Quiet, quiet, quiet, BANG is so tiresome a cliché of horror that even when directors handle it well they are derided for crafting a cheap effect. But what if the BANG wasn’t so predictable? And what if you were utterly invested in the need for quiet?
Bryan Woods and Scott Beck served A Quiet Place up as a silver-plated gift to the director who would take it on. Their concept was simple but extraordinarily potent, having been inspired by a youth spent watching silent films and living near farmland in Iowa, and their script drew rapture from those who read it, including husband and wife John Krasinski and Emily Blunt.
With Krasinski snapping up the chance to direct, the film sees the pair play a mother and father in a bleak dystopia that makes the world of The Road seem safe. A cold opening neatly sets the scene: a deathly silent street, abandoned and revealing nothing but pervading tension. Blowing in the slight breeze – the only source of sound – a newspaper headline silently screams: ‘it’s sound!’
Crafting genuine chills from next-to-no noise nor exposition, A Quiet Place is an instant blast. Set in some indeterminate year, the story begins with a harrowing prelude eighty-nine days after a terrible event, before lurching to day 472. Monstrous aliens roam the planet but have no eyes so must hunt by ear; make a sound and you have perhaps thirty seconds until meeting a messy end.
Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) have survived thus far, in part, thanks to their daughter Regan being deaf (young actress Millicent Simmonds is actually deaf), meaning that the family are familiar with sign language and are well-versed in mute communication. There’s also petrified son Marcus (the ever-brilliant Noah Jupe), a lingering ghost and the time-bomb presence of Evelyn’s pregnancy. They tiptoe around, travel barefoot and play games with wool pieces. It’s a warm and loveable environment that is constantly threatened by fear.
An ingenious premise is not enough to nail a classic – many poorly executed affairs have proved that before now – but A Quiet Place is nothing less. Why? It is because this is that rare breed of horror that insists you care about its characters long before it even contemplates hitting you with the hard stuff. Once you are emotionally invested in the story, as soon as it matters to you what happens to these people, then everything, monsters and all, becomes traumatically real. Almost entirely without speaking, Krasinski, Blunt, Simmonds and Jupe are a family unit that you believe in and cannot bear to see hurt.
To that end, there is precious little bearable to see here. Taut scenes, each terrifically shot, pepper the script and build to an exhaustingly thrilling climax. It’s a thoroughly traditional experience but marvellously put together and consistently rewarding. If a softened score occasionally steals from the tension, there’s no denying the deft skill at work here. All – from the design team to effects crew – have brought their A-game.
Stripping down the apocalypse, both technically and thematically, A Quiet Place delivers a pleasingly emotional twist on the classic monster-movie. This populist horror will thrill for generations.