A Quiet Place Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
Released by Paramount Pictures UK
Directed by John Krasinski
Written by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
2018, 90 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
UK release on 5th April 2018
John Krasinski as Lee
Emily Blunt as Evelyn
Noah Jupe as Marcus Abbott
Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott
And the Dundie for most surprising horror debut goes to... John Krasinski of The Office fame. The one-time Jim Halpert trades in doe-eyed gazing at the receptionist for a different kind of reaction shot as he and his family are terrorised by a race of blind, noise-sensitive creatures capable of tearing a man to shreds in seconds. Living in barefoot silence with his family in the woods, sensitive beard dad Lee struggles to balance everyday life with hiding from the monsters which will rip them to bits if they make so much as a sound. It’s Don’t Breathe, taken to its most terrifying extreme.
The best way to see A Quiet Place is knowing as little as possible, from the creature designs to the larger themes of the story. Beware all ye who read onwards, then. Although it’s a different kind of horror film from both, it shares ideas with The Babadook and The VVitch, ultimately being a story about grief, guilt and a family trying to put themselves back together after the very worst thing has already happened; the perils of internalising one’s grief and guilt, and how that will destroy you if you don’t vocalise and open up to those of us who remain.
It is also, however, a story about a family being terrorised by scary monsters, and here it acquits itself rather impressively too. The monsters are sparingly visualised for the most part, and when they are given the spotlight, the creature design more than holds up, looking like a cross between Pumpkinhead and something out of a Cloverfield movie. The humans and the monsters are both extremely well supported by the sound design, which wrings almost unbearable tension out of every creak, groan and whisper. In a world where speaking can lead to a quick and gory death, A Quiet Place is a silent movie out of necessity, the majority of the dialogue spoken through sign language and the super-expressive faces of its actors. Unlike most big horror movies, this one is best viewed with a smaller audience, as there’s nothing going to kill the mood as quickly as masticating popcorn munchers, loud talkers and mobile phone users. It’d work incredibly well with a big audience, all terrified into hushed silence in their seats, but that’s not the world we live in anymore. At least, not in the Multiplexes.
This is Krasinski playing confidently in his own wheelhouse, putting his Office career of pulling faces and reacting to things to good use. Written and directed by its star, it’s a canny way of escaping the typecasting which no doubt threatened to turn his post-The Office career into a series of samey romcoms and relationship dramas. Emily Blunt is even better as Evelyn, even if she isn’t particularly well-served by the writing or characterisation. But then, almost none of the family are. In the face of a silent apocalypse, the long-term decision making skills of the Abbott family leaves a lot to be desired. Stupid decision after stupid decision stacks up until the film’s last half, where the idiot chickens come home to roost in the idiot coop with a series of exciting but contrived confrontations. Only eldest daughter Regan gets much of an arc, even if it is as the catalyst idiot of the piece.
There’s a slight hollowness to it all that stops the film from achieving greatness – the M. Night Shyamalan gimmickry of the story, which extends to the creatures’ predictable weakness (and which should have been figured out by any self-respecting military scientist within hours), Blunt’s damsel-in-distress-in-a-bathtub routine, and the satisfying but tonally out-of-place final seconds of the movie. A Quiet Place is almost an excellent genre movie, but its mechanics are all too visible, and it falls short in tackling its scariest, saddest ideas properly, trading in the film’s most troubling thought for a big comforting, safe (not literal) hug. But it rings with an emotional truth that can’t be denied, and a refreshing lack of cynicism. It's even more affecting once one realises that Blunt and Krasinski are married in real life.
There are flaws then, but R-rated monster movies are a relative rarity for cinematic horror, and A Quiet Place is one of the strongest in years. It’s buttock-clenchingly tense with solid scares, genuine emotion and slick action. It’s ultimately nothing to shout too loudly about, but a good deal of the noise surrounding it is justified.