A Quiet Place – movie review

by James Robins / 16 April, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - A Quiet Place movie review

Silent horror A Quiet Place achieves pure tension – until they finally find the volume knob.

A Quiet Place carries a strict imperative: do not talk. Do not make a sound.

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

★★★★1/2

This article was first published in the April 21, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

My Brilliant Friend: The HBO adaptation of Elena Ferrante comes to NZ television
99028 2018-11-19 00:00:00Z Television

My Brilliant Friend: The HBO adaptation of Elena F…

by Fiona Rae

A new TV series stars two women in repressed, male-chauvinist Naples and is filmed in Neapolitan.

Read more
If I were a rich man: A grammarian on the nettlesome subjunctive
98551 2018-11-19 00:00:00Z Diversions

If I were a rich man: A grammarian on the nettleso…

by Ray Prebble

Many people find themselves using one or other of these subjunctive forms without really knowing why.

Read more
As China shuts its gates to our plastics and paper, how can NZ stem the tide?
99059 2018-11-19 00:00:00Z Planet

As China shuts its gates to our plastics and paper…

by Veronika Meduna

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
Heights of contradiction: American and Israeli Jews' complicated relationship
99055 2018-11-18 00:00:00Z World

Heights of contradiction: American and Israeli Jew…

by Todd Pitock

Todd Pitock's travels through Israel reveal the true differences between American and Israeli Jews.

Read more
The Democrat's midterm wins spell the end of Trump's dream run
99105 2018-11-18 00:00:00Z World

The Democrat's midterm wins spell the end of Trump…

by Paul Thomas

Far from being Trump’s near-“complete victory”, the midterms mean opportunities for rigging electoral boundaries have swung back towards the Dems.

Read more
Sally Rooney's Normal People has the makings of a classic
99094 2018-11-18 00:00:00Z Books

Sally Rooney's Normal People has the makings of a …

by Kiran Dass

Normal People is sharply observed portrait of an on-off romance and a book you need to read.

Read more
Why you should avoid 'eating for two' during pregnancy
98747 2018-11-18 00:00:00Z Health

Why you should avoid 'eating for two' during pregn…

by Ruth Nichol

Doubling down on food during pregnancy is out, unless it’s diet quality we’re talking about.

Read more
The long, slow goodbye to Angela Merkel
99173 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z World

The long, slow goodbye to Angela Merkel

by Cathrin Schaer

German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to leave the job in 2021, but that’s not soon enough for some.

Read more