Director: John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
Length: 1hr 30m
In A Quiet Place, noise gets you killed. Following in the footsteps of recent high-concept horror films like Don’t Breathe and It Follows, John Krasinski’s sci-fi horror is set in the near-future where alien creatures have wiped out most of humanity. The creatures, blind but with powerful hearing and both fast and difficult to kill, prey on loud noises and respond to them quickly, making them a deadly opponent for the human race, so reliant as we are on sound for communication. The film focusses on one of the likely few survivors of this apocalypse, a family with a deaf daughter, equipped already with sign language for this now necessarily silent world.
The family, composed of Lee (played by Krasinski), Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward), survive on an isolated farm in the huge American countryside, having erred on the side of caution and total precaution. The film is incredibly engaging when highlighting the tiny details that have allowed the family to survive for as long as they have in this hostile environment. Sand has been poured over the
footpaths to muffle footsteps, markings pepper the house floorboards to prevent creaking, and voiced conversation is made only by the louder sound of the nearby river’s rushing water. Lee sends out SOS messages through the radio, and fire-beacons are lit every so often for the few surviving humans to remind each other that, despite their isolation, they are not alone.
The acting reflects this attention to detail, with a wonderful emphasis on body language and facial expressions. All of the performances are great, especially from the child actors, who perfectly convey a sense of fear mixed with childish innocence. In a world where civilisation has been destroyed, angst will still dominate a teenager’s mind, especially a deaf girl frustrated by a strained relationship with her father. Regan, played by the herself deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, stands out as a silent but forceful personality, Simmonds conveying her sadness and frustration, but also her bravery and sense of duty all with a deft and natural ability. Noah Jupe, as Marcus, is another stand-out simply for his great expressiveness throughout both the tense quiet moments and later more violent episodes. Here’s hoping we see more of these two in the future.
Whereas the premise, details and performances are enjoyable, the horror elements are frustratingly less so. For a film that’s supposed to be very quiet, there are a lot of distracting noises. The sound design doesn’t have much faith in the smallest of noises building tension, so we are constantly blasted by the loud music every time a noise is made. It’s like the film doesn’t trust the audience to get that even the slightest of noises is a threat, that there needs to be a scary loud noise to accompany everything to shock us into suspense. This is a film that’s perfectly designed for jump-scares, and while there’s technically nothing wrong with that, when the jump-scares are non-stop they really start to lose their impact and quickly become obnoxious. If you’re able to predict when the ‘scary bits’ are going to happen because you’re so used to how the jump-scares are being handled, then you’re not scared anymore. Some more variety in scares can go a long way in surprising you. It’s a shame, because the premise lends itself so well to building up tension and dread anyway. The scariest moment comes when the youngest child, Beau, switches on a little toy shuttle and the noise is heard around the forest. Between the sound being as noisy as it was in this so-far silent world, and the family’s horrified expressions responding immediately, it’s remarkably effective. It’s a pity there weren’t more scenarios developed like this.
The creatures also felt mishandled somewhat. While their design is great, their mystery quickly evaporates the more we see them. As the characters find more ways to outsmart them, you are forced to wonder how these creatures managed to kill off all humanity when they are dealt with by a family on a farm; this becomes an increasingly distracting thought as this is an otherwise slow and quiet film. The sad, moody atmosphere of the film’s first half also quickly dissipates when we are hit with loud encounter after loud encounter with the creatures, spoiling their mystery as nightmarish entities and robbing the film of its more serious and thoughtful tone. As action it’s a fun ride, but not really appropriate given the film’s initial premise.
A Quiet Place is an interesting and enjoyable horror film, but it leaves you with this feeling that there is so much to this idea left untapped and even somewhat wasted. Ironically, the most fun environment to watch it would be in a living room, with friends chatting as you wait for the violent, noisy stuff to happen.