Directed by John Krasinski
Horror always has a place in audience’s hearts, from the die hard fans who visit conventions and can name every monster in Hellrasier: Bloodlines to those who want some life jump-scared into them on a Saturday night. Surprisingly, the biggest buzz from this year’s festivals have been horrors, from Hereditary to The Endless and, of course, A Quiet Place. The film is directed and co-written by John Krasinski, who worked off Scott Beck and Brian Woods’ spec script that was sent to Platinum Dunes, Michael Bay’s production company.
The film centers around a family surviving the fallout of sound sensitive monsters who hunt purely what they hear. Lee (Krasinski) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) have managed to survive thus far with their young children Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf and struggles to cope with the guilt of an event that lost the family’s youngest child. As the days pass, they settle in a custom bunker in the basement of a farm and and try to live a normal life, Evelyn even becoming pregnant once more.
My biggest advice to anyone viewing would be to go in completely blind, which means turning away from this page if you haven’t seen it. Do not read up on it and definitely do not watch the final/extended trailer, which I was unfortunate enough to catch as it looks very similar to the original teaser.
As a story, it has a perfect hook, line and sinker: silence is golden, or you’re killed brutally by monsters that are heavily armoured with seemingly no weakness. As Lee tries to send SOS signals, we see that a good portion of the world has been affected and government support is nowhere to be seen, so the family is truly on their own. Add a pregnancy into the mix and there’s plenty at stake. It follows a typical three act structure with a first act carefully set up before the opening credits and then rising tension up to the mid-point where things start going very wrong; admittedly the first 40 minutes or so could be criticised as slow, but serves perfectly to contrast the rest of the film where the monsters creep closer and characters find it harder to keep quiet under threat. There is minimal dialogue as expected - aided by the fact one of children is actually deaf - so any loud noises and the screech of the monsters cut through scenes as smartly disguised jumpscares (but jumpscares nonetheless).
Some might have caught onto the idea of genre-bending within horror. Krasinski references The Babadook and Get Out in interviews as inspiration as a horror with an ‘underlying theme’, a horror film that is not just about creating a sense of fear and anxiety but layering storytelling to make a message more palatable. Certainly he follows the same route as this film could be a family drama set against the backdrop of a survivalist world, however there’s a sense the film holds back from delivering that drama, focusing instead on the plot rather than building on character relationships. Evelyn’s scene with Marcus where she teaches her son division and eases his fears of going hunting with his father and the subsequent scenes with Lee and Marcus in the wild, Lee promising Marcus that he will always be there to protect the family, are standouts to me because it feels like I’m watching a family rather than individual events unfold.
My other big problem were the monsters themselves. There’s something very frustrating with seeing monsters on screen that are clearly not native to the planet with no background other than expositional newspaper clippings pasted on the walls that only serve to tell us what we know: they are sensitive to sound. Yes, we can figure that out when everyone is trying desperately to be quiet. One could argue that Cloverfield does something similar - and the monsters in A Quiet Place even look a bit like Clover - but at the end of Cloverfield and through marketing there were hints of his origin, so at least some loose ends were attempted to be tied. The ending of the film is absolutely the weakest element as the monsters are defeated by… High frequency? Hearing aids? Something that is so mind numbingly simple that I cannot suspend enough belief to think that a good portion of this world has been wiped out by these things. Again, I attribute these issues to the concepts of the monsters themselves; I suspect they they were not seen as the most important element of the film and underdeveloped as a result, but they are a driving force of the story so one would expect the same amount of attention given to them as the family unit at the heart of the film.
There’s a lot I didn’t love about it, but it is enjoyable and only adds to the growing list of well shot, layered horror that gives actors plenty to work with; I found Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe particularly amazing. If you found yourself a little divorced from the film but intrigued by the style, I would recommend Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night, which is a similar claustrophobic environment but utilises a slower burn and The Host by Bong Joon-Ho, another family drama disguised as a monster film.
By Xiao Tang