It had been a while since I’d seen a decent horror movie, so I jumped at the chance to go and watch A Quiet Place in theaters. The John Krasinski directed film stars his wife, the super-talented Emily Blunt, giving us all the more reason to see this unusual film that cleverly wields the tool of quietness to uncanny effect.
The film feels initially quite odd in that it is more a lyrical, rather beautiful, tale about a family unit that has to survive a horrific circumstance than a formulaic horror movie. That serves as the film’s main strength today when where we are fed up with gross horror movies that disgust rather than terrify.
The world has been taken over by blind, but gigantic, vicious insect-like creatures (clearly inspired by the original extra-terrestrials from Ridley Scott’s Alien films) that operate through their keen sense of hearing. They attack at any significant noise, reducing the central characters, the Abbot family, to using sign language, something they are skilled at because the eldest daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), was born deaf. Due to this inadvertent survival skill, the Abbots, led by two exceptional parents, Lee and Evelyn (Krasinski and Blunt) are able to continue an idyllic life on their farm in the American country-side, albeit very, very silently, cut off from the rest of humanity.
While the film’s strength is its break from the dull formula of horror, the stupid mistakes made in horror films seem ingrained in the genre. Without giving too much away, it seems safe to say that at some point in the narrative the Abbot family loses a child, and then Evelyn becomes pregnant again. Just around the time that she is due, Lee insists on leaving her, and taking their timid son Marcus (Noah Jupe) into the wild to show him some survival skills. Never mind the inherent gender bias in this decision, it seems demented to leave one’s wife alone to deal with a process which is painful, messy, and as anyone with half a brain knows, extremely LOUD.
There are twists and surprises here, but small ones, and for the most part, the film was not as scary as I had expected, nor as deeply original as I might have liked. That being said, the performance of the Abbot children, and Blunt, are exceptional. Krasinski’s direction is remarkably subtle for a horror movie, although his character is slightly too silent and macho for my taste. In general this is an interesting film and quite an accomplishment for someone who is known for his acting rather than directing credentials.
As for breaking the boundaries of horror, well, we’ll have to wait for another film to do that. This is to be enjoyed, screeched at, and applauded for not falling into the sinkhole of gore and trite delivery. What a shame it couldn’t go that extra mile.