By John H. Foote
Released in March, this exceptionally original horror film did very well at the box office and with film critics who praised the taut, tight direction of actor John Krasinski, and the performances of the entire cast.
The opening moments invite us into this world, earth, but something has happened. The family in the gutted drug store moves with deliberate effort to be quiet, to make not a sound. Nothing can be knocked off the shelves, which are well picked over, they move in silence. Walking home they follow a line, moving silently through the countryside, barefoot to be quieter. When their youngest child produces a toy he took from the store, he loads the batteries, and to the terror of his family it begins emitting sirens and sounds. Horror grips them, as the father races towards his little boy, hoping to get to him before whatever is crashing through the woods does.
He does not. Inches from his son a creature bursts out of the forest, snatches the boy, and begins devouring him.
Just like that we are plunged into the world of A Quiet Place (2018).
An alien invasion brought to earth creatures who are blind but have exceptional hearing. Having worked out most of humanity, those still alive must live in a state of near silence, constantly terrified a noise of any kind will bring the vicious predators to them. With no mercy, they kill swiftly, devouring people while they are still screaming, men, women children, infants.
The family, after the slaughter of the little boy is made up of parents, portrayed by real life husband and wife Krasinski and Emily Blunt, and a deaf daughter and terrified young son. The mother is pregnant with another child which will complicate their life of silence.
We follow them as they go about their lives, mourning the death of their child, terrified to make any noise thereby drawing the creatures to them, hunting or scavenging for food or items they can use, almost all done in quiet. The children feel the divide between their parents after the death of their brother but are powerless to do anything about it. During a fishing trip into the forest, near roaring waterfalls which allows them to speak, the boy tells his father he should tell his wife he loves her.
During the fishing trip, the mother’s water breaks, she steps on a nail going on the basement steps and discovers one of the creatures in the house. As the father tries to save their children, the mother is left to fend for herself, when her daughter makes a startling discovery after a heartbreaking loss.
The creatures can be fought and beaten.
The film is filled with non-stop tension as we realize quickly that noise of any kind will bring horror and destruction. Speaking in sign language, the family communicates, and amidst the mayhem eke out an existence. In trying to help his daughter hear, the father, without knowing, stumbles on a way to defeat the creatures.
Krasinski does an outstanding job directing the film, one is reminded of what Spielberg accomplished with Jaws (1975), believing less is more. The wonderfully expressive faces of the actors convey the terror and sense of fear throughout the film, with only glimpses of the creatures until the showdown in the basement. Subtle touches throughout keep us in touch with the humanity of the family, who despite living in fear continue to live. The dance sequence to Harvest Moon, heard through s shared headset is lovely, the final showdown in the basement beautifully directed and edited. Watch the sly smile on the face of Emily Blunt before the screen goes black.
The performances are excellent given the limited amount of dialogue the actors have. Blunt as always is wonderful, her ferocious mother guarding her brood like a mother lion. Millicent Simmons is superb as the very aware, deaf daughter, who pieces together how to defeat the creatures if they can act quick enough.
And Krasinski, a big bear of a father is filled with love for his family, wanting to protect them, but worried he might fail. It is a fine performance in a film filled with them.
Horror films so rarely offer anything new, yet this one is original and terrifying.
Look for this come Oscar time, it is among the best films of the year.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.