A lesser film might have made this story’s apocalyptic threat of bizarre monsters take place on day 1, but A Quiet Place makes the wise call of telling its story roughly 400 days later. I’ve seen the humanity collapses movie before and they’re usually pretty clunky in stumbling towards the danger. Here is a movie where the terror is present from the very beginning, drawing the viewer in with its nerve-wracking silence and the tragic consequences of being heard.
The movie provides an intelligent handicap of not having a single piece of audible dialogue until we’re about a third of the way through the story. Through the silent actions of a family and limited use of sign language, we learn the rules of living in a monster-infested America. The creatures that feast on flesh have such remarkable hearing for their prey that shoes are out of the question, inside and outside. If you make a loud enough noise, the monsters can track you down within seconds and kill you even faster. The Abbott family learns this the hard way and we learn that not even children are safe.
John Krasinski plays Lee, the father that struggles to keep going and protect his family. Having already lost one member of the Abbott clan, he strives to protect his pregnant wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), his deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and his frightened son Marcus (Noah Jupe). It’s not easy. They reside at a farm with surrounding neighbors in the distance. Lee tinkers away in the basement on gadgets to help his daughter hear, monitors cameras to keep an eye on every inch of the property, and studies up on the best way to fight off gruesome aggressors. And he better find out fast as there’s a baby on the way, easily the worst time to be having one.
Co-written by Krasinski, this is a story the easily wraps the viewer into its depressing world, where children struggle to accept the future and parents heartbreakingly try to help them reach tomorrow. There’s a guilt racing through the mind of everyone that they haven’t done enough, that if they were one step faster or one decision quicker, this all could’ve been different. This frustration has an intoxicating boil the way it must all be delivered with utmost attention to one’s audible actions. By the time the silence can be had no longer and one lets out a scream, it carries a heavy weight.
As I expect from such a concept, this is not an easy horror film to watch. While it has its share of earned jump-scares, most of its spine-chilling aspects come from the very fear of the future. It’s for this reason that I feel I must place a footnote for parents and expectant parents especially. Easily the most eye-popping of sequences is when Evelyn, alone and injured, must brave her pregnancy without making a peep while monsters scurry around her house. Blunt’s devotion to such a multi-layered performance makes her the most clever and badass of characters that the story naturally gravitates towards her motherly instincts to lead the way. That being said, Millicent Simmonds is a real standout for a young actress that doesn’t utter a single audible word. Her scenes are unique to watch in how she reacts without hearing anything, the soundtrack dropping completely during many of her close-up shots.
There’s a lot to love about A Quiet Place, from its chilling atmosphere to the nailbiter escapes to the more-than-satisfying conclusion. But I think what I enjoyed most was the effective use of no sound, where scenes and characters could breathe and be watched without a truckload of exposition or a blaring musical score to hold the attention of the audience. But, again, another footnote, be mindful of this aspect in the film’s freedom from senses. The lack of sound is going to make an awful lot of popcorn bag rustling and drink slurping too audible in the theater. This sounds like it may be cause for the film to be preferred home watching, but I certainly want to stress seeing this in the theater, if only to watch the reactions of the audience during the edge-of-your-seat third act. For that reason of being an uncommon blend of artful direction and gripping terror, I say brave the noise.