A Quiet Place
I like a good horror movie.
Emphasis on the “good.” I like a good horror movie. And, honestly, in my opinion, there just aren’t that many good horror movies.
I don’t get scared by movies very often, and horror movies tend to be formulaic. Or they rely too heavily on haunting music and jump scares. Or they think they can be scary if they are just graphic enough.
But A Quiet Place falls victim to none of these tendencies. Here is a horror movie that is innovative, and genuinely thrilling.
In A Quiet Place, the Abbott family has survived in a post-apocalyptic world for over a year. Alien monsters have wiped out most of the humans as far as can be known, and now any human life must survive by walking on eggshells and trying not to attract any unwanted monster attention.
The thing is, while the monsters are blind, they have super hearing, so that any noise can bring them running to your front door, ready to devour you.
It just so happens that one family, the Abbotts, know sign language because their daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds, Wonderstruck) is deaf. They have constructed a whole way of life that enables them to be as silent as possible. But the slightest misstep results in the greatest calamity. Make one noise and it could be the death of yourself or a family member.
Let me tell you, the movie is incredibly suspenseful. Rarely do I see movies that are patient enough to execute great suspense, but during this one, I was often nail-bitingly anxious. I even found myself closing my ears in anticipation, something I don’t normally do but that was quite appropriate for this movie. It was as if I was begging, No, don’t make a noise! I don’t want to hear a noise! – because I know what happens when they make a noise.
Now, I like a lot of silent movies. Some of my favorite movies were released before 1927 (when the first sound movie was released). I also really like a lot of foreign movies. That is all to say that I don’t mind silence in movies, nor do I mind having to read subtitles. Even if you do, I think A Quiet Place is accessible despite the silence of the characters and the fact that most of the dialogue is in subtitles. The dynamic is well-executed, so that I remained focused and on the edge of my seat.
The necessity of silence actually becomes the most suspenseful part of the movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that used sound the way this movie does, making it the decisive element, the one you pay the most attention to.
I also found A Quiet Place to be quite heart-wrenching. I felt how high the stakes are, and how burdensome they are on the characters. I was actually moved to tears at one point.
All the characters in the movie have to wrestle with their own sense of responsibility. The parents carry the burden of protecting their children, who need them to be compassionate and encouraging, while also stern and protective. The stakes are incredibly high all the time! And they know the unforgivable cost of even one mistake.
Regan has to face the challenge of not only trying to be silent and trying to protect herself and her brother, but also trying to do so as a deaf person – someone who cannot hear all the noise she might be making. She has experienced just how easy it is for tragedy to strike, and she wants desperately not to be the contributing factor.
Her father Lee (John Krasinski, The Office), tries to create a hearing device that enables her to hear, not out of an ableist desire to get her to conform to the bodily norm, but because he wants her to be able to hear any noise she makes in order to better protect herself and her family.
And there is another tremendous complication: the mother, Evelyn (Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria, The Devil Wears Prada), is pregnant. How, you ask, could they possibly bring a needy, crying baby into this tense world that demands absolute silence? Good question!
It’s an intense movie.
Altogether, it is a horror movie that is both compelling and captivating, thrilling and enthralling. A Quiet Place is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a long time.
It doesn’t just scare you. It doesn’t just give you a thrill. It lets you imagine what it would be like if everything was always at stake, if it was always your responsibility to keep the ones you love safe, and all the while any mistake could cost you the world.
Are you up for it?