By: Will Ashton (Two Beers) –
Never, in a thousand years, would I have expected John Krasinski to make a movie like A Quiet Place. The actor’s third directorial feature, behind 2009’s largely forgettable David Foster Wallace adaptation Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and 2016’s conventionally bland weepy dramedy The Hollars, this taut, commandingly thrilling, resiliently pulsating enclosed horror-thriller is truly a spellbinding achievement. It’d be impressive if anyone made it. To know it’s from Krasinski, however, makes it even more incredible.
Borrowing heavily from the works of Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock, but never in a distracting way, A Quiet Place is a richly surprising, invigoratingly inspired success, and it’s certainly an unexpected one. It’s the work of a confident, compelling rising filmmaker, and one that you would never expect from someone like John Krasinski. Sure enough, it is real and it is here. And it might just leave you speechless.
In A Quiet Place, the human population is almost entirely depleted. Sounds familiar, right? Here’s the kicker. The monsters that destroyed our world, the terrorizing creatures that shaved nearly every walking life away, can only track us by sound. If they hear you, they will kill you. If you’re silent, you can live in whatever little secluded peace you can find in a world driven by silence. That’s exactly the measured life Lee and Evelyn Abbott (real-life husband-wife Krasinski and Emily Blunt) cautiously live. Alongside their children, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf, this rustic family watch their every step and every sound. They know a single noise can kill them; they’ve learned that through tragedy.
There are evident dangers that lie ahead for the Abbotts, but to say what becomes of them would be a sin. A Quiet Place is best experienced, left witnessed. To watch the film is to be dutifully caught in its spell.
A Quiet Place is, in a word, enthralling. It’s the type of movie that demands your absolute attention — and, of course, your absolute silence. Be mindful of the sounds you make. Watch out for every creak and crack. Through excellent sound design and some key attention to storytelling precision, every single on-screen movement carries volumes. If you make any noises, you’ll be heard. You’re magnetized to the screen; you’re positively enraptured by what’s happening in front of you. If you’re with the right people, it might be among the most transfixing cinematic experiences you could hope to find in 2018. If your crowd is rowdy, you might not have a great time. (Also, don’t eat popcorn during this one. Please and thank you.) It’s truly effective storytelling. Krasinski takes what could’ve been a hard sell of a movie and turns it into something that’s the very reason why we love going to the movies in the first place. The use of silence in A Quiet Place captures the very essence of visual storytelling. It was never suggested in Krasinski’s earlier films that he could be such a visually commanding filmmaker. That changes with his third feature.
A Quite Place also moves like a silver bullet. At a brisk 90 minutes, there is hardly a single moment wasted. In fact, if anything, Krasinski’s movie could’ve been even longer and it might’ve been even better than it is. How often do you say that these days? Not often, I’ll admit. From the first act onward, you are taken by A Quiet Place. Even if it doesn’t absolutely nail the third act, there’s quite a lot to appreciate here.
That includes the performances, notably Millicent Simmonds, who is an absolute stunner. The actress already radiated on the screen in last year’s sorely underseen Wonderstruck, and she’s equally as good here. From her enormously expressive face to her wondrously captivating eyes, she knows how to hook you in. She has raw, natural talent, and it’s wonderful to see a young, gifted disabled performer receive such a huge platform to once again prove her mettle. She is going places. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.
This movie is not without its jump scares. It wouldn’t be a studio horror flick without one or two. While A Quiet Place knows how to build up the atmosphere, which is what ultimately makes a handful of early jump scares effective, it is still a firm reminder that you are watching a Platinum Dunes production. Yes, Michael Bay produced this movie, but between Krasinski’s latest film and 2016’s shockingly good prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil, the Bay-owned studio is making, dare I say, actually good films? What has the world come to? What times are we leaving in here? We’re in an age of good Platinum Dunes films?! Praise be!
That said, A Quiet Place isn’t perfect. The movie is perhaps best seen as a nicely intense introductory horror film. It does have blood and occasionally gore, but at its heart, it’s a nice, loving family drama. John Krasinski admits that he didn’t come into this movie as a horror aficionado, though the influence of Jaws in the movie is massively apparent — perhaps to a fault. The film can’t shake its influences, and its nods to Steven Spielberg can sometimes get distracting. It makes the movie unable to stand on its own merits. It constantly reminds you of another filmmaker’s work, though A Quiet Place is a better film than Ready Player One, Spielberg’s 2018 contribution to cinema, for whatever that’s worth. Side note: it’s really shocking that A Quiet Place isn’t produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot. In another universe, it could’ve been the next Cloverfield movie, and it is better than this year’s Netflix-dumped The Cloverfield Paradox.
There is also a reveal in the last act that’s honestly pretty groan-worthy. Gotta be honest.
A Quiet Place is, in a word, unnerving. It’s not exactly the scariest movie ever, and it’s not going to change your world, but it’s extremely well-made and it’s still mind-blowing that it comes from John Krasinkski. A compassionately made, confidently controlled look at grief and parenthood, one that serves as both a successfully chilling studio horror flick and a thoughtful commentary on parent-child dynamics, it is a bright, unexpected spot of hope in a year filled with dour circumstances. It is also damn effective, and it is going to scare the boots off a lot of people. So make a point to see A Quiet Place. But don’t make a sound!
A Quiet Place (2018) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: after the first big “Oh Shit!” moment at the beginning.
Do a Shot: anytime a character makes an unexpected noise.
Take a Drink: every time a character talks, yells or shrieks.
Take a Drink: every time they show that pesky nail.
Take a Drink: every time one of those nasty eyeless creatures rears its ugly face into the picture.
Do a Shot: when the shit really starts to go down around the middle.
Take a Drink: every time they show that exposition board and/or any glaringly obvious newspapers.
Do a Shot: after the groan-worthy reveal towards the end with the whiteboard. (Nothing’s perfect!)