Movie Review: A Quiet Place
Director: John Krasinski
by Jason Koenigsberg
In a post-apocalyptic Earth a family is forced to live in silence in order to avoid being hunted and killed by mysterious creatures in the new horror-thriller A Quiet Place. For actor/director John Krasinski he is trying to break away from his image as a likable face from The Office, and this film will likely be one of the best examples of his career that he is more than just a handsome TV star. He has crafted a modern horror masterpiece. A Quiet Place is an exercise in intense and brutal terror, as well as a love story about family, and does as much for your fear in the theater as it will your imagination once you leave and walk back to your car in the dark.
The opening shot is of a broken stop light and then a few shots of a deserted city. The audience is thrust right into the middle of a desolated world where we meet our main characters, a family played by Krasinski, his real life wife Emily Blunt, and their three children, one of which is deaf and uses a cochlear implant. There is no explanation for what has ravaged the world but if you have seen the trailers you will know exactly what you need to be caught up. The action happens fast and it is relentless at times. Some of the scares are shown in every preview for A Quiet Place but only partially. There is enough intense terror that will manage to surprise even the most jaded horror aficionados. There are a lot of jump scares and they all work effectively on a packed audience.
One of the greatest aspects of A Quiet Place is their use of sound or lack thereof. The sound editing and mixing are masterfully composed like a symphony by a prominent orchestra. Especially poignant is the way they designed the sound for the deaf character. It is noticeable early on and plays an important part in the fate of some characters later on. A large portion of A Quiet Place is in silence where the slightest sound effects can stand out like an explosion. A lot of the dialogue is done with sign language and accompanied by subtitles. A Quiet Place is a terrific example of a film that demands to be seen in the theaters with an audience, it is highly unlikely that it would have the same visceral effect at home even in the best viewing conditions. Cell phones, and other outside noises would take away from the effect of the picture and most people nowadays are not disciplined enough to stay off their cell phone for 90 minutes straight.
A lot of credit has to go to the director John Krasinski. Like Jordan Peele did last year with Get Out, he has made a horror film that can hold its own against the best of the genre, and was a very unlikely person to do so. As we are watching between the ferocious moments of terror, viewers will think about how hard it would be to imagine our entire lives without sound. Our society has become so accustomed to noises, music, constant conversation all the time that total silence is rare and when it happens it is an unnerving feeling for a lot of people. It is especially admirable in the few early scenes how they smoke their fish to cook without the noise of a frying pan or microwave, how they put their food on cloth plates, and play board games with soft items and not the harder solid pieces that came with the game to move their figures across the board without making a sound.
Krasinski also made sure that A Quiet Place is not just a horror movie, but a love story. A story about parents love for their family and need to protect their children at all costs. In the short time we get to know these characters we get to care about them and that is an incredible feat considering how little we hear their voices. So much is conveyed through their facial expressions this is a type of acting uncommon in movies today. It was also very impressive how they included gender roles and a slight commentary on stereotypes as the father has certain jobs for his son that he will not allow his daughter to participate in since she is expected to stay home and help her mother.
It is amazing that they could fit all of that into a taut 90 minute movie and since about five minutes are credits, none of the 85 minutes we see these characters onscreen is wasted. Oh yeah, and the creatures that hunt them… the less said about them the better for the sake of this review, but I will say that I doubt anyone will be disappointed with the look of the actual creatures, their menacing presence every time they are on screen, and most of all (Slight Spoiler Alert!) the amount of screen time they get. These are very detailed monsters and rival some of the great movie monsters of horror and science fiction. A Quiet Place takes from other horror films like M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs (2002) but improves on it without the cornball dialogue and by telling us less about this world we are thrown into. There are shots and images that feel as if they are lifted straight from that film. It also borrowed from Don’t Breathe (2016) with its use of silence and terror in a claustrophobic setting. That film ended up on my top ten of 2016.
But most impressive, while watching A Quiet Place and seeing the creatures and how they were framed on screen made me think of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece Alien (1979). To me comparing any film to Alien would be a great exaggeration, but A Quiet Place created its own monsters and placed them in a completely different setting but the scares felt very similar. No horror film has garnered that type of praise from me since The Descent (2006) and anyone who knows me or has read my work knows how highly I think of that film. Bottom line, see A Quiet Place in theaters for a memorable experience in horror.