“A Quiet Place” Movie Review


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     In order to be successful in the oft explored horror genre, a filmmaker needs to change the rules within the setting and the way the characters interact when compared to the endless array of predictable creature features and slasher films that number in the thousands since the 1970s.  Wes Craven did this successfully in the 90s with his “Scream” franchise, as he chose to populate the films with characters whose actions were determined by their own knowledge of horror film tropes established by classics like “Halloween” or “Friday the 13th.”  2007’s “Paranormal Activity” had its own hook as well, establishing the found footage format and thus creating an entirely different view point for the audience to experience.  It’s clear director, screenwriter, and star John Krasinski had this in mind while creating his new film, “A Quiet Place”, which again turns the genre upside down by changing the playing field and giving his characters the kind of challenges on screen that had previously not been thought of.

     If you follow genre films and television shows, you may have heard commentary referencing a “lack of balls” when it comes to certain characters who appear off limits for being killed off, as they always seem to survive no matter how perilous the situation.  As an example, some believe “The Walking Dead” lost theirs long ago since the core cast remains largely intact and the loss of major characters seems few and far between considering the hopeless circumstances they endure each season.  Krasinski seems to have set out to ensure no one will ever accuse his film of lacking in this area, while utilizing a take no prisoners approach that creates real and unpredictable consequences for everyone involved in what is a dangerous and often cruelly  horrific scenario.

     In the first scene of “A Quiet Place”, we are told through a title card that this is “Day 89”, which then cuts to a family scavenging through an abandoned grocery store, looking for essentials such as medicine and other items needed for survival.  But what led to this situation?  The family, made up of Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), and their three kids, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward) don't make a sound.  They communicate using sign language, and get around barefoot, walking on paths of poured sand in order to mute their footsteps and leave little audible trace of their presence.  Back at their farm, Krasinski’s camera pans throughout the Abbott’s home, often stopping at a make shift radio set up used by Lee in an attempt to find survivors of what ever has happened by way of Morse Code.  The walls surrounding his work space have newspaper clippings pinned on them, which indicate an army of creatures has somehow descended upon the Earth and wiped out civilization as we know it.  Accompanying the clippings are Lee’s own notes that tell us the creature has impenetrable outer armor, but is also blind, utilizing sound as its primary method of hunting and finding prey.

     This, of course, is why the Abbott family, and anyone else who plans on living another day, communicates the way do.  Any sound that breaks silence will be heard and met with the near immediate appearance of one of these creatures who skitter toward any kind of noise with lightning fast ferocity.  I use the word “skitter” purposely, since the creature’s design and movement may remind some of the aliens from “Falling Skies”,  but their actions following the sound of the slightest noise certainly sets them apart as being something you’d rather never come into contact with.  And since the Abbott family has three young children, the reality of their situation often includes their children finding themselves living with the ever-present possibility of an attacking creature.  So much so that if the late Gene Siskel were still alive today, I have to figure he’d frown upon the film given his review of James Cameron’s “Aliens” in 1986 where he bestowed a thumbs down for what he described as the constant threat of death to a child being used for the purpose of creating tension.  Decades later, Krasinski has written and directed a film where these three kids, along with their mother and father live within the kind of constant fear that a film like “Aliens” only touched upon.

     As Evelyn, Emily Blunt, who is Krasinski’s real life wife, turns in a masterful performance that includes some of the most gut wrenching sequences I have ever seen in a film.  Not because the film is graphic or gory (the film carries a PG-13 rating), but rather as a result of the timing of certain life events  that occur at the absolute worst possible time  The sheer combination of silence crossed with the everyday pitfalls of family and parenting creates a multitude of scenarios in which the Abbott’s and the creatures cross paths.  It’s as if the threat continually occupies the methodology behind their every move.  You know they are there, but you don't know exactly when they will show themselves.  This kind of tension begins in the first few minutes and is maintained for the duration of the film’s 90 minute running time, all the while remaining consistently inventive in the way it is shot and clever in how the characters react to certain situations.

     Never once does Krasinski fail to respect the audience by employing the kind of plotting or trickery used in the thousands of films that share the genre with his.  Each and every scene is carefully constructed to hit the audience where they are most vulnerable, particularly those who are parents themselves.  Both Krasinski and Blunt has said in recent interviews that “A Quiet Place” was meant to be a film that cuts deep for parents who are raising their kids in today’s world that continues to become more dangerous each day.  And that is, perhaps, what separates the film from so many others like it.  The thought of something happening to the Abbott’s children is horrifying, and the grim situation the family finds themselves in will strike the kind of emotional chord that is likely to stay with a viewer long after they leave the theater.  GRADE: A