Cinema is awfully quiet these days. Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck and Kim Ki-Duk’s Moebius are among the small but substantial handful of films to have embraced the power of keeping schtum. In the cacophony of modern cinema, silence is an underrated commodity. John Krasinski’s directorial debut A Quiet Place is the latest to hold back on the sound in order to enhance the visual horrors. If ever a film had me inwardly crawling my way into a booby trapped bear pit whilst silently gabbering with fear, A Quiet Place is that film.
There’s been some kind of apocalyptic event, biological or alien that we don't know, in which humanity (or the most part of the United States at least) is now hunted by giant, super fast and super vicious reptilian creatures. Completely blind, they hunt with an acute sense of hearing meaning survivors must live in a constant state of silent, fearful anticipation. Even the slightest noise will draw them out and if they hear you, well, you’ll see.
Emily Blunt and John Krasinski play Evelyn and Lee, a young couple who have survived with their three children in a fortified countryside house, complete with an elaborate fairy light warning system and sound-proof bunkers. Communication isn’t a problem as their eldest daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf meaning the whole family had already had to learn sign language. Any supply trip is a dangerous venture, especially with small kids who have a knack of picking out the noisiest toys on the shelf. A new ordeal is thrown their way as Evelyn is pregnant and the family must face the horrifying challenge of bringing a baby into this new silent world, a prospect that gets more terrifying the more you think about it.
A Quiet Place is a smart horror that allows you to really ponder how one might survive in such a world. Would it really be possible to survive, and thrive, in silence and in safety? Would humanity be able to adapt and evolve to live without making a sound - to hunt, raise children, avoid danger? Could one live comfortably, happily even, in a world so fraught with uncertainty and danger? The film raises all of these questions and provides little comfort in the answers.
The film does very little in terms of composition, as an audience you’re dropped into the action at day 89 and can only piece together events through the various newspaper clippings collected by Krasinski’s Lee. The creature itself is visually quite disturbing - the audience is treated to a rather nauseating dive into the creatures pulsing cochlea, showcasing the intricate mechanisms at work. The editing is well paced enough so as the impact of the creature is not lost - short and snappy where it needs to be but lingers long enough to give you a good glimpse of Krasinski’s terrifying creation. Notably, with all sound stripped away, the power of the human voice is preserved for only the most raw and visceral of vocal expressions; say a gut wrenching roar of despair that will ultimately lead to a swift and brutal demise.
Behind the quietly paced horror, Krasinski builds a family drama which is often a deeply moving exploration of the lengths a parent will go to protect their child. It’s a rare apocalyptic spin that emphasises the importance of familial bond and self sacrifice. A Quiet Place is a tension filled, butt-clenching ride of a movie, but you may just find yourself shedding a tear or two along the way.