It is truly a wonder how much the human population and their collective minds rely on sound. The ability to speak or even just make noises to relay a message is something most of us take for granted, except for those who do not possess it. That is perhaps the central theme of A Quiet Place.
It is a horror film. And it does it utmost best to scare if you. However, what it really plays upon is our reliance on sound and the kind of void a lack of it would create. In his directorial debut, Krasinski displays a surprisingly nuanced level of understanding the language of film making and using it appropriately; resulting in a horror film that is scary, effective and has a beating heart at its very core.
The mystery which keeps the movie going
Among the many things going for it is the lack of explanation. Some nameless creatures exist and the world’s population has probably been wiped out for the most part. Or maybe they are all silent. Nobody knows. Nobody bothers to explain and that mystery somehow works to increase the terror when the creatures finally appear. The familiar fear of the unknown. Add to that the fact that these monsters react to the slightest of sounds and you have a premise worth exploring for hours on end.
Krasinski knows this and utilises it as much as he can. One particular scene with Emily Blunt towards the second half of the film highlights the sheer claustrophobic fear of living in such a world and it will be a brave soul who does not squirm with unease and recoil with nameless fear. That fear is what sells the horror aspect of this film. There are jump scares but they are made all the more scary by the premise.
The sheer lack of sound which will scare you
The practical non existence of spoken dialogue, background score, music and in some scenes, all sound itself works towards this very purpose and nothing else. It is almost as if each and every tool available to a film maker was provided to Krasinski and he spent his time dreaming up using each and every one of them to instill fear in the viewers’ hearts.
The lack of sound is a very intriguing choice, especially in scenes with Millicent Simmonds who plays a hearing impaired character. Every time she is on screen the sound cuts out abruptly, leaving nothing but a faint ringing, the kind which we always hear but our brains block out. Her story arc was my personal favourite in the film, as it begins with a surprisingly clichéd depiction of a typical teenager but evolves into so much more, revealing so many layers to the person she plays. It is beautifully done.
It would be remiss, of course, not to mention the other performances of this film, out of which Emily Blunt stands out. Without going into spoilers, her character’s arc is more felt and seen rather than heard, much like the rest of the film but intensified in her case. She carries it more than ably, of course, the terrific actor that she is but it would have meant nothing if the rest of the actors hadn’t kept up. The son, played by Noah Jupe, has just a few scenes in which to properly act instead of running from monsters or hiding, but those scenes are enough to showcase amazing talent.
Of course, I can’t forget Krasinski, who acts in the film along with directing it. He acts beautifully in many scenes, especially one towards the final act. The struggle faced by a man living a life such as his is stark and not hidden in his face and everything he does. Together, he and this group of actors flesh out a very real and relatable family, who try their best to be together, physically and emotionally, something again used by the film to scare us even more.
A different horror movie
The scares in this film aren’t exactly innovative, as far as horror movies are concerned, and in some cases won’t surprise much. It is a little disappointing but seeing that this is a debut movie and also the strong emotional center, one can imagine that Krasinski opted to make the scares mean more rather than make them meaner. It’s a smart choice and it works for the film.
Just like Get Out used biting social commentary to suffuse the scares with something wholly new, A Quiet Places uses the bonds of family instead. Additionally, the monsters aren’t bad either, surprising for me, who was expecting something more along the lines of I Am Legend. The slow burn approach of revealing does pay off and that is because of their genuinely scary appearance, even though the CGI is pretty clear.
My other gripe, apart from the “safe” nature of the scaring techniques used is the length. That’s more of a bitter fan-boy nitpick than an actual reviewing point, though. Frankly, I just really wish that this film could have been longer. It’s probably a testament to the quality of film and the effect it has on the audience watching it.
A Quiet Place does what precious horror movies do, actually make us care for these characters. The impossible situation they are placed in, thus, makes us scared for them and even worried. It takes great skill to maintain this balance of emotion and genre requirement and John Krasinski, the debutante director, has surprised as all. I can’t wait for the next time he directs and can only hope it’s at least as good as this one.