A Quiet Place (2018)
Director: John Krasinski
Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds
Synopsis: A family is forced to live in silence from creatures who hunt by sound.
Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for terror and some bloody images)
Release Date: April 6, 2018
Perhaps one of the most deceivingly important senses we possess as humans is our ability to perceive sounds. As you're reading this review, you're probably hearing a host of sounds from various places, meshing together to create the ambiance that is just background noise to you. But just like the other senses, we can easily take for granted our ability to hear, and only when it's taken away do we realize how useful it is during daily life.
John Krasinski, in only his second feature length directional effort, co-writes, directs, and stars in A Quiet Place, a film that uses our auditory sense as its primary plot device. Krasinski portrays Lee Abbott, a man trying to live in silence and protect his family from blind, vicious, carnivorous creatures who possess hypersensitive hearing to hunt for prey. Right from the onset, the film establishes the eerily quiet world humans are now forced to live in--with the only safe sounds being natural ones such as leaves rustling or a river moving. Even footsteps are carefully taken softly, being sure not to make a noise to alert the creatures. It's an extremely disconcerting atmosphere not only for the characters, but even for viewers trying to eat popcorn or even sip on their soda (seeing the film in a crowded theater was a very rewarding experience).
Indeed, one of the chief reasons viewers were drawn to the film was how different its sound design was to other films. So many films nowadays are loud--not even just action films, but most comedy films typically include gags or surprising moments that invoke loud sounds. A Quiet Place rips those sounds away and reminds viewers how uncomfortable a film can be when the normal diegetic sound we expect to hear is taken away. This is partly accomplished through the characters having to remain silent for safety's sake, but it's also executed through another important plot device of Lee's daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) being deaf. Besides being the smartest writing decision in the film for more reasons than one (what could be worse than being deaf in a world where you cannot make a sound?), Regan's deafness allows the film to completely cut off all sound to fill her point of view, which is as terrifying as it is heartbreaking. The film doesn't stop there though; it further presents as many situations as possible that require sound, such as the pregnancy of Lee's wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) to create genuinely stressful and suspenseful scenes.
One of the most surprising aspects of A Quiet Place is how well the film functions on a technical level in coalition with its narrative level. Krasinski has done his research when it comes to crafting suspenseful sequences, unquestionably influenced from Steven Spielberg's hallmark films Jaws (1975) and Jurassic Park (1993). This is slow-burning horror in its truest sense, as characters are repeatedly trapped in precarious situations while the creature(s) stealthily hunt them, listening for the slightest noise. Smartly, Krasinski also opts to show very little of the creatures for the first half of the film and, when they are on screen, mostly utilizes dark lighting to hide the CGI. Only some close-up shots of the creatures' ear canals show the weakness in the CGI, and these are fairly quick cuts. The creatures themselves are also satisfyingly terrifying, as they are incredibly swift-moving yet stealthy, while their appearance is unique from creatures used in past horror films. Finally, the characters' remote location on a farm is also heavily utilized, from providing isolation to the characters (and viewers) to allowing for tension for scenes in the cornfield, which are reminiscent of the suspense in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs (2002).
Krasinski has created a uniquely eerie, suspenseful, emotionally driven film that benefits from a well-crafted screenplay, solid performances, and strong direction, while also containing a subtly moving score from Marco Beltrami (i, Robot, 3:10 to Yuma). The only real weakness is an all-to-abrupt ending, which leaves viewers wanting more. Nevertheless, the film provides more than enough satisfaction in its runtime to make up for it.
Written by Anthony Watkins, April 2018