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 diary of adventures in the volatile Middle East is diverting but hardly illuminating, writes Peter Calder.Read more
The most interesting books on climate change.Read more
As the Government spends millions reforming the criminal-justice system, Paul Wood says crime would be reduced if we taught our children emotional...Read more
A New Zealand-made documentary about those who walk the 800km Camino trail is heartbreaking, blistering and terrific.Read more
Five-part series Funny As: The Story of New Zealand Comedy shows just how far our humour has come.Read more
If flashes of light or spooky shadows suddenly appear in your vision, see your optician or doctor without delay.Read more
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has stopped short of committing to a declaration of climate emergency in Parliament.Read more