A Quiet Place
Updated: Feb 6, 2020
One of the more effective ways a horror movie can scare its audience is through the use of sound. Not just bangs and clangs and other loud noises. But especially screaming and shouting and desperate pleas for help. How could you possibly establish the terror the characters in a horror movie are going through without dialogue? A Quiet Place, a horror/thriller about a family trying to hide from monsters that hunt using their hearing, answers that question in an incredible, tense, smartly plotted film that is one of the best horror movies in recent memory.
Since the characters need to stay silent (or they will be killed), there is little spoken dialogue. Smartly, they use sign language to communicate with each other. They walk without shoes on and have created paths for themselves, both inside their house and outside, to reduce noise. The way the film establishes all of these things and then uses them for tension is one of the cleverest things about it. Once the family and their world has been established, the screenplay, by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and director/co-star John Krasinski, wastes no time putting them into all kinds of terrifying situations.
The way sound is (and is not) used is a key reason why this film works so incredibly well. Just the possibility that someone is going to step on the wrong floorboard or accidentally knock something over is enough to create anxiety among viewers. Music is a great way to add tension in a movie and here it is very effective since everything else is so quiet. It builds at just the right moments, adding to the energy of the freaked out characters doing whatever they can to stay silent onscreen.
Krasinski does an excellent job playing his audience, foreshadowing something and then delivering it in an unexpected way. He shows some real skill as a director, especially in his sense of location and the way he uses it to trap his characters. It cannot have been easy for the actors to perform in this environment. Every movement is important and every sound is amplified. Krasinski, Emily Blunt as his wife and Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe as their kids perfectly sell the fear that any moment could be their last.
A Quiet Place is a lean 84 minutes (not including the end credits) and it uses every single one with tremendous efficiency. This is one of the most intense thrillers I have seen in a long while. The characters are smart, but the threat appears insurmountable, thus making every scene one where something awful could be about to happen. And it does this with a minimum of gore. This really is a beautifully structured film that restrains itself in just the right moments and is all the more scary because of it.
As you can probably tell, I really liked this movie. Therefore, I do not want to give away too much. It is not a perfect film; there are a couple of plot developments that did not quite ring true. But there were so many ways this story could have gone wrong and it only does so in very minor ways. Overall, A Quiet Place is a masterful suspense story that will likely end up as one of the best horror movies of 2018. If that sounds interesting to you, go see it and do not read anything else about it. Trust me, it is that good.
4½ out of 5
John Krasinski as Lee
Emily Blunt as Evelyn
Millicent Simmonds as Regan
Noah Jupe as Marcus
Cade Woodward as Beau
Directed by John Krasinski
Screenplay by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski