What it’s about: The Abbott family are living in a world where the only means of survival is absolute silence. An unexplained species now roams the earth, using supernatural hearing ability to stalk and kill prey. Lee and Evelyn [John Krasinski and Emily Blunt] are forced to raise their children in this world, teaching them the lessons of growing up and protecting themselves and each other. Their eldest son Noah struggles with the responsibility of becoming a man. His sister Regan is deaf, which gives her a different perspective on the silent world while creating emotional strife with the rest of her family. As it becomes increasingly hard to hide from their predators, a new addition to their family only makes things more complicated.
Though I'm overall only mildly positive on A Quiet Place, you won't find many negative reviews out there. So I suggest you take a look at Patrick's thoughts on how the film takes from other, better [in his opinion], horror films from recent years. As usual, he's pretty on point.
The structure of A Quiet Place makes it incredibly lean. There isn’t much plot at all -- most of the film is the experience of one night where all hell breaks loose and the characters are doing everything they can to survive. It is built around a few particular setpieces, most notably when Evelyn gives birth. Despite some misgivings I have about why that situation exists [more on that in a second], it is an incredibly well designed scene that quickly changes tension over how the characters deal with the situation.
What’s the conversation like when Lee and Evelyn decide to have a baby? Why would you want to bring a child into this world? And then go through the impossible preparations to keep it safe? I understand that people have babies under less-than-ideal circumstances, but the extreme nature of this world feels like it is a clever screenwriter adding stakes to the film.
With as little dialogue as possible, this keeps most of the film exposition-free, or creates alternative ways to relay exposition. The silliest example is a whiteboard list of the monsters’ attributes like “Blind” and “Attack sound” and “Armor?” There is one other that comes into play near the film’s climax which I won’t spoil but made me roll my eyes.
A Quiet Place thankfully builds the world well without dialogue because whenever there is dialogue, it is pretty heavy-handed and sentimental. I think every piece of dialogue either explicitly sets up something for the climax or is basically shouting the themes.
On the other hand, the moments when the sound completely falls out [mostly happening when experiencing the world from Regan’s perspective] are fantastic, both chilling and moving.
I’ve always thought that the best horror films played with sadness just as much as they do scares. A Quiet Place excels with this as a contemplative, hopeless world of grief. I felt terrible for every one of the characters and have no doubt that I wouldn’t be able to function in their situation.
This is greatly achieved through the performances, especially Krasinski and Blunt who I think are both really great. Krasinski, in particular, works well as the father type who is both tough and caring of his children. Without the benefit of dialogue to build their characters, this is all the more impressive.
The monster designs are really effective when shown up close in what I’m guessing was full puppetry. A long line of big teeth, the extended claws, and especially their distinguishing aural organ are very creepy. When they are shown in full and from a distance, they are too much an unnatural computer effect.
Watching people run around outside with no shoes on makes me uncomfortable.
The most unfortunate moment in A Quiet Place is the very last note it leaves on. For some reason, there is a tonal shift in the literal last seconds of the movie that really bugged me. What is meant to be something like a fist pump rally cry to end on a high note just felt completely disingenuous -- especially with the very traumatic things that just took place preceding this. If A Quiet Place didn’t invest so much time in grief, sadness, and the emotional bonds between its characters, I could see the final shot working. It might be a hyperbolic to say it “betrayed” what the film built, but it certainly was a strange shift.
I generally love horror movies that make you more aware of your surroundings when you walk out of the theater. A Quiet Place steps that up by constantly making you think about the empty and natural sounds around you while you’re watching the movie. Thankfully in my experience, there wasn’t any whispering or snoring or munching going on and that’s probably the best way to see the film. In order to teach moviegoers to shut up during a movie it took a movie where they imagine being brutally killed if they make any noise!