Stop, do you hear that? I do, but do they?
The runaway rhythm of hearts in dismay,
It pounds ever harder and makes the rib cage
A tight echo chamber, a tremulous gauge
Of the worry of war that no man wished to wage.
Hide each hollow creak and conceal every crunch
From our foolhardy feet or an indiscreet lunch.
Outlasting this long is no right to survive
When one simple slip-up that fate can contrive
Might cut your luck short when the sentries arrive.
Each whisper so slight from beneath our caught breath
Resounds with regret as it promises death.
Escaping means nothing, nor hiding from view,
When stubbing your toe puts a target on you.
Stop, do you hear that? I fear that they do.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Faithful readers may know that I have very particular tastes when it comes to horror movies. Generally, the more blood there is, the less likely I’ll enjoy it, because I’d much rather be creeped out by atmosphere and implication than by ever more nauseating murders. That’s why A Quiet Place caught my interest, and indeed it is exactly the kind of scary movie for me, the kind that plays with your nerves rather than your stomach and even gets you to care about the characters in danger.
The film begins several months into an apocalyptic proliferation of monsters who detect their prey by sound and who have effectively ended civilization as we know it, leaving the unnamed Abbott family to scavenge supplies and survive in silence. Over a year later, they’ve built a fairly stable and silent life in their monster-prepared country home, complete with warning lights and trails of sand to soften their footsteps. The father Lee (director John Krasinski) does his best to prepare both his deaf daughter (Millicent Simmonds of Wonderstruck) with hearing aids and his son (Noah Jupe) with survival experience, while mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real wife) tries to make their precarious existence as livable as possible. Yet in films of this type, half the tension is waiting for something to go wrong, and even if those with little patience may be a tad bored by the wordless beginning, they only need wait for the shoe to drop…noisily.
As far as the plot itself, it’s honestly nothing I haven’t seen before. That’s because it is literally a combination of 2002’s Signs (mysterious creatures with a hidden weakness, two kids in danger, a cornfield) and 2015’s Hidden (a genuinely lovable and caring family living in fear of being discovered if they’re too loud). Luckily, I love both Signs and Hidden, and even if I could write a whole post on how similar A Quiet Place is to them, its combination is different enough to be worthwhile and adeptly made enough to make it far scarier than either earlier film.
Krasinski certainly has an eye for tension, and the sound design heightens the threat of even everyday items. Sometimes, you see the potential scream a mile away (one scene is particularly painful to watch), while others sneak up on you. Yes, there are plenty of effective jump scares, and keeping the creatures out of sight until late in the film adds to their mystery and threat. The fact that Evelyn is pregnant also contributes to the inevitability of sound, and with so much of the film lacking dialogue, the sounds that do attract the creatures are potently jarring for the audience as well.
Every performance is outstanding in its fear, grief, and familial love, with Krasinski and Simmonds (who is actually deaf) being the stand-outs. Even relying on sign language, they’re entirely believable as a close family, the kind that says grace together before meals, albeit haunted by the trauma of their situation, and their resourcefulness proves quite clever when dangerous situations arise. I kept wondering why they wouldn’t close doors to keep the creatures out, but then I remembered that a closing door would only cause more noise. Some may wonder how they could have built some of their safety measures without making sound (they’re shown to have canned much of their food, and the electricity must run off a noise-making generator), but if you can ignore those niggling critiques, A Quiet Place is the latest proof that an intensely scary movie depends more on the craft behind it than the body count.
Best line (out of not many): (Evelyn, to Lee) “Who are we if we can’t protect them? We have to protect them.”
Rank: List-Worthy (tied with Hidden)
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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