There is something particularly satisfying about a lean genre film that knows exactly what it wants to be, and nails that mission statement. Actor turned director John Krasinski’s post-apocalyptic thriller A Quiet Place is storytelling distilled into pure tension. It wisely abides by Hitchcock’s old adage about the nature of cinematic suspense.
Taking place in a near future Earth, the world has become overrun by monstrous beings that have acute senses of hearing. While they are completely blind, they are also seemingly invulnerable and entirely relentless. The survivors of this epidemic must constantly limit their use of sound to stay alive. The story stars a small family helmed by Krasinski and Emily Blunt, and follows their trials against this inhuman enemy.
The ingenious premise guarantees two things; the entire picture must rely on almost entirely on visual storytelling, and our characters are constantly sumerged in a sea of dread. Luckily Krasinski is up for the task, liberally employing the use of slow pans and infrequent cuts throughout. This isn’t a jump-scare fest, although that threat always exists, but instead relies on its excellent usage of tension through deliberate camera movements. Similarly, the folly work takes center-stage, the distant clicking of the malicious creatures signifying their presence. The groans of the house, the crash of knocking something over, all illicit guttural fear.
But this isn’t the sort of horror movie that just sadistically dangles it’s cast over the precipice without developing them first. It’s about a family doing their best to stay whole. Lingering regret defines the cadence of their lives, an unforgettable moment early in the film galvanizing what will come after. The genuine tenderness between Blunt and her real-world husband Krasinki can be felt whenever they share the frame, and it’s the anchor for the emotional investment we have with the protagonists.
The usage of sign language for the majority of communication leads to A Quiet Place ostensibly being a silent film. The previously described tenderness and strong world building are essential in this context, giving us much needed information and a reason to care. While some of the environmental storytelling feels a little contrived, its more because the exposition-filled newspapers littering their home are a trope, rather than their inclusion being illogical.
Once it launches into the all-out assault of its final half, there is nearly 45 minutes straight of raw peril. With virtually no reprieve from the barrage of stalking nightmare creatures, one bad situation morphs into another bad situation, a filmic demonstration of Murphy’s Law. This portion is relentless, and while it makes for an impressive technical achievement, I couldn’t help but become slightly worn-down by the unending danger. If the hook of the first half is discovering the nature of this world and learning about this intimately portrayed family in mourning, the second half is a pure thrill ride. While it resolves the plot threads from the first half amidst the intensity, after the closing credits I found it hard to appreciate this sequence from more than a detached appreciation of its technical merit.
Still, for fans of horror movies or thrillers A Quiet Place is an easy recommendation. Its clever premise makes for an absolutely suffocating experience. The rapport between its two leads, and great performances from its child actors grants us a window into this average family amidst extraordinary circumstances. While its taut second half can feel somewhat numbing, A Quiet Place is case study in how to film suspense.
Image Source: Nerdist
3 thoughts on “A Quiet Place Review: Horror Distilled”
Man, I am so looking forward to seeing this…
It’s really good!