A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
“So there are monsters.”
“Yeah, what’s the gag?”
“You have to be quiet or they kill you.”
“Here’s 17 million.”
Sometimes it is from the simplest of ideas that the best results come. This is the case with John Krasinski’s second feature, A Quiet Place. The film opens in an abandoned town. Evelyn (Emily Blunt) is gingerly skulking around a drug store in near silence as her son Marcus (Noah Jupe) lay sick with the flu. Her deaf daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) wanders the aisles exploring as her youngest brother Beau (Cade Woodward) plays silently. Lee (John Krasinski) joins them after collecting other items they need and the family walks the well-worn paths of sand that they have laid throughout the area so as to travel on foot, not making a sound.
Immediately, we are made aware of the ominous threat the family has been able to function under. Screenwriters Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and director, Krasinski, efficiently set up the rules and what is at stake. The area, perhaps the world has been overrun by lightning-fast monsters that follow the slightest noise and attack and kill whatever is causing it. One sound above a whisper could mean instant death. This family has somehow survived being wiped out by a menace that appears to have decimated mankind and are living, quietly on their farm in upstate New York. It is unclear, really how things happened, but we know they happened fast. Titles cut in every so often explaining we are at day 89, day 108, day 475, etc.
“…overrun by lightning-fast monsters that follow the slightest noise and attack and kill whatever is causing it.”
The structure of the film is a bit unconventional in that, while interesting, the first half is more portrayed as a slice of life. A picture of a family unit that has learned to survive. Evelyn tends to the daily chores of making food, schooling the children. Lee maintains the safety precautions that keep the family alive, attempts radio communication with anyone that might hear them, and tinkers with new hearing aids for his deaf daughter.
Then, as if at the top of a lift hill on the world’s tallest roller coaster, the second half of the movie becomes a non-stop, suspense-filled, thrill ride that pretty much doesn’t hold back. A series of circumstances puts each member of the family in the gravest of dangers as night falls and it is a total fight for survival. Unlike M. Night Shyamalan’s alien invasion pic, Signs or Matt Reeves disaster movie Cloverfield, we have to wait, but we actually do get a good look at these ingenious, Lovecraftian monsters.
From a technical standpoint, it goes unsaid that this would be a sound designer’s dream. A film, where noise is a key character and the singular threat. Erik Aadahl uses this opportunity to score the film in an aural feast of ASMR delights with whispers, crunching sand, leaves blowing in the wind. That’s not to mention the creaking timber beams in the house, the deep thump of wooden chairs and cabinets, and the soft sounds of cloth stretching and folding.
“…a sound designer’s dream. A film, where noise is a key character...”
The conclusion, well, we will talk after you see it. The problem in writing a story with such simple rules is that at times the story gets painted into a corner. Something must be done to offer a sort of resolution unless you are trying to be super artistic, but that rarely yields any commercial success.
All said, this clearly establishes Krasinksi as a filmmaker and a damn good one at that. He is capable of balancing two different tones that end up complimenting each other nicely, the quiet and the loud. Krasinski is also very adept at pulling some pretty damned good performances from the younger ones in the cast. Most notably Simmonds, a younger deaf actress who has a presence and a talent.
Unlike the milquetoast PG-13 horror of late, this one has a bite. It takes a bit of time to really get going, but with the inventive sound design, the remarkable performances, and the effective writing, this is something worth seeing.
A Quiet Place is worth Matinee (***)
Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)