‘Only one horror in every 100 is really good. This is that one.’
2018 in Cinema:
A Quiet Place, 2018
Directed by: John Krasinski
Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Noah Jupe
I’ve been looking forward to this film for a long time as the concept is one that has really intrigued me; in a world invaded/attacked by creatures (it is not known if they are of earth or not), the survivors must be completely silent as the creatures hunt sound. We briefly see an event in day 89 at the start before jumping to 18 months after the initial attack, and the family, mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), father Lee (John Krasinski, Detroit), daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe, Surburbicon), have learned to live in total silence. At this point Evelyn is heavily pregnant and accidental sounds soon see them being hunted by these creatures at every opportunity.
This film was fantastic. Horror is one of my favourite genres, but only when they’re done right and done well. Roughly I’d wager about only one horror in every 100 is really good. This is that one. There isn’t a spoken word (that isn’t a small whisper) for over half-an-hour in this film, and that silence, bar the natural sounds and the soundtrack, makes for some amazing suspense. And for a film with very little dialogue, the story of their situation is beautifully told. We start initially on day 89, it’s not an origin story of the monster, before an act happens and we skip to day 400+ and we follow a family who have survived, and continue to survive, this onslaught. They’re clever, for the most part (I’ll get to that), and the entire history of the monsters’ attacks is so well told through quick camera shots and the characters’ actions. The sheer look of worry on Lee’s face the second he hears his son playing with a noisy toy immediately alerts us to the danger of making sound, and that’s a type of storytelling I appreciate, rather than the traditional Mr. Exposition in these horror films and cheap kills of throwaway characters that don’t affect anything that you usually get in horror films.
The acting is also really well done. John Krasinski puts in a terrific performance, helped by his writing and directing of the film, and his chemistry with Emily Blunt is obvious as they’re a real-life couple. But one thing I found beautiful about this film was the casting of Millicent Simmonds. She plays Regan, a deaf girl (I’ll get to this), and Millicent herself is a deaf actress. I found her performance amazing without this knowledge, completely buying her deafness, and it has proved to be a stroke of genius to hire a deaf actress to play a deaf character, rather than someone merely pretending.
Another really impressive feature to this film is something I simply assumed to be a mistake initially; Regan’s deafness. They don’t have a Mr. Exposition explaining this to us, and initially I was wondering how they all knew sign language perfectly only three months in, and when the camera focuses on any other member of the family you hear sounds and effects of life, but when it cuts to Regan being the centre of the screen it’s total silence. I immediately noticed the lack of volume (in a film without much volume) and it soon became a beautiful tool used: one scene with the monster behind her, one scene with the rocket playing without sounds, they use her deafness throughout the film as a really effective tool.
There are some issues, and the main one being the characters’ cleverness. Earlier I noted how they’re very clever and they’ve survived this extraordinary amount of time really sensibly, but they have sporadic moments of stupidity. Firstly the boy playing the rocket: three months in you’d assume, even with the boy being four, they would all know the dangers (surely most of their friends and family have been murdered so they know noise is deadly). Secondly Regan’s decision to walk away in a mood leaving her heavily pregnant mother alone in the house with no way of shouting to her. And most annoyingly is Evelyn being pregnant.
What do babies do? Cry.
What do babies do a lot? Cry.
Do babies make noise? Yes.
Can they survive with noise? No.
This is a debateable one with me as I found her pregnancy really added to the drama; especially going in to labour with one of the monster’s in the house, and I was worried and cared for her predicament, knowing (not from experience . . .) how much she must be in pain yet still forced to be in total silence throughout the process. But why is she pregnant. This is nearly 500 days in, so, roughly, a year and a half. To be in a position to go into labour she had to get pregnant about nine months into an alien invasion. Throw in the initial event that happened only six-or-so months prior to their consummation and the knowledge that you can’t make noises, it just made me really annoyed that they, as a couple, were stupid enough to get pregnant in this world.
I also had issues with the need for a soundtrack, as pure silence would have worked just as well, but, again, I understand why they felt it was needed. There’s no speaking for over half-an-hour and they are probably fearful that total silence for periods of up to ten minutes may deter some cinemagoers so they felt a soundtrack would have helped drive it along. But true fans of horror films shouldn’t be deterred by this as the film is built on being silent to survive so I would have appreciated less of a soundtrack.
Aside from those small issues, and the use of a few jump scares, A Quiet Place is still a fantastic horror film that I loved from start to finish. The silence adds so much drama to their predicament and I found I held my breath along with them at every accidental sound. The moment Marcus knocks over a lamp and it makes a noise everything goes silent and I waited borderline-impatiently to see if it’d be punished or not. It’s such a brilliant technique and they use it beautifully. Although idiotic decisions by the main characters do take away from my full investment into their characters. For fans of horror films: A Quiet Place is a must see.
Plot: * * * * Acting: * * * * Writing: * * * * Presentation: * * * *