The horror experience that silenced an audience
It's well recognised that in horror, both silence and sound can be equally terrifying. This is a dynamic A Quiet Place plays around with extremely well, following a family trying to stay alive as sounds sensitive creatures stalk them. It's a risky move for a first-time horror director, as films with a singular central premise tend to live or die by how consistently they are implemented. It's difficult to get right and easy to slip-up; creating inconsistencies that can completely derail a movie. John Krasinski clearly has a keen eye for detail, and I made sure to take note of as many of the sound related specifics I could; but not once did I spot something that took me out of the experience. That's what this film was for me, a true cinematic experience.
"An afternoon showing of a film like this should be pretty quiet" - I told my partner (with no pun intended), as we stood in line for tickets, undeterred by the crowds of people whom I assumed had children with them. As we got seated in one of the larger screens at our local cinema; waiting for the film to begin, it became apparent I had been mistaken. Near to capacity, the screen was very busy and loud. Something that had troubled me having known about the movie's reliance on sound, or the lack of it. Phones beeped, people chirped, the cinema snacks rustled and crunched, and I despaired.
Finally, the lights dimmed, the screen did that weird stretchy thing, and the film started.
Then, silence. Within seconds, utter silence.
The opening scene: an abandoned supermarket with little other than crisps left on the shelves and the Abbott family carefully, and quietly scavenging for supplies. The leaden nature of the film was apparent immediately, and the severity of the consequence of making any sound was made horrifically clear soon after. The Abbotts, in general, seem to have adapted to this new-found need for silence better than most. Thanks – in no small part – to their daughter being deaf, an important plot point, and meaning they can communicate through sign language. Never before have I been in a screening for a movie that had the audience so united in fear of making any noise themselves. The feeling of dread and distress I felt watching this film hadn't been so jarring since my first viewing of (Ridley Scott's.) Alien. It was Brilliant!
The cinematography here is excellent, with both panoramic and close-up shots being used to ruthless efficiency to create a sense of eerie loneliness and claustrophobia. It's a really clever pairing that works well in horror if applied correctly. The vast openness of the landscape creates the illusion of freedom and opportunity, their situation dictates otherwise. Much like in Alien – which used the vast openness of space and a spaceship with incredibly narrow corridors to create the same ambience – the family are little better than prisoners, being unable to travel far, or anywhere unfamiliar; it's just too risky.
The soundtrack is also outstanding and is particularly important in a movie like this. Mixing understated, mood-setting music with many natural, ambient sounds is something Crimson Peak did extraordinarily well; A Quiet Place follows suit.
The cast is superb. John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as husband and wife – Lee and Evelyn Abbott – both give (perhaps unsurprisingly), excellent and genuine performances. Their relationship as a married couple is never in doubt - perhaps because they are actually married?
Special mention should unquestionably go to young Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe – Regan and Marcus Abbott – however, who are exemplary in every aspect of their performances. This is the first time I've seen either of them on screen, and I can't wait to see what they've both done before, and what they'll both do in the future. These two are definitely ones to watch.
"I was never a horror movie guy" - says John Krasinski, which makes this movie's success all the more impressive. After adapting the screenplay and deciding to direct the film, John watched several modern horror movies; Crediting "Get Out", "The Witch" and "The Babadook" as "influential with how people do tension and terror." I agree.
But, the film also borrows heavily from classics like Alien, Jaws, Rosemary's Baby, and The Birds and it really shows.
A Quiet Place is a masterclass of suspense and edge of your seat horror, and it draws you in and clutches you from the very first scene; not letting go until well after the end credits roll.