A Quiet Place, co-written and directed by John Krasinski, holds you in the palm of its hand and toys with you whenever it feels like it. Sound – or the lack of it – plays a crucial role in this film and it is used to great effect. I can’t remember the last time I sat in a cinema that was so consumed by silence. The film is certainly light on story and characters, but what it does with them is effective in creating an atmosphere that is unrelenting, and an experience that grips you completely. Krasinski has certainly shown to me that he has a future in the horror genre, but before that becomes the case, let’s breakdown and explore, A Quiet Place.
Set in a dystopian future, we follow Lee Abbott – played by John Krasinski – his wife, Evelyn Abbott – played by Emily Blunt – and their two children, Regan – played by Millicent Simmonds – and Marcus – played by Noah Jupe. They all live in constant fear of blind creatures that are extremely sensitive to sound. The slightest noise will quickly see them showing up and tearing down anyone they encounter. Prepare to munch on your popcorn quieter than you’ve ever munched it before.
You forget just how reassuring and comforting sound is, until you watch A Quiet Place. Sitting there in the cinema in total silence is of course a given. But more and more these days, people don’t respect the sanctity of silence when watching a film. Well, when watching this film, people around me absolutely respected the sanctity of remaining quiet. A Quiet Place controls the audience. You daren’t make a sound for fear that it will be heard – exactly like the characters on-screen. There’s something powerful about a film that is able to completely control and influence an audience like that. Especially with a horror film, which usually gets people making noise out of fear.
The use of silence in the film is totally consuming. I sat there in my seat, gripped by what was happening and tensed up from the fear of the possibility of sound. A Quiet Place turns the most mundane noises into tension inducing moments where you hold your breath and wait for the danger to pass. And when a big noise happens, it’s like an explosion going off. I remember one point where it had been completely silent for an extended period of time and then a sudden, loud noise occurred (a lantern was knocked over) that had multiple consequences. Not only did it get a jump out of me, but it was my first proper taste of what type of experience was about to come. I’ll say it again: you forget how reassuring and comforting sound can be, until it’s no longer there.
A Quiet Place has you hanging onto every crunch; every creek. You almost tense up every time someone takes a step, for fear it could set something off, that in turn would result in the creatures showing up. It’s hard to explain how effective and also unnerving an experience it is, until you’ve experienced it for yourself. You are under the control of deafening silences; as they are yours (and the character’s) only point of safety.
But there is more to the film than just its concept, and it is how it goes about exploring and explaining its situation and the characters within it, that I found to be quite refreshing. Without sound, the film has to fully rely on the medium of film – a visual medium. Unlike a lot of horror films, A Quiet Place doesn’t halt proceedings so that it can awkwardly explain how the world ended up the way it is; what the creatures are and what the possible solutions to defeating them might be. There is no crackpot with binders full of exposition, ready to explain everything to our main characters (and by proxy, us the audience).
It’s primarily through environmental storytelling that this film communicates much of its story to us. Whether you’re seeing a newspaper headline or reading some of Lee’s notes; you mostly learn from what you take in and then interpret. There is no opening montage of cities on fire and newscasters breaking down what’s happening. It’s all done in a way that feels natural within the context of the film. It never breaks its own rules in service of unnecessarily explaining everything that has happened and now is happening. I found it refreshing; especially when you consider what usually happens in a film like this where answers are given to questions that are never asked.
In fact, it’s really interesting to consider the angle in which the writers of the film – John Krasinski, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods – chose to explore their concept. This could have easily been a big blockbuster where we follow the events from when the creatures first appear and then we watch a rag-tag group of soldiers and scientists try to figure out how to stop the creatures before it’s too late. Instead, we got a small, creative horror film that brilliantly capitalises on its concept and delivers a film that never lets you rest.
So not having the film hold you by the hand and dragging you through exposition and backstory was a far more engaging experience, I found. But something I did find myself struggling with: was forming a connection with the characters (at first). When your main characters can’t interact conventionally and have to either use sign language or whisper; it did make it challenging to get a full sense of who they were. The majority of their conversations were about their situation and didn’t offer much chance for us to get to know them as people. It took a while, but I did find myself finding a connection with each of them and slowly began building an emotional investment that mattered. Which of course fed into the tension I would then feel when any of them were in danger. Without that emotional connection, I would have sat there not caring, which would have severely hampered the effect of the film.
It helped that each character had defining qualities that went into shaping who they were as a character and from them I could being to form an understanding and a connection. Evelyn being pregnant and how that would play into the narrative. Marcus and his understandable fear of the world around him. Regan being deaf, which brought a really interesting dynamic to the situation. Particularly when we would experience the world from her perspective and literally be without any sound – something I knew would come into play later and be used in an extremely effective way. And Lee who was the rock of safety. The person who guided us all safely through the danger.
I’m usually not a fan of characters being so limited in scope, but for this film I was fine with it, because in the case of this one, A Quiet Place was limited in what it could do. It was only 90-minutes in length and had a budget of $17 million. So this film had to cut some corners while also not harming the quality of the film or the handling of its concept, and I think it did a damn good job of that.
And the actors themselves also did a damn good job. The danger of making any significant sound, meant that speaking normally wasn’t an option anymore and thus dialogue between the characters was minimal. This meant that emoting was a key aspect of each of the actor’s performances and they got to stretch those acting muscles for sure. Emily Blunt was undoubtedly given the toughest job in the film and as usual tackled it and overcame it brilliantly. With nothing but the distress on her face (I say that as if it’s an easy thing to do all day as an actor) she is able to show to you the true danger of her situation and she is able to hold you there in place as your heart rate rises and your fear for what might happen takes control.
Though Emily Blunt certainly took on the toughest role in the film (and executed it effortlessly), that doesn’t mean the other actors were twiddling their thumbs. Both of the child actors did great jobs within their roles – especially Millicent Simmonds. But it was the rock of safety, John Krasinski that kept this film moving. There was a weird moment I experienced where after a significant amount of time had passed, Krasinski’s character (Lee) spoke normally for the first time and I remember getting goose bumps. It was really odd to not experience the simple and normal situation of hearing a main character’s voice. But for some reason it had an effect on me. It was yet another example of how sound plays such a crucial part in film. Also, John Krasinski was excellent in the film.
And speaking of John Krasinski: I am really surprised at just how good of a director he is. This is the first film I’ve seen that he’s directed (there are two others I’m now interested to check out). But the effectiveness of this film; how well it is shot and how well it is all put together, shows someone who has really got a good handle on what to do with a camera and what he should be pointing it at. I of course hope John Krasinski will explore genres outside of horror, but I also hope he’ll still dabble in it a few more times.
And speaking of horror (to use that opening to a paragraph two times in a row) the monster design in this film was really interesting. The intricacies to it showed that a lot of thought went into constructing it. With the weird little protruding bits on its head and how it all worked in service of the narrative. It was a design that wasn’t incredible but was still interesting. I’m also really glad that the film never went down the rabbit hole of showing us where they came from or what drove them. Just a scary monster in the woods that was attracted by sound. I didn’t and don’t need a dossier on what the creatures have been up to prior to the film, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them again in a sequel (maybe).
I really enjoyed this film (as you can probably tell from my review). It delivered what I was expecting and what I wanted. I wouldn’t say it ever surpassed my expectations. It was a solid film that had me gripped for its entire length. Never going down a silly, unnecessary route and always keeping me invested in the family. A Quiet Place is simply a good horror film that capitalises on what it has and plays with it for the benefit of the audience … and also the slight torture of the audience.
I certainly recommend, A Quiet Place. If the trailers for the film have intrigued you, then you won’t be disappointed. Horror fans will be satisfied, and non-horror fans should still be able to handle this film, as it isn’t too overwhelming of an experience. Either way, if you do go see it, I hope you enjoy yourself and aren’t too scared.
I’m really interested to know what you thought of A Quiet Place and also my review of it. If you liked what you read here, may I ask that you follow both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – for all the updates and reviews. But I’ll quit rambling on now and finish by saying thank you to you. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my review and I hope you liked it enough to possibly return at some point. Til the next time, have a wonderful day!