Sometimes people first entering a genre can bring something truly special to it. See how directors like Patty Jenkins, Scott Derrickson, Taika Waititi and soon James Wan have brought their influences and ideas to the superhero genre. Sometimes, minds outside of a certain field can really find that they have a knack for it and in the case of writer/director John Krasinski (best known perhaps for featuring in the US Version of The Office) I think this will prove to be very much the case. As A Quiet Place really does show that – like Jaws, Halloween and The Blair Witch Project – the simplest of ideas in horror can be the most blood-curdlingly effective.
Krasinski has directed two feature films before (The Hollars, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men) but with A Quiet Place the self-professed newbie to horror has brought an anxiety to the genre that has all the makings of a future auteur. Like Alfred Hitchcock or John Carpenter, his film opts for suspense over gratuitousness and the near future set plot is cleverly assembled by the passing details. Newspaper clippings, whiteboard notes, abandoned stores and the like all replace explanatory dialogue, while the monsters themselves are kept in the wilderness too. These sound stalking beasts are slowly revealed through the duration, before being in full view come the Mars Attacks esque (though far more seriously played obviously) final standoff and reveal. Admittedly, some might say the film loses its realism or edge in these more full frontal moments at the end but A Quite Place never loosens its grasp really and remains an intense cinematic experience.
Few features in recent memory have highlighted the engrossing nature of cinema viewing like this. Thanks to its quite literal living up to its title, A Quiet Place sheds a spotlight on modern cinema etiquette and in the most ferocious way, shows why the quiet place that is the darkened cinematorium is still the optimum way to view a film…let alone a horror film. A Quiet Place is truly atmospheric, not just because of this sustained silence or the remote locations but because of its meaty themes and its bravery in avoiding excessive exposition for sign language-aided subtlety, as it meticulously assembles clever sequences of dread. Parental anxieties and elemental danger run through this film and there are other various subtexts to be found in this tale of survival and monsters that reeks with fears both external and internal.
The lack of much dialogue (most of the film is made up of very quiet whispers, sign language and subtitles) further anchors the films distinctiveness and also makes its sparing uses of dialogue all the more powerful. Rarely has the liberative power of our voice been so well evoked on the big screen. This approach entices you and when Marco Beltrami’s incredible score is unleashed to tear into the taciturnity, it echoes, at points, some of the pulse quickening beats of Jon Ekstrand’s work on Daniel Espinosa’s underrated Sci-Fi film Life from last year.
The performances are roundly exceptional, with real life couple Krasinski and Emily Blunt as Lee and Evelyn, being powerful figureheads of the central family and Blunt especially throws her full emotion into a part that is both resilient and riddled with stresses and horrors. Meanwhile young actors Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds, as Marcus and Reagan Abbott are equally terrific. Simmonds especially wows and as a deaf actress playing a deaf character, Krasinski awesomely makes the film’s considered approach, and its idea of turning disability into an advantage for victory, all the more resonant. Why is there not more of this being done?
Well-staged set pieces (with one particularly squirmy methodical jolt) and a superb craftsmanship make A Quiet Place a real standout that says very much by – in a literal way – saying very little. Some have picked it apart on certain details and logical stretches but it is very hard not leave the screen impressed by how well a film has maximised the elements of its environment and thus shown why the cinema and the self are still some of the scariest places to be taken when it comes to horror…and sound stalking monsters work a treat too!
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