A Quiet Place
I’ll be honest with you, this post may be a bit shorter than some of my others. I was so scared that I don’t feel like I retained as many details and things to talk about! But I still think it’s worth writing about because it’s absolutely worth watching.
This movie is so brilliant. Beyond being seriously scary, it uses a high concept that most people implicitly know as the foundation for the story. If you’ve ever seen a horror or thriller film, then you know how important sound is. There are creepy sound effects from monsters and ghosts, the music has eerie builds or unexpected jump scares when the killer strikes, and of course the silence before the chase is the most unsettling of them all.
This film takes the silence to the extreme. It follows a family forced to survive in a world suddenly inhabited by creatures who attack at the slightest sound made. There may be some plot holes to the film, a few things that are either not explained or a little too convenient, but I can assure you that you will not care about any of it while you’re watching. What A Quiet Place does best is immediately convince you to feel empathy for this stranded family, then suck you in as you watch the suspenseful events unfold.
The first thing we see is a placard telling us that we’re a few months into some post-apocalyptic scenario. A family quietly rummages through stores in an abandoned town to gather supplies. Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) searches for medicine for her son, Marcus (Noah Jupe), while her husband Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) is off gathering tools and other necessary items. We quickly learn that the family knows ASL – American Sign Language – because their oldest child, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), is deaf. Disaster strikes this little family as they try to make their way back to their farm in the countryside. This is also when we get our first glimpse at the creature that’s stalking every living thing that makes noise.
Another placard lets us know that we’ve jumped just over a year into the future. There’s a decent section of expository film that lets the audience observe how the family has adapted to a life of silence – including felt game board pieces, no shoes, and plates made out of wet leaves. However, the threat of the creatures is never far from their minds. The real challenge is set up when you realize that Evelyn is pregnant. Obviously childbirth and infants don’t exactly fit into a soundless world, so you already know this is going to be a big conflict point later in the film. There are actually several points where future problems are hinted at subtly and to great effect. For instance, a nail that accidentally gets pried up on a step is given a brief amount of attention from the camera. This will clearly cause harm later on, but you’re left to wonder when and to whom.
The film also takes care to develop the familial relationships during this section. Evelyn and Lee have incredible chemistry – probably because Emily Blunt and John Krasinski are actually married. Regan, as the oldest child, is clearly reaching a stage in her life where she desires to be independent and starts to defy her parents a bit more. What makes her case extra special is the fact that she’s deaf in this incredibly restrictive world. Lee tries to rein her in and keep her on the farm to protect her, but this just causes extra strain on the relationship. Marcus is terrified of the creatures and tries his best to stay home with Evelyn instead of learning survival skills with Lee. He’s seen the horrors that come with attracting the creatures, and his overwhelming fear drives his character either to action or inaction.
I won’t talk much about the second half of the film because I definitely don’t want to spoil some of the most suspenseful parts. Once Evelyn starts going into labor, the action doesn’t end until the movie does. The creatures are constantly stalking the family as they do their best to fend them off and keep themselves alive. Of course there are a few breaks in the hunt to allow the audience to catch their breath, but these pauses never last long enough! It’s a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat rush to the conclusion of the film, which has got to be my favorite ending to a horror/thriller movie. Ever.
It’s hard to say what element of the film deserves the most kudos. Clearly the sound designers deserve a lot of recognition since sound was so integral to the concept of the movie. I would also include the score in this category, which was composed by Marco Beltrami. AND the directing by Krasinski was incredible and effective. I was a little blindsided by how impressed I was, I will not be underestimating him again the next time he occupies the director’s chair. AND the actors were also so convincing as a family, and really carried their personalities and character progressions with extreme skill and refinement. AND the production design and all of the elements that went into creating and showing a silent existence were so well executed and showed amazing attention to detail. AND the visual effects crew did a fantastic job with designing the creature in a thoughtful manner and bringing it to life in a terrifying way.
I think you get the picture…this film, to me, is a great example of a film that’s a true team effort. These departments are all equally important in any film’s production, but you can really see each department’s work represented on a fairly equal playing field in the result. The film wouldn’t work as well as it does and wouldn’t be as convincing if any of the parts didn’t contribute as strongly as they do now to the whole.
My top 3 musical impressions are:
- The music is effective, but not necessarily unique. I really want to remind you that, again, I probably didn’t retain enough information after one viewing to pass any sort of judgment on the quality of the music. It was absolutely effective because it heightened the tension and emotions, but there wasn’t anything that struck me as being different than other film scores in similar genres. Beltrami leaned on musical techniques that have proven themselves to be effective when you want to scare an audience and create suspense. There’s nothing wrong with this, but because the film concept was so unique, it leaves me wondering if the score could’ve been a bit bolder in pushing toward a new direction.
- There were more emotional cues than you’d find in a horror score. What makes this film and this score a bit tricky to categorize is the fact that it’s so split between being about the family and being about the creatures. Obviously it’s going to be scary, but there were plenty of emotional moments between the family members, and I think that’s beautifully reflected in the score. It’s a tricky balance to achieve, and Beltrami does an amazing job striking this balance – especially when you consider that he’s only working with piano, strings, and processed electronic sounds.
- More about sound than music – I love that it’s making people really consider the importance of what you hear in a film. There are so many films that become just a cacophony of sound effects and dialogue and score. I really believe there are many instances where people just don’t think through what is actually needed and what they’re just adding to the mix because they think action must be loud by any means necessary. The one thing I love about this film over anything else is how it makes both the filmmakers and the audience really consider the role of sound in the film. There are actually lots of sound effects, but a majority of those are nature sounds. It puts into perspective how loud nature really is, and also how difficult it is for humans to be silent. I firmly believe sound and music can make or break a film, and the care put into this film proves that. Which is why I think the score could have been more unconventional than it was, but considering the fact that it’s one of very few films that does place so much importance on sound, I’m definitely not going to be complaining about it!
My top 3 film impressions are:
- Thank god they hired a deaf actress. Way too many times, Hollywood has hired a perfectly capable or “normal” person to represent someone with a disability. I think it’s one of the biggest issues in Hollywood today – right up there with equal opportunities, equal representation, and equal pay for women and minorities. There are plenty of talented and hard-working actors who fit into these descriptions; who have physical disabilities, or identify as LGBTQ+, or struggle with mental illness, or so much more. Why would you choose a “normal” actor over someone who will bring so much authenticity to the role? And I do understand that sometimes it’s harder to hire disabled actors – you have to make extra accommodations or maybe have a bit more patience. And sometimes (like in The Theory of Everything), you want to do something like show the progression of a disease. Fine, I get that. But this film proves how brilliant the result can be when you hire appropriately for the role you’ve created, and how having this representation and personal perspective can influence the interactions between the characters in the film itself. Simmonds is so compelling to watch and an amazing actress in her own right, and I’ve seen numerous interviews with the cast members where they discuss observing her interact with her mother and others off-camera and how that informed and developed their own on-camera relationships with her. Please, hire disabled actors for disabled roles whenever possible.
- John Krasinski isn’t just the prankster around the office anymore. It’s hard to believe that this film comes so early in his career behind the camera. We already know he’s an established actor, and a good one at that, so it comes as no surprise to me that he’s so compelling in one of the few roles of the film. What I think is incredibly impressive is the maturity of the directing, and in a genre he hasn’t really dabbled in before. There is so much subtlety and restraint in the film that really comes together to create an effective package. And if these two jobs weren’t enough, he also co-wrote the screenplay. I really think, as a whole package, this film is a remarkable achievement for Kransinski, and I’m excited to see what comes next!
- The creatures are super creepy. The detail that went into creating these monsters is stunning. They really are terrifying, and they directly translated the concept of super heightened hearing into the design of the creature itself. They aren’t the most effective predators and there are a few moments that I now realize don’t make the most sense, but they are insanely fast and they are ruthless. If you can go and watch this movie and not be seriously creeped out by the incredible design of the monsters, you are a much braver person than I am.
The film is not without it’s moments that make you go “Hmm” after you walk away. But unlike other horror movies, I left the theater stunned at how incredible the film was. A creepy or disturbed feeling didn’t linger with me, it was sheer amazement at how well this concept and this small-budget production was pulled off.
Even if you aren’t a fan of horror or thriller films, I cannot recommend this enough. It’s absolutely worth the watch, and if you’re anything like my fiancée and I, you’ll realize how loud you really are and how fast the creatures would get you!