Raphael Duhamel reviews John Krasinski’s well-received supernatural horror.
“IT’S SOUND!” screams a newspaper headline, shown in the first act of A Quiet Place, and serving as an appropriate and concise summary of this post-apocalyptic thriller. John Krasinski’s third feature, already his most lucrative at the box-office, is built around a simple, original and effective premise: make a sound and you die. For this reason, almost no lines are actually spoken throughout the movie, since the members of the Abbott family – headed by Emily Blunt (Evelyn Abbott) and John Krasinski himself (Lee Abbott) – communicate using American Sign Language. A Quiet Place successfully turns what could have become a dried-up gimmick into a full-fledged horror movie, with a solid storyline and powerful performances all around.
The film’s initial novelty comes from its plot, which takes place long after the actual occurrence caused the proliferation of echolocating monsters. The audience is given very little backstory about the family itself or the world that surrounds them, apart from a glimpse shared with Krasinski’s character at other survivors’ bonfire. The director and screenwriters trust the spectator to progressively understand the Abbotts’ situation and, by limiting the available amount of information, help the audience’s identification with the protagonists. Both we and they are plunged in a mysterious cloud of obscurity and ignorance. This decisive narrative choice hopefully marks the beginning of a wider “post-patient zero” approach to disaster movies, which focus on story and character development while avoiding altogether excessive reliance on flashbacks.
A Quiet Place is set on a corn farm in Iowa, which the protagonists occupy and have accommodated to fit their needs. This location, reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, adds to the Abbott family’s wholesomeness. The movie perpetuates typically American values – one shot sees them holding hands in prayer before a meal – through its story and characters. Krasinski is impeccable as a strong father, utterly dedicated to the survival of his wife and children, who does his best to turn his young son (Noah Jupe) into a man. Blunt’s pregnancy for most of the movie forces her into the role of child-bearer, which she unexpectedly trades in for a more intense and active part towards the end of the movie, recalling her fierce performance in Edge of Tomorrow. The film’s true breakout star, however, is Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress who plays the family’s only daughter, a teenager with the same hearing impairment in search of independence. Her real-life condition gives her display and the movie as a whole incredible relevance, especially since the screenwriters themselves have called A Quiet Place “a metaphor for the breakdown of family communication”. On a literal and figurative level, Simmonds’ character struggles to be heard by her father, although she appears particularly attentive to her family’s needs. As a reverse manifestation of the monsters’ acute hearing, her deafness ultimately turns out to be, in a grand instance of poetic justice, her most precious means of survival.
The insect-like CGI critters are particularly terrifying, suggesting a mix of the creature from Alien and a praying mantis; they succeed in remaining so throughout the entire movie, as their abilities and attributes are progressively unveiled. They pose a very real threat to the characters, who stand out by their ingenuity and intelligence, differing greatly from typical horror film protagonists. Indeed, the Abbotts are resourceful, only walking barefoot on paths of sand that they have formed around the farm, and using inventive diversions, such as fireworks, to distract the monsters’ attention. A Quiet Place belongs to the horror category, but Krasinski’s tight and refreshing direction, in addition to the carefully constructed story, distinguishes it from other pure products of the genre. The narrative’s conventional aspects are eclipsed by the suspenseful and well-paced third act, which provides an exhilarating finale to an entirely outstanding and innovative movie.
A Quiet Place is out now in UK cinemas. Trailer below.