Delivers the Thrills!
The horror genre is going to some interesting new places of late. With the recent critical and box office success of last year’s Get Out, the acceptance of last month’s intoxicating mind trip Annihilation, and now with A Quiet Place’s rousing world premiere at Austin’s SXSW Festival, the genre is finally getting the respect and recognition it deserves. In other words, you proud horror hounds are no longer forced to enjoy your guilty pleasures from within the shadows.
Sure, some will grouse about the potential for the mainstream to water down a genre believed best enjoyed from within those shadows, and others certainly have a legitimate argument that these films aren’t even true horror films anyway. Regardless, the fact that a creature feature won a best picture Oscar this year can’t be denied. And if that accomplishment draws more attention, bigger names, and better films to the genre, then that can only mean good things, right?
In A Quiet Place, real-life Hollywood couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt play husband and wife Lee and Evelyn Abbott, who are parents to three children Regan (Millicent Simmond) Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward). We join them 89 days into some kind of worldwide cataclysmic event that has wiped out much of the world’s population and left hordes of mysterious creatures that roam the countryside, including the sprawling farm where the Abbott family has carved out a meager existence despite the always-lurking danger of being eaten by the creatures that resemble some kind of wicked cross between Predator and Cloverfield’s Clovie with multiple undulating mandibles and swift locomotion that dispatches a victim with little more than a blur.
Adding to the armrest-gripping suspense is the fact that we don’t know what caused the apocalypse nor are the creatures explained. What we know comes from the pinned-up newspaper clippings and crude whiteboard drawings in the Abbott basement that highlight what the family has discovered about the creatures -- things like weaknesses, their numbers, and possible ways to avoid them. We also learn that the creatures hunt by sound, not sight, so absolute silence is not only expected, it is required, lest you disappear in a bloody mess as we see in some of the film’s early scenes.
There is virtually no dialogue in the film and very little sound as the family has learned to communicate in silence via sign language. They patter about barefoot in sand and ash trails they’ve spread about to muffle footsteps. It is quite a unique experience in the theater as the on-screen silence rubs off onto fellow moviegoers. As if we’re all in this game of survival together, nary a word is spoken and even the crinkle of candy wrappers and rustling of popcorn is minimal. It is an awesome collective experience and a bold testament to Krasinski’s (who also directs) decisions. The experience may be lost with home viewing, so if you get a chance to experience in the theater, take advantage of it.
Aside from its main conceit (which is far more than a mere gimmick), much of the film’s success and effectiveness comes from pure simplicity and refined elegance. It is a very simple premise in which the things we don’t see take on greater importance than those we do. Thrust is derived from our anticipation rather than from jump scares -- there are some of those, but kept to a minimum -- and on-screen shocks. One particular scene involving a nail sticking out of a stairway is particularly effective; not from what happens, but from the anticipation of what MIGHT happen. And at a scant 90 minutes, the film never overstays its welcome. A Quiet Place is just all around very well done.
Though not particularly unique or original, A Quiet Place does its own thing and does it quite well. It is not particularly gory, but it is very much scary and certainly delivers the thrills. Though typically an afterthought in these type of films, A Quiet Place is very well acted from top to bottom. Even the kids hold their own, especially Simmonds who wowed us in last year’s sickeningly under-appreciated Wonderstruck.
Fans of the genre should be delighted with Krasinski’s B-movie handling of his film and the new attention he is sure to bring. A Quiet Place makes a whole lot of noise in the horror genre.
(Released by Paramount/Pictures Blumhouse and rated “PG-13” for terror and some bloody images.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.