Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
It would seem that in today’s era of filmmaking, the unlikeliest of people create something so fascinating that fans remained shocked for days to come. Last year, Jordan Peele wowed audiences with his jaw-dropping social-commentary horror, Get Out, a film that took everybody by surprise in addition to earning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Viewers were ready for what the horror genre had in store next and after IT marvelously blended the coming-of-age genre with terrifying visuals, 2018 see’s John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place roar into theatres. Even when faced with high anticipation, nobody could have predicted what Krasinski had in store. Utilizing a simple concept for maximum efficiency, A Quiet Place mixes classic horror elements with family drama and the result is a masterfully crafted feature that is not just one of the best scary films of the year, it is one of the best films of 2018, period.
A Quiet Place follows a family living in a world overrun by seemingly unkillable monsters that hunt by sound. Doing anything too loudly can quickly turn into a fatal error. While most of humanity seems to have succumbed to the blind aliens, a man, his wife, their son and deaf daughter have retained some sense of a normal life for themselves on a secluded farm.
The most notable element of Josh Krasinski’s narrative revolves around how much of the film is conveyed in a nonverbal manner. The film is able to create a post-apocalyptic world without ever communicating vast amounts of exposition. In its place, clues and written messages are shown throughout the film, catching the audience up to speed on what the world currently looks like for this desperate family. As sparse as it is, the dialogue in the film mostly occurs without characters speaking as they ensure nothing will alert the monsters. American Sign Language is prevalent throughout the story and A Quiet Place plays out almost like a silent film throughout its runtime. The emphasis on using sign language in place of traditional dialogue allows for scenes with actual talking to feel all the more powerful. This is a story of a family simply trying to survive. When you do hear someone speak, it is as if it is the first time in a while they hear each other again. They can unload this built up emotion after long periods of silence and each actor expresses this aspect beautifully.
Similarly to high-concept horror films of the past, A Quiet Place is a film filled with tension and unrelenting suspense but it does not shy away from offering viewers something fundamental to think about after leaving the theatre. Much like The Babadook showcased the concept of grief and Get Out gave an inside look into racism in America, A Quiet Place focuses on the struggles of parenting and how adversity can impact keeping a family together. The thematic fullness the film has elevates it above other surface-level thrillers and gives A Quiet Place a deep emotional core within its horror movie roots.
The brisk, 93 minute film may be about family most of all, but that does not mean it is light on the scares. Make no mistake, A Quiet Place is not just scary, it is frightening. The slow-building tension leads up to excellently crafted moments of pure terror as Krasinski takes his time paying off storyline notes spoken in the first moments of the film. The film ticks like a clock on a bomb, as you sit in the theatre, constantly on edge with Marco Beltrami’s eerie score creeping up. The jump scares do not feel out of place by way of them having a sense that they are earned within the context of the sequence that came before it. Unlike most horror films, the characters do not make stupid and irrational decisions, resulting in a massive and satisfying payoff by the time the credits roll.
The acting in the film is near-flawless with the biggest surprising coming from Millicent Simmonds. Simmonds, who is actually deaf, plays the deaf daughter of John Krasinski’s and Emily Blunt’s characters and from the moment she appears on screen, she delivers a gut-wrenching and complex performance that will leave you captivated for days to come. Emily Blunt continues to prove why she is one of the best actresses working today with this tour-de-force portrayal of a mother longing to give her children a safe upbringing. Specifically, the scene where Blunt is in a bathtub, pregnant and alone while evil moves and closer and closer is one of the most emotionally shattering and entrancing scenes of the year so far. With most of this review going to John Krasinski’s directing talents, it would be a mistake not to mention how great of an actor he truly is. Known for comedic talent on The Office, Krasinski excels as the bearded protector of his family. Without uttering a word, Krasinski is able to convey the undying love he has for his wife and children, even when it is something as simple as a look. Finally, Noah Jupe plays the family’s youngest child and he is terrific in the role. He longs for the world to go back to normal and watching Jupe evolve from a scared child to a brave fighter is one of the best parts of A Quiet Place.
This film is gorgeous. There is no sugar-coating how breathtaking the cinematography is for A Quiet Place. Shot expertly by Charlotte Bruus Christensen, the film’s rural setting has a distinct visual style reminiscent of films like Logan and No Country for Old Men. The beautifully-composed shots of wide spaces help enforce the lonely and destructive nature of the world. The design of the monsters is also quite a sight and not usually shot up close. The film takes its time to showcase the monster, instead opting for quick moments before Christensen slowly reveals how brutally terrifying the invaders really are.
A quick thing to note. The film’s opening sequence might be one of the best openings to a film in recent memory. It is the family scavenging for medical supplies amongst other items but there is one moment in the set-piece that is so heartbreaking and pulse-pounding that it immediately grounds you in the horrific reality.
Emotionally-driven and terrifyingly captivating, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place is a horror classic from start to finish. He is able to build a world where all seems lost while still honing in on what makes the film special; parents looking to protect their children at all costs. It features incredible sound design, fantastic performances and nail-biting tension and with the genre experiencing a renaissance, A Quiet Place embodies the zenith of the high-concept horror film. And remember, if they hear, they hunt you.
Nick’s Rating – 8.7/10
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