A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
A Quiet Place is a 2018 horror film directed by and starring John Krasinski. He plays Lee Abbott alongside his real-life wife Emily Blunt, who plays Evelyn Abbott. The two are devoted parents who work hard to raise their two children in a world terrorized by blind yet dangerous creatures that hunt with highly acute hearing. I remember seeing trailers for this film long before it came out, and my expectations were actually considerably below the reality of what this movie is. It did look intriguing, but knowing the ways a lot of mainstream horror films get made I was expecting this to be a run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic survival film with a gimmick. I couldn’t be happier with being dead wrong.
Sound—most importantly its absence—is used fantastically to create atmosphere in this film. The creatures are able to zero in on even the slightest out of place noise, as long as it is the loudest in the area, so everything from a bump to a pained gasp is enough to put one of the characters in danger. Spoken dialogue is kept to a minimum, save for situations where the environment allows them to talk, which are few and far between. When these moments do arise words become all the more impactful, even at their most mundane. Characters tenderly sharing headphones is enough to make you realize just how overbearing the silence can be. I expected this setup to be exploited for jump-scares, but they were appreciably absent for the most part too. It all makes for a wonderful theatre-going experience, immersing you in a tense world where silence means survival.
The story line is elegantly simple and effective at engendering anxiety. The Abbott family, with the exception of a tragedy that struck them a few months after the emergence of the creatures, seem to be surviving rather well. The forthcoming dilemma is that Evelyn is pregnant and the child is expected soon, an event which will unavoidably be the source of a lot of noise. They are taking steps to prepare for it as best they can, but there are too many variables at play to have it go smoothly. Meanwhile, Lee is teaching their son Marcus (Noah Jupe) how to fish and gather supplies to help him get over his fear of the creatures. Their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), the oldest, grapples with the fear that her father blames her for the tragedy that struck at the onset of the film, causing a gulf between the two. The threat of the creatures is ever-present, but it is the family’s stability and the drama around it that is at the heart of the film.
Though aided by subtitled American Sign Language (ASL), each member of the family does a great job of expressing themselves without the use of words. The ASL used mostly serves to enhance the expressiveness of the actors and give better context to what is going on between them. The visual storytelling is exceptionally well done, especially for the horror genre. Lee and Evelyn are well performed as fiercely responsible parents in their own unique ways, the former being a more pragmatic survivalist and the latter wanting her children grow into educated, well-rounded people as much as possible. I especially enjoyed Simmonds’ character, who is realistically rebellious, yet resilient and capable all on her own. Written poorly, a character like hers could have been frustrating, but everything about her came together wonderfully.
A Quiet Place is a great horror film, full of atmosphere and terror. The performances are great, and the creature designs are well thought-out and creepy. I highly recommend seeing it, especially if you’re not as big on intense violence and gore. You will see blood, but this film is not very graphic at all, instead relying on tried and true suspense and a formidable physical threat to keep you on the edge of your seat.