Horror fans enjoyed a mainstream, critical heyday in last year’s low-budget horror film Get Out. Combine Get Out’s momentum with the huge marketing push behind the remake of Steven King’s It, and it seems horror is ready to be taken seriously for a new generation. This monster movie is written, directed, produced and starring John Krasinski and co-produced by Michael Bay. This should be a giant red flashing light (like the ones that parade throughout the film) that this could easily become a by-the-numbers genre flick with too many special effects and not enough substance, but it rings with real character development and surprisingly poignant moments for the actors.
I wanted to enjoy A Quiet Place a lot less than I did. While the premise and gimmick of the film feels repetitive, given 2016’s Lights Out, it holds its own in the sweeping cinematography and intimacy of the setting, namely the family’s New England farm and surrounding forest.
A Quiet Place takes high-concept into high-budget production. The story revolves around a farming family who have survived the near extinction of mankind at the claws and teeth of an apex predator species that relies on sound to track their prey. Within the first ten minutes of the film, the family’s youngest son is swept away suddenly after a toy rocket blinks and beeps for just a few seconds too long. From here, the character’s daily routines of vegetable harvesting, tinkering, research, home-schooling and drawn-out silent close-ups set up an armory of loaded guns to undoubtedly go off in the film’s climax.
No one entered this film expecting a deadpan every man from an NBC sitcom to be able to hold his acting ground against Emily Blunt, but Krasinki pulls it off. His character wallows in regret over the loss of his son, and the responsibility to teach and protect the remainder of his family carries a fearful weight that slumps his shoulders and illuminates through his uncharacteristic facial hair. Blunt, for the limited scenes she is given holds us captive in her tear-streaked open eyes and mouth.
Now comes the part where the cynic pops the film’s…bubble? No, eardrum. This is an art piece experimenting with sound on every level, from the characters misdirecting the monsters to revealing weaknesses in both the monsters and the family members. For a family with two parents and three children (not to mention the QUIETEST NEWBORN in the history of our species) they have intricate traps laid out across their property that would make the writers of Home Alone bite their lips. From a soundproof room beneath the barn to a string of red warning Christmas bulbs that stretch for acres, the most lingering question beating through viewers like a war drum should be how is any of this being powered without an electrical grid or a noisy generator?!
In spite of the monster’s vast amount of CGI screen time and the minimal dialog, this movie has some solid scares, both sudden and lingering. Blunt, Krasinski, and their younger counterparts show a family governed by equal parts fear and hope, and everyone pulls their weight to convey the story. If this is your first monster movie, you’ll be impressed. If you are looking for a thoughtful horror piece to add to your collection of 21st century milestones, don’t feel bad about skipping it. I think we’re going to see much more John Krasinski’s talents behind the camera in the coming months.