A Quiet Place Review
Sound is a key element in any horror movie. Whether it be a haunting score or the building silence before a cat jumps out of somewhere, they play an important role. So in a film like A Quiet Place, which follows a single family attempting to hold it together and survive an apocalypse brought about by creatures who hunt by noise, sound is literally a life and death matter. You cannot cry in terror, you cannot yell in pain, and even something as innocuous as a child’s toy could mean instant doom. It is a simple idea, but one which offers up a brilliant starting point in an exceptional third directorial outing for John Krasinski, who also stars as the family’s patriarch. Every element is honed to perfection for maximum effect as it builds in waves of dread that consumes you and leaves you feeling frozen with helplessness. It doesn’t contain those moments that have you reeling from gore, instead it is much more satisfied with creeping up on you later and making you stop and uneasily think it over.
We meet this family already in the midst of their survivalist lifestyle, foraging and taking every possible care. An important component of a story like this is establishing the rules that take it outside of the comfortable norm and sticking to them. A Quiet Place does this well, giving you just enough information to get by about the state of things and who these people were before this happened, but no more, and that is exactly how it should be. We don’t need to know the origins of the creatures, but we understand the threat of them and we know enough about how they work, which means that when things develop later they never feel far-fetched or cheap.
We instantly understand the utility and necessity of certain elements of the family’s life; things like the sand pathways to muffle footsteps and particularly the need for as many things as possible to be soft or woollen (finally an apocalypse that favours the knitting community). We don’t even know the names of the characters until the end credits because in the scope of the story it’s not something we need to know, and besides which it’s more natural when dealing with isolated people who intimately know each other and in this specific situation to not be using each other’s names every few minutes.
Of course we need to be able to connect to these people to care about the horror happening to them, and not enough can be said in favour of the performances. Real-life husband and wife Blunt and Krasinski work so smoothly together. The emotions, from tenderness to utter terror, play out on Blunt’s face in heart wrenchingly beautiful fashion and a particular sequence culminating in her hiding in a bathtub that is all over trailers and posters will shred just about every one of your nerves. Events at the beginning are a catalyst for a guilt that fuels every character in their own way for the rest of the film; the dad in his desperation to protect, the son in his fear.
It is the daughter played by Millicent Simmonds, the deaf actress who we will also be seeing soon in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck, is the emotional core of the movie though. The family’s familiarity with and use of sign language allow them to vitally communicate, but her being deaf means that she lacks the necessary awareness of sound that could prove essential to her survival. It is a fascinating approach that sets it apart from other movies with a similar survival story, such as last year’s It Comes at Night, and adds a new layer of tension in many key moments throughout the film.
Relating to that the sound design is, of course, impeccable; every sound carries so much significance and weight. The soundtrack by Marcus Beltrami, who is no stranger to horror having done the scores for the Scream and The Woman in Black movies, is lightly woven through the films and compliments cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s visuals excellently. That said it would have been interesting if the filmmakers had taken the risk to have no score at all, just leaving everything we hear raw and natural as we experience the film.
The only other possible fault to be found in the film is that the very end is a little abrupt and whilst it does speak to the ongoing theme of survival it’s in a more “lock and load” way rather than a living through each day as it comes way. However, for an original horror A Quiet Place is one of the finest examples I have seen for some time. It is well-crafted, emotional, tense, and will stay with you for a long time afterwards.