A Quiet Place is a revelatory reflection on just how terrifying silence can be. This new sci-fi thriller written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, with help from director John Krasinski, sets the viewers on a mission to actively participate in the agitation curated by a narrative that never seems to press ‘pause’ on the suspense.
The film stars Krasinski and his wife Emily Blunt as Lee and Evelyn, two parents in a post-apocalyptic future with an unending determination to protect their children, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds). The story begins seemingly at the end of the world. We see the family rummaging through a local convenience store to gather supplies before hiking back to their survivalist cabin far off in the countryside.
The film doesn’t ask us to question what happened- we get some visual clues from long shots panning Lee’s basement walls, manically covered with all the newspaper clippings he could gather. The clippings and Lee’s chalkboard notes reveal that alien creatures have arrived, destroying a great majority of the planet. These brutal beasts, which look as ambiguous as the predators in Stranger Things, are blind, but have a hyper-sensitive sense of sound. Just one misstep, one cry, and your chances of living become slim to none.
The family seems to cope relatively well considering the situation; their house is now mostly ‘sound-proof’ and their routine involves an endless dance on eggshells. Nonetheless, this family, though living in a constant state of unspoken fear, still manage to capture the sense of unconditional love alongside basic family struggles. Regan is a deaf teenager, and despite her father’s attempts to fix her hearing aids, she still feels a bewildering angst around her family, and even towards herself. This minor detail helps to elucidate the fact that this is a normal family, one that is packed-full with love and care, and one that deals with minor family drama such as the angst and rebellion of a teenager, stuck in a wildly un-normal circumstance.
A Quiet Place is nearly entirely a silent film. It is free of dialogue, but sound does not disappear. On the contrary; sound seems to be the film’s protagonist, following the characters around with every step they take. Krasinski’s direction focuses deeply on the visual nuance of surroundings, focusing several shots on the seemingly docile natural forest – which can, with just one break of a stick, can become a site of hostility and near-instant death. Through expanding the wide shot into the world beyond the character’s faces, we get the sense of duality that plays around in the film: the duality of sound and quiet, the duality of safe and terror, and the duality of love and death.
That’s not to say, however, that the film shies away from close-ups. In a particularly affecting scene, Blunt – giving a fantastic performance – must show her character giving birth alone without making any sound. With a creeping close up, panning away from the blood running in the bathtub, straight to a dramatic centring on her face, we as audience members fear breathing ourselves – the effect of fear becomes inescapable. In collaboration with excellent sound editing and superb actors, Kransiski makes a film that is truly terrifying, one that feels like an incredible homage to earlier horror like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) or Alien (1979).
Image: Gage Skidmore