A Quiet Place is a horror movie that does something a little different.
Because there is absolutely no dialogue until about halfway through, it’s unlike any movie you’ve ever seen. More to the point, it’s unlike any movie-going experience you’ve ever had. In this age of big screen high definition TVs and 4K picture quality, movies often look better from your couch than they do in the theatre. But for the full experience, this really does have to be seen with an audience.
John Krasinski, who played Jim in The Office, wrote, directed and stars along with his actual wife, Emily Blunt. The movie opens with them and their three kids being as quiet as possible, walking barefoot through an abandoned dystopian grocery store. We glimpse a stack of newspapers that tells us they’re in New York, the year is 2020, and the reason they’re being quiet is because some kind of monsters are attracted by sound.
We don’t have to wait very long until we see the horrible consequence of making noise. How exactly that noise gets made is the first of numerous unexplained plot holes, but I won’t spoil anything.
Krasinski and Blunt are both believable, even if the only explanation for their characters’ occasional lapses in judgement is to ratchet up the tension in service of the plot. Millicent Simmonds, who starred in last year’s Wonderstruck, is their teenage daughter Regan, and her deafness explains why everyone in the movie knows sign language and can communicate with each other silently – a valuable and convenient skill in a movie where monsters will get you if you make a sound.
We are told the events of most of the movie take place about a year an a half after the emergence of the monsters. Despite this, the family lives in a farm house surrounded by lush green fields of corn and full silos. Who has cultivated and harvested this corn (in utter silence) is never explained.
Krasinski as the dad has a wall of TV screens connected to security cameras showing the whole farm property. There is very little indication anyone else is alive in this world, except for the fires lit atop of the silos of other distant farms, like large, primitive tiki torches. But the family also somehow has unlimited access to a power grid. They have running water and a washing machine. And, not surprisingly, dad’s basement workshop also has a white board with almost all of the information needed to beat the monsters laid out in marker.
When we finally see the monsters, their appearance is extremely derivative. They look a lot like the Demogorgon from Stranger Things, maybe with a little Predator thrown in. When they finally appear, it’s kind of disappointing.
But the biggest disappointment, which costs the movie a whole star in my estimation, is the over reliance on the jump scare. There are long stretches of silence, and any loud noise on its own would be naturally jarring. If you remember, one of the biggest scares in The Exorcist comes when a phone rings loudly during a quiet scene. When the tension has been built up properly, that’s all you need. But A Quiet Place insists on loud, frightening sounds such as a blast of screeching strings every time anything remotely scary happens. Imagine how much more effective this movie would be if the tension built so effectively by the constant silence was broken just by a hand hitting a window or a tool falling to the floor.
Despite its problems, A Quiet Place is a unique and entertaining movie-going experience. While Krasinski is a comic actor who wrote and directed a hit horror movie, that’s where any comparisons to Jordan Peele and Get Out should end. Get Out was full of social commentary, subtext and symbolism, and you’ll find none of that in A Quiet Place.
So, enjoy, but remember not to crunch your popcorn.
|Title||A Quiet Place|
|Writer||John Krasinski, Bryan Woods, Scott Beck|
|Starring||Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds|
|Production||Platinum Dunes, Sunday Night|