Wow! That was the only thought running through my head as the title card hit the screen at the end of John Krasinski’s masterful exercise in circumventing horror conventions. His film is aptly titled, ‘A Quiet Place’ and the audience was warned about a half dozen times before the screening that this is the “quietest movie you will ever see!” Well, I’m here to tell you that statement is fundamentally untrue.
The movie is certainly filled with lapses of silence, whispering, creeping, and characters generally avoiding sound, but the film is far from silent. There is a lot of creeping, cracking, squealing, and occasional screaming going on this film. Especially when the shit hits the fan and the final act becomes a nail biter of sheer intensity. There is also a fairly prevalent score that lines the majority of the film.
The important thing isn’t the lack of sound in this film, but the way that sound is used. The execution of sound for fear is as age old as horror itself. Certain directors like Hitchcock and Spielberg mastered these arts in ways that have stuck with audiences for generations. The unique thing about this story is the way that sound becomes the most integral part of the plot. Every layer of the script is lined with sound as the antagonist and it’s a hell of a thing to be afraid of every little sound a movie throws at you.
The backstory is left deliberately fuzzy. We see newspaper articles during the first days of what appears to be an alien infestation of super hearing monsters taking over the world, but there is no clarity. All we know is what’s on Krasinki’s wall. Which is that the creatures have impeccable hearing, no known weaknesses, and there are 3 of them.
The rest of the plot plays out in three distinct acts. The first sets up the world and how frightening it is. The second sets up the character threads. Emily Blunt is pregnant and trying to soundproof a place for the child. Krasinski is training his son to hunt and gather. Their daughter (Millicent Simmons) is struggling without being able to hear and blaming herself for a tragedy that has torn her family apart. And this all leads to a final act that is as intense as the most suspenseful films I’ve ever seen before.
So, if you are a fan of horror or just like to be on the edge of your seat for half of a film, then this movie is as perfect as it gets. The characters are rich without much exposition. The sound design is intense to the point of being nail biting. The music is both somber and ferociously unrelenting. The editing gives the whole film a deliberate pace that provides quite welcome exhaustion in the final third. But most importantly, it’s a really clever script that is well directed by John Krasinski. I think Hitchcock just sat up in his grave and saluted you sir. Suspense doesn’t get much better.