A Quiet Place (2018)
John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” is currently on everyone’s lips, a horror that tries to “reinvent” the horror genre (if such thing is possible after “Get Out” (2017) or “The Witch” (2015)). Preoccupied with silence, “A Quiet Place” is about a close family of four: father (John Krasinski), mother (Emily Blunt), and their two children (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe), who are forced to live in complete silence because any loud noise can provoke an attack of aliens populating Earth. This clever horror film has the theme of alien invasion as its touchstone, but then goes off in its own direction to become something more innovative and absorbing, largely thanks to its effective use of sound or lack thereof.
The story starts eerily. One family is in some abandoned supermarket, and they hardly make any sound. The intrigue here is – what happens if any loud/noticeable sound is made? The answer to this question is not long in coming, and we have the first tragedy. The writers here – Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski – all said that they took inspiration from silent movies of an era long past (see their interview here). And, it is a fact that the absence of the spoken word makes for a different cinematic experience. Somehow, the attention is immediately on the visual components of a movie, and it is heightened. Directors of many silent films who were into suspense, like Alfred Hitchcock (silent: “The Lodger” (1927), “Blackmail” (1929), with sound: “Rope” (1948), “Psycho” (1960)), knew exactly that kind of a golden contribution that complete silence can make to a story. Suddenly, without any sound, the most mundane shots are effective in their inexplicability and close-ups become suddenly tense. In “A Quiet Place”, silence plays just that powerful role, and makes the film so effective.
Comparisons are likely to be made with “Don’t Breathe” (2016) or even “The Road” (2009), but Krasinski specifically cited “Alien” (1979) as his inspiration, and it is clear it was the main influence. The creatures in both “Alien” and “A Quiet Place” look very similar, but whereas “Alien” relies on overt violence and horrible realisations, “A Quiet Place” is effective and intriguing in a way its characters “dance around” sound to stay alive, because it seems that any loud noise, rather than creatures as such, means certain death. Some logic does lack in the movie, as in many other horror films, and there are some tacky horror-jumps, but all this are easily forgiven given the kind of delicious tension that the film manages to maintain throughout. Such tension is present not only in some mind-blowing near-death escapes, but also when the family of four is simply relaxing in their home, enjoying each other’s company.
With so much recent criticism directed at films that use non-disabled people to portray disability, such as “Stronger” (2017), it is great to see Millicent Simmonds (“Wonderstruck” (2017)), a deaf actress, convincingly playing the lead role of an non-hearing child of Lee and Evelyn in “A Quiet Place”. For Simmonds’ character, it must be doubly hard to orient herself in the world where creatures who pray by sound roam. This is because a non-hearing person may not even realise he or she is incidentally making a great amount of noise, until it is too late. Also, even for hearing people, an additional problem may arise, and silence for an average person may become unbearable after a prolonged period of time. In the movie, both Evelyn and Lee can listen to music using headphones or sometimes talk normally near a stream of water, but, in reality, it would have been hard to be completely sound-isolated for long. In fact, a common way of torture has always been sound-isolation in confinements, and when time passes, even talking to oneself is unhelpful, with the result being that some people may experience auditory hallucinations so that their brain could “compensate” for their general lack of normal everyday sounds.
As for the rest of the cast, they are as imperfect as they can be. Emily Blunt is no stranger to holding a rifle or a gun in her hand, see “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014) and “Sicario” (2015), and Krasinski is surprisingly good. Perhaps, the reason the family in this movie seems so wholesome, loving and close is because Blunt and Krasinski are a couple in real life. Most tense scenes fall on the shoulders of Blunt, but she is the one from the cast who can handle them expertly, and she does. Moreover, for the cast, it is not simply the matter of fending off the monsters away from their property, because grief and pregnancy also come into play in the movie and become large themes. Being pregnant and giving birth is, probably, the worst thing that can happen in an environment where sound is forbidden, because high pitch sounds are inevitable, if not from the pregnant mother, than from her newborn baby.
Even though “A Quiet Place” is not an original horror it is claimed to be, it is, nevertheless, a remarkable achievement in horror cinematography. The makers paid attention to the little things that often get overlooked in this genre, such as silences (big surprise!), pauses in general, and chilling tension, which can frequently be only achieved given the right claustrophobic atmosphere. The result is a “must-see” film for any horror fan. With the committed and believable performances from Krasinksi and Blunt, the film is a very complete horror “package” full of apocalyptic elements, surprising tricks and unbelievable tension. 8/10