A Quiet Place | John Krasinski | April 6th, 2018
The PG-13 horror landscape has been rather bereft of quality films lately. It can be difficult to craft a truly scary film, while also keeping it away from the R-rating most horror movies have. Lately, the R-rated horror flicks from A24 and Blumhouse Productions have been leading the charge with more subtle horror films like Get Out, It Follows, The Witch, and It Comes at Night. All are great little horror films that rely more on tension and dread than anything else. This weekend, A Quiet Place comes along to disrupt the horror scene for the coming season.
Adding “talented horror writer and director” to his resume, John Krasinski of NBC’s The Office and co-writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, craft a surprisingly tense and scary horror film. It is one that I genuinely forgot was PG-13 while watching it. In the vein of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, A Quiet Place is truly a tight family drama within a unique alien/creature feature. John Krasinski also stars as Lee Abbott, a husband and father of three. His real-life wife Emily Blunt plays Evelyn Abbott, Lee’s wife. The two have good chemistry, even while not directly speaking to one another for most of the film. Together with their children Marcus (Noah Jupe, seen in Suburbicon and Wonder), Beau (Cade Woodward), and their partially deaf daughter Regan (a fantastic Millicent Simmonds, seen in Wonderstruck), the family is surviving the aftermath of an apparent alien invasion. As you would expect, their purposely “quiet” lifestyle soon is interrupted by these creatures, which results in a very tense battle of survival for the entire family. A Quiet Place is sparse with the details of where these creatures came from, and how exactly they took over, which is actually quite refreshing in this type of film.
Also in the vein of a similar creature feature Tremors, the aliens rely on sound to capture their prey. They can hear the slightest noise from apparently miles away, courtesy of their alien evolution. Lee and his family communicate mainly in sign language out of necessity. They spread sand on the ground to quiet their footsteps and have created padded safe rooms around their middle-of-nowhere house to diminish the sound waves they give off. The sound design in A Quiet Place is award-worthy. The moments of contrast between loud scares and silent anticipation pay off in some great ways and add more oomph to the traditional “jump scare” that PG-13 horror films rely upon. There are plenty of scenes where you want to scream out loud along with the characters, which created a great audience experience in the screening I saw.
Although the film sometimes lacks originality, it certainly makes up for it with its urgency and non-stop barrage of threats towards the second half. With a tight running time of 80 minutes (not counting the end credits), the story is fleshed out enough to where you care about the characters. John Krasinski seems to understand that if you care about the people on screen, the more frightened you’re going to be when things start going south for them. If only most modern horror film writers did the same. Lee and his daughter have a strained relationship from an event that occurs earlier in the film. Their bond and strife with one another is the central thread of the family story here, and it definitely pays off in the finale. In the same way that Signs was about a pastor regaining his faith, A Quiet Place is more about not wanting to fail as a parent and doing your best to protect your children.
John Krasinski proves that he has great talent here. His tight script and more than adequate directing style creates a non-stop air of uncertainty and impending danger. Living in the world that Krasinski creates would be a horribly anxiety-riddled life, and it shows on all the characters’ faces, especially Lee’s wife, who is far along in her pregnancy. Any regular movie-goer can see where the pregnancy plot thread is going. Even so, it’s still scary as hell as it all plays out. Although certain horror tropes and beats are foreshadowed very far ahead of time in the film, they pay off in focused and creative ways. That being said, there are plot threads that dangle in view a little too much, which made the ending not as clever as it could have been. There are still a few great moments in the final act though, including the last shot, which will surely have audiences riled up.
Since the plot is almost too simple in A Quiet Place, I wanted to avoid spoilers as much as possible. If you’re looking for a gore-splattered monster fest, this may not be your type of horror film. If you want a quick and lean yet emotionally affecting thriller, you will more than likely enjoy A Quiet Place. From the first scene to the end credits, the film doesn’t let you breathe for more than a minute or two at a time. For almost the entire run, it’s a fight for survival against some decent movie monsters (even though they look a lot like the Demogorgon from Stranger Things). Krasinski cuts out the fat that usually bogs down thrillers like this, and it’s one of the better horror films of the past 10 years because of it. It’s a beautifully made yet sometimes brutal thriller that will surely be remembered for a long time.