Even if it doesn’t happen to be your favourite genre, there is nothing quite like going to the cinema with a friend to see a horror movie. More than any other kind of film, a monster flick lends itself to a group environment, with the more reactionary the crowd, the more enhanced the experience. Ironically, for a film about staying as silent as possible, word of mouth is the thing that has brought so many people to see A Quiet Place, written and directed by John Krasinksi, who shares the screen with his wife, soon to be immortalised as Mary Poppins, Emily Blunt,
Set in a post apocalyptic near future, the film follows the Abbott family as they try to navigate and survive in the presence of a plague of blind alien monsters who are hypersensitive and and attracted to any kind of elevated noise. Whilst Evelyn (Emily Blunt) makes preparations to achieve the almost impossible task of having a baby in such condition, Lee (John Krasinski) works to fortify the area whilst training his son Marcus (Noah Jupe) and trying to repair a cochlear implant for his deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds).
As it says right on the poster, the film’s premise is simple, if they hear you, they hunt you. These very clear ground rules help to pull the audience straight in to the film, and the level of tension from start to finish provides one of the most memorable and anxious film watching experiences in recent years. Snack on crunchy food at your peril during this one, because the plot revels in prolonged periods of silence that do a great job of ramping up the immersive uneasiness. You can recognise influences from and comparisons with a variety of past genre films, with things like M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs and 2016’s Don’t Breathe coming immediately to mind, but just because A Quiet Place contains some familiar tropes and visuals, it doesn’t detract from the fact that is a well executed, effective scare flick. I would say that you dread more than you jump, but a good horror movie doesn’t always have to have you screaming every two and half minutes.
From a personal point of view, I am always more scared of a movie monster when I haven’t seen it up close, with something like Jeepers Creepers being a perfect example of terror turned to disappointment. Whilst the design of the hyper sound sensitive creatures in A Quiet Place is certainly interesting, I will say that catching brief glimpses of them in the first two thirds of the film is much more effective than seeing them up close as things escalate to the climactic final sequences.
Something the film does very well indeed is achieve the right balance between gore and more subtle horror. There is enough blood and injury based horror to have you hiding behind your hands on occasion, but not so much that the picture turns in to an gore porn ordeal. It’s nice to see popular horror films going back in this direction after the limit pushing years of popularity for franchises like Saw and Hostel.
The easiest way to ensure a pair of leads have good chemistry is to have them be married in real life, and you can certainly see this with Emily Blunt and John Krasinksi! The immediate nature of the film’s narrative doesn’t give any opportunity for character background, and thankfully the strong bond between the real life husband and wife gives the audience everything they need in extremely economic fashion. As a woman preparing for an unimaginable birth (unless you’re a Scientologist, I guess), Blunt evokes a lot of inner strength, using her big, emotive eyes to evoke the feelings that her words, in this instance, cannot. John Krasinski ran the risk of spreading himself too thin across this project, as writer, director and star, but his performance as Lee is arguably the strongest in the film. He perfectly captures the essence of a man, trying to protect his family in an impossible situation, and there is something about Krasinski’s aesthetic that suits him perfectly to a strong, silent type.
Following on from her turn in Wonderstruck, Millicent Simmonds continues to impress me. As Regan, she gives a mature performance, her deafness in real life bringing a real authenticity to the deafness of her on screen character, a trait that becomes extremely significant and important as the narrative progresses. Playing her little brother Marcus, young Noah Jupe gives a really emotive performance, arguably the best of the entire bunch at portraying sheer terror without words and sound. As a group, there really is no weak link in the performances that make up the Abbott family, and that is so crucial when you are spending so much quiet, concentrated time with a defined set of characters.
Overall, A Quiet Place isn’t necessarily a ground breaking or world shattering film, but it is a strong genre movie that succeeds in its attempts to exhaust you with tension and surprise with effective and well timed jump scares. It would be a disservice not to the see this film in a cinema with a friend or two. The more amped up and anxious your own experience is, the better the film will feel.