, Paramount shelling out to allow for what could have been A Quiet Place’s weakness to thrive in its own right. Every single ounce of the film’s budget is splashed colorfully (but modestly) on the screen, Krasinski and Co. adding even more fuel to the raging appeal of highbrow horror movies, for both studios and audiences alike. The Hollywood suits rake in the cash and audiences make off with boundary-pushing cinema. The scenario is a no-holds-barred win-win for all parties. It’s worth mentioning that, in many ways, this feels like Paramount’s Cloverfield film de jour, 2016’s deliciously suspenseful 10 Cloverfield Lane sharing much more DNA with A Quiet Place (Cloverfield Farm?) than the mostly limp and not-so-thought-through Cloverfield Paradox. Regardless, it’s good to see Paramount continue to invest in bold horror-thrillers with humble budgetary needs.
CONCLUSION: You don’t have to be a full-fledged horror buff to appreciate the unadulterated excellence of ‘A Quiet Place’ – but horror buffs will rightfully love every moment of it. Excellent pacing, poignant performances, and unflappable tension elevate this taut creature feature – one that weaponizes sound unlike any other – to sublime, killer heights. A must see.