The first trailer that I saw for John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place did what all good movie trailers are supposed to do, put the movie on the list of films I wanted to see. The concept presented, one of people being hunted by an unknown predator who tracks its prey through sound, thereby requiring the characters to avoid speaking or making any noise, seemed to offer something more interesting and complex than the average horror thriller. But the finished product, while certainly competent and entertaining, tilts more toward the average than the interesting and complex.
A Quiet Place opens post-apocalypse, with a family of five rummaging quietly through a wrecked and abandoned store for medicines and supplies. On the way back to the farm the youngest child activates the world’s noisiest space shuttle toy and is quickly devoured by a creature. From there the film advances over a year, and finds the family living the peaceful life (literally) on their farm. The father, Lee Abbot (played by director Krasinski) works to maintain the farm and its defenses. In his spare time, he sends Morse code signals on various radio frequencies and works on fixing a hearing aid for his daughter. The mom, Evelyn (Emily Blunt) focuses on standard gender roles involving laundry, food and being pregnant, but she’s such a badass later in the film that it doesn’t matter. Daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf (as is the actress) and feeling guilty about letting her brother keep a noisy toy without making sure he didn’t take the batteries. Son Marcus (Noah Jupe) does math and reluctantly learns survival skills. An array of video screens and whiteboards in the basement tell us little about the predatory creatures other than that they are blind, hunt through sound and are armored. When things get noisy, mayhem ensues.
As horror thrillers go, A Quiet Place is certainly above average. The characters don’t break any new ground, but are well-written, and within the confines of the script (it’s practically a silent movie) the acting is excellent. Emily Blunt may be out of John Krasinski’s league in a number of ways, but he manages to keep up. The characters make mistakes that put them in jeopardy but are not particularly stupid in the standard horror movie way. While you get the impression that the film might explore topics related to guilt, loss and the pressures related to being forced to live in silence, it spends the majority of its time being a creature feature. Although their origins are unexplained, once we get a good look at these things, they are not camera shy, and the design is effective. Tension is well-developed throughout, and some of the individual scenes evoke genuine dread and terror. While all stories tend to be composed of coincidences, there are more ‘what are the odds’ moments in this film than were likely necessary. But that may only be a problem if you think too much. Otherwise, even though it doesn’t deeply explore the psychological depths that the story offered, A Quiet Place is still a good movie and a great scare. B+