Synopsis – A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
My Take – While a lot of filmmakers continue to spearhead their decade’s long efforts in loading up the horror genre with cliché and familiar trope filled poorly made films, some filmmakers, as we witnessed last year, proved that with the time and right effort into the craft of a film, you might actually end up scaring as well as amazing a larger chunk of the entertainment hungry audience. In the sense who would have thought that the Stephen King’s adaption of IT on the big screen would end up making $700.4 million at the worldwide box office? And that comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial effort Get Out would end up picking an Academy Award along with raking in $255 million on its $4 million budget? I for one would have never expected actor John Krasinski, most famous for playing the role of Jim Halpert in the U.S. comedy series, The Office, would end up starring with his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, and directing a horror film right after his delightful family dramedy The Hollars.
Premiering at the SXSW Festival, to immediate critical acclaim, the buzz around the film has been building ever since, and guess what? The film is without a doubt one of the most intense cinematic experiences I ever had. Keeping the audience’s attention from start to grand finale, the film is a brilliant atmospheric horror that manages to keep you in your seat without a moment of laughter, and just a sense of fear and anticipation about what’s going to happen next. This film is a perfect example that there is still hope for the horror genre yet. Set in 2020, in a rural countryside in what seems to be a deserted part of Earth, where mankind is near extinction as mysterious creatures hunt and kill anything or anyone that makes a sound.
The story follows the Abbot family, which consists of Lee (John Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), who along with their children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), are all well acquainted with the precautions they must take to survive. They spend their nights and days scavenging for supplies and walking throughout with complete silence, on a path they have covered so they can walk barefoot. They rarely talk and only communicate by sign language and they prevent any noise from occurring such as opening doors, dropping stuff, things that make noise. However due to a recent tragedy, dynamics among the four have shifted drastically, but one night all precautions fly out of the window, as a sound is made and all hell breaks loose.
The premise is simple, we get no back story as to why the family have to stay silent, but within 5 minutes with an unexpected moment we can see what the consequence of making noise is, and it’s quite clear that this film is going to pull no punches. The scene was executed so very well that it created a sense of silence in the hall where you hear your own breathing along with that of the audience. The simplicity of the concept makes this film a fascinating prospect but it’s the execution that excels it to soaring heights. There’s no major end-goal, explosive action or larger than life plot, and I loved that about this film. The key is to keep things simple, focus on the story and the characters along with the suspense and tension which doesn’t let up in its nerve shredding 90 minutes.
Neither of director Krasinski‘s previous directorial features have hinted that he would be a master of suspense, but the way he builds anticipation in cramped quarters is nothing short of masterful. Here, director Krasinski has crafted a horror film that grabs you in a vice-like grip from the very first shot, not letting go until the end credits start to roll, honing in perfectly on the use of sound and silence for some of the most intense sequences in recent memory. He isn’t afraid to assume you already know an outcome by opening the film on the 90th day of the invasion clearly avoiding the manic-day-one tactic (where we can probably guess a lot of bad stuff happened), no, he approaches the subject with experienced characters. Paths have been set with sand, cars have been abandoned, and his house has been completely sound proofed, with carpets, sand set like stepping stones and the family only communicates by sign language.
Not since 2016’s Don’t Breathe and Hush has a horror film been this effective with idea of sound, along with writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, director Krasinski does not let what little verbal dialogue there is to be wasted on exposition. Instead he uses certain visuals to allow the audience to understand the history and rules of the world made effective with the haunting cinematography by Charlotte Hans Christensen. The limited conversations that do happen are based around characters connecting and rebuilding relationships.
Perhaps more importantly, this is one of those horror films where what happens to the characters matters to us, so as manipulative as they are, the character arcs which have been orchestrated for maximum catharsis hardly diminishes how poignantly we feel for what happens to them. Through immersing us in their minutiae, director Krasinski succeeds not just in creating a rich, imaginative and simultaneously credible alternate reality but also in getting us to care for these characters in an intimate, personal and even profound way. I won’t spoil anything, but there is a scene between Lee and Regan during the film’s climax that literally broke my heart and had me drowning in my own tears. Since there is very little dialogue in the film and more communication via sigh-language and expressions, that made the emotions that more substantial.
Using both sign language and meaningful glances, the dynamics among the Abbotts are laid out clearly, succinctly and intently, complemented by some ingenious sound design that emphasizes the atmosphere of lived-in domesticity and omnipresent terror. The fear factor in the film comes from the tension and suspense director Krasinski develops throughout, for which he does share credit with Marco Beltrami, whose amazing score and sound design play a really important part. A true standout sequence being when a heavily pregnant Evelyn finds herself evading a creature as she goes into labor. The jump-scares in the film are also terrific here, as they are almost all to do with the story and are genuinely things you should be jumping from. Director Krasinski also adds a sense of originality by casting a deaf actress, well, to portray a deaf character, hence she can’t hear the monsters coming and for that its intensity is heightened.
The psychological element is played simply and effectively, the set pieces come one after another, in different locations of the farmland where the characters live, one situation is more unsettling than the other. The appearances of monsters is cleverly played out, they are always just one glance away and for most of the film you cannot see them up close, and when the creatures are finally revealed they are eerie and disturbing, mainly as they have their own wicked personality. Sure, there are a few problems with the plot and there are definitely a handful of conveniences that effect the pacing of the film, but putting those aside however, there is a lot to like here.
Coming to the performances, John Krasinski did well with his performance. As the protective and well-planned father Lee struggling to connect with his kid, Krasinski is phenomenal. Emily Blunt too as expected is quite exemplary. The performance Blunt gives here as the mother Evelyn is truly astounding with the range of emotion she gives to her character especially with the situation she is in and the two share a great chemistry. Child actors, Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds were just as good and added an interesting dynamic to the narrative.
As a director John Krasinski definitely took a risk with the concept and it paid off. The almost-silent film comes together like a creepy masterpiece that also emulates what a parent will do for their child. The film knows what the audience wants to see and after teasing you for a little bit, more than delivers. The ending of the film will have you feeling both emotional and triumphant and wraps up this thriller in a bad ass bow, hopefully we will see more like this from Krasinski. On the whole, ‘A Quiet Place‘ is an original spine-tingling and nerve-shredding horror film that is both well-scripted and well-acted.
Directed – John Krasinski
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 90 minutes