I was worried when sitting down for A QUIET PLACE. Initially I feared that it was going to turn out to be another IT COMES AT NIGHT. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I expected a monster movie and got a well-made dramatic play. But with A QUIET PLACE, there’s no worry. It’s a full-throated monster movie. It’s a simple, lean effective tale of a small family living in the woods and having to stay silent for fear that a loud noise will send slimy, sneaky beasts hurtling towards them with their fangs and claws beared.
What I love about the film is that it takes a whole lot of risks, especially coming from Platinum Dunes, a company seemingly adverse to risk. Because the film is a) told with little to no dialogue — mostly ASL with accompanying subtitles and almost no spoken dialogue — I worry that the average moviegoing audience with itchy modern cinema ADD will check out. This works in the film’s advantage, because it forces you to be more aware of the power of sound design and the spoken word in a horror film than you are when watching A QUIET PLACE.
This unfortunately leads the film down its path of being a LOUD jump-scare film. It doesn’t cause the film to unwind, mind you. Simply it just means that the effective scares are the more reliable LOUD KNOCK AND JUMP. It’s well worth seeing with a large crowd, because it truly puts the audience through the wringer (specifically a moment with an upturned nail and bare feet). I also love that the film doesn’t hold your hand with regarding the backstory on the creatures, or how the people came to discover that they hunt by sound, or even their names. It just starts and drops you right in with only a few news articles on the monsters, and an on-screen subtitle telling you how long it’s been going on.
It’s also worth noting that John Krasinski directs the hell out of a horror setpiece, with the last two acts being a nearly prolonged hide-and-seek sequence with our protagonists and the monsters. He loves milking those suspenseful moments, particularly that fucking nail, as my movie neighbors were chewing their fingernails throughout. He directs his actors well — Emily Blunt being his real-life spouse and extremely talented doesn’t hurt — and has the bonus of letting their relationship feel real and lived in and the kids (Noah Jupes and Millicent Simmonds) are perfectly cast.
It reminds one of SIGNS a little bit, a family menaced by an unknown force on a secluded farm — but like that film, it has heart balancing its scares and has the bonus of having a nifty creature design, which to Krasinski’s credit, he doesn’t overshare. Just the littlest glimpses state the monster’s menace, and it works like gangbusters.
If audiences can get past the unique way this film is told, then it’ll be a hit. The SXSW audience lost their fucking minds at the last shot of the film. I know I did.
A QUIET PLACE creeps into theatres on April 6th.
Tags: Bryan Woods, Charlotte Bruus Christensen, Christopher Tellefsen, emily blunt, Film Festivals, Horror, John Krasinski, Marco Beltrami, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Scott Beck, South By Southwest