We’re four months into 2018 and we have a candidate for best horror film of the year. I’ve seen some horror fans debating ‘PG13 horror films vs. R-rated horror’ on social media. I don’t know if A Quiet Place has sparked that old discussion but I can assure you it’s wasted in this case. A Quiet Place is remarkable horror film-making on every level. Directed by Jim Krasinski – yes, Jim from The Office – A Quiet Place brilliantly illustrates how to make a good monster movie. It takes an interesting concept and infuses it with suspenseful strokes and human storytelling.
A Quiet Place is built upon a simple premise. The film opens in the year 2020, shortly after the planet’s population has been hunted seemingly to the point of extinction by blind predatory creatures. Little is known about the predators other than that they hunt by sound. The Abbott family is forced to scavenge and live in complete silence to survive. However, Evelyn’s pregnancy threatens to jeopardize the Abbott’s safety.
A Master’s Class in Suspense
As a director, Krasinski gives a master’s class on suspense. It’s hard to believe that he has limited directorial experience given what he’s committed to the screen here. Over the first half of A Quiet Place, provides a deft balance between jump scares and a restrained focus on building audience anticipation. Rather than feeling gimmicky the film’s premise of monsters that are sensitive to sound is effectively employed to force audience attention to what’s happening on the screen. Krasinski then effectively exploits this attention, giving blurred movements in shadows and in backgrounds that get the heart racing.
The second half of A Quiet Place is absolutely relentless. Once Krasinski has all his narrative pieces in place he turns the dial up and never scales back. Each arm-gripping moment abates only momentarily before the suspense hurtles forward again. One scene in a granary tower will remind horror fans of every great movie that had you had screaming at the screen – you just can’t scream in this film. Another scene in a flooding basement will make any parent feel absolutely hopeless.
A Human Horror Film
A Quiet Place accomplishes what only the best horror films can manage – it makes you feel a range of emotions. As described above, it evokes feelings of dread, terror, and hopelessness. Fortunately, Krasinski also understands that the best horror films work because you care about the characters on the screen. In many ways, A Quiet Place is just as much a family drama as it is a horror film. In a horror film that is very well paced, Krasinski never forgets to infuse his story with relatable human drama. At one point, Emily Blunt’s Evelyn asks, “Who are we if we can’t protect them?” It’s this sentiment that drives the heart of the film. Amongst its monsters and horror, A Quiet Place is a story about parents struggling to protect their children. There is both heartbreak and hope in the film, and you will remember both long after you’ve left the theatre.
Technically Well-Accomplished Filmmaking on Every Level
Some critics may pick at straws and complain that the film has a conventional music score. Arguably, Krasinski could have taken a gamble and relied even more heavily on silence, but the score is quite well done and facilitates the film’s scares. In general, the overall sound design in the film is impeccable. The creatures communicate using clicking sounds that may very well give some viewers nightmares.
Speaking of the monsters, the creature design does bare some passing resemblance to the demogorgons from Stranger Things. Like the best monsters movies of old, A Quiet Place patiently unveils its creatures, giving only sparse glimpses early in the film. Once we finally get the full reveal it’s definitely worth the wait – the creature effects are largely impressive.
One of the film’s strong suits are the performances. Krasinski is absolutely convincing as a father struggling with his own perceiving ability to protect his family. Forced to largely convey emotions through facial expressions and body language, audiences will never doubt that Krasinski is a father desperate to care for his family. Millicent Simmonds is a revelation as daughter Regan Abbott. Her ability to convey a range of emotions with no dialogue, particularly considering her young age, is impressive. She is a star in the making. But A Quiet Place belong to Emily Blunt who is an absolute powerhouse. She gives a performance that hone hopes the Academy will remember next January.
Horror Filmmaking at its Finest
In a year that has seen two horror films nominated for Oscars (and with one of those films winning Best Picture), A Quiet Place continues a trend serious horror-film making that will hopefully continue to gain recognition for the genre. Krasinski doesn’t have a lot of directorial experience under his belt but he has demonstrated a keen eye for combining horror and heart into a film. A Quiet Place comes with my strongest endorsement. This is a film you need to see in theatres.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A+