Director: John Krasinski
Writers: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds
Genre: Horror / Drama
In the year 2020 most the of the human population has been wiped out by a race of extra-terrestrial creatures who lack sight but make up for this by having incredible hearing. The Abbott family have survived by adapting to living their lives practically in silence, but with Evelyn (Blunt) heavily pregnant, they face their biggest challenge yet to avoid being hunted by this deadly predator.
Every so often a horror film that actually has a genuinely decent concept comes out, and there is no denying that the initial premise of A Quiet Place is very intriguing and has potential. Of course, then turning that initial promising premise into a feature length narrative that manages to be gripping throughout is the hurdle that many films of the genre fail to successfully navigate. Well, I am pleased to say that director John Krasinski and his co-writers prove to truly understand the genre and have delivered with a deeply affecting and genuinely tense psychological horror, with its minimalist approach proving to be deeply effective.
Straight from its intense (and in some ways surprising) opening sequence, A Quiet Place sets its stall out and maintains this high standard all the way up until its satisfying conclusion. In the opening sequence we are given enough information to know what is going on and know exactly where we stand with the (very few) characters in the film. After this Krasinski skilfully keeps things low key and lets the narrative unfold at a measured pace that allows us to engage with the characters and the lives that they are now forced to lead without it ever feeling like unnecessary filler. Of course, exposition is difficult in a film where characters predominantly cannot speak to each other (except the occasional bit of subtitled sign language), and the usual screenwriting rule of ‘show don’t tell’ is used here to full effect with the set design filled with details that constantly give clues as to the world building and to just how the characters have had to adapt in order to survive. The attention to detail in the set design proves that those behind the film respect the intelligence of the viewer and also proves that a lot of genuine thought and effort has gone into the making of A Quiet Place, which is refreshing.
What helps to make A Quiet Place such an engaging watch is that it never tries to bite off more than it can chew and keeps things on a small scale, solely focussing on just the one family unit and their individual relationships, while letting the fact that one of the main characters is pregnant and the unique problems this will bring them being the main device used to drive the narrative along. This small scale and measured approach allows for good character development and then means that we truly care about the characters (something that is essential in my view for this kind of film to work), while at the same time also allowing the narrative to explore some relatable themes such as the duty of protection one feels towards other members of the immediate family unit.
As the narrative develops, though characters do make the occasional questionable decision, A Quiet Place maintains a consistent level of measured pacing and high tension. The fact that the film very rarely has any sound proves to be an extremely effective tool at making it genuinely tense and gripping, while the tight camerawork and excellent performances from the entire cast also keep us gripped right until the very end. Another challenge a film with this kind of story faces is where to take the main narrative in the final third and produce a satisfying ending, and Krasinski and co. succeed in this by ending the film at a very good time within the overall story that achieves a good balance of being satisfying in its own right, but also avoiding a feeling of a CGI infused anti-climax.
A Quiet Place must also receive high praise for the fact that due to the prolonged scenes of minimum sound it has led to the long deserved shaming and feeling of embarrassment for eaters of popcorn and nachos. Every single rustle and crunch that they make reverberates around the auditorium, and while there will always be some ignoramuses that just don’t care, I did notice when I left that a lot of these cretins left a hell of a lot of food behind – I just hope one day that they will discover the concept of the rubbish bin!
A Quiet Place is also quite possibly the only good film to come from Michael Bay’s platinum dunes production company!
A taut, tense and expertly executed psychological horror that is an often genuinely suspenseful and deeply engaging 90 minutes; A Quiet Place is perfect proof that in cinema, less can indeed be more.