According to a classic sci-fi movie, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” In what I suspect will become recognized as a classic horror movie, it’s the scream that will doom you. The ingenious premise of “A Quiet Place” is that making a sound will kill you.
The movie posits a post-apocalyptic world in which the few surviving humans must keep ever so quiet so as to not alert nearby alien creatures who would like nothing better than to kill them instantly.
The movie focuses on a family of five — mom, dad, three kids — who’re getting by as best they can on an isolated farm. They speak mostly in sign language. They walk around on sand patches to muffle footsteps. And they only listen to music with earbuds, and they play monopoly with felt markers.
Of course, there are added complications to their day-to-day terror. The daughter happens to be deaf, which means she can’t hear when she’s making noise. And the 4-year-old can’t quite grasp the gravity of their situation when he finds a flashy toy with a switch to turn on. The toy buzzes and beeps, as kids toys do, while dad swings into action as the tension rises.
The father, played by the film’s writer and director, John Krasinski, spends much of his time working on a hearing aid for his daughter and using Morse code to try to contact anyone else on Earth. And the mother, played by Emily Blunt, is all about the children …
“Who are we if we can’t protect them?” she stresses in the film. “We have to protect them.”
“A Quiet Place” is intense
This is an intense and clever movie that takes an impossibly stressful setup and then ratchets up the suspense even more. What would happen, for instance, if the daughter’s hearing aid starts going haywire? What if a barefoot family member stepped on a nail? Could the mom give birth without making a sound? Or could a newborn’s cry be stifled without killing it?
Some of these scenarios strain credulity, but they’re mostly just challenging tests of the story’s premise. The game of survival is often about ingenuity, and that’s part of the charm of an otherwise nerve-wracking movie.
And although suspense is the film’s raison d’etre, this isn’t one of those movies that scrimp on the monster in the process. The rampaging aliens are quite explicitly presented, with even some in-your-face close-ups. And those confrontations between man (or woman) and alien prove to be quite satisfying.
In the midst of all this horror, “A Quiet Place” also injects some difficult family dynamics into the equation. The adolescent daughter feels unloved. A son can’t live up to his dad’s expectations. And everyone in the family feels guilty about something. This adds a deeper, human dimension, I suppose, but it’s decidedly secondary.
“A Quiet Place” is first and foremost a scary movie, a stylish horror film that lives up to its intriguing premise.