The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

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 Silence Is Golden 

Emily Blunt
Emily Blunt
Paramount Pictures
 90 Minutes
Directed byJohn Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt 
A Quiet Place

Much of what passes for modern horror these days relies on two things for the vast majority of the scares in the film: excessive blood and gore and the jump scare. So old school horror fans will enjoy seeing A Quiet Place, a movie that avoids reliance on both of those overused tropes and instead goes for a more fundamental sort of eventually overwhelming suspense. And what is really amazing is that A Quiet Place was directed by John Krasinski, an actor with an underwhelming body of directorial work who nonetheless painstakingly assembled a film of which Alfred Hitchcock would be proud.


A Quiet Place is a monster film, one that bears a considerable similarity to Ridley Scott’s original Alien in more ways than one. Like Scott’s xenomorph, the creatures in A Quiet Place are only seen in glimpses until the very end of the movie and have a very large head with lots of sharp teeth. Their origins are somewhat sketched over, but, at the time the movie begins they have decimated much of the earth’s population. The creatures are blind, but they rely on a superior sense of hearing to find prey (pretty much any living thing) and dispose of it.


Among the only survivors of the alien invasion are the Abbott family, who live on a secluded farm and have adapted their lifestyle to keep themselves as safe as possible (see clip below), all things considered, since they lost their youngest child in the film’s first sequence. Husband Lee (Krasinski) works on gadgets to help keep the family safe, while wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is a doctor preparing for the imminent birth of another child. The Abbotts also have two tweenage children with the usual set of issues, with one big difference. Older daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, which, in a bit of plot convenience, enables the family to communicate in the sign language they had already learned, but she faces the usual growing pain issues of feeling her parents favor her brother because he is a boy. She also harbors considerable guilt over her other brother’s death (she gave the dead boy a toy rocket ship that wound up making the noise that attracted the monsters). The surviving brother Marcus (Noah Jupe) is afraid he can’t live up to his father’s masculine standards in terms of protecting the family.


Most of A Quiet Place occurs during the course of one eventful day and night in which Lee takes Marcus out to a nearby river to try to impart some outdoor skills on his son, while, at the same time, an upset Regan runs away from home temporarily because she feels her parents don’t love her as much as they do her brother. Of course, as usually happens in films of this nature, the conveniently alone Evelyn happens to go into labor at this exact time, making just enough noise to attract one of the monsters. The rest of the movie depicts the ordeal the family goes through to try to reunite and avoid being killed by the monsters that are now aware of their presence.


A Quiet Place has merely a functional plot, but one that has been very carefully constructed to give the monsters enough of a background to pass the surface plausibility test. As often happens in movies like this, the monsters do have a weakness, one that the Abbots eventually discover and try to exploit, but also one that might have been discovered earlier by the various scientists and military minds trying to stop them. And, even though the Abbotts have devised a method of keeping their baby quiet (it involves a soundproofed crib), it doesn’t seem like something that would work for the months a real baby would require.


But that’s merely nitpicking and, in a very good movie like A Quiet Place is, the type of nitpicking that doesn’t occur until well after audiences leave the theater. Instead they are caught up in one carefully constructed scene after another. Hitchock was a master of storyboarding his set pieces, and, here, it certainly seems as if Krasinski has done the same, carefully arranging each character’s every movement to maximize suspense. In one early scene, Evelyn catches a laundry bag on a nail on the basement stairs, leaving it straight upright, a bit of business that’s sure to come into play later in the movie. Sure enough, she steps on the nail at a key moment in the story and has to try to keep silent through the pain and avoid a blind monster that passes very close to her.


While Krasinski’s mastery of the visual is quite accomplished, what really makes A Quiet Place work is the sound, or, often, the lack thereof. This movie is an early favorite for next year’s sound Oscars, as the soundtrack magnifies every little noise, keeping the audience guessing as to just how much noise it will take to summon the creatures. This guessing game continues for the entire movie. In addition, the creatures emit an extremely loud clicking noise that’s terrifying in and of itself and contrasts with the slight sounds that the characters accidentally make from time to time. Then, as a change of pace, Krasinski switches to filming scenes from Regan’s point of view and eliminating the sound entirely. This injects a new level of scariness when Regan can’t hear the monsters who, in a couple of scenes, are nearly directly behind her.


Nothing in John Krasinski’s background suggests he had the technical expertise to make a movie as perfectly assembled as A Quiet Place. His two previous directorial efforts were critically panned arthouse flops. A Quiet Place resembles an arthouse film in some ways (its creature effects are rather low key and underwhelming in an age of CGI wizardry), but that enhances the film’s effect. This movie won’t win any screenwriting awards, but the family hear is quite a believable family of characters the audience cares about, unlike the readily disposable victims who inhabit most monster films. Here, imminent death isn’t a manner of seeing a spectacular kill but, rather, a tragedy the audience hopes to avoid.


It’s probably natural to compare A Quiet Place to last year’s similar horror success story, Get Out. Krasinski’s movie (he rewrote the original screenplay) lacks the pointed cultural messaging that helped Jordan Peele win an Oscar last year, but there’s no question that it is technically a considerably more accomplished movie. Unlike most of today’s special effects driven pictures, Krasinski doesn’t attempt bombast, grand guignol, or cheap trick scares; instead he crafts every shot carefully to maximize suspense, and the frights here are quite well earned. One thing that A Quiet Place does share with Get Out is the ability to make a loud splash at the Oscars next year.   

In this clip, a family game of Monopoly turns potentially deadly when the monsters show up.

Read other reviews of A Quiet Place: 

A Quiet Place (2018) on IMDb