A Quiet Place will compel you to scream in the silence


John Krasinski’s near silent horror feature draws on the anticipation of scares while crafting a tautly woven family drama.

In an era of chronic jump scares telegraphed by loud noises, it’s become harder and harder to scare modern audiences. As we’ve seen with works like 10 Cloverfield Lane though, simplicity is the mother of invention and scares often come from going back to what works.

Director and star John Krasinski’s new horror feature A Quiet Place is just such a movie to put the frights back into the horror genre. With its literally heart-pounding story blended with an emotional family drama, A Quiet Place will be the most intense feature you see all year.

Around the year 2020, the world has been taken over by monsters who can hear the slightest noise. A family who has survived through being completely silent must deal with the creatures’ invasion of their home.

A Quiet Place doesn’t waste time with explanations. Missing persons fliers, overgrown weeds and abandoned storefronts tell us all we need to know about the immediate vicinity. The camera lingers over newspapers tacked to a wall just long enough to let us know a meteorite hit, monsters have been unleashed and the world has generally gone to hell.

Screenwriters Bryan Woods and Scott Beck don’t get bogged down with the “whys” of it all, so we never know where the monsters came from or what they want. The focus is purely on the family and their adaptations to this world.

We may not know this family’s name — though they are given names according to IMDb — but we witness all the ingenious ways they’ve worked to ensure their survival. Board games are played with fabric pieces; they eat out of lettuce leaves; they’ve even figured out how to keep the baby that parents Lee and Evelyn (Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt) are going to have.

For the audience, there may not be any logic to the creatures, but all the ways the couple has fought to keep their children safe have intelligence behind them. In a world where even lifting a medicine bottle can bring about death, all holes must be stopped up.

Remove the creatures and the chronic fear of death, and A Quiet Place is really a tale about a family coming to grips with their guilt over losing a child. The film’s opening, one of many intense sequences that only build upon each other in a brisk 90-minute runtime, introduces us to the family and the littlest boy who just wants a rocket ship to take them all away.

The family copes after an unsuspected tragedy in their own way, silently, because they have no other choice. Daughter Regan (an utterly amazing Millicent Simmonds) blames herself and feels her father is distant because of it. Their dynamics are clearly defined and because of the high stakes inherent in every move, the film’s finale acts as something like a gut-punch.

And make no mistake, A Quiet Place leaves you squirming and squealing for its entire runtime. If you suffer from high blood pressure, check it before arrival. The lack of sound not only enhances the terror when things happen but forces the audience to pay attention to the screen. Much of the dialogue is shared via sign language and subtitles, leaving you reliant on facial cues throughout. The score, much of it just heartbeats, leaves you questioning whether this is pounding sound effects added to induce terror or a literal manifestation of these characters’ beating hearts, the only sounds they can’t obscure.

Multiple sources of conflict are layered on top of each other, from Evelyn going into labor to Regan and brother Lee (Noah Jupe) finding themselves separated and trying to reunite. All of these various threads build with the audience completely unaware who will be safe and who won’t. Blunt particularly deserves an award for showing the most stressful birthing scene of all time.

With a cast as small as this, actors are forced to step up their game or risk losing the audience entirely. The fact that Krasinski and Blunt are married off-screen creates a relationship that feels lived-in because it is. The two have an easy camaraderie, anticipating the other’s moves in a way that’s natural. You want these two to succeed because they’re just so darling and real.

Krasinski plays Lee as a man haunted by what he’s seen, his eyes holding the horrors we’ve only briefly been privy to. Blunt is quiet and introspective, but it’s understandable that she needs to be kind and loving for the sake of her kids.

As Blunt’s character says, “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” And that relationship is at the film’s core. Who are parents in relation to their children? How can they protect their kids if they can’t protect themselves?

As far as the children go, Simmonds is a warrior as Regan, a young woman desperate to be treated as an adult because she’s aware of what’s happening. Simmonds conveys the frustration of not only growing up in this landscape but being a girl told to stay home where it’s safe. And poor Noah Jupe — last seen playing the scared little boy in Suburbicon — plays a scared little boy who just wants to sit at home and not be terrorized by man-eating creatures.

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A Quiet Place cements itself as one of the best horror features of the year. John Krasinski proves himself a director of substance who skillfully blends familial heart with pulse-pounding terror. Consider seeing this more than once in a theater!