Hear Ye, Hear Ye, A Quiet Place Is Exquisitely Realized Horror Fare

There’s plenty about A Quiet Place worth pondering but one of the aspects of this film that I really can’t stop thinking about is how much it feels like a deviation from John Krasinski’s career up to this point. Nothing in his past acting or directorial credits indicate he had any interest in the horror genre (heck, Krasinski has been open in interviews about not growing up as an ardent fan of horror movies), up to this point Krasinski has been known as Jim Halpert from The Office first and also as comedic actor who starred or appeared in light-hearted feature-length dramedies. But here is, directing, writing and acting in an intense horror film with nary a joke in sight, an audacious move worth applauding on its own.

But in addition to stepping way outside his creative wheelhouse, Krasinski has managed to deliver a top-notch horror movie in A Quiet Place, one that shows a remarkable level of care and craft going into it. The starting premise for this feature is that Earth has been overrun with monsters that attack organisms based on sound. Thus, all the surviving humans must make as little noise as possible if they want any hope of making it through another day. Among these few surviving humans are Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) and Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), who are looking to keep their kids safe in this dangerous world. One of their offspring is Regan Abbott (Millicent Simmonds), our lead character for the story, a young deaf girl who struggles to connect with her father.

A Quiet Place keeps its story refreshingly simple, first and foremost by offering little explanation for where these monsters come from or what they want. Why do we need that information? What’s important is that they provide omnipresent danger for the characters, not why they’re attacking our planet. That’s the kind of streamlined storytelling decision that abounds in the screenplay for A Quiet Place (which was penned by Krasinski, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods), which keeps its story free of convoluted details that could distract from it’s primary mission of telling a tale of a family struggling to stick together in a world falling apart.

The various members of the Abbott family each have their own internal struggles to deal with and the first half of the movie concentrates heavily on small-scale sequences getting inside the individual minds of these characters. It’s a character-centric approach that works wonderfully for the feature, especially when it focuses on Regan’s storyline, which depicts her strained relationship with her father in a realistic & thoughtful manner. Though they’re given the spotlight in the first half of the story, the various storylines for the assorted characters aren’t forgotten once the second half of the movie, which is primarily interested in various intense scary sequences, kicks in. On the contrary, the way the characters have been built up as people up to this point makes the scares all the more frightening to experience.

Oh boy, the scares in A Quiet Place. This is one intense movie, the kind of feature that shows how the already ridiculous notion of PG-13 horror being an inherently inferior form horror is utter poppycock. Thoroughly creative situations for the characters to struggle to make as little noise as possible in the face of monsters are like the years in the Smash Mouth song All-Star, they just start coming and they don’t stop coming. It’s established from the get-go that this is a world with no mercy, death is waiting around every corner and A Quiet Place never lets that omnipresent atmosphere of unpredictable intensity go. The way the film uses the tiniest sound, as well as carefully employed camerawork, to put you on the edge of your seat is incredible, there’s evident craftsmanship going into how A Quiet Place executes its various scary scenes, even the jump scares show thoughtfulness in their presentation.

So the scares in A Quiet Place are obviously top-notch stuff, the second half of the film especially is a barrage of frightening nightmare fuel. Just as impressive for my money is the performances here, which smartly hew close to the kind of performances one would see in classic silent movies. The fact that making noise leads to your doom in the world of A Quiet Place means the film has minimal spoken dialogue, characters typically speak in American Sign Language for communication. This means characters have to take a cue from the likes of Charlie Chaplin & Clara Bow and say a lot in body language and facial expressions, a challenge John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are both very much up for. These are two actors who have garnered some of their best bits of acting in the past in dialogue-free moments, most notably John Krasinski’s various looks to the camera on The Office, and that skill comes in handy here.

Emily Blunt especially is great as Evelyn Abbott, she conveys so many different emotions with a similar level of non-verbal commitment in a top-notch performance that would make Janet Gaynor proud! Millicent Simmonds is similarly delivering exceptional work as Regan Abbott, especially in early scenes establishing what kind of internal turmoil her character is going through. The cast in A Quiet Place is aces, they excel working in such a unique premise brought to life with an inventive vision, with that inventive spirit manifesting itself visually in the decision to make the world of A Quiet Place look more normal than post-apocalyptic (farmhouses don’t look ruined, for instance) as well as the unique designs of the monsters hunting our main characters. That kind of creativity is around in A Quiet Place in spades, meaning it’s no wonder the highly entertaining and also highly intense feature leaves one with plenty to ponder beyond simply what a wonderful and artistically promising departure it is from John Krasinski’s past work.