A Quiet Place: A sound horror film
An excellent thriller, that's taut and never lets up on the tension
A Quiet Place isn't the kind of film to waste time on explanations. John Krasinski (who directs as well as stars in it) pops us right in the middle of what appears to be a post-apocalyptic world with a cold opening, only providing us with a title card that reads 'Day 89'. So we're not starting at the beginning here; Krasinski, Blunt (who's his real life wife) and their children have been surviving in this world for some time now. And the first thing we notice is how quiet they're all being as they forage for supplies in an abandoned town, and how terrified they seem about making the slightest noise. As they head back to their farm, we see a newspaper waving about with the headline "IT'S SOUND!"
Director: John Krasinski
Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe
We soon learn that there are creatures about that hunt by sound, and the whole world seems to be overrun with them. The film isn't concerned with the world, however. The focus is kept firmly on this one family. The film is also not concerned about the what and how of the creatures. All we need to know is that they are blind, with a heightened sense of sound, and will swoop in and kill at the drop of a hat... literally. One circumstance that seems to have helped this family survive is their familiarity with sign language thanks to the teenage daughter being deaf. This daughter is played marvellously by Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf herself.
After the pre-credit sequence, the story shifts to 'Day 472' and the first thing we notice is that the mom (none of the characters are named) is now heavily pregnant. Immediately, the tension is amped up. Not for the usual reasons, but because babies are notoriously non-silent. For that matter, so are child-births. Some of the film's best and most heart-stoppingly scary moments happen when the mom goes into labour (when she's all alone, naturally). Blunt is simply brilliant as the mom in these scenes, and in fact, in the entire film -- Krasinski has made a wise choice in letting her take up more screen space than his own character.
The film is largely silent, with barely any dialogues at all; so sound design plays a big part in making it work. The subtle cutting off of the ambient sound when the point of view switches to the daughter, is especially noteworthy. The score, however, does get a bit overbearing at times. But this is a minor niggle in a film which holds us in thrall for its entire duration. That this duration is only an hour and a half is in the film's favour; it keeps things taut.
Interestingly, despite being such a lean film, the writers still make a point about gender stereotyping in a conservative family set-up and the protectiveness of parents. Early on, the dad wants to take his son out into the wild to teach him survival skills. The boy is afraid and doesn't want to go. The daughter does want to go, but is not allowed to. He tells her she has to stay home to help her mom and that she'll be safe there. But in the end, it's the mom and daughter who defend the family against the creatures, while the son tends to the newborn. This is not underlined or anything. It just is. And it's laudable.
At one point, the mom asks, "What are we, if we can't protect them?" But the film shows that parenting isn't simply about protecting. It's also about enabling.
Overall, A Quiet Place is an excellent thriller that never lets up on the tension, and is a welcome addition to the genre.