“A Quiet Place,” directed by and starring John Krasinski (alongside Emily Blunt), is a horror film that presents horror and fear in its most raw and stripped-down form. The premise is intriguing and unique, and it had been a major blip on my radar since the trailers first began to appear. The execution of such a simple concept was flawless and I found myself so tense that, when shifting in my seat, I actually got a leg cramp because I had been clenching myself into enraptured stillness for who knows how long. That’s the power of “A Quiet Place:” it builds itself on a fear that everyone can understand and that one can easily get swept up in.
As I mentioned, the premise of “A Quiet Place” is elegant in its simplicity. The action of the story follows a family of four who must survive in the aftermath of some catastrophic destructive event, where they are being stalked by fearsome creatures. The creatures hunt their prey by sound, so the family must exist in complete and total silence. Like the world that this family inhabits, reality hits hard and fast with a shocking death within the introductory moments of the film. “A Quiet Place” pulls no punches and every moment is as visceral and tense as the situation of the plot would merit.
Within a genre that has become increasingly dependent on the jump scare, “A Quiet Place” is a breath of fresh air in that the most horrific moments are born from sustained tension and the helpless feeling of seeing death coming at you, head-on, and being powerless to stop it. This movie does not have the crutch of dialogue to bring us into the world but we are no less a part of it. Silence screams loudly with volumes communicated in looks and everything being held in this painfully tense balance. You are holding your breath for the entire film. Everything in “A Quiet Place” is subtle and contained. The setting is small. The cast is minimal. The threat is simple and direct. Simplicity is the word, and that extends into the warmer elements of the movie. The film has oddly sweet moments among the terrors, that stress the importance of enjoying the little things in uncertain times.
A praise I must heap on “A Quiet Place” is how thoroughly it builds the world and pays close attention to detail. The systems that this family puts in place to survive make sense. The creatures make sense. The story is improbable and terrifying but is grounded in just enough reality to make it even more jarring.
The horror genre feels a little over saturated of late. Until last year’s “IT,” I had truly feared that horror was to be reduced into a dull circle of franchise upon franchise (with the occasional Asylum catastrophe thrown in there). The entire genre is getting noisier and more chaotic, as rushed films try their best to stand out in the clamor, while doing nothing but adding to the cacophony. This is what makes the silence of “A Quiet Place” truly deafening. In an odd way, I’m reminded of “Jaws.” “Jaws” would scare a generation with the primitive truth that we fear the predator. It’s hard to get more “back to basics” than the notion that being eaten by something is fucking scary. The idea of predator and prey is something that we all can’t help but buy into and be shaken by. It’s a visceral fear to be holding your breath because something is coming and it’s coming for you. “A Quiet Place” puts the focus on the prey’s perspective and, therefore, places the audience in the shoes of the prey. It makes for a damn good scare and a thrilling film-going experience.
I briefly touched on the flaws of the horror genre. To be fair, horror has never been particularly cerebral. It thrives on cheap thrills and sells a very base product. But the state of the genre has almost become a parody of itself and a truly good horror movie is hard to find (see 2017’s “IT” remake). Every audience deserves a little respect and, as a longtime horror lover, I wait and wait for a movie that gives a good story along with a good scare. “A Quiet Place” delivers on that desire. It’s well done. It’s an emotional ride. It’s just a damn good movie, on its own, and the fact that it also leaves you quaking in your boots and totally bought in is the absolute cherry on top.
I highly recommend “A Quiet Place” and look forward to the rise in interest and attendance that I’m sure will follow as the opening weekend reviews roll out. “A Quiet Place” is now in theatres! Did you see the film? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.