Have you ever found yourself mimicking someone in a horror film, holding your breath when they do, or clinging to your seat for dear life? What about trying to be completely silent, when every instinct is telling you to do something else?
A Quiet Place is roundly novel in that it understands just about every dynamic intrinsic to a good horror film. It offers something new on a tired formula, depicting throughout the horror and consequences of acting in favour of your natural instincts. Rarer still, as a slow-burner, it’s gold.
Trapped in a silent world surrounded by nondescript creatures that attack when they hear you, this deceptively simple premise bears more than one revelation that turns anything but a straightforward B-movie on it’s head. Grieving parents Evelyn and Lee, played by real life couple Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, survive day to day with their children. Expecting another, much of the film is told from the perspective of their eldest Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who, deaf, communicates with her family through sign language.
Only a snapshot of a particularly tumultuous turn in their lives, A Quiet Place is unusual for the calibre of its conceit, performances and fairly it’s excellent production design being so far beyond it’s plotting. Subsisting on a property replete with trappings, decoys and extraordinary measures in case of emergencies bearing an eerie similarity to darkly classic Home Alone, the lengthy theatrics of an extended third act will not leave many disappointed. One sequence involving some incendiary devices sits aside another highlight featuring an ever-sinking silo, that like much of this film relies on simplistic, refreshingly uncomplicated dynamics to get us, against all we’ve been conditioned, to scream.
Endearing for so situating us in the character’s shoes by discouraging us to utter a sound, this is one film abundantly worth seeing in the cinema where every creak and shuffle will be ever more unnerving and unwelcome. Not infrequently punishing characters for acting in favour of their instincts, a gasp at the very least being amongst anyone’s foremost reactions to such circumstances, A Quiet Place unlike most horrors establishes a counter-intuitive, morbid and uncommonly consistent code for how it treats its players, too establishing in the earliest minutes, as so often goes amiss, that it is willing to take no prisoners.
Having said this, the implications of the family’s conundrum and how they could address it are little explored, instead opting, in classic horror tradition, to point an axe or shotgun at whatever’s hunting you, as if that will help. Indeed once a key element of the creatures’ existence is revealed midway, an aspect of our scenario that our heroes were evidently familiar with from the get-go, it begs the question why they did not employ a myriad of methods other than staying shtum in a house to evade or otherwise survive our foes, who it must be said, as in the likes of Life, are just that little too aesthetically familiar.
One of the many strategies available may have indeed been adopted by any of the survivors who apparently litter the area, though they are the subject of a very tokenistic treatment. A crucial dynamic between Lee and Regan too remains ill-conveyed throughout, the film neglecting to establish key aspects of Krasinski’s character that would render the pair’s later interplay more intuitive. Likely opting to avoid making the lead figure at all unsympathetic, the absence of on-screen characteristics within Lee clearly intrinsic to the film’s key emotional crux means when it does land that the impact is somewhat though not terribly softened.
Still an accomplished horror that shouldn’t be missed, A Quiet Place is best enjoyed surrounded by the sounds of many, many silences.
A Quiet Place is in cinemas now