A Quiet Place (2018) Review

WITHIN THE SOUND OF SILENCE


 

Since the days of filmmaking began many, many years ago, motion pictures have flourished into a wide array of genres that tackle many moods, tone, and emotions to give its viewers an entertaining experience. Some makes us laugh, some make us, cry, some make us fascinated, and some, most notably within the horror genre, make us scared. The film genre of horror has been around for quite some time, creating a plenitude of feature films that scary, creep, and sometimes downright horrify its viewers, drawing up on the fears and dark imaginations that go “bump” in the night. Like many genres out there, horror movies have slightly different variations in their narrative and context, expanding upon many things from monster creature features like 1935’s Frankenstein, 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1984’s Gremlins, to the teen slashers like 1978’s Halloween, 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, and 1996’s Scream, to paranormal flicks like 1982’s Poltergeist, 2002’s The Ring, and 2013’s The Conjuring, and to even supernatural nightmarish tales like 1973’s The Exorcist, 1976’s Carrie, and 1980’s The Shining, Nowadays, the horror genre, much like a lot things, has to evolve, producing more features that had the heavy usage of “jump scare tactics” as well as bountiful disturbing sequences of bloody / gory within its cinematic context, trying to appease and cater to its more “modern” demographic of horror viewers. Still, the genre continues to grow and expand, creating some memorable recent hits like 2016’s The Witch and Spilt, and 2017’s IT being some of the prime examples. Now, Paramount Pictures and actor / director John Krasinki present the next intriguing tale from the horror genre with the film A Quiet Place. Does this movie truly find its “scares” in its suspenseful tale or does it fail to impress, relying too much on its “gimmicky” premise? 

THE STORY


In the not too distant future, Earth is ravaged and faces a fallout of an apocalyptic nature in the form of mysterious but extremely dangerous and powerful creatures that can only track their prey through sound. Among the sparse survivors are the Abbott family, who is led by Lee (John Krasinski) and has taken the utmost extreme measures in order to stay alive and avoid being detected by these sound-sensitive monsters. After more than year of surviving in this now dystopian reality, the Abbotts continue on with their lives, finding Lee’s wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt) preparing to give birth, their hearing son Marcus (Noah Jupe) learning the ropes (i.e. the way to survive) from his father, and their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is still struggling to come to terms with her part in a tragedy that struck the family several months earlier. Unfortunately, despite their safety plans and making their home fortified with precautions in their daily routines, the Abbotts can only stay hidden for so long with the monsters nearby become aware of their existence. When the family is slit up one day and Evelyn goes into early labor, it’s not long before the creatures descend upon their home, forcing each family member to play their part in protecting themselves and one another.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


While I have always appreciated many different style of movie genres over the years, the horror genre has always alluded me. It’s not so much that I look down upon the genre (I’m not a movie snob or anything like that), but I just have hard time connecting with those films. Maybe because have such an active and wild imagination (even as an adult) that I find some of these movies “too scary” for me or perhaps that I saw The Exorcist when I was too young and had nightmares about during my tween years. Basically, this genre isn’t my “cup of tea”, but I would never look down upon someone who does like them. That being said, a problem that I have with horror movies (more recent ones) is that they’ve become too “gimmicky” and just trying to reach an “ultimate” scary tactic to its viewers but being (as a whole) a bland and paper-thin film. Nowadays, horror movies are a dime a dozen, with many (in my opinion) starting to blend together and are just being punched out for “cheap scares”. Well, if you think about it, horror movies are somewhat low budget, usually don’t require a whole lot expansive production locations, maybe one or two big actors in the cast, or super heavy visual effects. Thus, these movies can be churned out much quicker than they a large star-studded superhero blockbuster or large ensemble drama feature. Still, despite all that and what I’ve said, there are some horror films out there that have…well… surprised me. Of course, I’ve seeing many of the classic ones (most of the ones I mentioned in my opening paragraph) and a few others that peaked my interest and actually found quite entertaining.

This, of course, brings me to talking about the 2018 horror feature release of A Quiet Place. With my movie blog thriving (becoming more experienced with each movie I review), I still continue to try to expand my film horizons and try to see movies that I would not normal see. Naturally, I’m talking about the horror genre. Again, these movies aren’t usually on my radar when I seeking to watch a movie, but I kept on hearing about the film A Quiet Place every now and again on the internet. The film’s trailers were also a heavily marketed during every time I went to go see a PG-13 or R-rated movie at my local movie theater, which tugged on my curiosity to seeing this movie, especially within the movie’s premise. So, I took a chance and went to see A Quiet Place, hoping that the hype for this would be satisfying and not be a disappointing one like I had with 2017’s It Comes at Night (the film was marketed wrong and didn’t live up to its hype). So, what did I think of A Quiet Place. Well, to be honest, I actually really liked it. Despite some minor grumblings, A Quiet Place lives up to its own hype, producing a suspenseful horror feature that’s both enthralling and nerve-wracking at the same time. It’s a simple and ambiguous premise that ultimately works in the film’s favor and truly does standout within the modern age of horror movies.

A Quiet Place is actor/ directed by John Krasinski. He’s mostly known for his acting talents (more on the below), but Krasinski has also directed several other projects including several episodes of The Office as well as Brief Interview with a Hideous Man and The Hollars. To be sure, A Quiet Place is Krasinski’s most ambitious directional film project to date of his career. Fortunately, Krasinski has a good and firm grasp on where he wants to take this movie, making A Quiet Place a highly enjoyable suspenseful horror film that I quite enjoyed. Of course, like the movie’s marketing campaign states, majority of the film is in silent and / or in hushed tones, absorbing only the most minimal sound (small sounds, very hushed whisper voices, natural sounds, etc.). It’s a gimmick none the less, but it ultimately works with Krasinski’s solid direction. What do I mean? Well, most of the film is layered in silence, making A Quiet Place placing a large emphasis on the sights and sounds of the picture to tell its story. Again, it’s ambitious work that pays off and becomes an intriguing approach to a movie rather than just a simply gimmick.

The film’s script, which was penned by Krasinski as well as Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, is a simplistic story (there’s no way around it), but, much like the rest of the story, the film’s story is better on a small scale, focusing in and around the Abbott family as they try to live and survive from these sound-hearing creatures that roam the land. Interestingly, the movie places a great emphasis on the internal workings of the Abbott family, showing their commonplace daily routines in this harsh environment. Just seems conventional things like simply walking into a house and knowing where to step to avoid the wood floors from creaking makes the daily functions a “life or death” situation, which plays throughout the entire movie. It’s an interesting and fun way to present a film’s narrative (even if it’s just a minor thing) and definitely plays out in multiple scenarios. Also, while A Quiet Place is being toted as a horror movie, there are elements in the movie, mostly the tight knot bond that the members of the Abbott family, that are heartwarming and have a touch of sincerity to its context, which is a good juxtaposition folly to the more suspenseful / horror moments that the feature has to offer.

Naturally, being a horror movie of recent years, A Quiet Place uses the now (almost commonplace) usage of “jump scares”. However, for the most part, most of these “jump scares” in the movie are handed well, with the exception of a few (more on the below), due to the film’s structure of silence and noise. Thus, when does appear it becomes more of a “paramount” importance and really does make a viewer “jump” rather than just the run-of-the-mill horror movies do nowadays. To me, it caught me off-guard a few times, which within the context of a good horror movie is a good thing. However, the movie itself, barring the horror-ish elements that run throughout, is pretty suspenseful and keeps a good solid pace within it’s narrative as well as building up momentum. I’ll admit that are few scenes that are quite nerve-racking, which (again) kept me invested in the film’s story. Thankfully, Krasinski keeps the film streamlined and moving at brisk pace as the film clocks around 90 minutes long (the somewhat standard running time for an animated feature). This means that the movie sort of “gets in and gets out” in a timely manner, without any unnecessary measure in overextending itself in superfluous scenarios and other nuances.

In terms of the film’s overall presentation, A Quiet Place is effectively great, especially with a production budget of only $17 million. Naturally, Krasinski and the entire film crew behind this movie smartly uses their money, but that doesn’t mean that the movie has to “look cheap”. To be honest, the film actually looks quite good, building upon a setting that’s both familiar (i.e. the Abbott’s farm and the surrounding wooded area) and unfamiliar within a world of a somewhat desolate / isolated place in a dystopian future of Earth. Thus, the production design work by Jeffery Beecroft, set decorations by Heather Loeffler, and art direction by Sebastian Schroeder should be mentioned for the work in bring A Quiet Place’s “physical” world to life, which definitely fits the overall tone and mood of the feature. The visual effects team should also be praised for their work on A Quiet Place’s monsters. While some movies (be horror or non-horror) feature creatures / monsters, sometimes their overall appearance (when there finally revealed) is a bit lackluster, but the sound-sensitive monsters in this film are quite good. I won’t spoil it on how they look like, but suffice to say that they’re quite menacing looking and quite detailed. So, again, kudos to the visual effect team for bring them to life.

Perhaps the most notable (and highly commendable) efforts that should be highly praised the film’s entire sound department. Much like Dunkirk, the overall usage of sound effects is a paramount importance in telling A Quiet Place’s narrative and the team behind making those sound effects, be loud or soft, do exceptionally work in bringing the film’s various sounds to life. Additionally, the film’s score, composed by Marco Beltrami, is also highly utilized in the movie, playing up the musical undertones for both its quiet moments and suspenseful ones alike, which, of course, adds to the movie’s tension. Lastly, A Quiet Place’s cinematography, which is done by Charlotte Bruus Christensen, also aids in the movie’s strengths, displaying a cinematic “arthouse” horror feature that looks beautiful (presentation-wise) and sure does have that quality that you would expect in a drama film and not in a horror flick.

They were a few gripes that I did find with A Quiet Place, which didn’t hinder the greatly, but still prove to be slightly problematic in keeping the film just out of reach from being a horror masterpiece. Perhaps the most notable one I found was the usage of the classic “jump scares”. Yes, I know that a movie such as this layout and uniqueness into his minimal dialogue and enhanced usage of sound would somewhat utilize the more modern “jump scare” a lot, but there were a few times that didn’t work quite well and could’ve played out better without the “jump scares” and presented them in a more creepy and subtle approach. The other minor problem I had with the movie is in the context of the creatures. Again, this is probably runs parallel to how the movie was intent to be setup much like how the movie It Comes at Night sets its initial premise by dropping viewers right in the middle of the story. It’s a good setup, offering a lot of ominous mystery into a film’s backstory (posing many questions and leaving it up to the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks). However, I kind of wanted to know a bit more backstory in A Quiet Place, especially in where the creatures came from. Some have suggested their extraterrestrial aliens or they could be some type of primordial beings from darkest caverns below the Earth? If aliens, why did they come to Earth and how did they conquer it or rather wiping out a huge chunk of mankind out in their conquest of Earth? Who knows…maybe I’m just over thinking it. Regardless, I just wanted to know a bit more information. Also, the film’s ending was a bit abrupt and could’ve been a bit closure to the feature (like an extra two-minute finale scene) to round out the movie. It’s almost as if the movie ends on cliffhanger and A Quiet Place 2 (if there is another one) will pick up where the first film finished. Still, these three negative points are minor ones and didn’t heavily impact my overall liking of the feature…just some minor grumblings from me.

Much like the film’s minimal spoke dialogue approach, A Quiet Place doesn’t have a sprawling cast (as it doesn’t need to), but rather uses its small cast of characters that make up the Abbott family, who are setup to be the main protagonist to tell its movie’s story effectively. Collectively, all members of the cast (be experience individuals or unknown faces) give some top-notch performances with some not even uttering a single word. Additionally, each one does a great job in communicating their feelings / emotions expressively (via facial expression or body language) without becoming too extravagant and broad (like how a mime performs). Much like Dunkirk, the building development behind these characters aren’t fully well-rounded to encompass everything about them or into great dramatic depth, but the decision for this is dictated by the overall direction / style of the movie. Thus, since it is “by design” in the undertaking of the film’s proceedings, the shortcomings of the Abbotts’ character developments are understandable and justified. Still, in a movie such as this, what’s physically being expressed is more important carries more weight (and emotions) than what’s going on in their mind.

While John Krasinki works behind the camera in directing the feature, he also plays “double duty” in A Quiet Place as he also plays the Abbott’s family main patriarch (leader) Lee Abbott. Known for his acting talents in The Office, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, and Aloha, Krasinki is adept in expressing a wide range of emotions from the stalwart strong silent type to the goofy and gawky individual. Thus, his talents are put to the test (in front of the camera) in A Quiet Place, making Lee an interesting parental leader of the family and helping guide them in this new dystopian life on Earth. Just a simply glance at the camera or how he looks out into the distance and / or talking to another character offers up plenty feelings and thoughts that Krasinki can create (again) without every uttering a single spoken word. Now, that’s true acting talent at its best. Likewise, actress Emily Blunt gives stellar performance as Evelyn, Lee’s wife and mother to the two Abbott children. Known for her roles in The Devil Wears Prada, Edge of Tomorrow, and Into the Woods, Blunt proves to be an equally strong role in Evelyn, showcasing the maternal sensitivity instincts for her children’s safety and well-being as well as being a complete and total badass while she’s battling / evading the monstrous creatures, even when she’s on the verge of giving birth. It also helps that both Krasinki and Blunt are married in really life and their scenes together show it, offering a subtle compassionate on-screen chemistry that translate well on Lee and Evelyn Abbott, especially when the movie’s more weightier emotional scenes come into play.

Behind Krasinki and Blunt are the other two members of the Abbott family (Regan and Marcus), who are played by actress Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) and actor Noah Jupe (Suburbicon and The Night Manger) respectfully. Of the two, Simmonds, who is really deaf in real life, does exceptionally well in her role, displaying the dead-on performance for someone and acts as a somewhat focal point for most of the feature (a great sense of the narrative revolves around her). Nevertheless, Simmonds is up for the challenge and executes her scenes beautifully (kudos to her!). Jupe also delivers a solid performance as Marcus, with some of his best scenes involves him interacting with Krasinki and / or Simmonds. If there was a supporting role in A Quiet Place, that would have to go to young actor Cade Woodard, who makes his acting debut in this film as Beau Abbott, the third and youngest member of the family who suffers a great misfortune at the beginning of the film. There’s not much development into this character (in comparison to the other Abbott family members), but his presence during the film’s first few minutes resonates throughout the entire feature.

FINAL THOUGHTS


If they can’t hear you, they can’t hunt you” is the golden rule of which the Abbott family applies in order to stay alive in the movie A Quiet Place. Director John Krasinki’s newest film takes very unabashed look into a fascinating cinematic world (where Krasinki the usage of sounds can be life or death) that at first sounds “gimmicky”, but becomes fully realized within the story’s context, which transforms into enthralling feature film that finds a balance between commonplace horror elements and suspenseful thrills. While there are few minor problems I had with it, the film itself was masterfully put to together and executed gracefully, thanks to its enrich cinematic world by Krasinki, it’s ingenious sound editing, effective horror style, and its small but strong cast members. Personally, I really liked this movie….and remember I’m not a fan of horror. It was intriguing, engaging, and quite an entertaining suspenseful horror flick. As you can imagine, I would give A Quiet Place my “highly recommended” stamp of approval as horror fans will delight with great and solid feature in the genre, while casual moviegoers will find the movie’s premise and setup to be interesting and will be curious to see how the movie ultimately shapes out to be. Heck, I sure did. While the horror genre will continue to grow with many of the Hollywood studios punching out new ones everywhere, A Quiet Place has earned its place as one of the more innovative and memorable ones to come out in recent years. While some horror movies fail to scare or leave an impression on its viewers, A Quiet Place will easily remedy that with its beautiful arthouse entry in the genre and its nerve-racking narrative.

4.5 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)

 

Released On: April 6th, 2018
Reviewed On: April 13th, 2018

A Quiet Place  is 90 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images

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