Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Quiet Place


Mysterious creatures who hunt by sound have invaded and prowl the earth, and a family lives silently to survive among them. John Krasinski takes a giant step into the artistry of writing and directing, and though his movie is often quiet, it delivers a deafening bang.

Not his first directing or writing effort, but there's something special and significant about this one. Like he's crossed a boundary.

But he doesn't do it alone; the original screenplay was written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, who I'm sure deserve plenty of credit even if Krasinski did additions/changes/rewrites/whatever it is he did, because the story -- from its basic premise right up to the finely tuned more superfluous moments -- is masterful. Krasinski stars with his real-life wife Emily Blunt, and they both tear up the screen with strong, emotional, and nuanced performances. The kids who play their children also do a great job, especially Millicent Simmonds, the oldest, whose talents and character importance is right up there with the adults.

She's deaf in real-life, and her character is deaf in the story, which is why the family is all fluent in sign language, only 80 days into an apocalypse that requires silence. The practical, sensible way they live with this unprecedented restriction is thoughtful and full of rich detail. I love when movies make me think and ponder what I would do in an impossible situation, and that's the first thing this film does remarkably well. A low-key, semi-scifi culture that is endlessly interesting even without the monsters.

I love how the anger had to be quiet, too.

The next thing this film does right is, it has a family drama at the heart of its horror/thriller plot. It's relatively simple -- simple enough to be carried properly with limited dialogue -- but effective in wonderful, heartbreaking, and stake-raising ways in turn. In a first viewing, this element, and the more internal, softer, warmer moments that make it up are overshadowed by an extremely enhanced sense of dread that something terrible could happen at any time. The juxtaposition of the family moments and the looming terror was far too effective to be unintentional, but I'm looking forward to fully appreciating the moments of peace and internal conflict next time.

It's fitting then, that the terror and suspense are the most prominent element since they are what makes a theater experience exciting. This is the side that Krasinski gets more than right; it's not just suspense building up to some good scares; this film is a study in tension. It's an artful exploration of fear and terror of the basest kind, and never lets up through its whole runtime. The monsters are scary, but when they show up, it's a relative relief from the tension, because what is frightening in this film is not the thing that comes to eat you, but the thing that draws them there -- noise. Watching this film, you fear sound.

This movie features the most effective jump-scare I've ever witnessed. Usually I hate jump-scares, but they are so appropriate here!

And when you fear sound, the potential for sound creates tension. And the potential for sound is so wonderfully, maniacally constant, that I got a backache from being tense for an hour and a half straight. I love how boiled down the horror element is. As terrifying as those creatures would be in real-life, there's too much distance between them and reality; so the movie digs down to the core, to a practically untapped reserve of the origins of fear, and exploits it beautifully. John Krasinski does a masterful job in putting the focus where it should be, for the exact right amount of time, to get the most enhanced effect possible.

Every moment had to have been meticulously assembled. The plot structure runs smoothly without telegraphing its direction, and with even pacing -- nothing is under-explored, and no scenes become stagnate. Sound and lack of sound is used with special care to excellent results. I especially liked the times we would hear from the daughter's perspective. Camera placement and other visual aspects isn't as purely dedicated to enhancing the tension as the audio is, but gets occasional terrifying moments to shine; otherwise the film is consistently beautiful, but not in a distracting, overly artsy way.

It's very bold and simple, visually. I really liked it.

Though there is some dialogue here and there, plus the captioned sign language, the bulk of the story is told through visual methods. Essentially a silent film -- though sound is important, words are not -- it utilizes the fundamentals of visual storytelling. Characters don't just sit down and have a conversation, they express themselves physically. And there is no stilted, lazy exposition. Instead, we have to glean explanations and translate expression ourselves. It's presented in a sure way that's not difficult to understand, but the mere fact that it isn't handed to us unearned is commendable.

Because of the silent-film type style, the plot is pretty straightforward and the drama fairly basic. This is the closest thing to a flaw the movie has. No mind-blowing twist or turns, no complicated character motivations to study -- they're just a normal family trying to survive in a permanent dire situation. And occasionally this stretches into plot events. Sometimes things happen because they need to for the story to move, and it comes across like very bad luck. While this shakes the realism slightly for me, faulting it for that seems like nit-picking in the pettiest sense.

To quote Sabrina: "More isn't always better, Linus. Sometimes it's just more." This movie refrains from overreaching.

This film allows a few traditional tropes on the side, while focusing on what it wants to do exceptionally with fervent vigor. The result is a streamlined film that follows a narrow path with absolute dedication, and takes its elements of focus to envelope-pushing extremes. It has constant, immaculate, smartly crafted tension. It has a reason for you to care, displayed through powerful performances, especially from Emily Blunt. It's thrilling and emotional, but not pushy or contriving. And it's artistic in the most natural, unpretentious and honest way possible.

Completely unrelenting, and wholly welcoming, A Quiet Place is a terrifying but open place, inviting you to enter and lend yourself to its power; it may be frightening, but it returns you safe again when it's through, with a heart fuller than when you arrived.


  1. I really want to see this movie, but I don't do well with suspense/horror, so yeah, we'll have to see on this one. Sounds super interestin though and this review makes me wanna go see it right now!

    1. I understand the struggle. The tension is off the charts with this one! Personally, it was worth it though. If you decide to go I hope you enjoy! Thanks so much!

    2. That's so cool! Thanks for reviewing it, I'll probably go see it someday. :)

  2. I saw A Quiet Place tonight. It was sooo good and I 100% agree with everything you said in your review. I cried so hard during this movie because it made me emotional.

    1. Yay, I'm so glad you went and that you liked it! Definitely more to it than just a horror film. The beginning hit me hard. Thanks a bunch!

  3. I really hope I'll get to see this one soon ^_^

    1. I hope you enjoy -- it's a great theater experience!

  4. Great review! I really enjoyed this one, and was so happy to John Krasinski to have created such a big crowdpleaser. There were a few issues I had with the script, but nothing too bad that made me dislike or hate it.

    1. Thanks Katy! Glad you enjoyed it too. Yes, me too, he really did an excellent job and deserves the success! I can see that, but yeah, nothing that ruins the movie as a whole. :)

  5. - I was lucky enough to catch the SXSW premiere and it was one of the greatest theater experiences I've ever had. Krasinski is able to do what all the best directors do...playing the audience like a fiddle. He knows when to make you laugh, when to cry, and most of all, when to scream. The film is beautifully shot and the cast does an exceptional job at conveying true terror and a true sense of family. Overall, A Quiet Place is a must see experience for any fan of horror or fans of the theater going experience. See it with a big audience and hold on to your butts, 'cause your in for a ride.
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