Directed by: John Krasinski
Premise: In a post-apocalyptic world, humanity is hunted by large monsters who respond to sound. A family on an isolated farm goes about their lives in complete silence.
What Works: A Quiet Place is an effective horror picture. The movie is very scary and it incorporates several set pieces while also maintaining an atmosphere of dread. The film possesses tension even when there is no immediate threat. That is partly a credit to director John Krasinski who makes smart choices, such as surrounding the characters with negative space and judicious use of the creatures. We see just enough of the monsters to get a sense of what they look like but the creatures aren’t so overexposed as to lose their impact. A Quiet Place also uses sound very well. The conceit of the story provides opportunities to seize upon otherwise mundane noises and the movie does that in ways that increase the dread. It also makes the film extremely cinematic. Since the characters cannot talk everything has to be communicated visually. The family members use sign language but the filmmakers find other ways of emphasizing nonverbal communication that enhances the premise of the movie and makes A Quiet Place interesting to watch. Good horror films often burrow into the fears of the unconscious mind and this movie does that. Although it takes place in contemporary times, A Quiet Place taps into primal fears of hiding from predators and the film is shot and executed in ways that play up that fear. The movie also exploits the anxiety of parents and their need to protect their children. And the portrait of the family is one of A Quiet Place’s most extraordinary features. The story is mostly honed down to the essentials and yet it also contains authentic moments between the parents and between the children. The opening of the movie violates one of the rules of Hollywood horror films and it sets up a tragedy that both binds and divides these characters throughout the rest of the story. This adds an additional layer to the film and to the character relationships while also making the threat of violence credible.
What Doesn’t: The nature of the monsters is unclear. They might be aliens, demons, or just animals. The film never explains any of that. It’s a mostly incidental detail and largely beside the point. One of A Quiet Place’s assets is its perspicuity; the narrative is shaved down to the essentials which makes it an immediate experience. But an explanation would also define the nature of these creatures and the threat that they present to humanity.
Bottom Line: A Quiet Place is an exceptional horror picture. The movie is frighteningly entertaining and extremely well made while also allowing for some strong performances by the cast.
Episode: #694 (April 15, 2018)