COURTESY OF JENN DEERING DDAVIS/ CC-BY 2.0
Real life couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt star in A Quiet Place.
Since its premiere at South by Southwest (SXSW) earlier this year, A Quiet Place, directed by John Krasinski, has been hyped by the press. Some even called it the Get Out of this year, but of course that’s an unfair comparison. The only real things the two films have in common are that they are two well-made horror-thriller projects directed by two well-known comedians.
A Quiet Place centers around the Abbotts, a family living in the year 2020 (that’s two years from now — wild right?) that is trying to survive after aliens with incredible hearing have taken over Earth.
An advantage that the Abbotts have is that their only daughter, Regan (played by the deaf actress Millicent Simmonds), is deaf, and so they exclusively use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with one another.
However, disaster strikes when Evelyn (played by Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real life wife) is on the verge of giving birth to their second child and has a difficult time not making a sound.
As one might assume from the title, A Quiet Place is extremely quiet. In fact, the first 10 or so minutes are completely silent. If you’re with a large enough audience you can hear people’s breathing; it adds to the terror. We understand the stakes quickly and the eerie silence only ups our anxiousness.
Krasinski manages to direct this film exquisitely; he shows us the world that the Abbotts find themselves in through newspaper clippings and through the setting. We don’t get any exposition dumps, and, frankly, that’s the last thing on your mind.
Both Blunt and Krasinski play parents who have different goals in mind for their children but understand the necessity for each others’ viewpoints. Although Krasinski is fantastic in a role that I didn’t think he could pull off, Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds steal the show.
Blunt is forced to express fear, courage and compassion without uttering a sound, and Millicent is a force who expresses her sadness and guilt through body language and sign language in an extremely effective way.
Not only does the film effectively up the suspense and horror but it adds an emotional element that has an extremely effective payoff. It doesn’t come off as a forced narrative and the motivations of the characters involved are completely in line with what we’ve seen prior to this pivotal moment.
The film is at its best when it focuses on the struggle of being a parent and a functional family in the midst of a post-apocalyptic situation. We don’t see the monsters often, but when we do the stakes feel as high as they can be. We want this family to survive almost as if they are our own blood.
Although A Quiet Place does a fantastic job at staying (mostly) quiet, the use of a score does at times lessen the impact of the film’s scares. Although not entirely fruitless — it does build up the tension at times — the score occasionally causes its own jump scares. Commonly, it precedes the danger/monster lurking around the corner and at times lessens the impact.
Additionally, the logic behind having a kid during a post-apocalyptic time is a little lost on me, specifically when the thing that’s going to put you in danger is noise, but who am I to judge the sex lives of characters living in stressful times. However, neither of these aspects ruin the film whatsoever. The tone throughout the film is one of anxiety and fear, and a couple of small problems (nitpicks really) hardly take away from it at all.
The film also puts itself in a position where it serves as a platform for the representation of a marginalized community. The frequent use of ASL, as well as Krasinski’s desire to learn from a deaf actress and have her involved and helping on set is fascinating. By the time the movie is done, you’re left with the desire to learn ASL and wonder why it’s not something taught in schools. It’s a power move that adds authenticity not only to the role but also to the situation the characters are in.
Overall, John Krasinski’s debut into the horror genre is an enormous success. Perhaps the bar wasn’t very high for someone who’s biggest break post-The Office was starring in a Michael Bay movie, but that doesn’t lessen how incredible this feat is. Backed by strong performances from its cast and a concept that is genuinely terrifying, A Quiet Place is not only one of the best movies of the year, it’s also one of the best horror movies from the past five years.