A Quiet Place opens ominously by showing a desolate town on “Day 89.” We come to learn that it’s been nearly three months since blind quadrupedal lifeforms have attacked the United States and have since foraged on humans by way of sounds and vibrations (maybe they’re part of the same genus as Graboids?). The tight-knit Abbott family — comprised of father Lee (John Krasinski), mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), their deaf daughter Regan (Wonderstruck‘s Millicent Simmonds), middle son Beau (Cade Woodward), and youngest boy Marcus (Noah Jupe) — manages to scavenge the town’s pharmacy for additional supplies but are met with tragedy shortly after they head for the wilderness.
Cut to well-over a year later and most of the Abbott clan has managed to survive. They’ve set up an elaborate camp in the woods, with an underground nursery, as Evelyn is due in a matter of weeks, and a bunker with several ham radios Lee exhausts trying to send out S.O.S. calls. The family has cultivated an existence of silence and the faintest of whispers, with sign language as their dominant form of interpersonal communication. Regan and Marcus rotate hunting duty with their father while the latter child stays behind to be home-schooled long division and iambic pentameter by their mother. The family spills numerous bags of sand across the forest to assure that no snapping twigs or ruffled leaves will summon the appearance of one of the grotesque creatures. It’s a “fight or flight” existence and the Abbott’s have chosen combat.
John Krasinski’s third directorial effort will make you feel guilty if you ordered popcorn or opted for some crunchy candy to indulge in during your viewing. A Quiet Place was made for an experience that compliments its title, so as to let its often unbearably tense events and detailed aesthetics come to life over the course of 88 minutes that fly by in no time. Who would’ve thought Krasinski — the same man who was a mainstay on the American comedy The Office and used his last opportunity behind the camera to make something as airy and forgettable as The Hollars — had something like this brewing inside him, or that he could find fellow writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck to help him realize this story’s potential? This is a taut, immersive experience that uses its sparse dialog as an opportunity to heighten, even sharpen, your moviegoing senses by getting you to pay attention to inclusions you might normally miss. Everything from cinematography, lighting, framing, and of course, sound effects come into play as the Abbott’s tiptoe and inch their way around in hopes of living to see another day. You might pull a muscle from clenching if you’re not careful, or at least not accustomed to the slowburn tension that arises from an emphasis on what are cruelly considered background details.
While watching A Quiet Place, Frank Darabont’s The Mist was a film that kept popping into my head for reasons I still struggle to pinpoint. Maybe it was the ability of Krasinski, Woods, and Beck to take the story at hand and make both what the audience knows and doesn’t know about this unrecognizable world equally intriguing. Information is revealed sparingly, but the monsters, for once, are able to be seen without the presence of reckless videography that dampens unambiguous shots of their form. Despite not willing to thrive on unbridled mystery, the way in which information about the family and the attack unfolds is graceful, and some of the most noteworthy bits come from the ways in which the family interact with one another. I was particularly struck by the performances of the young children. Simmonds — who is deaf in real life — is barely a teenager, but a real find of a young actress, with a memorable stare that results in a reactive performance. In one scene, she’s so successful, she’ll prompt some unexpected emotion out of some. Jupe, who held his own for another mostly silent role in last year’s Suburbicon, demonstrates once more, in a showcase liable to be seen by more than his last, that he’s terrific even when distilled down to his physical instincts. Sure, both have two veterans by their sides on-set, but much of the talent they exhibit on-screen is unteachable.
A Quiet Place is the latest film to get the mainstream horror genre back to respectable heights, after being burdened by the ubiquity of 3D and remakes at the dawn of the decade and a smothering saturation of sequels and paranormal films that followed. Films like this, Get Out, Don’t Breathe, and It Comes at Night (the likes of which A Quiet Place is most similar) are surfacing, infusing subtle commentary into creative narratives that can still be enjoyed by those who want their entertainment free of any and all social/political undertones. That’s not to say A Quiet Place is political, but it’s not removed from the suggestion of learning to thrive under forces unknown. Instead of seeing the Abbott’s play scared, they do their best to operate under the conditions that have completely altered their world; the same could be said about Krasinski, whose first entry into the horror genre is anything but a surrender to the predictable.
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, and Leon Russom. Directed by: John Krasinski.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!