A Quiet Place Review
Director John Krasinski’s third feature A Quiet Place is a crafty little thriller set a few years in the future. The film has minimal dialogue and maximal, human-eating monsters. The origin of these creatures is never discussed or explained; instead, the film takes them for granted. It then sets about figuring out how to take the beasts down. We follow a family as they survive off the grid, close to the land, home-schooling the kids, with no modern or digital distractions.
The prologue sets the stakes of the film pretty high. “Day 89,” the opening title reads. The plague of beasts is well underway, and we see the abandoned town of Little Falls, N.Y. Mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt) has ventured into this dilapidated town with her husband, Lee (Krasinski, Blunt’s husband in real life) and their three children. A few minutes later, in a blur of sound and motion, one is gone.
As we learn in fleeting glimpses, the monsters are insectile in appearance, with long jointed legs and crablike pinchers. They’re blind but blessed with a terrifyingly acute sense of hearing. A year and a half into the narrative, Lee and Evelyn live in a pervasive silence, with their son Marcus (Noah Jupe) and their deaf daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmons). Regan is cloaked in residual guilt, tied to the prologue.
Contrary to its name, A Quiet Place is not a quiet film. Underneath the cascading torrent of a waterfall, father and son can safely have a chat about life and death. In conjunction with Marco Beltrami’s chords of doom and a bevy of relentless jump-scare cues, Krasinski’s film delivers the usual commercial zaps that may well secure him a financial success.
The best moment in the film, an encounter between Regan and one of the monsters in a dark cornfield, plays with sound and image and tension in a fantastically creative way. Unfortunately, other bits struck me as more shameless commercial horror fare. The centerpiece of the film (and a large part of the marketing) involves Blunt’s character delivering a child, alone, in silence as one of the creatures stalks the house. I can’t say that I found this film enjoyable; grueling is a better descriptor. The film isn’t exactly cathartic; that said, the shotgun-blasting, upbeat climax certainly got the crowd going. Krasinski exhibits a sense of certainty of what will hold the audience, moment to moment.
Earlier I said that this film is, despite the name, rather loud. A Quiet Place depends on the single assumption that the creatures find their human prey through their sense of hearing, and they can hear the slightest of sounds. However, more often than not, the human characters are rustling cornstalks or knocking things over, with little to no consequences. With A Quiet Place, there are moments where the screws tighten and you don’t dwell on that stuff. And yet there are times where those same screws loosen, and you start thinking again. Fortunately for Krasinski, those screws are tightened more often than not.