Horror films are apart of one of the two hardest genres to master as a storyteller, comedy being the other. It’s incredibly challenging to scare one person, let alone multiple different people with different ethnicities, religions, political views, and arriving from distinct walks of life. John Krasinski nearly masters the art of scaring others in his first attempt with “A Quiet Place,” a nerve-shredding, tension-filled, and emotionally resonating story that revokes sound from its characters and weaponizes it in the form of monstrous creatures.
The story is far more personal than the creatures attacking a group of strangers though, as we follow a family whose been inside this silent hell since the beginning, but our story doesn’t start there. Instead, it begins in the middle of it, on day 89 of this muted dystopia. The strain of the story starts from the get-go as we meet our family inside of an abandoned convenience store searching for medical supplies. The silent fills the screen, and the pressure of the story begins to pulse throughout the scenery. The characters start to pack up and head out when horror strikes in the first ten minutes of the story, fast-forwarding us to day 400, and something, of their survivalist story. We are slowly introduced to each of the family members and learn small details about each one of them throughout the film. From the protective father, Lee (John Krasinski), the heartwarming mother, Evelyn (Emily Blunt; Krasinski’s real-life wife), the frightened younger son, Marcus (Noah Jupe), and the ironically deaf daughter, Reagan (Millicent Simmonds; who’s actually deaf).
Each of these characters isn’t given near enough depth to describe them more than I already have, which is the only proverbial blemish I can see on Krasinski's near masterpiece. If given a bit more of an extent to their characters, Krasinski and his fellow writers, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods who stem from the realm of short films, could have manifested a masterpiece of horror on their first go around. In spite of the shortage of substance to be found in the characters, “A Quiet Place” still surprises with its tightly knitted thrill ride of a film.
A film that makes your heartbeat quicken, your palms sweaty, your body lean in towards the screen, and your hands rush over your face from the skin-crawling fear that these creatures will somehow pop out from the screen, hearing the insulting noise that the person in row 4, seat 12, is making with their nacho chips. Least to say, “A Quiet Place” is a film that will restore your faith in the mainstream horror genre, and it's from a multitude of aspects.
Krasinski uses the setting of the story to its full extent as well as his PG-13 rating. Most of the time horror films use their PG-13 score as an excuse to widen their audience margin, Krasinski strays away from the gore and the mature dialogue in a way that naturally blends with the story. The carnage is never focused on because Krasinski allows us to fill in the horrifying gaps of imagery. Never showing the violence, but rather inferring its horror, your left with your imagination painting the picture on its own, which is scarier than anything Krasinski could have shown us. He builds this world brilliantly as well, by following the ever so valuable lesson of showing and not telling. He explains the exposition of the world in snippets of newspapers headlines like “Sound is Death,” “Head Underground,” and governmental letters labeled “Your on your Own.”
This inexperienced veteranship displayed by Krasinski is excellent, especially when you add in the visual crafting of these creatures. These Xenomorph-like creatures are aural hunters whose brunt crashes at the drop of an ounce of sound is like a blunt rush of a roaring gunshot that sends shivers down your spine. Krasinski uses these sound praying creatures to their full effect. Using the tools of horror’s past lineage like the Velociraptors in the cornfield from “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” Krasinski weaponizes these tools to fabricate multiple points of visual storytelling. Setting up moments of terror like Evelyn (Emily Blunt), who's now pregnant, exposing a nail out of the steps when carrying out laundry, or Lee (John Krasinski) grabbing a shotgun before entering the monster-filled house. We all know the sounds that these objects will create later on, but Kransinski still makes them feel shocking by tricking us into thinking we're prepared when in all reality we are never ready for what happens next.
Ticking down like a time bomb to its crescendo, every shot that Krasinski uses feels handcrafted and efficiently placed in these ninety minutes of shrill and thrill, especially when he takes the time to focus on these characters. Like all of the great horror filmmakers before him, Krasinski elevates a commonly shared emotion to it's heighten point of terror. Centralizing around the theme of empowerment from one’s family or friends, and the idea of that empowerment coming under threat from silence which represents isolation. The fear of being alone and the deafening noise of nothingness ringing in your ears is Krasinski’s greatest weapon in the toolbox that he uses as the storyteller of "A Quiet Place."
But he’s not just a filmmaker in “A Quiet Place,” Krasinski also takes the lead as the father of this family under threat with his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, at his side. The chemistry shared between these two is palpable, investing, poignant. The use of sign language is never stylized either; it feels natural as if we, the audience, are the oddballs for speaking. Noah Jupe has moments of genuine fear that resonates with you like your one of his protectors unable to help him, and Millicent Simmonds depicts upon her real-life disability, providing a further sense of authenticity to this sparsely spoken film.
That sparse use of dialogue can become overshadowed by the overused bombastic score of Marco Beltrami though, as the heavy strings can become signals for the horrors to come. Proverbially replacing the chain of red lights in the film as a warning sign of the danger lurking near our viewing experience. Though it doesn’t ruin the tension, the score derails the film's momentum by a few points. The score remains to be one of the genre's best in years, as most of “A Quiet Place” can be described as the same. One of the best horror films in years.
Horror remains to be one of the most challenging genres to achieve in, but it seems to come naturally to the professional comedian, John Krasinski, as if he’s been here before. Though this isn’t his first time in the director’s chair, (“Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,” “The Hollars,” “The Office”) Krasinski strides into the genre like a hero archetype, seeming to be unfit for the job, only to surpass all of our expectations. Krasinski doesn’t just deliver one of the best horror films of the year, or last year, or the last couple of years, but he provides filmgoers with one of the most impressive directorial feats. Placing him alongside names like Peele, Gerwig, and Nanjiani. Names who's voices begin to become louder with every story told as the bellows of filmmaking's future begin to grow softer.
Can you hear them yet?