Nothing makes you realize just how loud other people are than when you’re watching a movie with large swaths of nearly-silent scenes. For the first ten minutes of A Quiet Place, people in the theater were shuffling around the aisles, zipping and unzipping their jackets, unwrapping candy wrappers—you name it. If they’d been in the world of the film, populated by terrifying creatures that look like Predator crossed with a burned-up, lava-encrusted Gollum with wings and a hypersensitivity to noise, they would’ve been dead within seconds.
Luckily, the film’s premise was so captivating that something miraculous happened: Everyone in the theater shut the fuck up and watched the film. No one climbed over my legs to take a bathroom break; no one was on their phone, talking to their neighbor or even whispering. With a tight 95-minute runtime, A Quiet Place has no filler and captivates throughout, so much so it managed a nearly impossible feat in 2018—theatergoers gave it their undivided attention.
John Krasinski, the man responsible for adding “Jim Halpert Face” to the cultural lexicon, directed, co-wrote and stars alongside real-life wife Emily Blunt. We’re dropped in medias res to their post-apocalyptic nightmare. It’s not clear exactly what’s going on, just that they’re alone at their farmhouse with their three—er, scratch that, two—children, and they have to be vewy, vewy quiet, or else giant monsters come. One of their kids gets dragged off by a Winged Lava Gollum Predator within the first ten minutes of the film, a clear indication the stakes are real, unlike the feeling of some modern horror films; characters get into tough spots that only get tougher. Not everyone gets saved at the last second.
Speaking of their lives—and yes, this is nitpicky, but you’re the one reading a film review, so I assume you’re down with that—Krasinski and Blunt had three young children while setting up their post-apocalyptic farm oasis, yet they have a fully functional garden, an intricate security system, a tricked out surveillance center, sand trails leading all around their land and into the nearby town where they gather supplies (sand is quieter to walk on, you see) … I mean, when did they have time for all this? Who is putting down all this sand? Where’s this sand coming from? Why does Blunt’s wig look so good? Is it even a wig, or is her hair just that lush and beautiful naturally? These are the important questions of our time.
But I digress. I only nitpick because there aren’t larger issues to criticize—a testament to the film’s strengths. A Quiet Place masterfully provides a sense of unease, where one simple mistake can lead to death. Every action, therefore, becomes an undertaking, even something as simple as walking down the stairs. The family communicates by sign language, and their children, played by Noah Jupe and the impressive Millicent Simmonds, have learned how to get by in a world with little noise. The movie is not silent, however—there is a sometimes-jarring score, and I wonder how much more powerful the film would have been without any music at all.
A general horror movie rule is “less is more,” and I was apprehensive as to how the film would reveal its monsters to us. Fear is a reaction to the unknown, that which has not happened; when we see the object of our fear, then, dread can turn dull or even farcical. See Signs as an example of this. M. Night Shyamalan had us all scared shitless, then we see the aliens at the end of the movie and it’s like…oh, cool, someone’s flash game rendering made it into the final cut of this film. That’s nice. The creatures in this film, even when we eventually see close-ups of their terrifying forms, never lost their fear factor. Another pleasant surprise.
Despite the underlying tension throughout, there are moments of comedy in A Quiet Place. Before Krasinski and his son are about to leave for a supply gathering mission, for instance, one the son feels apprehensive about, Krasinski assures him there’s nothing to be scared of. “Of course there is!” the kid furiously signs. Later, a creature climbs the staircase in their house, helpfully holding on to the bannister rather than lurching up it like the wild animal it is. Safety first!
The movie is darkly funny in a way that reminded me of a classic we all know and love: Tremors. Don’t pretend you haven’t seen it—we’ve all seen it. The Graboids in Tremors, like the monsters in A Quiet Place, respond to sound; Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and my queen, Reba, must minimize the noise they make or get eaten up by giant sand worms. A Quiet Place could have been called Tremors 7: A Quiet Place, for all I care. (And yes, there are six other Tremors films. Fun fact: The Tremors DVD collection is called the “Attack Pack.”)