A Quiet Place – movie reviewby James Robins
Silent horror A Quiet Place achieves pure tension – until they finally find the volume knob.
The instruction serves two functions. First, as a guide to the film’s action. The family at the centre of this horror picture cannot utter a peep because the planet has been decimated by a swarm of mysterious, fast-moving aliens who cannot see or smell. They hunt by sound alone.
Second, it’s a command to the audience. For moviegoers, this is commonplace – or at least should be. But in this case, it binds us to the film with a sense of apprehension, both of the coming frights and scares and the startling thought that we’re about to experience something truly audacious: a story told without spoken language, score, or effects – left only with diegetic noise and constantly bated breath.
Its first scenes artfully establish the heightened mood and paranoid tone. The family – composed of the film’s writer-director John Krasinski, his real-life wife Emily Blunt, and three children – tiptoe to a nearby town for supplies. The venture ends in violence, after one of the kids plays with a noisy toy. No dialogue, no music, no screams. Pure tension.
And then, sadly, the pretence is lost. The score – a menacing glissando now so common as to be tedious – starts up, shattering the illusion. There are entire full-volume conversations too. The defining conceit falls apart calamitously not long after; witness the strange hilarity of characters warning each other against danger by pushing a finger to their lips, as if this hadn’t already been said, so to speak.
There are, to be sure, moments of cleverness. One daughter is hearing-impaired (as is Millicent Simmonds, the actor who plays her). A muffled din swamps her perspective. Elsewhere, one standout sequence skilfully builds actions on consequences to achieve an otherwise absent degree of strain.
Fundamentally, though, the end product is a fairly ordinary horror picture of the Large Sudden Monster variety. Above all, there is a sense of lost opportunity. Krasinski could’ve made something truly ambitious and radical in A Quiet Place: the first ever non-silent silent movie.
Video: Paramount Pictures
IN CINEMAS NOW
This article was first published in the April 21, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
A new TV series stars two women in repressed, male-chauvinist Naples and is filmed in Neapolitan.Read more
Many people find themselves using one or other of these subjunctive forms without really knowing why.Read more
Unless we get serious about recycling, there’ll be a tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish in the ocean by 2025.Read more
Todd Pitock's travels through Israel reveal the true differences between American and Israeli Jews.Read more
Far from being Trump’s near-“complete victory”, the midterms mean opportunities for rigging electoral boundaries have swung back towards the Dems.Read more
Normal People is sharply observed portrait of an on-off romance and a book you need to read.Read more
Doubling down on food during pregnancy is out, unless it’s diet quality we’re talking about.Read more