Directed by: John Krasinski
Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
Rated: PG-13 for terror and some bloody images
How often do you make noise? So many actions are audible. A shoe sole slapping or squeaking on the floor, dropping a hard object, biting into an apple. Even without speaking, we humans are generally noisy creatures. “A Quiet Place” puts us into a position where noise – even a creaking floorboard – means death.
At some point in the near future, deadly creatures appear and start eating people. The creatures are blind, but have incredibly sharp hearing. They’re almost impossible to kill, thanks to what looks like armor covering their eyeless heads and the rest of their bodies. By the time the film starts, the world is silent. Animals that make noise? Gone. People? Almost all gone.
The film focuses on a single family trying to survive in this unforgiving and lethal world. Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee (John Krasinski) and their children live on their small farm, where they’ve made a host of changes in service of staying silent. The family knew sign language before everything changed – their daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf. They now use signing exclusively. Cooking is done in a buried oven, to produce food that’s soft and doesn’t make crunchy noises. Doors are always open, so the noise of the latches doesn’t draw the creatures. Non-creaky floorboards are painted so a careless step won’t bring the creatures running.
“A Quiet Place” is a film of absences. There’s no exposition. Conversations are short and to the point, including arguments. We don’t see the creatures for a long time, only the aftermath of their attacks. The film assumes the audience is able to put two and two together, and doesn’t telegraph danger with loud background music or give us a voiceover to explain everything. We don’t know where the creatures came from, and we don’t need to. We just need to know how dangerous they are, and that is made very clear early on.
Where most horror movies provide scares through gross special effects, mutilation, and jump scares, here we have a film with almost no gore at all. There are a handful of jump scares here, but the tension that grows and grows with each scene comes from the audience caring about the family and knowing how easy it is to make noise without meaning to at the best of times, let alone under dire circumstances.
The creatures are wisely not shown with any detail until far enough into the film that what they look like is almost irrelevant. They have a lot of the standard scary-monster qualities – lots of very sharp teeth, sliminess, and so on – but what really makes them frightening is their proximity. If they can hear a floorboard creak from yards away, how much noise does it take for them to find you if they’re in the same room? Is your breath enough? Your terrified heartbeat?
If you’re looking for a horror movie where the scares come from what you know rather than from gore you see, “A Quiet Place” is a must-watch. If you don’t like tense movies, though, stay far, far away.