A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place ★★★½

A Quiet Place is what is known as a "high concept" film, that is one with a simple but unique hook. An example of this is Speed (1994): "What if there was a bus that was rigged to explode if it dropped below 50mp/h?" And then an even better example is Crank (2006): "What if Speed, but the bus was Jason Statham?" Genius. By now it's no spoiler to state that the high concept in A Quiet Place is there's these monsters of unknown origin who are totally blind, but are very sensitive to sound, so if you want to stay alive you have to remain almost totally silent. And it's a novel and cool wheeze, that's the good part. The bad part is that outside of this central concept/gimmick there's plenty of monster movie cliches, but the originality of the setup means that even the types of scenes and scares you've seen many times before at least have a new twist on them.

The movie centres around the Abbott family as played by the movie's co-writer and director, John Krasinski and his real life wife, Emily Blunt and their children. We follow the Abbotts as they try and survive in a world with monsters but without speech or the sounds of life. They go everywhere barefoot on tracks of sand and communicate mostly with sign language, but I also really loved the little details that sell how everything had to change in order for them to continue to elude death, like the crocheted monopoly pieces, or how squeaky floorboards in their house were clearly marked so as to be avoided. In a 90 minute film there's only 25 lines of dialogue, but thanks to some subtitles and excellent acting as well as clearly delineated objectives for each character in each scene, the movie was never confusing or hard to follow. There are periods of pure silence which can be stressful (in a good way) on the viewer as one is made aware of all the little noises one makes and that surround us, but the film also knew when to use music and sound design take over telling the story.

The design of the monsters was cool, although there was a clear inspiration from the Xenomorphs from the Alien series, just as some of the screams they emitted seemed to be inspired by the dinosaur shrieks and howls from Jurassic Park (1993). The CGI used to render the creatures was perhaps not the strongest, but was serviceable, rather it is more the above-mentioned overly familiar beats that hold A Quiet Place back from greatness. Even though this film has its own thing going on at a macro level, on a micro one, scene to scene, it kept falling into "there's a monster in the house stalking the family" type stuff that's been a horror staple for decades. There's also some inconsistency in how much the beasties can and can't hear, that mostly depends on the requirements of the plot at any given moment. So a quality modern horror film, if not a flawless masterpiece. I'm not sure that it needs a sequel/prequel though, but then again one original movie kicking off an unnecessary franchise is perhaps the biggest horror cliche there is.

Nick liked these reviews