Three minutes into A Quiet Place, I was about to grab some popcorn, when my wife seized my hand and shook her head. The theatre was so quiet, its occupants so immersed in the Abbott family’s attempts to keep quiet, that my hand reaching into that bag would have sounded like a jet taking off. That tension and absorption in the characters’ plight dominated the remainder of the film, written and directed by lead actor John Krasinski.
An antagonist is close. The protagonist struggles not to make a peep. It’s a tension-building method used in thousands of horror and suspense stories… but not to this extent. Krasinski skyrockets the tension by introducing an antagonist with super-sensitive hearing. The creatures don’t need to be in the same room to hear their prey – they need to be in the same town!
The film opens 89 days into the invasion, with the Abbotts scavenging a vacated convenience store. It’s what you’d see in The Walking Dead, but you get the impression that the adversaries are something much more threatening than zombies. And they are.
Krasinski doesn’t waste time with expository dialogue about the creatures – he can’t really, since most of the film’s clipped dialogue is subtitled sign language. Instead, the camera lingers on Lee Abbott’s markerboard, which bullet points the creatures’ characteristics and asks the question on which the Abbotts’ survival hinges: “What are their WEAKNESSES?”
The film also introduces relationship complexities that go beyond the hunter/prey surface story. Particularly engaging is Lee Abbott’s strained relationship with deaf teenage daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds). She wants more independence and involvement; he wants to keep his family alive, even if that means somewhat stifling his daughter.
Initially, I was disappointed when the film’s preview offered glimpses of the creatures. I was mistaken – this is not a film about withholding the adversary; it’s a film about avoiding detection by the adversary.
A Quiet Place, confident in its new but not-so-new concept, detours from the contrived scares and plot hoops of the typical horror film. During the brief hour-and-a-half playtime, expect to wince, cringe, sympathize, and maybe even choke up. And be sure to skip the snacks – they’re too noisy. – Douglas J. Ogurek *****