A Quiet Place is as ferociously primal of a horror film as the terrifying predators present throughout. These creatures feed off sound, which is somewhat of a rudimentary gimmick for a horror film monster. Director and star John Krasinski takes full advantage of this conceit as it’s made clear early on how even the slightest auditory could provoke an inevitable demise. He understands the elemental side of survivalism, particularly if you have loved ones with you to look out for. It’s the family bond of the characters, even above the palpable suspense, that makes A Quiet Place rewarding popcorn entertainment. What it lacks in transcendent originality it makes up for with a perpetual bombardment of tension throughout.
The post-apocalyptic backdrop this family faces is completely devoid of any explanation. Beginning on day 89 of this nightmare scenario, the Abbott family is seen scavenging the remnants of a pharmacy. Because of how heightened these creatures are at hearing, something as minimal as shaking a pill battle could mean the difference between life and death. Outside of scattered news clippings, no information is front loaded regarding the outbreak. Krasinski and his co-writers avoid the pitfalls of exposition with a mix of familiarity and sheer tragedy. Once the title card rolls and without spoiling the prologue, the Abbotts are forever scarred by the dangers this world has to offer. The film then flash-forwards a year later to a now pregnant mother (Emily Blunt) of this family. At the risk of imposing the wrath of survival purists everywhere, they have prepared contingency plans such as oxygen tanks and a sound proof chamber to adapt. Beyond simply living through the night, the Abbotts story here is one of optimism much like the early years of The Walking Dead.
To compensate for a lack of information about their surroundings, the first act is spent demonstrating the adversities and interpersonal relationships of the family. Father Lee (Krasinski) continuously attempts to create functional hearing aids for his daughter, who is frustrated by his failures. Lee’s son is uncomfortable with facing the possibility of being the eventual protector of this family. Nothing is schmaltzy or overwrought in part because of how much minimal dialogue there is. The family primarily communicates through sign language, which they’re all adept at considering the condition of their daughter. What could have been an obnoxious traversal of the monsters’ power is the glue that keeps this family together. It in turns makes the sequences of the characters avoiding these beasts all the more suspenseful. From basements to bathtubs, nowhere is safe and threats don’t necessarily cease just because a monster leaves the room. Something as foreboding as a stair nail is enough to instill a feeling of uneasiness.
As an actor turned director, Krasinski’s performance is unselfish and he allows his co-stars to take center stage. Emily Blunt performs much of the heavy liftin and with just the slightest gesture, she conveys everything from sheer pain to maternal love. Much of the movie is an allegory for the tribulations that accompany parenthood and balancing protective love with independence. Both of their children are struggling with their identities and each are excellent in their respective roles. No matter the age, their parents cannot ultimately carry them all the way with a new one on the horizon. It’s a limited ensemble, but those limitations allow for Krasinski’s direction to fine tune the scares. There’s a few pesky jump-inducing moments caused by uproarious music but for the most part the prolonged sequences of hide and seek are effective.
For most of the duration, the film abides by the Jaws principle of showing mere glimpses of the creatures in question. Once shown in full, they’re well-designed and look like a hybrid of a Xenomorph and the Cloverfield monster. That said, the image compositing is rather spotty. At times they look plastered inside the frame. It’s not a fatal flaw by any stretch but the film’s utilization of quick cuts made the monsters more imposing. The monsters serve as much of a metaphorical purpose as they do a physical one, representing dangers that one must face outside of the comfort of your home.
At a lean 95 minutes, A Quiet Place is a snapshot into a family’s struggle. It’s also a film that is greatly enhanced by sitting alongside a captivated audience. The theater experience alone complimented the movie’s title. It’s not a movie with a clear endgame in sight or a social statement like last year’s Get Out. What is does have in common with that film is the possibilities it provides for the actor behind the camera. After a few preceding stumbles, it’s great to see that John Krasinski may have found his footing in the director’s chair.